It happens all the time in other countries, so often that we really don’t pay that much attention anymore when it flashes across our television screens. Then it happens here and we realize what so many parts of the world already know – nobody is really, truly safe from terrorists.
And there’s one thing about the people who do these terrible things – they may be heartless, soulless demons, but they ain’t stupid. They chose an easy target in the Boston Marathon, simply because it’s impossible to secure an entire city. You can do a pretty good job of security in a stadium or arena, where bags are searched and the people have to pass through metal detectors and/or they’re patted down. Fans go into those places through designated entrances and it’s all nice and orderly and relatively easy to control.
But a city? It can’t be done, no matter how much effort is put into it. And a marathon runs through a city and all the cars and buildings. And that’s why terrorists would target this race rather than, say, the Super Bowl.
Now security will be ramped again at all sports venues, just as it was right after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. For weeks after that horrendous event, police and other security patrolled stadiums like they were on a war footing and NFL teams even changed traffic patterns that led to parking lots every week, which irritated the fans, but made it more difficult for terrorists to plan out their evil acts.
Things were never the same after 9/11, of course, but even though security tightened after that terrible day, it has slackened in recent years – it’s still tighter than it was before 9/11, but not as tight as it was immediately after.
That’s human nature, especially when it comes to something like sports, which are supposed to help us escape from the real world, not remind us of it. But that’s also why major sports events are prime targets – they have large groups of people who are relaxed and vulnerable, plus the desired media attention is already in place.
An event like the Boston Marathon is also a likely target simply because of its international makeup. This is one of the most prestigious races in the world and people from all over the world run in it. So, when terror strikes at Boston it’s really striking everywhere and making headlines everywhere.
And the sad thing is that nothing can change that. There will be much tighter security at all events like this from now on, or at least until we get lulled into a sense of false security again. But no matter how many police and security forces are in place, there’s no way to secure and protect an entire city.
Something else about this barbaric act that strikes home – the Boston Marathon is, for the most part, what athletics are all about. There are some people who make money from this and other races, but the vast majority of runners are amateurs who run for the sheer love of it, not because they’re getting paid to do it. And just about anybody can enter, which really makes it an event for the people and by the people.
The cowards who pulled off this well-planned and well-executed attack knew all of this and they took advantage of it. They weren’t concerned about what is now casually called “collateral damage’’ – they were counting on it. Instead of grieving because three young people were killed, they’re exulting in their deaths.
They’ve also accomplished their primary goal, which was to plant a seed a doubt in the minds of Americans, who will be looking over their shoulders every time they gather in large numbers. If terrorists can do this at an event like the Boston Marathon, imagine what they could do at something like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or News Year’s Eve in Times Square.
The intention of these people wasn’t just to kill Americans. More than anything, they wanted to scare us and intimidate us and there’s little we can do to stop them if they’re as bold and resourceful and soulless as they were in Boston. And the only consolation we have is that eventually justice will be done, whether it’s in this world or the next.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.