Analysis: Why Boston Bombings Might Be Scarier Than 9/11

Boston police officers keep a perimeter secure in Boston's Copley Square Tuesday morning. Boston police officers keep a perimeter secure in Boston's Copley Square Tuesday morning. Elise Amendola/AP

Call it “terrorism” if a label helps you make sense of this madness. Find who did it and squash him—or them—with what President Obama called “the full weight of justice.” But in the broad scheme of things, such loose ends matter less than this: Life in America changed with the Boston Marathon bombings—again, and as with past attacks, for the much worse.

The Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995 and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were knee-buckling blows that led to an obsession over domestic security and foreign wars that will mark—and mar—our generation. The last mass terrorist assault on U.S. soil was carried out by Maj. Nidal M. Hassan, an Army psychiatrist with loose connections to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, who fatally shot 13 people and wounded 30 more at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009.

There were attacks thwarted by the swelling ranks of federal police: The so-called shoe bomber, Richard Reid; an attempt to bomb the New York City subway system in 2009; and an unexploded car bomb in Times Square in 2010.

Boston is another bridge too far, shattering any innocence we might have left. The Boston Marathon and its competitors reflect the best of America—always striving, forever resilient, and, as measured by population and cultural significance, enormous.

You might say it’s unfair to compare Boston’s relatively low death toll to 9/11 and Oklahoma City, much less to the thousands of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the daily total of gun deaths on U.S. streets.

But the Boston attack is notable not for the number of deaths, but for its cultural significance. It’s one thing—a dastardly, evil thing—to strike symbols of economic and military power. It’s another to hit the heart of America. Death at the finish line in Boston makes every place (and everybody) less secure.

Malls.

Churches.

Schools.

Ask a mother or father who lived in Washington from 2001-02 what was more terrorizing to your family: The 9/11 attacks or the “Beltway sniper”? Many will say the sniper. Two men were later charged in the horrifyingly random killings of 10 people in several locations throughout the Washington area. The dead and injured included a 39-year-old man shot while cutting grass, a 54-year-old part-time taxi driver shot while pumping gas, a 34-year-old babysitter and housekeeper shot while reading a book on a bench, and a 13-year-old boy shot while entering his middle school.

Parents kept their kids home from school or formed human barricades at “drop-off” spots. Malls emptied. For three Sundays, I sat in a back pew with my family and looked for terrorists among my fellow parishioners.

In those ugly months after 9/11, we feared there would be a “new normal” for America – that no place and nobody would feel safe again, that our churches, schools, malls as well as arenas and other places of great gathering would be killing fields. Our greatest fears were not realized, not right away. Did the nightmare begin with Boston?

Today, officials identified the 8-year-old boy killed at the finish line. His name was Martin Richard. He left a world unworthy of him.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.