Marathon Day

Paralyzed, the pundits are saying. A city terrorized, brought to a halt. An overreaction.

Don’t believe it.

On Friday, the city of Boston was waiting. Crouching, like a tiger in tall grass. We were two million souls focused on a single target: a crazed and wounded boy, desperate and dangerous, hiding somewhere in Watertown, gone to ground. To flush him out, the city held still.

There’s a difference between paralysis and stillness. Stillness is deliberate. It was a tool – a tactical move. The police did not order us to stay in our houses – they requested it, and we complied, not because we were terrorized and not because we were sheep to the police state, but because we knew that in doing so, we left the police and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the only pieces out on the board. We wanted him captured. For us, staying indoors on Friday was no different from staying in during a winter storm so that the snowplows could clear the streets. We were giving the professionals room to work.

Because at its heart, Boston believes in expertise, and in order. Sure, we may be a liberal bastion of fornicators – as the world now knows, Boston is a city that keeps its dildos on top of the fridge – but we are also a city of professionals, and we believe in letting them get shit done.

You could see it in the response of the hospitals after the bombing on Monday, the stream of doctors and hospital workers reporting for duty, triaging the wounded, working together to make sure that no one emergency room was overwhelmed by casualties.

And you could hear it in the calm, patient voices of the police, crackling over the scanner Thursday night. More than seven different police agencies had to coordinate in the dark, densely residential streets of Watertown, and they did it without panic or fractiousness. When the LAPD was hunting Christopher Dorner, they put innocent people in the hospital. Our law enforcement officers – as much as we usually enjoy abusing them as racist buffoons – showed themselves in this crisis to be canny, patient, and disciplined. They did not engage in racial profiling. They didn’t abuse the people they were there to protect.

While yahoos in other parts of the country imagined that Bostonians must long to take to the streets with guns to hunt our fugitive down, in reality, we would much rather let our competent police force do it. And they did.

They successfully captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev alive – without a single civilian injury.

And it’s important, too, that Tsarnaev was taken alive. Many, many people in the city were praying for Tsarnaev’s life on Friday. We wanted justice and answers, not revenge, not a corpse. We want to hear why he did this obscene thing to us, to people we loved, on a day so many of us think of as the best day of the year.

The reason we love Marathon Day is because it gives us a chance to cheer for something simple and pure and good. We stand at the sidelines and cheer the names that the runners have taped to their shirts or written on their arms; we enter into a partnership between the ones who are running for no reason but to run, and the ones who are cheering for no reason but to love.

On Friday, when the words we were waiting for came – “conscious, alive, and captured” – the city burst out of doors. People lined the streets in Watertown, cheering and clapping the police as they rolled out of the neighborhood. On Beacon Street, a stream of whooping kids poured along the Marathon route, high-fiving strangers. It was the Marathon again. We were cheering for something very simple, something good.

“THIS IS WHAT CIVILIZATION LOOKS LIKE, MOTHERFUCKERS” tweeted one Bostonian.

This is what civilization looks like. Boston strong.

73 thoughts on “Marathon Day

  1. I really hate listening to people who say Boston cowered, or Boston was under martial law. We were not scared, we are not stupid. We got out of the way and let the PROFESSIONALS DO THEIR JOBS!

    So tell me, all you “I would have grabbed my gun and found the bomber” if a house in your neighborhood is on fire do you get in the way of the firemen with your garden hose? No you get out of the way and let the professionals do THEIR jobs. Which is what we did this week, just as we did during Snowstorm Nemo, we got the hell out of the way and let the professionals do their jobs.

    I tremble to think how many other people would have been injured if every person in the Greater Boston area grabbed a gun and went out looking for the brothers. Do the police arrest everyone? How many scared people shoot each other because they “might” be the bad guy? What Boston, and Greater Boston did was the right thing, we got out of the way and let the professionals do their job. One of those professionals lost his life doing his job, a second officer is fighting for his life. For both those men we are grateful. For all the people injured we stand with you, and will help you live again. For those who lost their lives, we can never replace you, but we will stand with your families and they will not morn alone.

    For the rest of you jerks, shut up.

  2. well put. i’m so very proud of boston. and i’m happy that you mentioned that many people were hoping he was taken alive- reasons, motivations, methods, things that will allow all of us to learn and help prevent another incident like that. knowledge over revenge. boston strong.

  3. You are exactly on point. Let those yahoos extolling a gun in every pocket and round ups of aliens expose themselves as the idiots they are, We know how to do the right thing, whether its running to help the injured, staying indoors or praying as hard as we can for the cop AND the kid to survive.

    There has always been pride in our toughness and multicultural heritage. We are BosotnStrong. We are BostonProud.

    Thanks for your great article.

  4. Attagirl S.I! If there was any doubt that I lived in one of the most enlightened places on the planet, it disappeared on Friday. You tell me where else in the world having thousands of armed officers on your city’s streets is comforting? It is here, in Boston.

  5. Easily the best writing I’ve seen on this.

    I’m exasperated at my out of town Facebook friends — including some who also went to MIT with me — who don’t understand this at all, and insist on casting this as some kind of jackbooted police state. One of them even said that the people in Watertown who were cheering were cheering the end of the police state.

    My *local* friends, including lots of folks who aren’t too inclined to trust authority either, uniformly saw it exactly as you and I did. It was a time for everyone to do what he or she could do best. Those of us who were in no position to take an active role understood that our role was to stay safely in our lairs and let those who were trained and equipped for the active role to do it. I think we’ve all seen the shot of the Brookline police officer, in riot gear, bringing a couple of gallons of milk to a family who had run out. That wasn’t some kind of prop. That was the real deal.

    Same thing with the local vs. national news. I had WHDH on all day. Their local reporters and anchors did a magnificent job. They didn’t have to be asked to refrain from giving away any tactical details — they knew that their job was to keep everyone informed of what was important, but also to do nothing that would help #2. They refrained from baseless speculation. For 30 minutes, though, they broadcast national news. What a disaster. I can see why people outside of the area came to such conclusions; they were poorly informed.

    No, this was a case of the area banding together, and acting as one.

    • The difference between a police state and shelter-in-place is that on Friday, Boston residents were *asked* to stay home. They looked around, saw the sense of that, and exercised their dignity as citizens by deciding to cooperate. I have also not heard of anyone being harrassed for not going along (certainly not everyone did, many for good reasons), excluding the few who were warned (yelled at) when about to blunder into a live-fire zone.

      Personally, my reaction Friday was that it seemed like overkill, and I do hope there will be sufficient postmortem to decide if it was in fact proportionate. But given the way it turned out, it looks for the most part like people’s trust in the system was vindicated.

    • Exactly, I think it must be a new england thing. I am from NH but was in Boston and the boston area often (with plenty or relatives/friends scattered over the area). I still head up there from time to time, I will be visiting relatives in Waltham in a couple weeks.

      I have been living in the DC area for the past 2 decades. I have been involved in so many protests down here … Occupy, marches for various overseas events, complaints about our wars, whatever. Not just yelling in the streets either … I love going to congressional offices to lobby for various issues. I am hardly one to bow to authority!

      Yet I know if I had been in Boston during all of this I would have had no problem staying indoors and letting the police do their job. If it meant even he slightest chance of helping I would not have hesitated. I was a bit reluctant to say so though since I was not there at the time. So thanks to the blogger as this post confirmed what I suspected.

  6. I was born in Boston – in Mass General, one of the hospitals that victims of the bombing were taken to – and lived there the first 6 years of my life. That was many years ago, but there is still a bit of Boston in me and a bit of me in Boston. I have never been more proud of the city I was born in!

  7. Well said, everyone. We showed common sense and caring for the community good, without whining about our “rights” being restricted. We knew the smartest thing was staying out of the way so the professionals could do their job. And to all the first responders, volunteers, medical people, and fellow citizens who’ve cared for the survivors and their families this week, my deepest heartfelt thanks.

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  9. Excellent post! Stillness is not paralysis — a great distinction to make. I’m Boston born and, until a few years ago, lived there for a good chunk of my life. Thanks for reminding me of the residents’ finer qualities.

  10. well, having found your aggressive driving and your often-caustic sarcasm to the stranger off-putting at times, Boston, I gotta hand it to you all! You showed me a side of Boston I did not know, and the writer, and the commenters here are great in everything they said. GO BOSTON!! -From an outsider….

    • Bob: Yes, we will cut you off in traffic and swear at you while doing it … you may have to ask five people to find one new transplant who is willing to stop and give you directions … but if your leg gets blown off we will rip down barricades to get to you and tie on tourniquets torn from our own clothing. And if you did the blowing-off-of-legs we will shut down the entire city, hunker ourselves down, and let the professionals take over so that you are captured in one piece. I’m so glad you (and many others around the world) saw that thayh’s a whole lotta haht unduhneath the tough hide in this town.

  11. This was brilliantly written. I’m going to share it everywhere and pray it goes viral. This is better than most journalism.

  12. Thank you so, so much for post. I needed it right now. The reactions of Facebook friends and political pundits who aren’t from Boston have been so off-base and beyond frustrating. I will never understand what makes people who live thousands of miles away think they know more about what happens here than we do.

    It wasn’t fear that kept people home on Friday. Rather it was the determination to bring this horrible situation to an end as quickly as possible and not create any additional complications for the members of law enforcement who were risking their lives on our behalf.

    • I feel sorry for you, if you think that civilization is when the government sends its boots to stomp on your face.

        • That’s an Orwell reference we “paranoid” types make.

          Your liberties we’re stomped on by militarized police, the kind who liberals in past years would refer to as “pigs” or the “man.”

          • That’s an Orwellian *hyperbole,* actually.

            I was here during Occupy when some actual stomping occurred. It didn’t happen this time.

  13. I got a call like that from a gun-toting friend was sure we were under martial law. I live 4 miles from Watertown Square where all the action was taking place, and heard sirens going down Main Street all day. Never once was I cowering… never once did I wish I had a gun. Never once did I feel my rights infringed upon. And she didn’t get it.

    Thank you for an excellent article.

  14. So well said! And so well done Boston! I hope everyone gets to know about Boston smarts…I’ve been 50 years gone except for visits, but Boston is still my town..I am so proud to say that! Thank you for your eloquent words!

  15. I am really sick of hearing people shouting POLICE STATE, MARTIAL LAW, 1984, etc. I asked them: do you LIVE there? Do you know anyone who is from Boston or Watertown or Mass? They wouldn’t answer, but it certainly looked like a lockdown to them!

    Thank you, thank you so much for writing about your experiences. If it had been an involuntary lockdown it’d be just as, if not more important to write about. But as someone who was actually there, I sincerely appreciate your POV.

  16. Boston didn’t cower, and there was no martial law. People stayed in because they were asked politely, and if it would help catch a dangerous lunatic, all the better. Further, it’s just common sense. As if a mad bomber isn’t dangerous enough, streets crawling with thousands of men armed with high-powered firearms are a dangerous place, no matter how professional those that wield them might be. A fire-fight, a misfire, it doesn’t matter – the more bullets and barrels, the greater the chance of a tragic accident and, frankly, there’s nothing wrong with tele-commuting or taking a day off (it’s already spring vacation for the local public schools). Pragmatism and prudence.

    There’s a lot to be learned from this: there’s a lot of people in this town that are willing to put their ass on the line for their fellow Bostonian, and there’s a lot of people that are willing to help anyway they can, even if all that they can do is keep out of the way while the professionals do their job. The only technology that helped catch these guys were cameras, and the only intelligence was an eye-witness, and tips from the public — no facial recognition, electronic surveillance, … no law enacted by Congress post-9/11 … just good old fashioned (and astonishingly brave) police work, public cooperation, and a common sense of purpose and justice.

    Kudos to my hometown for leaving their torches and pitchforks at home.

    It’s embarrassing and sad to me that there are members of Congress calling on treating the surviving suspect as an “enemy combatant”, as if the accused were a soldier captured at war, to one day be released to his country when the war is over. No, whoever perpetrated this is a criminal plain and simple. He fights for no foreign country and has been claimed by us as one of our own, he wears no uniform, has no honor — he is no soldier — and, frankly, should be subject to the just and proper rule of law and not given quarter as a prisoner of war… in my humble opinion.

    • I respectfully disagree with your objection to him being considered “…a soldier captured at war…”. That is exactly what he was, a soldier of whatever war he was fighting, he does not need another country behind him to do so, and at war with the rest of this community, as demonstrated by his unprovoked attack on our citizens, and the intentions indicated by the events that took place in the ensuing days. So, I’m sorry, but yes, he is an enemy, he was combative from start to finish, and he should be held appropriately accountable. His citizenship in this country was GRANTED, not earned or birth-righted, and he abused that in the most heinous and treasonous way possible. He will not be released to his own country when this war is over, he will be charged, tried and executed for his behavior as he should be.

      • Actually, Bjork to the contrary, there is no such thing as an army of one. I understand your anger, but I think the US justice system – good enough for Jared Lee Loughner, good enough for Whitey Bulger – will be good enough for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev too.

  17. It is the blind & brainwashed cheering of violent authority- police and military – that led too many Americans to support the deaths of innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. That causes people to hate us an “blow back” to occur.

    The flag waving was sickening. The police worship is disgraceful. The authority bootlicking will let the government get away with more crimes. Including many more dead innocent people.

    Time to.wake up and question the government. THAT is “strong”

    • On the contrary. I originally had this in the piece but took it out for space: “In a way Friday represented a rebuke, an antidote, to the response to 9/11 – not the initial response on the part of New York City, but the way in which the Bush administration used it as an opportunity for military adventurism, xenophobia and the Patriot Act, while the actual perpetrator went free. In Boston, we had police work instead of invasion. We targeted a suspect, not a regime.”

      • …And Obama invaded Boston instead of Baghdad. You go ahead and do what you’re told because your armored masters know what’s best for you. Nevermind the tanks on your street and rifles pointed at people taking pictures and people frisked and houses raided without warrant. Nevermind that all this security theater failed to catch the teenaged suspect who was outside the perimeter. Hurray! U.S.A! U.S.A.! Land of the free! Home of the brave!

  18. Police were continually screaming “don’t look out the window!” during their sweep in Watertown last week. This photo shows what happens to folks who disobeyed that order.So our security now depends on permitting police to threaten to kill anyone who disobeys any order? Or to treat every American like a terrorist suspect who can be gunned down on the flimsiest pretext?

    As more people view photos like the above, the knee-jerk pro-government reaction to last week’s finale will dissipate. It will not matter if 70% or 80% of people still support any action the government takes. There will be enough people – initially with camcoms and cell phones – that the legitimacy of mass crackdowns will not survive.

    • Your leap from “Police pointed a gun at movement in a window, after telling citizens not to go to their windows, but did not shoot after realizing it was not the suspect” to “police threatening to kill people for disobeying any order” is illogical.

      • In “progressiveworld”, pointing a rifle is not a “threat to kill” if the rifle is pointed by a government agent.

  19. I heard one of my kids repeat a tweet they read on Friday that went something like this: “Boston is the only place where when someone attacks us, we shut everything down, stop EVERYTHING we are doing, hunt you down, and FIND YOU.” This is exactly what this article expresses, and thank you for writing it. There was a job to be done, more important than anything else that any of us from the Boston area could have been doing, so that’s what we did. As citizens, it was our job to stay out of the way and let our amazing police forces work together to do their job. And that’s what they did. I have never been more proud to call Boston my home, and I have never been more proud to be able to call a few of those law enforcement officials involved in last weeks events my family. So yeah, don’t mess with us, we know how to get $&i! done.

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  22. I tip my hat to the city of Boston. You showed nothing but class and dignity during one of your darkest weeks. No city should have have to deal with or go thru events like that. But if it ever happens again, anywhere in America, we can look at the blueprint that Boston just gave us.

    Now that I think about it. Imagine if this had happened before you guys won the series in 2004. They’d have found that little bastard beheaded and hanging from the Citgo sign…..

  23. Friday was a great example of why we need the second amendment.
    The NRA has seen a surge in membership in the Boston area since the incident.
    All it takes it a police state for the liberal to understand how “red staters” think.

    • I would heartily disagree. I think that what happened on Friday was entirely unrelated to any of the 2nd amendment issues we’re currently discussing as a nation. I’m sure some people in the area were lawful gun owners. And others were not. It didn’t make any difference one way or the other.

      I’m not arguing anything about the 2nd amendement here. I just don’t think it has any relation to Friday’s events.

      If there’s anything to do with guns here, it’s that these events provided a strong argument for universal background checks, as if they had been in place, it is likely that one of the bombers would have been flagged as he acquired weapons.

  24. The irony surrounding the live capture of suspect 2 is that it was not until AFTER the people were told they could roam freely that a citizen discovered suspect 2 in his boat. Interesting twist.

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  27. Thank you for stating this so well. We all knew instinctively that the lockdown was the right thing. I was – coincidentally – in Kendall Square on my way home on Thursday night just after the MIT office was killed. It was apparent mayhem (to me – I’m sure the law enforcement had some kind f handle on it) Having seen that, and then seeing on TV what happened shortly after on Watertown, we clearly just needed to get out of the way of the officers. No civilians hurt and we got the bad guy. We all want answers, and there was no chance of that if they killed him. Yes, this IS what civilization looks like. Thanks again – a Cantabrigian

  28. I am a frequent visitor to Boston. While the events were heartbreaking, it absolutely makes me seethe to read the comments – mostly from outsiders – who are manipulating the “shelter-in-place” for their own ugly conspiracy theories. On Friday I heard on WBUR an interview with a woman whose glass doors were shot through with bullets. She was rescued by police and taken out of harms way. Police state? Just to think that that’s what was going on is an obscenity.

    • Conspiracy theories and armchair quarterbacking is almost always from people who never lived or have even been to the Boston area. One I read was asking why the police were still using weapons at the end even though they had not determined if he had a gun at that moment. Anyone with a lick of sense …

  29. It turns out freedom is lost neither with a bang nor a whimper, but rather a pitiful, fearful cheer, and expressions of love for authority.

  30. This is why I will never again visit Boston. The left wing apologists for the Police State are appalling and ignorant. Don’t you people realize that this was a “warmup” for what the government has in store for us? Wake up and stop glorifying the “professionals”. They didn’t find the 19 yr old. When the people were allowed to leave their homes again he was found and not by the “professionals”.

  31. I find it rather ironic that the suspect was not found until AFTER the “lock-down” was lifted. When a private citizen went out to check his property he noticed something amiss and called the police. “Tiger in the tall grass”, indeed. Just don’t look out the window. LOL

  32. I agree completely! Just think of the chaos that would have ensued had we not stayed out of the way. Could the police have found the suspect if they had to worry about the general public milling around? What if an innocent civilian had been shot? Imagine the outcry then! Your article was totally on the mark. Bravo.

  33. Thousands of cops, swat and ground troops, and you forgot the best part… they didn’t find him. A nervous homeowner who noticed something wrong with his boat, and then he called 911. not the illegal house to house search, a guy worried about his boat.

  34. In Griswold vs. Connecticut in which the justices of the US Supreme Court discovered a “right to marital privacy” in the Constitution. The same right-to-privacy argument has long been used to justify legalized abortion. Griswold vs. Connecticut cited the Third Amendment to say that in today’s world, that Amendment means that “individual homes should be free from agents of the state.”

    So when all you New England “progressives” cheer the cops, SWAT teams, and military thugs who broke into their homes, pushed you around, ordered you out, and trampled all over you, you are not just applauding and welcoming tyranny but are also repudiating your beloved and cherished “right to privacy,” the chanting of which is virtually what defines one as a “progressive” these days.

  35. Pingback: My thoughts on the Boston Marathon Bombings | Sunlight in Winter

  36. It defies logic to call a million people cowering in their homes for fear of a teenager “strong.”

    They say they weren’t cowering, they were just allowing the police do their jobs uninterrupted. Is it the role of the police to dress in military uniforms, use military weapons, deploy military aircraft and military vehicles, and institute military tactics?

    Their city was locked down. Being “locked down” is a prison procedure. Their whole city was turned into a prison. They were reduced to inmates and they call this civilization.

    They are all very proud and yet I feel very ashamed and chilled that this response is the new precedent.

    What we’ve done to so many foreigners is coming back to us. The empire is coming home and Boston is cheering.

    • THERE WAS NO BLEEDING LOCK DOWN!!!!!!!

      Will you conspiracy nuts just please go look in a thesaurus? You will find that ‘request’ and ‘order’ are not synonyms, no matter how much you try to say they are. As has pointed out not everyone stayed in, which is their right (not just because there were legitimate reasons for some things).

  37. I find it absolutely amazing that the authorities even identified the suspects in the first place. Five years ago, the 2 brothers would have been 2 needles in a haystack. Cell phones, social media, networked communications — these were crucial to the suspect’s capture.

    The lockdown was incidental. Cornering the suspects was the real story.

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