In the midst of an executive committee meeting on whether to recommend Toronto City Council accept the proposal for a downtown casino, two explosions in Boston, Massachusetts changed everyone’s focus.
Through the power of the ubiquitous social media, it would take only minutes for the wired world to transmit unfiltered video records and tweets of the explosions that abruptly ended the 117th Boston Marathon.
Usually, the news following the famed marathon would be about who won, which celebrities ran the marathon, and if there were any new records set. Lost in the chaos are the usual accolades for the first man and woman to cross the finish line, Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa Benti and Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo.
This time it was about how many people were killed and how many injured. In one stunning moment, the acts of an as yet unknown person, or persons, changed this festive event into a death scene with a reported 176 injured and three persons killed including an eight-year-old boy.
With typical American mettle, first responders and others ran immediately toward the explosion to rescue victims. The mental toughness needed by runners to complete the 42-kilometre (26-mile) marathon shifted to coping with the shock of the sudden tragic turn of events.
Mindful of the lessons learned from the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing when suspicions were wildly cast on Middle Easterners and Muslims, and for which American ex-soldier Timothy McVeigh was convicted and executed, it took U.S. President Barack Obama until the following day before he would characterize the explosions in Boston as “an act of terror”.
The bombs as analyzed by security experts in the U.S. have been compared to similar types set off in Pakistan and Afghanistan, so called improvised explosive devices or IEDs. But none of the usual international terrorist suspects have claimed responsibility for this horror.
Given the timing – it was Patriots’ Day, an important holiday throughout Massachusetts, and National Tax Day across the U.S. – it has been conjectured that this may be the act of one of America’s own anti-government militia. Time will tell.
Once again, Americans are absorbing the trauma of a devastating attack on their homeland. Once again, the fact that this is a venue for international participants means that it was not only residents of the U.S. whose lives were put in danger. Among the estimated 27,000 who participated in the marathon there were over 2,000 Canadians, more than 200 from Toronto.
With our close connection to the United States, we here share in their sadness and shock at yet another senseless act that took lives, yet another blow to the American psyche. The explosion, reminiscent of the tragedy in the heart of Manhattan at the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, occurred in the core area of Boston, a space with which any visitor or resident in the city will be familiar.
We trust that the dedicated work of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the other participating agencies will bring to light whoever is responsible for these deadly blasts. However, we can’t help but wonder to what extent the animosity that is so prevalent towards Obama’s presidency might have anything to do with this terrible event. The anti-Obama ranting by the usual Tea Party voices has increased since Monday as they try to lay blame for this tragedy at his feet. It has also been suggested that it is not outside the realm of possibilities that this could have been done by White supremacists.
We extend our condolences to those who have been devastated by this attack and, indeed, all Americans.
It must weigh heavily the fear that this kind of mayhem is becoming all too common. Apart from the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon bombings, there was the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma and other attacks on places and events of symbolic value such as the Atlanta Olympics and houses of worship among others.
These are indeed trying times for Americans. We hope that the indomitable spirit for which they are so well known will see them through yet another tragedy.