Lots to be thankful for

Like most of you, I spent Friday at home, checking eagerly for news — mostly confident that the outcome would eventually be good, praying that no more people would be hurt.

People close to the killer-on-the-loose spent a night and day in real fear. From where I was, over a mile away from the boat, I am not sure I heard any gunfire. I certainly heard the sirens and helicopters. I didn’t feel at risk — it was almost like a snow day, although I did think twice about looking out the window.

Some questioned the decision to shut down the city — giving in to terrorism — but in my mind, it was absolutely the right call. As in a big storm, it is much easier for public safety officers to do their job with the streets clear.

Public safety officers did their job bravely and well. As the days go on, some will find decisions to second guess, but the rapid and coordinated concentration of huge resources was indisputably impressive. The leaders of many agencies worked well together. We cannot take that collaboration for granted. It is the result of years of planning about how to communicate in times of crisis.

Equally important was the effective communication among citizens, the media and law enforcement leadership. Everybody knew what was happening more or less in real time. The final capture of suspect #2 was the result of a citizen promptly following instructions to feel free to go outside. He knew what the hazard was and instantly reported what he saw. The police response was then immediate.

Over the days before the final capture, I was amazed by the power of citizens interacting through social media to help law enforcement zero in on images of the suspects and then disseminate those images. It felt as if the immune system of a single giant organism were heating up to find and expel invading germs. It was only a matter of time.

We are most moved by the heroism of individuals: The bystanders and first responders who plunged into danger to staunch the bleeding; the first line of police officers who, in the middle of the night on a short block in Watertown, engaged in a necessary wild firefight with desperate bomb-hurling murderers.

As Governor Patrick said at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross last Thursday, “The grace this tragedy exposed is the best of who we are.” To that thought, I would add: The unity that this tragedy exposed is the best of what our nation is.

Like any family, we have much to quarrel about — real differences, indeed — but the stunning power of our unity, both local and national, shone through last week. We can thank those the leaders who fought to preserve our union and forged a peace that has now endured for almost 150 years.

As the Governor urged, let’s aspire to remember that grace and that unity as we subside back into our day-to-day personal and political concerns.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

8 replies on “Lots to be thankful for”

  1. You’re right Will. There is a lot to be thankful for… mostly the fact that more people were not injured, or killed. I am very thankful and proud of the first responders at the Marathon and the law enforcement organizations that subdued these terrorists.

    In the past few days there have been a number of reports indicating that the Tsarnaev brothers, and maybe the entire family, were receiving assistance from Mass Health and Human Services. There are also reports that the FBI received several reports from Russian FSB Intelligence service.

    As one of your constituents, I am quite concerned about three things. 1. The situation with the FBI. 2. Why are we proving funding to families that clearly hate Americans and desire to kill us ? 3. And why is the Governor trying to stonewall requests for access to the public funding of these terrorists.

    Bob Jefferson

  2. I definitely share your concern about the apparent gaps in federal information sharing — these guys did slip through the cracks.

    While deeply troubled that they would accept the generosity of the nation and nonetheless want to murder citizens, I’m not so sure that says something about the welfare system. It says a lot about these two guys.

    We’ll learn more about both issues.

  3. Last week was amazing and awful in so many ways, and it ended about as well as it could have. Today’s article in the Globe about the man involved in the carjacking was another piece of the big story that will come up and be discussed over time.

    Here’s another: What was the legal basis for house-to-house searches last week in Watertown? Did they have the right to enter private homes without a warrant in a state of emergency?

    I’m not necessarily saying that they shouldn’t have done it, but we have to be careful about saying that it’s OK for officials to define situations where laws can be suspended.

    — hs

  4. I don’t believe that they searched any houses without permission — all the stories I heard were of people opening their doors voluntarily. People appreciated having the police search out areas like basements that might have been accessible.

  5. Will,

    Much has been written about the sheer quantity of SWAT or equivalent personnel, as well as the fact that the boat received hundreds of rounds and it turned out the suspect was not armed at that point. Are there any thoughts about this from state politicians regarding the militarization of police?



  6. If a group of heavily armed police came to your door wanting to conduct a search, would you say “Sorry, can’t come in”? Maybe if you were a civil liberties lawyer, but most people would be cowed.

    The lockdown was not like what happens in a storm. We were told to fear we would be persons of interest if out and about. Nine thousand law enforcement agents swarmed in, some of them suited up like special forces soldiers.

    No, this was an escalation of force for sure. It had never happened in any US city before for reasons of terrorism, and all in response to two rather small bombs. Half of West, Texas was blown to smithereens the same day. No lockdown there, even though authorities had no idea who or what was responsible for a fertilizer plant self-destructing. The lack of proportional response disturbs me.

    In the aftermath of the bombs, first responders did a great job, but I really think that the manhunt went over the top. The authorities used the situation to conduct a drill, to practice operational scenarios under the convenient pretext of keeping a metropolitan area’s population safe.

    All of this breeds fear, justifies paranoia and wastes resources. Is the actual threat posed by terrorism really commensurate with all the money and materiel being allocated to it, and the consequent militarization of police forces? I would like to see Congress try to get a perspective on that. At the moment, anything (including pervasive domestic surveillance) goes where DHS is concerned, and the White House seems to be putting pedal to the metal. Having no limits to ramping up “preparedness” is scary, and may even be intended to scare us. Why are you so sanguine?

  7. I agree the lockdown of the City was over the top and not effective. The suspect was caught after the lockdown within the search area not by the police but by an observant resident. Tanks rolling down the street, old people ordered out of their houses in their boxers with hands up…very disturbing. Also, I would like some answers to some of the inconsistencies of the events. Why were we told they engaged in a firefight when the suspect turned out to be unarmed. Hundreds of rounds of bullets were fired into the boat as the kid was behind the engine and somehow survived. Also, we clearly see him emerge from the boat under his own power. His injuries within 5 minutes are said to be life threatening with an emergency trach performed. First they said he shot himself in the mouth….then they said some shrapnel hit him in the throat. According to the “leaked sources” he has admitted he did everything and did it because he was retaliating for muslims being killed by U.S. wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. This runs contrary to all who knew the kid who say he was a typical free wheeling not religious kid.
    The thing I’m most curious about is the connections of the FBI & CIA to suspect #1. At first they denied they knew anything about him and he was not on the radar, but then when Russia released that they repeatedly warned of this guy being somekind of spy the FBI admitted to interviewing him and apparently have been tracking him all along. When the FBI released photos of the suspects asking for help from the public in identifying the suspects I’m finding it difficult to understand how they did not collate the pictures with people on a terrorist watch list who live in the immediate area.
    I think these are legitimate questions that deserve clear answers.

  8. As in any complex event, there are lots of legitimate questions to be asked and answered about this whole process. That is our way in this country. We have the freedom to question authority. And it is healthy. The newspapers are covering that process.

    I don’t feel particularly qualified to answer all the questions though — I hope that people will continue to contribute perspectives from other informed sources.

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