Hard to conceive of a sporting event more open and sprawling than a marathon. Think of the Akron race in the fall, runners visiting south of the city’s center, the landscape somewhat industrial, then heading north, reaching park land and more residences, before taking Market Street to downtown. Then, there is the iconic Boston Marathon, 23,000 runners, an estimated 500,000 or more people gathered along the route to watch, many crowded near the finish line.
A terrorist looking to kill, maim and otherwise fuel bloodshed and fear would have the opportunity, the area difficult to secure. So it went on Monday, a bright day, the premier runners long past the finish, those still on the course mostly proving something to themselves. That is what is so special about a marathon, the personal test, admired by those close and by strangers, all shouting encouraging words. What came next in Boston were the powerful explosions, the strain and the joy turning into horror, at least three dead, including a young boy, and more than 180 injured.
The search for answers and suspects began immediately and continues, word surfacing Tuesday about a “pressure-cooker device” like the improvised explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bomb packed with small pellets and sharp “nail-like” objects. Authorities hope the many cameras in operation, from security to the cellphone variety, will help in deciphering the complex crime scene.
Worth attention as Cleveland re-examines security at its marathon next month and Akron does the same is that such bombings and attacks seek to frighten, enough that we begin to abandon elements of what we hold dear. Succumb unreasonably to the fear, and the attacker prevails.
That’s not to say security shouldn’t be improved. Rather, amid the pain and loss, let’s hold onto perspective. After the Sept. 11 attacks, we told ourselves it would happen again, even as we promised vigilance. We learned it isn’t worth descending into torture or otherwise eroding principle. Now there are victims in Boston. The person or persons behind the bombing must be found and brought to justice. Know, too, how rare such attacks are, the odds greater of dying from a lightning strike.
No question, the Boston Marathon, a tradition dating to 1897, forever has been changed. What need not be lost is all we celebrate in these races, the individual triumph, the community gathering together, or what we like about ourselves. Those traits were evident in the men and women who rushed to help after the explosions. They resisted the fear. They moved to save and start rebuilding lives. They took the first steps toward next year, the marathon once again at the heart of the city.