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What others say: Sifting scenes of horror, courage in Patriots' Day bombings

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following are condensed versions of editorials from national newspapers on the bombing of Monday’s Boston Marathon.

A case of heartbreak
at the finish line

The Boston Marathon is a rite of spring in New England, one of the great festive days of the year. Many’s the time we’ve gone up early for the Red Sox game and then walked over to Kenmore Square to watch the runners scoot or struggle past. The city is jammed with millions of happy people.

That someone would wreak death on this event stretches the bounds of sick behavior — yet again. Witnesses inside the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel heard booms that sounded like thunder near the finish line. Crying, bleeding people fled the scene while emergency crews tended to victims. The ordnance suggests a possible terrorist attack. Who would do such a thing — and why — is still a mystery.

We don’t know if the perpetrators are foreign or domestic, but it is nonetheless hard not to think this country does need a higher level of mental health screening. Just four months after the massacre of 20 children and six educators at a school in our state, it is sad and frustrating to see another senseless attack. Now is the time to get engaged, as the people for whom Patriots Day is named did, and focus on security, on community and on individual freedom. Enough.

The hard-won lesson of ‘post-traumatic growth’

The carnage at the close of Monday’s Boston Marathon tripped Americans’ natural psychic reflexes: Are there any more bombs? Any more cities? And, is Uncle Pat running that race again this year?

These reactions were more thoughtful, more muted, more knowledgeable than they were 20 years ago, when this nation began its own, most recent marathon of terror assaults on U.S. soil. The tactic then: a truck bomb beneath the World Trade Center that failed to topple the north tower into the south.

Attacks that can reasonably be called terrorism, often involving bombs, are a treacherous staple of U.S. history. These events have slaughtered innocents, shattered families and caused enormous damage to property. Even within these last two decades, the toll has been steady, from the Unabomber’s lethal mailings to the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics to the anthrax attacks that all but paralyzed postal service.

We cite these earlier incidents not to diminish Monday’s horror but to acknowledge a growing resilience in the American people. This is not yet Israel or Britain, lands where the relative frequency and ferocity of terror attacks has hardened many citizens against fear. This is, though, a nation whose people cannot be rattled as easily as was the case in earlier decades.

Americans never will take these dreadful events with anything less than initial shock and dutybound resolve: Who did this, and how should our leaders react? But there was more than symbolism at work Monday in the video from the first blast: more people running toward this ground zero than running away.

Monday confronted all Americans with a sense of helplessness, but not of hopelessness. We have been here before, we will be here again. We have survived many terror assaults, and whatever comes next, we will survive that, too. We have learned these things about ourselves.

Those with twisted minds and treasured grievances never will stop doling out damage and wedging their causes into headlines. But with each incident the next perpetrators lose some fraction of their ability to leave us fractured and flummoxed.

The curse of our era strikes in Boston

The deadly and despicable bombing attacks near the Boston Marathon’s finish line turned the crowd’s cries of joy into cries of terror in mere seconds.

Again, Americans now will place their trust in authorities to resolutely piece together who did it, why they did it and what can be done to try to prevent similar incidents.

Again, Americans’ fears will be ratcheted up about safety at large public events and spaces — fears that must be met with realistic deterrents so the events can go on.

And again, Americans will pay tribute to the bravery of dedicated emergency personnel who ran toward the coordinated explosions on Monday, quickly moving the wounded to ambulances and care.

A free society leaves us open to harm. It’s up to Homeland Security, police and other security personnel to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Americans will grieve with Boston, for the dead, and for the dozens wounded.

President Barack Obama spoke for all Americans Monday, stating, “We will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable.”

Chaos after the bombing created a firestorm of speculation about suspects who targeted innocent people in a high profile event on Patriots Day.

The attack on an American sporting institution will undoubtedly lead to changes at next year’s Boston Marathon, a sad reality that follows every major tragedy as society attempts to lessen risks based on past experiences.

However, runners from across the country who train all year to get to Boston likely will not be deterred. The men and women who operate the charities that raise $10 million a year through the marathon will not be deterred. The elected officials and law enforcement officials in Boston will not be deterred from protecting the tradition of the marathon.

All will do their best to make sure the sowers of evil and destruction don’t succeed, and the 118th Boston Marathon goes off as scheduled on April 21, 2014.

Americans will be watching and pulling for that outcome as one of the best ways to stand united against cowardly attacks.

Terrorism in Boston — we’ve been here before

It was a moment celebrating the things so many of us hold dear: sportsmanship, competition, community. People cheering, multicolored flags from around the world flapping in front of a blue-sky backdrop, runners triumphantly reaching the finish line. A perfect day at one of America’s iconic sporting events, the Boston Marathon.

In a flash, and a column of smoke, all of it disappeared. Screams replaced cheers, carnage overtook accomplishment. Fifteen seconds later, another explosion two blocks away. And three hours later, a somber American president was standing before TV cameras, vowing justice.

Haven’t we been here before?

Few facts emerged immediately after the tragedy: multiple bombs set in strategic places. That implies planning, with the possibility of more than one perpetrator. Anything beyond that is pure speculation.

But the word “terrorism” is now on our lips. And we need little reminding that we have been here before.

We have instant flashbacks to what we lived, and what we learned, from a similarly blue-sky day on Sept. 11, 2001.

We know that terrorists always underestimate who we are. That we are stronger than any single act of terror. And that we emerge from attacks stronger, not weaker. What we know is that every such act of violence against innocent Americans reminds us that we are the United States. Sometimes, in this loud chaotic democracy, we can forget.

Perhaps, in a country riven by the passion of politics, such an attack might help remind us that the politics of gun control and immigration are not what really defines us. And that those issues are certainly not insurmountable.

You see, we’ve been here before.

We know that those of us in Dallas, and Miami and Los Angeles and Seattle and St. Louis, will stand with the people of Boston. We will hold hands and light candles; we will send assistance and prayers.

We will grit our teeth and ramp up our vigilance. And we know that those who will be investigating this horrific act will do it even more efficiently and with greater tools than they did 12 years ago.

We know. Because we’ve been here before.

Running for their lives in cradle of revolution

Sports and games serve as peaceful proxies for war, made possible by the absence of actual hostilities; think the Olympics or the Fischer-Spassky Cold War chess championship. That is part of what makes an act of violence against an athletic event so deeply sickening: It shows the best impulses of humans undone by their worst.

Monday’s attack on the Boston Marathon was replete with such distressing juxtapositions. Participants were photographed running toward an explosion in the moment that the glorious sight of the finish line was transformed into a savage crime scene that people fled. And a celebration of the human body’s hard-won capabilities was ended by a heedless assault on its vulnerabilities.

For all the dreadful practice we’ve had responding to such horrors, we’ve had much more trying to prevent them, particularly at crowded entertainment and sporting events. But marathons also work against such precautions by their nature, stretching across 26.2 miles and involving thousands of athletes and spectators along the route.

The marathon is no exception to the relationship among war, peace, and sports. The original marathon of legend carried news of a battle’s end; Boston’s, the world’s oldest annual marathon, takes place on Patriots Day, commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord.

Even in the wake of such a disheartening act of modern violence, it’s important to remember that terrorism remains fortunately rare in this country, and that a peaceful, functional civilization represents its ultimate defeat. Despite their obvious security challenges, marathons have only become dramatically more popular in the United States, their participation more than doubling to about half a million over the past two decades. That is still for the best.

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