To attack a marathon race, the very symbol of human endurance, is an exercise in futility, unless killing and inflicting pain were its only purposes. People will go on, marathons will go on. An eight-year-old boy, Martin Richard, who had just hugged his father, a runner, will not go on. He will not know what his life would have become. If that is the triumph that the person or persons behind the bombs in Boston sought, they achieved it.
Boston is the world’s oldest marathon race, 117 years old. It is run on Patriots’ Day, a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine, which commemorates battles in the American Revolutionary War in 1775; the race is a way of marking the ride of messenger Paul Revere to warn his countrymen about the advance of British troops. These symbols suggest that the defining features of democratic societies will endure, that the people who live in those societies believe mightily in them, and that the belief is bound up, somehow, with the human capacity to struggle, endure and overcome.
The Toronto Marathon and the London Marathon were heard from on Tuesday, and were reviewing security measures, but they were intent on pressing on. There should be, and no doubt will be, reasonable security measures that do not turn those cities into armed camps.
Openness is a defining feature of democratic societies, and the people of Boston did not retreat to bunkers after the attack. There were 8,000 who offered their homes to people in need. Others ran toward the hellish scene to try to help. Trust, which works hand in hand with openness, carried the day.
The cruelty of whoever was behind the two bombs is apparent. The bombs (at least one in a pressure cooker, an improvised device sometimes seen in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal) were filled with nails and ball bearings to produce warlike shrapnel wounds. Doctors found a little girl with nails sticking out of her. But there is no sign that Boston is terrorized. The people of London and New York have not been frightened out of the streets, subways and cafés of their cities after bigger attacks. This reflects not complacency or bravado but the same impulse to endure that drives marathon runners, an impulse that no bomb can destroy.
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