It was Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts, a statewide holiday commemorating the 238th anniversary of the opening battles of the American Revolution in Lexington and Concord.
And it was the day chosen by someone, or some group, to set off rudimentary bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line.
“I thought, ‘That couldn’t have happened, could it?’ Then another one went off behind me,” said Charlotte Hartwig of Salem, who was running her sixth Boston Marathon on Monday and was about 200 yards from reaching the finish line when the first explosion occurred.
“That couldn’t have happened, could it?” symbolized the reaction throughout the nation, probably around the world. How could terrorists strike one of the world’s premier public athletic events, with all the security precautions that were in place and without security officials having an inkling?
“That could happen” because we live in a era where bomb-making instructions are easily found and a nation where we face threats from locally grown anti-government zealots-turned-terrorists as well as from domestic and foreign terrorists tied to al-Qaida and other groups.
News reports referred to the Boston explosives as bombs. In the Middle East and Afghanistan, where dozens of such explosions might occur any day, they are simply called improvised explosive devices — IEDs.
The term “IED” puts the Boston bombing in perspective. The casualties, although horrific, could have been far worse; and terrorism experts say it’s not complicated to construct an IED with commonly available items.
Monday’s bombing had some characteristics of al-Qaida — simultaneous coordinated explosions — but not the sophistication, greater casualty toll, and subsequent public-relations blitz that are characteristic of the organization.
That raised the specter of a “lone wolf” terrorist, someone identifying with an organization such as al-Qaida or acting on his own. But the choice of Patriots’ Day — and Tax Day — was chilling. There are those extremists who think they, not our elected government, are the rightful heirs to the American Revolution and the ideals of our Founders. They are wrong, and they can be dangerous.
So what do we as Americans do? Support the people of Boston and our leaders as they deal with Monday’s terrible events. Appreciate and value our government, even as it guarantees our right to criticize it. Repudiate those whose anti-government rhetoric crosses from criticism into avowed physical threats or revolution.
Hope and pray for the victims of these bombs. And stand together as One Nation, One People against whoever did this.