Monday, June 17, 2013

The Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings: A Cause for Celebration or Reflection?

By Michelle Abou-Raad

April 15th, Patriots’ Day, or as we Bostonians like to call it, Marathon Monday, is a civic holiday during which New Englanders of all ages line the streets of Boston and its neighboring cities to cheer on runners as they hit the pavement for the 26.2 mile race (42.195 kilometers). It is a day of celebration and excitement that everyone, especially my Boston University classmates and I, looks forward to all year. However, this past Marathon Monday did not end with the usual lighthearted jubilation that I have come to love. Instead, we were left with great loss, broken hearts, and a city paralyzed by fear due to the two bombs planted at the finish line by brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

What followed that perilous Monday was a city and its people feeling shocked, afraid, and distraught. Many of the emotions we felt were mollified when Tamerlan was killed and his brother was apprehended after a statewide manhunt four days following the bombings. When the news of Dzhokhar’s arrest reached us, everyone felt a sense of relief as well as great patriotism. College students from around Boston rushed to the Commons, a public park in the city, to celebrate the “defeat of the terrorists.” Caught up in the frenzy of enthusiasm, I joined the throng of students on their way to the Commons. However as I began walking with the students who were chanting “USA! USA! USA!” I came to the realization that this was no cause for celebration. Three main reasons convinced me to turn away from the crowd and return to my room that evening.

First, the notion that someone’s opinion could change so drastically from one week to another alarmed me. At the Commons, students praised and cheered for the police officers that they had been cursing and criticizing less than one week ago for breaking up their parties. I could not help but wonder if this praise and commendation was genuine or just a false sense of nationalism.

Another recurring thought was what could have instigated such deadly and hateful actions? The Tsarnaev’s were two young men who had lived in the United States for most of their lives and seemed to be fully integrated into American society. Planting bombs at the Marathon was obviously not a spontaneous decision. This plan was based on an underlying motive that caused them to take such destructive actions against a country they had inhabited for many years. We may never know the reason for the brothers’ actions, but regardless, it is clear that there was a serious problem and a deep hatred for the United States that drove them to kill three people and injure almost 300 innocent civilians. Instead of celebrating, we should have been addressing potential issues that give rise to this type of radical behavior. 

Finally, I realized that actions of terror and violence are commonplace in many parts of the world. On the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, 33 people were killed in car bombings and explosions across Iraq. Seventeen people were killed in the Central African Republic conflict the weekend before the Marathon, and about 6,000 people were estimated to have been killed in Syria in the month of March alone. I cannot imagine living in a place such as Iraq or the Central African Republic where people must live in constant fear of attacks. For weeks after the bombings, I tensed up and felt pangs of worry whenever I heard sirens outside of my window fearing that some other sort of danger had gripped my city.

I believe it is important to put this tragedy into perspective because the death and destruction that Boston and its people suffered is a nightmare for many with no happy celebration at the end of it. The Boston Marathon bombings received local, national, and international media attention, while the tragedies that I stated above were not even mentioned by American news syndicates. The Marathon bombings were a grave tragedy and they should remind us to embrace a human perspective with a broad lens. We must not only shed light upon the suffering and hardships of victims in our city, state, or country, but also of those around the world. Boston has received immense support and solidarity over the last few months. The global response has been inspiring, and I truly hope that my city and I will be able to reciprocate these thoughtful sentiments when tragedies like this one strike other areas of the world.

 Michelle Abou-Raad is currently completing an internship at Women without Borders/SAVE in Vienna.

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