Here’s a prediction. Next year the Boston Marathon will be bigger than this year. More runners. More spectators. Even more of a sense of community.
Of course, there will also be more security. And there will be a new sense of solemnity as people remember the three who died and more than 170 who were injured in Boston on Monday when two crude but deadly IEDs were detonated near the finish line of the race.
IEDs, improvised explosive devices, have been a hazard of war, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for years. Their migration to the streets of urban America comes as a shock to most of us, but is something that counterterrorism experts have seen coming for some time.
Disclosure Tuesday of the fact that the two devices in Boston were “pressure cooker bombs” introduced a new topic to the general public.
Al-Qaida’s Yemeni branch, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has been distributing a how-to manual on building bombs using tightly sealed pots for years. Literature and Websites encourage “lone jihadis” to use the devises in attacks on the Western world. The plans have been around long enough that they are no longer exclusive to “jihadists” and could just as easily be used by anyone disaffected with any government.
No excuses accepted
Regardless of who was behind the bombs, their grievances — real or imagined — cannot excuse the violence they did to innocent bystanders.
Eight-year-old Martin Richard was among the dead and his mother, Denise, and 6-year-old sister, Jane, were badly injured. Also killed was Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager from Medford, Mass., and a female exchange student from China whose name has not been released. Many of those injured face amputation of their lower limbs or extensive treatment and long periods of rehabilitation.
No quarter given
Whatever sense of perverted satisfaction the bombers may have felt will be short-lived. “We will go to the ends of the Earth to identify the subject or subjects who are responsible for this despicable crime, and we will do everything we can to bring them to justice,” said Richard Des-Lauriers, FBI agent in charge in Boston.
It will take time to sort through the evidence because there is so much to work with, both physical evidence from the IED fragments and photographic evidence from surveillance cameras, news cameras and the cell phone cameras of hundreds of people who were in the vicinity. But investigators not only have time, they have expertise and a passion for solving this crime.
Inevitably, these attacks on our people and our culture change us. We become more cautious, less trusting. Security measures are heightened. And that, in itself represents a threat to our way of life.
But the nation has balanced the need for security and the need for freedom before, and it will do so again. There is no real alternative.