In wake of bombings, we must be vigilant

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2013

As a nation, our reactions have followed an understandable pattern since Monday afternoon’s terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon: shock, fear, outrage, outpouring. Now, we move on to anger, questions, concerns.

But what do we take away?

First, and perhaps most important, is that we are a nation of heroes. From the race volunteers who turned toward the explosions to the dozens of bystanders who jumped in to help in the minutes following the bombings to the first responders and government leaders who handled the unraveling events efficiently and effectively, we saw our fellow humans reveal their most basic instincts – to help, to protect and to serve. In the face of unknown danger and, yes, the evil that causes someone to create and detonate a shrapnel-filled bomb in the midst of a crowd, we are reminded that at our core we are good. And we will rally no matter the danger.

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Second, we are reminded that the threat of terrorism and danger are ever present. We have known for years that terrorists have considered “soft targets” and public gatherings prime potential for inflicting mass harm and mass hysteria. In the wake of Monday’s bombings, experts talked cryptically of dozens of thwarted attacks in the years since 2001. We know, as a nation, that at some point we will be vulnerable, no matter how well-planned, well-practiced and how effective security programs are. As citizens, we value our freedoms too much to be subjected to the alternative – a life controlled and patrolled.

And, while it may be days or even weeks before authorities make an arrest or name a suspect, we know that this bombing was intended to inflict massive damage. The sheer destructiveness of loading a pressure cooker with nails and ball bearings, then converting it to a homemade bomb placed in the middle of a crowded sidewalk, only proves that whomever is behind this attack – whether a single person or an organization, domestic or international in scope – sought to cause as much bodily damage as possible. And that is sickening.

As a nation, the Boston Marathon bombings will shake us, in good ways and bad. They remind us to be vigilant, to treasure today and the time we have with our friends and family, and to be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy. And they remind us that we continue to be a target of hate for individuals who place so little value on human life.