Boston Terror Starts with a Footrace, Ends in a Boat

Manhunt for suspect culminates in Watertown Shootout
by Sofi Muñoz
News Co-Editor


April 15, 2013 marked the first successful terrorist attack on American soil since heightened security measures were implemented after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people (including an 8-year-old boy) and injuring 183, sending shock waves across the country and around the world. Within minutes of the explosions, the internet was flooded with amateur videos and gruesome images, showing people screaming and running in blind terror, blood pooling on the streets, limbs severed from bodies.

Authorities determined that the bombs were made using ordinary pressure cookers stuffed with explosives and metallic debris such as nails, BB pellets, and ball bearings. Upon detonation, the force from the blast launched the shards of metal at high speeds, embedding them into the lower extremities of those nearest to the bomb. The purpose of these types of explosives are to inflict horrific injuries on the greatest number of people; the small pieces of metal rip through flesh and bone, and causing unspeakable pain to its victims. Whoever planted the bombs knew they would be causing a lot of damage.

Initially, there was some confusion as to whether the explosions were accidents, though it quickly became apparent that the bombs were deliberately planted. On April 16, President Obama labeled the explosions as a terrorist attack, stating, “Anytime a bomb is used like this, it is an act of terror.” Yet this is a different type of terrorism, one that obstructs its motives and goals as well as its identity. Traditional terrorist groups are typically quick to claim responsibility for an action and are almost always vocal about their social, political, religious, or ideological goals In this case, however, the suspects’ identities did not surface until the night of April 18, and their motives still remain unclear.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, two brothers of Chechen heritage, were born in Kyrgyzstan and relocated to the United States over 10 years ago. According to the Wall Street Journal, the family fled Chechnya during the Chechen wars of the 1990s, first immigrating to nearby Kyrgyzstan, then to the United States. Chechnya, a Russian region in the South Caucus, is populated by ethnic Chechens who have a distinct language and culture, and primarily practice Islam. Since its annexation by Russia in the 18th century, Chechens have agitated for independence from a nation that is ethnically, linguistically, and religiously at odds with them. After the Soviet Union was dissolved, separatist groups turned to radical Islam and increased terrorist attacks against Russia.

But why attack the U.S.? What do we have to do with the separatist aspirations of a remote region in the Southern Caucus, a place most Americans would not be able to find on a map? Some news sources have speculated that they are radical Islamists, while others contend they are separatists bringing their struggle to the forefront of the international arena. Was the attack motivated by a perversion of religion? Was it planned to garner media attention? Or was it a calculated attack to instill fear in the hearts of Americans? As the paper goes to press, the answer continues to elude the nation.

Reaction to the attacks was overwhelming and instantaneous, thanks in part to technological developments that were unfathomable the last time the United States was subject to a terrorist attack. Within minutes of the explosions, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times were tweeting about it. Spectators were snapping pictures and uploading them, and Google set up person finder to help friends and family track down loved ones. Ultimately, it was technology, as well as the assistance of the public, that brought the Tsarnaev brothers to justice. After days of reviewing security camera footage, law enforcement officials released images of the suspects on the night of April 18, asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the individuals.

The suspects were tied to the fatal shooting of a campus security guard at MIT late that same night, after which they carjacked a vehicle and lead the police on a heated chase through neighborhoods in Watertown, Massachusetts. Boston was under virtual lockdown as police and the Tsarnaev brothers exchanged fire, resulting in the death of Tamerlan. Younger brother Dzhokhar evaded capture until April 19, when a Watertown native noticed there was blood on his boat in the backyard. Boston police commissioner, Edward Davis says the man “walked outside and saw blood on a boat in the backyard. He then opened the tarp on the top of the boat, and he looked in and saw a man covered with blood. He retreated and called us.” Just 26 hours after the media circulated images of the suspects, both Tsarnaev brothers were caught.

As the nation comes to terms with the Boston Marathon bombings, we must remember that though safety is not a guarantee, fear must never dictate our choices. Terrorists strive to disrupt the daily lives of innocents by inspiring fear and influencing everyday choices, such as whether to take public transportation or attend a sporting event. Yet, when we fight against the culture of fear, as the nation did this week, we render their efforts void. As President Obama tweeted, “They failed because we refuse to be terrorized.”

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