Bostonians Reflect On The Marathon Bombings

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Writers Dennis Lehane and Anita Shreve, musician Amanda Palmer and Car Talk's Ray Magliozzi on the heart of Boston after the marathon bombings.

Amanda Ayers leaves a note on a banner during a candle light vigil at the Boston Common on Tuesday evening, April 16, 2013, a day after two explosions near the Boston Marathon finish line killed three people and injured more than 140 participants and spectators. (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)
Amanda Ayers leaves a note on a banner during a candlelight vigil at the Boston Common on Tuesday evening, April 16, 2013, a day after two explosions near the Boston Marathon finish line killed three people and injured more than 140 participants and spectators. (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

Trouble can come anywhere, and fast. The little town of West, Texas in a ball of flame. Newtown. Tucson. Aurora.

On Monday, it was Boston. An old American city with a very new, raw, wound. It was Patriots Day and Boston Marathon day — a good day. Then it was bombed and bloody.

Reports say authorities now have clear images of two suspects.

We’re turning this hour to well-known Bostonians, to hear what they’re thinking. Writers Dennis Lehane and Anita Shreve. Musician Amanda Palmer. Car Talk’s Ray Magliozzi. More.

Up next On Point: Boston absorbs a bombing.
--Tom Ashbrook


Author Dennis Lehane in the On Point studio with Tom Ashbrook on April 18, 2013. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)
Author Dennis Lehane in the On Point studio with Tom Ashbrook on April 18, 2013. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Dennis Lehane, author and native Bostonian whose latest op-ed in the New York Times is "Messing With The Wrong City" (@dennis_lehane)

Amanda Palmer, Boston musician, notably the lead singer and pianist of The Dresden Dolls, who blogged about the marathon bombings in her post "Keep On Running" (@amandapalmer)

Ray Magliozzi, co-host of NPR's Car Talk and a Boston-area native

Anita Shreve, author and a Boston-area native who at her home just blocks from the marathon finish line when the bombs exploded

Darrell Preston, reporter for Bloomberg News covering the explosion in West, Texas

Collected Show Highlights

You can listen to all the clips here, or see them individually further below:

Individual Show Highlights

Ray Magliozzi of Car Talk shared how he was inspired by the courage of everyday Bostonians during the marathon bombings:

Like everyone in Boston and the vicinity, I was honestly stunned. You can't believe that it could happen in our city. We're used to seeing it happen in Kabul and Damascus and Baghdad, these are kind of daily occurrences, but it's certainly something I didn't expect to see at the Boston Marathon. It was such a beautiful day, and the Red Sox had won earlier in the day, and the marathon was still going on. It was tough to take.

I was thinking back about the September 11th attack, and I remember there was one woman who had escaped one of the towers. And she was being interviewed by a reporter on the street, and he asked her what her thoughts were. And she was an African American woman and said, "In my community, we've always had a contentious relationship with the authorities, especially the police and the fire department." And she said, "Today all of that changed because as we were running out of those buildings, those police and firemen were running in, and they showed incredible courage."

And there was a lot of courage displayed in Monday for sure. And not just by the officials — by the first responders and such — but by civilians who didn't run away. In fact, they rushed to help victims with complete disregard for their own safety. I guess I'd have to call it reckless bravery. After the first explosion, the second explosion occurred within I think 15 to 20 seconds. They just didn't know that they weren't going to be five or 10 more. And to have that kind of courage to go and help people knowing that you could be a victim yourself was just an incredible inspiration.

I know next year I'm going to be there [at the marathon]. I think we'll have a bigger crowd there than ever before.

It's impossible to get into the mind of someone who would do this. Clearly the minds of the people who would do this are beyond our comprehension. And certainly it's not something that you or I — or any rational person — would think of doing. But obviously someone has an agenda of some kind, which we can only hope to understand at some point but probably never will.

There is a positive in all of this. The actions of those civilians on Monday can really inspire the rest of us to do something that we would otherwise run away from. And it doesn't have to be someone profound like running into a burning building, but I hope that some of us might gather the courage to do something that we think we're incapable of. And it could be something as simple as starting to care for an aged loved one or repairing a relationship. I think all of us can increase our courage and resolve to do something that we thought we couldn't ever do.

Novelist Anita Shreve described what it was like when she heard the explosions from her apartment just a block away:

It was a very loud explosion. And then I ran to the window, and I could see the smoke coming up. I'm about a block away as the crow flies. I was thinking gas main or some jerk with cherry bombs or something. It didn't cross my mind that it would be deliberately done. And then 10 seconds later I heard the second bomb. And the thing that was stunning to me was that immediately — I live on the seventh floor — and immediately there were hoards of people running for their lives, so to speak, to get to Commonwealth Avenue where they felt it was safer.

I've seen the mayhem right after the explosion, but I've only seen what we've all seen of the blood on the sidewalk. What I thought about it? I thought it was horrendous — it was so much bigger than I originally thought it was.

Writer Dennis Lehane directly addressed those responsible for the bombings and spoke adamantly of the city's resilience:

Whatever your reasoning is, it's paltry and pathetic, and I'm not really interested. What you did was to attack innocent people. You attacked children. You're not even looking at children as part of collateral damage; you're looking at children as targets. Advancing your cause isn't going to happen.

That's not to say we're not shaken right now — we are shaken. But we're not going to change, remotely change who we are. We're an old city with an old history. We've been bloodied before. We'll be fine, thank you very much. We will gather around and we will provide solace to our wounded, and we will move on. And we're not going to change.

I don't think the city's going to change its character one bit, which was I think the scariest thing that happened after 9/11 was we felt the character of this country changing. We felt this idea that it's okay to toss away few liberties in the interest of security. And that would've just made and probably did make the founding fathers roll over in their graves.

Valerie, a caller from Quincy, Mass. just south of Boston, affirmed that Boston would not be kept down:

I don't think you ever expect it to happen in your hometown, you know? You watch the news, and I think we become desensitized to a certain extent — and then it hits. And then you realize I think this could happen anywhere. And I think the worse thing we can do is be afraid. I'm really grateful that the president is here. I think it sends a strong message. I know we're going to get though this; we're going to become stronger as a result.

Musician Amanda Palmer echoed Valerie's sentiments, emphasizing the importance of not giving into fear:

An act of terrorism is committed to instill fear in a bunch of people, and the minute you go over to the dark side and everyone starts getting overprotective and anxious, even in the name of safety, it can lead to the win on the side of the terrorists. I was following a lot of discussions happening on Monday where right in the moment people were reminding each other the only antidote is to proceed with fearlessness — not stupidity, but fearlessness.


The following Instagram photos were taken by and feature Amanda Palmer. They appear at the end of her blog post "Keep On Running."

"On a day like today there are no Democrats, no Republicans, no Americans, only humans."

"Stay strong and unafraid. There are good people everywhere."

From Tom's Reading List

New York Times: Messing With The Wrong City -- "Trust me, we won’t be giving up any civil liberties to keep ourselves safe because of this. We won’t cancel next year’s marathon. We won’t drive to New Hampshire and stockpile weapons. When the authorities find the weak and terminally maladjusted culprit or culprits, we’ll roll our eyes at whatever backward ideology they embrace and move on with our lives."

Boston Globe: President Obama To Travel To Boston For Interfaith Service On Thursday

New Yorker: Why Boston's Hospital Were Ready — "Something more significant occurred than professionals merely adhering to smart policies and procedures. What we saw unfold was the cultural legacy of the September 11th attacks and all that has followed in the decade-plus since. We are not innocents anymore. The explosions took place at 2:50 P.M., twelve seconds apart. Medical personnel manning the runners’ first-aid tent swiftly converted it into a mass-casualty triage unit. Emergency medical teams mobilized en masse from around the city, resuscitated the injured, and somehow dispersed them to eight different hospitals in minutes despite chaos and snarled traffic."

Los Angeles Times: Boston Marathon Bombing Proves Evil Never Leaves Us In Peace — "The central question now is, who is that person or group? Is this the action of a foreign terrorist organization with a gripe against the United States or, like Nidal Malik Hasan, a homegrown killer in sympathy with a distant cause? Is it someone like Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, a coldblooded militant sprung from the darkest cesspool of American paranoia? Or is the perpetrator in the mold of Ted Kaczynski, a sociopathic loner with a purpose that makes sense only in his own sick mind Whoever it is, we do know this: If anything in this world qualifies as evil, this is it."

Earlier Coverage

WBUR, Boston's NPR news station, offers complete local coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings.

April 17, 2013: Balancing between a free society and a surveillance society

April 16, 2013: Aftermath and investigation the day after the bombings

April 15, 2013: Rolling coverage the day of the bombings

This program aired on April 18, 2013.


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