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18 April 2013

Boston Marathon tragedy shocks, saddens nation

From the age of 5 until he was 18, junior Jason Green didn’t miss a single Marathon Monday in Boston.

Green, who is from the nearby suburb Newton, felt a range of emotions as he learned about what happened Monday in the city, at sites he is so familiar with.

“Seeing the streets you walk on, the restaurants you’ve eaten lunch at, and the hospital you were born in depicted as a component of a terrorist attack was a surreal feeling,” he said.

For the city of Boston, Monday’s race turned what has traditionally been the city’s happiest day of the year into what Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick deemed “a horrific day.”

Usual shouts of encouragement became screams from those running for their lives when two bombs exploded just yards away from the finish line at around 2:45 p.m. Monday.

But running away from the explosion was impossible for close to 200 people at Boston’s Copley Square. Instead, they were rushed to local hospitals with injuries of varying degree. Three others, including an 8-year-old boy, have been pronounced dead.

Green said he still cannot wrap his head around Monday’s tragedy.

“My initial emotions were anger, frustration, depression and vulnerability,” he said.

For other University of Miami students who call Boston home, watching the tragedy unfold from a television screen sent shivers down the spine.

After hearing the news on Monday, junior Hannah Armstrong left class as tears spilled down her face.

“Growing up in Boston, the marathon represents a day to celebrate the hard work that so many of our family and friends work months to achieve,” said Armstrong, who is also from Newton. “It’s a shame that it was ruined in a matter of seconds by a heartless act.”

Sophomore Shelby Mosier, who is from North Andover outside of Boston, felt fortunate that her family did not make its usual appearance at the marathon this year.

“My dad typically volunteers in one of the medical tents at the finish line, but he decided to not go that morning,” Mosier said. “We are grateful, but it’s bittersweet because obviously he wanted to be there to help people.”

Monday was not only an important day for the runners, but also Patriots’ Day, a holiday observed in Massachusetts commemorating those who fought in the Revolutionary War.

For junior Kristen Spillane, who is from the suburb Mansfield and vice president of the Running Club, the context of the tragedy was especially disheartening.

“Months of hard work and dedication, insane training for qualifying times. The Boston Marathon is just such a prestigious event, even beyond the running community,” she said. “For death and horrible injury to happen at the very place where human willpower and strength is celebrated in its finest hour just makes you shake your head in sadness.”

Although Green is stunned, he does not doubt that his city will rebound.

“Ultimately, knowing the character of the people I grew up next to, I expect the participation and enthusiasm for next year’s Patriots’ Day to be greater than ever,” Green said. “I personally plan on running my first marathon next year to in some way restore a weekend that has played a huge part in my childhood.”

Spillane thinks it is an event that reaches beyond the city’s boundaries.

“I think this is so much more than just Boston,” she said. “I guess as much as we all try to think ‘It could have happened anywhere’ when we see such random acts of senseless violence, you really never think it’s going to happen in your city.”

President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that the FBI is investigating the bombings as an act of terrorism.

Markus Wagner, associate professor in the UM School of Law, said there is a legal distinction to be made between regular crimes and terrorism.

“If you can prove that it is terrorism-related, then the penalties are higher than if you cannot make that connection,” he said.

Wagner also said he would not make the comparison to 9/11, but to events in Europe in 2004 and 2005.

“In terms of magnitude, the attacks in Madrid and London … are probably good comparisons, where bombs are being placed on buses or on trains …,” he said.

Law enforcement officials still have no suspects in custody, and nobody has claimed responsibility for the Boston Marathon attack.

“With some crimes, or acts like this, people will claim responsibility,” Wagner said. “If they do, they usually do it fairly quickly. If they don’t, you will probably see in two or three days – though there may or may not be – some more concrete leads just by way of criminal investigation.”