Boston Marathon Disaster

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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90 Responses

  1. I was scheduled to round at Children’s today, but had no patients on my service so didn’t have to drive in. Spent this morning insanely happy not to have to figure out how to get through the marathon snarl, and now wish I was at the hospital in the off chance there was something I could be doing instead of sitting in my office feeling devastated.

    I tried to get a number to run Boston last year, but didn’t get picked for the fundraising team I contacted. Running the Boston marathon is one of those things I’d idly dreamed of doing.

    I feel awful.Report

  2. Tod Kelly says:

    Holy crap. I don’t even know what to say.Report

  3. Dave says:

    You and me both.Report

  4. DRS says:

    Major unhappy. I love Boston!Report

  5. I have a close friend in Boston, who’s a runner. It turns out he lives two blocks from the finish line. I’m ever-thankful to learn that he and his girlfriend are safe. And I’m so sorry for everyone who was not so lucky.Report

  6. greginak says:

    Given the apparently confirmed reports of more bombs at the race and at the JFK library we may count ourselves lucky, at some later date, there weren’t more causalities.Report

  7. DRS says:

    The BM is an international event; according to the Toronto Star, there are an estimated 2,000 Canadians there.Report

  8. Rod says:

    I just heard on the radio (A.P.) that they have the guy in custody. Twelve dead and 50 wounded.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Rod says:

      I can’t confirm that on the web.Report

      • New York Post is the only one reporting that.

        It’s the New York Post, though.

        I imagine we can’t trust anything until Thursday or Friday.Report

        • Rod Engelsman in reply to Jaybird says:

          Yeah…. because now what I’m getting from CNN is 3 dead, including an 8-year old boy, plus at least 138 more wounded. Both figures likely to rise. Boston authorities and the FBI are sorta/kinda promising more/better info in the morning.

          The press conference was… remarkably uninformative. But the Q&A was interesting. Some clown from I’m-not-sure-where, Whirled Nut Daily maybe, “Isn’t it true that this is a false flag event to give the authorities cover to further restrict our civil liberties??!!” Answer: “No. Next Question.”Report

          • KatherineMW in reply to Rod Engelsman says:

            …If it was, would the government admit it?! “Yep, you caught us, we totally just wanted to an excuse to restrict your civil liberties further, but somehow we’re also incapable of lying when asked a direct question. Foiled!”Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

          CNN has

          Saudi national with a leg wound was under guard at a Boston hospital in connection with the bombings at the Boston Marathon, but investigators cannot say he is involved at this time and he is not in custody, a law enforcement official said Monday evening.

          He’s apparently the Post’s “suspect”.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

          Exactly. The first reports are always wrong. The news networks need to give the investigators time to work. As of 0149 UTC no suspects are in custody, no group has made any claims for responsibility and anyone who starts guessing at this point needs a beating.Report

          • Rod Engelsman in reply to BlaiseP says:

            And the situation is so ripe for such speculation. Today is, of course, Tax Day. But it’s also Patriot Day and Friday is the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Theories will fly thick and fast!Report

          • Rod Engelsman in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Oh! Lest I forget… the first bomb went off next to a reviewing stand or some such that was set up for the families of the Newtown shooting victims.

            Cripes. Like those folks need more trauma in their lives. Thankfully none of them appear to have been among the injured.Report

          • George Turner in reply to BlaiseP says:

            I think it’s pretty obvious to everybody that Iran is behind the attack because only the Persians would still be pissed off about the outcome of the Battle of Marathon and the foot race that commemorates it.Report

    • greginak in reply to Rod says:

      suspects are somethings everybody should go very slowly on. its takes time to check a valid suspect out to find he is just a victim or in the wrong spot. some things, like the number of bombs, can be verified soon afterwards. real suspects take time.Report

  9. Kazzy says: has set up a Google Person Finder to locate missing people and a Google Doc for anyone offering or in need of accommodations. More info on their front page.Report

  10. North says:

    Just when things were finally showing shoots of winding down from 9/11… God(ess?) help us. I hope they catch the perp quickly and that not too many people were hurt.Report

  11. Dwight Schrute says:

    Seems like this kind of stuff is happening more and more. I truly am losing faith in humanity.Report

  12. Anne says:

    I was born in Boston and have lots of family still there as far as we know right now everyone is OK. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I was raised in Oklahoma and had friends in the Murrah Building and was in New York City for my first semester of graduate school during 9/11. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Boston.Report

  13. Michelle says:

    Horrible news. My heart goes out to the people caught up in it. We have a friend who was running the marathon, but thankfully she was already at her hotel at the time the bomb went off.

    I’ll be avoiding cable news for the next few days to avoid all the speculation. Too much misinformation.Report

  14. Christopher Carr says:

    My cousin was running the marathon, and my aunt and uncle were waiting for him at the finish line. They wound up being somewhere between the two bombs that went off and were okay. My cousin was also still running at the time of the bombs, and he was also fine. I just found this out a few hours ago.

    I left the hospital where I work at 3:30 today, and there were police cars and ambulances all over the place. I figured it was just the usual marathon-related hoopla even after walking right past the E.D. I got a whole bunch of phone calls right after that during my fifteen-minute walk to the subway, and it was through these that I gradually came to realize what had been happening.

    I teach a class on Monday evenings cross-town and wound up taking the Red Line through the center of the city at about 4:00. The train bypassed Downtown Crossing and Park Street. During that time I was one of exactly two people in my car. By the time I got to Cambridge I learned that my class was cancelled, headed back across the city, and home. By this time Downtown Crossing and Park Street stations had been reopened and the platforms were more packed with people than I had ever seen before. The train was jam-packed on the way home.

    I work in stroke and head trauma research, so after going through sign-outs to screen for potential study subjects, I spent the whole day today reading about cerebral amyloid angiopathy and fMRI studies.

    I’m not looking forward at all to reading through tomorrow’s sign-outs.Report

  15. NewDealer says:

    ‘There Are So Many People Without Legs’

    Was a quote from a NY Times article. Damn, damn, damn. Damn how we hate each other.Report

  16. Kimmi says:

    My husband had friends there. He’s not sure if they’ll ever walk again.Report

  17. North says:

    Very interesting that no one has claimed responsibility for this attack. I wonder if this is a lone kook event like Mcveigh of the Unabomber?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to North says:

      I’ve been trying to figure this out. I mean, I don’t expect to actually figure it out, but where to place the markers. The big two, rightwing militia type or Islamic terrorist, don’t seem particularly right. The target doesn’t fit. This is a more creative attack than Islamic terrorists have shown to date, and there’s nothing about a marathon that it seems to me would make a rightwinger want t0o go after it (I understood the Olympics).

      So maybe you’re right, a lone kook. That seems like it would be the most preferable culprit. It gets ugly with rightwing terrorist, and much uglier with an Islamic one.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Will Truman says:

        From the target you’d have to go with the Iranians, looking to avenge their loss at Marathon. ^_^

        Actually this would be a pretty typical Islamist style terrorist attack, as at least seventeen other people were killed that same day in five separate bombings. Crowded street attacks are the most common. The pressure cooker bombs are common in Afghanistan and Iraq, loaded with nails, bearings, and other shrapnel along with five or six pounds of smokeless powder and set off by Christmas type lights and a remote trigger. Domestic terrorists are far more likely to go with a pipe bomb.

        There are also very few right-wing terrorists. Pretty much McVey and former world hide-and-go-seek champion Eric Rudolph. There are tons on the left though. The M.O. isn’t a bad fit to Obama’s close friends in the Weather Underground, but the target doesn’t match unless they were trying to take out first responders and security people at the finish line.Report

        • North in reply to George Turner says:

          Except with Islamic terrorists you usually have the problem of too many groups claiming responsability, not nobody.

          As to your left vs right wing terrorists angle, I think your point would have more strength if the left wing examples were not all from like, fourty years ago and the right wing ones weren’t enormously more recent. The Weather Underground was in the mid 70’s; Mcveigh meanwhile was in 1995 and the Tiller murder was in 2009.Report

        • DRS in reply to George Turner says:

          Obama’s close friends in the Weather Underground,

          Are we calling out lies on this site? Because this kind of casual smear is getting damn tedious. Ditto the tons on the left part: there are so many terrorists on the left that George can’t name any of them.

          I would have thought the topic under discussion was serious enough for people to be, you know, serious.Report

          • North in reply to DRS says:

            You’d do better to call them mistakes or errors than lies. It’s entirely possible George can’t distinguish between forty year old left wing terrorists and what’s going on now. It’s also possible he honestly believes the farcical charges that Obama and Ayers were deep personal friends and that Obama is somehow actually associated with the Weather Underground or, even , that the Weather Underground still exists in any functioning form.

            If so that is sad and reflects very badly on him without the need for anyone to put up a red faced post yelling “liar, Liar, LIAR!!” In fact I’d assert that such a response would only serve to spread the foolishness to other people by suggesting they take such assertions seriously enough to bother getting exercised about them.Report

            • DRS in reply to North says:

              So George isn’t a liar – really – he’s an idiot. Not sure that’s entirely an improvement, but if that’s the consensus, I’ll go along with it.

              In fact I’d assert that such a response would only serve to spread the foolishness to other people by suggesting they take such assertions seriously enough to bother getting exercised about them.

              Um, no. No, I don’t think so. If people did more calling out of lies and stupidities on this site, the people posting them might make more of an effort to keep their l’s and s’s to themselves. I know you can get away with a lot on this site as long as you’re officially a “character” but there are limits and I’m fast reaching mine.Report

              • DRS in reply to DRS says:

                *bleep* it. Could someone please fix the italicization? Thanks in advance.Report

              • North in reply to DRS says:

                Or, more likely as happens endlessly on the internets, the entire conversation devolves into endless duelling liar liar flamefests. I’ll pass, thanks and let George’s assertions speak for themselves.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to DRS says:

                Call out an idea or assertion you think is wrong, absolutely. Call it out harshly, or ridicule it, absolutely. If someone writes something you view as offensive, make clear that you are offended, absolutely. Just don’t turn it into a personal attack on your interlocutor or automatically assign intent, no matter how absurd the idea or assertion appears, or even how absurd it actually may be.

                There is a world of difference between “this is a ridiculous assertion,” and “you’re a liar,” between seeking to discredit an idea and seeking to wholly discredit another interlocutor on the site or discourage them from contributing on other topics.

                The latter type of thing absolutely has its place, and if you want to accuse someone off-site of bad faith, no one will stop you, and neither Tod, Dave, nor I will view it as anything other than within bounds. But if you want to accuse other people on this site of bad faith, then we’ve got problems, and not because such accusations are immoral or make you a bad person or anything of that sort. Instead, we’ve got problems because this particular site doesn’t work unless everyone is entitled to a heavy presumption of good faith.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                this particular site doesn’t work unless everyone is entitled to a heavy presumption of good faith.

                Like we don’t know why Mark would say that.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Two things…

                In a nutshell, respond to the act, not the actor.

                However, some folks do seem to cross the line often enough that they ought lose the presumption of good faith. Eventually, repeated acts begin to define the actor.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy says:

                Sure, but whether someone has lost that presumption is a conclusion that one should arrive at on one’s own, in private, and should result in ignoring the person who has lost that presumption as far as one is concerned.

                When one concludes that someone is arguing in bad faith, one concludes that someone is a troll. The first rule of dealing with trolls is to ignore them. If enough people reach the same conclusion as you – on their own – then the troll will be sufficiently ignored as to go away. If you absolutely must say something, then just say that one has concluded the person is a troll and that one will ignore them in the future. Then actually ignore them. Running around and repeating the accusation of bad faith everywhere one can does nothing other than ruin threads and undermine the site’s purpose.

                Of course, if the person meets this site’s definition of a troll, which obviously may well be different from how any one individual may define trolling, then Tod, Dave, or I will lay down the banhammer. If one thinks that the person meets the site’s definition of a troll and should be banned or suspended, then the proper way to go is to contact one of us or one of the other FPers and make your request, not to send the threads into endless cycles of accusations.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Trolling is different from arguing in bad faith, though arguing in bad faith may in fact be one aspect of trollery.Report

              • DRS in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                You know what? I don’t think I’m coming back here anymore. I’m wasting my employer’s time and the discussions aren’t interesting me much. And that bit about not accusing people of bad faith on the thread is funny, considering the Rand Paul-Victim thread of the past couple of days. I cannot figure out what the standards are in this place and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not worth the effort anymore to find them. Ciao.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to DRS says:


                I hope you reconsider. This place is better with you here.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to DRS says:

                Me too. Please reconsider.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to DRS says:

                What is it with people leaving lately? And it’s never the ones you’d like to go, either. (No offense meant, George and Kimmi.)Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                are you saying you’d like to see me go? ;-PReport

              • If enough people who think the place isn’t nasty enough leave of their own volition, then maybe the people who left because they thought it was too nasty will think about coming back.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to DRS says:

            Fucking hell, that’s just ignorant.
            Greenpeace has a terrorist wing, after all…

            It takes me not two seconds to come up with this,a nd I’m a liberal!Report

        • Matty in reply to George Turner says:

          The M.O. isn’t a bad fit to Obama’s close friends in the Weather Underground, but the target doesn’t match unless they were trying to take out first responders and security people at the finish line.

          I hadn’t actually heard of the Weather Underground before but going by the wikipedia page trying to take out first responders and not claiming responsibility doesn’t sound like their M.O, to quote.

          Most were preceded by evacuation warnings, along with communiqués identifying the particular matter that the attack was intended to protest. .

          They also appear to have targeted buildings associated with the government and corporations rather than public events and to do so in response to specific actions they opposed.

          In short targeting a crowd of random people and not mentioning either before or after that you did it or why sounds about as far as you can get from the description of the WUO, without leaving the area of terrorism altogether – and yes from the description they sound like terrorists to me.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

          Likely, you weren’t around for the Weather Underground. You probably weren’t around for when all those charges were dismissed either. I also presume you know why the government couldn’t get a conviction: COINTELPRO was the US government doing pretty much anything it wanted and the judicial system thought that was a Romper Room No-No.

          And what do you know about what constitutes a “typical Islamic-style terrorist attack”? This isn’t typical. It isn’t al-Qaeda: they always give the world a heads-up warning, that’s their MO. It isn’t the Taliban: they’ve conclusively denied it. The USA has a system for credit-taking with the Taliban, as the British did with the IRA. You know, we are talking to the Taliban though lots of the Taliban commanders don’t like it. This isn’t a state actor or they would have used a more powerful explosive than black powder and certainly would have killed more people.

          No, George. Bad as these bombs were, they were both botches. From what I have been able to deduce from the slo-mo of the one explosion, this was the work of an amateur who had previously attended the Boston Marathon, very likely a long-term resident of Boston. He knew how the finish line security cordon worked and put his bombs just in front of that cordon, just beyond where a bomb sweep would have detected his work. He also knew how the crowd dynamics would work: there’s a traditional baseball game held on Patriot Day and the baseball crowd often walks down to Boylston Street to watch the runners.

          These bombs went off well after the elite runners had crossed the finish line. This guy wanted to get the civilians, as many as he could. And he planned accordingly. This guy was an amateur, these were his first bombs and any two-bit jihaadi could have done a better job.Report

          • North in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Yeah your specifics jive with my general feelings on the matter Blaise. Which makes me much more inclined to suspect a kook. My earnest hope is that they catch the bugger and then prosecute his ass through the normal channels.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to George Turner says:

          88 don’t count?
          … or are they somehow centrist?Report

      • North in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yeah I agree. Islamists are pretty quick to fly the flag when they land an attack. Right wingers terrorists not so much but I think the kook one is most plausible.

        And definitly agree that of the three a lone kook is the least bad alternative.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to North says:

          Must we always assume these categories are so neat and clean? Couldn’t it be a Muslim lone wolf? Someone who is perhaps inspired by a broader Islamic terrorist movement but is unaffiliated in any real capacity? Or is “lone wolf” exclusively reserved for white folks with whom we don’t want to sully the reputation of white people in general?Report

          • North in reply to Kazzy says:

            I don’t recall suggesting the loan wolf was a white person or any other ethnicity Kazzy. The categories listed were:
            Islamists: organized islamic motivated terrorist groups.
            Right Winger: Organized or unorganized people who’s motivations are primarily based on certain right wing ideals writ extreme.
            Kooks- A catch all for some person who’s acting because their wiring is faulty.

            I’m sure that there could be some single lone wolf muslim loons. I believe that rampage shooter at the military base a while back could be considered such.Report

            • Matty in reply to North says:

              Given the cell structure of a lot of terrorist organisations and the fact people can be inspired by a groups propaganda without ever connecting with it is the line between group and lone wolf actually that clear?Report

              • North in reply to Matty says:

                Oddly, Matty, it is. Attack Planning, Bomb making and Bomb planting is not a paint by numbers thing. A single person needs to have a very significant set of skills and available resources to pull off a devastating attack. Terrorist organizations can be dispersed and cell like but it’s their ability to transmit expertise, resources and planning that makes them dangers and that also makes them distinct from lone wolves.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to North says:


              I didn’t mean to imply that you were making such designations. My apologies for appearing to do just that. Rather, I was speaking to a broader phenomenon, wherein certain folks are always assumed to be parts of a larger movement because, well, you know how THOSE people are while other folks get treated as lone kooks because lord knows the groups from which they hail don’t have any deeper problems going on. Any Muslim who does anything illegal nowadays is going to get affiliated somewhere, somehow with Al Quaeda, even if the connection eventually falls flat. Meanwhile, the Richard Stacks of the world are never seen as representing anything other than themselves.Report

              • North in reply to Kazzy says:

                No worries Kazzy,

                I think part of the phenomena you’re noting is attributable to the dearth of white organized habitually violent groups to attribute white attackers to. We’re short on a white America Al-Queda equivalent. I’d attribute that mainly to the fact that if you’ve got a large group of Americans who’re pissed with US policy there are more productive/effective ways they can address their complaints than blowing up a public event. Usually they just blow up the career of one of their political representatives or threaten to.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to North says:

                That’s part of it. But if we called every angry white guy a “militiaman” in the same way that we call every angry Muslim a terrorist, it might be slightly different. The problem is being fed from both ends.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to North says:

                I can think of quite a few organized habitually violent groups of white guys.
                I’m certain SPLC could think of quite a few more.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy says:

            Such thinking is invariably fatal to an investigation. Contrary to Teevee Cop Shows, such hunches are never tolerated in the real world.

            A bombing such as this one gives the detectives everything they need: the evidence is all there. True, it’s a bit grisly pulling that evidence out of the victims but it’s rather like Shakespeare’s line, ” Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change, into something rich and strange.” And often surprisingly large. Black powder is not a particularly good explosive. It leaves all sorts of residue. Physics: if the conflagration isn’t precisely ordered, as in a Claymore mine, with the explosive on one side and the shrap on the other, the shrapnel payload will fuse into lumps, surrounded by the burning powder. That’s why a Claymore mine is so deadly and these piece o’ shit bombs weren’t.

            Evidence, evidence. Nobody should care if this guy was a Muslim. We fell into that trap with the OK City Bombing and it wasted time. Tim McVeigh almost got away while the investigators were chasing down such leads.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

      Folks, I kinda wish we wouldn’t speculate as to motive on this incident — or bring in the dossiers of the Usual Suspects. Every bombing has its own signature. Hundreds of competent investigators are working this case, poring over the crime scene, every square millimetre of it. Tens of thousands of images are being examined. If there’s one thing we’ve evolved as a nation since the OK City Bombing, it’s the ability to effectively investigate such crimes and we’ve given such authorities the power to act on what they find.

      Probably too much power, truth to tell.

      Lone kook, amorphous terror blob, state actors, we don’t know yet. It’s far too early to speculate. And I kinda wish we’d stop.Report