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Editorial: Terror in the Bay State

Perhaps nothing shrinks the distance between eastern and western Massachusetts quite like the Boston Marathon. The bombing that disrupted this hallowed event Monday afternoon — spilling innocent blood, killing three including a child, and maiming many, many more — instantly united the people of this state and country.

We saw that resolve manifest itself Monday in the figures of emergency workers, joined by everyday citizens and exhausted runners, rushing toward the site of the two bomb blasts on Boylston Street to tend to the injured.

The finish line of this storied marathon is a place of joy and festivity. Thousands come to celebrate the personal struggles of participants who sign up for the punishment of a 26.2-mile road race. All major sports events draw crowds. But marathons put citizens on the starting and finishing lines — and in the heart-breaking middle.

Dozens of people from our region attended the marathon to compete or share in celebrations. The race is known worldwide and draws the very best runners. It also draws the hardy souls who were finishing well behind the winners Monday — at paces that put them in harm’s way based on the sick calculations of whoever is guilty of this mayhem.

These athletes compete in public spaces that cannot be made entirely safe. That has never mattered — and it never will.

Today, the hunt to find the person or people responsible for the bombings continues. The area around the finish line was designated a crime scene Monday afternoon and investigators led by the FBI got to work sifting for clues that could lead to arrests. They are studying an area that measures nearly a mile in length and three blocks in width. As they continue, life in Boston goes on, but as the city’s mayor said, it will hardly be business as usual.

No one has taken responsibility for the attack. In the absence of a motive, we are left to wonder what sort of criminal hands are behind this obscene insult to safety and order.

The unknown could feed public fear, and cause some to avoid public spaces. But we don’t think that’s how residents of Massachusetts — and Boston in particular — will respond. This is a proud city that thrives on the many places people meet. In interviews after the blasts, many city residents said they will not retreat from their right to embrace and travel their Boston on their terms.

When answers do come, we think they will greatly help to restore whatever confidence in public safety was shaken by this week’s terror. In the days ahead, Massachusetts will first learn more about those who suffered. A child must be buried. The more than 170 people injured must begin healing, some without the limbs that carried them to what they thought would be a Patriots Day party.

Across human history, terror has been a tool devised to shake public confidence. On that front, we believe it has already failed.

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