The end of a marathon is a soft target. The scene is always chaotic. Runners are delirious. Friends of the runners are racing about. No one goes through any security; no one searches any bags. There are Gatorade cups strewn about, piles of running gear. People are hyperventilating, crying, celebrating. And today, in Boston, though we don’t know what caused it—an accident, a deliberate act—there was horror. A celebratory gunshot started the race, and then, just over four hours later, two simultaneous explosions near the finish line ended it. They were fifty to one hundred yards apart, according to the Boston police. There were reports of two dead and almost thirty injured but, at a press conference just before five, the police commissioner, Ed Davis, said that he wasn’t ready to give a precise number. He was asked if it looked like terrorism. “We’re not being definitive about this right now,” he said. But he added that people could look at what had happened and “you can reach your own conclusions.” I’ll update this post as we learn more.
The end of the marathon is where one thinks, also, about what a person, and a body, can take—human endurance. The switch to contemplating its vulnerability was sudden and abrupt. “There was blood everywhere, there were victims being carried out on stretchers. I saw someone lose their leg. People are crying, people are confused,” the Boston Globe‘s Steve Silva reported. Other witnesses saw people who had just been running or cheering lying injured on the ground.
Up until then, the Boston Marathon had seemed like a joyous event. I ran through Copley Square yesterday morning, just to get a sense of the pre-race euphoria and excitement—and to watch the runners doing their last, final get-the-jitters-out jog. Today, there was a dramatic finish to the men’s race. An American woman came in fourth, as did an American man, one who doesn’t even have a shoe contract. But marathons aren’t about the winners; they are about the rest of the runners. And the worst time for an explosion is at about the four-hour mark, when a new runner seems to cross the line every second. Some of the most terrifying video shows the runners, coming to the finish line, right as the explosions go off.
The last major American marathon was also marked by tragedy: Hurricane Sandy led to cancellation of the race in New York. But this is the opposite: a clear day, a race almost finished, and a disaster that, it seems, can’t be attributed to nature. After the news from Boston, the New York Police Department increased security around likely targets; the same happened in Washington, D.C. One has to think we’ll find out what happened. The end of a marathon is a place for photography, and video. Someone, somewhere, will look through the pictures they snapped and see something. We have to hope we’ll figure it out.
Original article can be read on the New Yorker website.