Saturday, April 20, 2013

Marathon Bombing

Photo: Boston's finest rushing to help an injured runner.  This will be SI's cover.  From

My thoughts, such as they are, on this week's marathon massacre and the FBI's and Watertown PD's amazing capture of Suspect #2.  There'll be another post soon that chronicles my thoughts as the week unfolded:

--This week's news reporting was the best of up-close and immediate news and technology.  And the worst.  It was the best because we were up-to-date about a really serious issue--this was news worth the attention, for once.  But we were in people's backyards.  Reporters and cameramen had to be told by the police and FBI to not report on tactical information, to not show how they were about to storm the boat, to constantly get back.  Incorrect information was reported around the world before it was checked by reporters.  For example, the supposed post of "You killed my brother, now all of you will die," or something like that, was incorrectly reported as written by the second suspect.  Instead, it was written by some loser hoaxer.  And a student missing for a long time now from Brown University was reported as one of the suspects.  He wasn't, and he's still missing.  The positives far outweighed the negatives, but as this sort of coverage happens more and more, I hope news stations don't get more powerful, more arrogant, more resistant to the authorities and to responsible and accurate reporting.

--Before the post-bombing events unfolded, I made a sort of criminal profiling blog that I didn't post, because I thought it'd be a disservice to those who suffered, and, also, frankly because I thought I'd be so wrong that I'd embarrass myself.  (Back during the DC Sniper situation, I wrote a long email to a friend that was my attempt to amateur profile the situation.  I was right about most of it, including that there were two snipers, that one was much older than the other, that they were living in a vehicle, and even about their race and approximate ages.  I was wrong about the vehicle: I predicted a van, but they were in a Chevy Caprice, with a hole in the trunk's lock for the gun barrel.  There will always be some sort of anomaly.)  This sort of thing is more playing the odds, more common sense, than any sort of talent or intelligence.  Anyway, here's what I'd thought, and what actually happened:

      --I thought there'd be two of them, maybe more, if the information was correct about the JFK Library's fire (it wasn't) and if there were two other bombs that didn't detonate (there weren't).  I thought that, if there were two, they'd be very close (but I didn't anticipate literal brothers), and that there'd be an age gap (but I predicted a larger gap, like with the two DC snipers).  I never thought there'd be just one, someone who planted the bombs himself and detonated them separately on a timer.  I thought this because, if there had been just one, it'd make more sense for him to detonate them at exactly the same time, because people will run away from the whole race once the first bomb explodes.

      --I thought the suspects would be younger, both in their teens and/or twenties, but younger than thirty.  And that, along the same lines, I thought they'd be students at one of the great many nearby universities.  (I thought these because--Why the marathon?  It struck me as an odd thing to terrorize.  My conclusion is that the suspects must've been very familiar with it.  Why's that?  Because they're nearby.)  I thought they'd be wearing caps or hoods.  This last is a minor thing, but not everyone wears caps and/or hoods, and the authorities would need something to exclude some of the people they'd have to analyze on film or in photos.  And the suspects would know there'd be cameras somewhere--though that's what ultimately caught them, anyway.  Turns out, in an urban area, there are cameras everywhere.

      --But I thought there'd be a much more personal reason for the bombings, something not completely political or religious.  I was totally off-base about that, which is why I'm just an amateur at this.  The suspects purposely bombed the onlookers, most of whom would be American.  And they bombed the Boston Marathon itself.

      --I thought the suspects would have more of a personal reason because the bombs went off long after the professional--and, often, international--runners had finished, so I thought they wouldn't be the targets.  And if the professional, international runners weren't the targets, then the amateur runners must have been.  Turns out, there are a lot of international amateurs who run in the marathon (for some reason, my thinking was limited on this).  And it now seems like the crowds themselves were the targets, not any of the runners.

      --However, I was on about their approximate nationalities, based on the pressure-cooker, which has been a sort of specialty used in conflicts in many Eastern-European, Russian-bloc countries.  As well as in conflicts in some countries where every type of bomb has been used.  I thought the suspects would not obviously stand out in appearance, so that they'd probably "look American," whatever the hell that means.

      --I thought the FBI should release the images of the suspects, which national intelligence organizations are often reluctant to do.  Once they did, it was all over in about twenty-four hours.  But the rapidity of that shocked me, as it did everyone else.

      --I thought it might have been possible for the suspects to be tied into the specific restaurant or whatever that the bombs were placed in front of.  Totally wrong on that.

Well, that's about it, as far as that kind of thing goes.  Next time I'll post something about my thoughts during the week as everything unfolded.

I want to close by saying that I will not soon forget the horror I felt during the initial event, and the respect and admiration (words I do not throw around, and emotions I do not quickly and easily feel) for the men and women who helped the victims and who fought and apprehended the suspects.

For many of them, law enforcement is a personality, not just a job.

People are inherently good, and many of them are inherently good at what they do.

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