Boston Strong: Remembering What Happened

Director of Green Cross’s Environmental Security and Sustainability programme, Paul Walker, shares his recent account of the Boston, Massachusetts bombings:

“The bombings of the Boston Marathon are a reminder of the unpredictable, insecure, and violent world in which we all live today.  I’m a Boston native, and live in Cambridge, just across the Charles River from the state capital.  My wife and I were also in “lockdown” and “shelter-in-place” last Friday as the early morning shootout and subsequent massive manhunt for the second alleged bomber went forth in our neighboring town, Watertown.

As all of my fellow Bostonians will attest, it was an eerily silent city on Friday as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ordered all residents in the Greater Boston area to stay at home while the second suspect was still on the loose.  I had flown out of Boston’s Logan Airport to our office in Washington DC on Wednesday, two days after the Patriot Day bombing, and was surprised to see the large police presence at the airport.  Both uniformed and plainclothes detectives were questioning most passengers about their knowledge of the bombing, the possibility that they had taken photos or videos, and any other possible information they might provide.  So it was clear, even before photos of the alleged bombers were released the next day, that the pursuit of the bombers was taking on enormous proportions.

When flying back to Boston on Friday, the day of the lockdown, I realized that it could be difficult just to get from Logan Airport to Cambridge.  All public transportation and taxicab service had been shut down, but my wife was able to drive into Logan and pick me up.  The streets were empty, businesses closed for the day, and Copley Square where the bombing took place was still a crime scene.  It was clear that this bombing was taking a very large toll on the local economy.

It was a relief to all residents to see the alleged bomber finally captured Friday evening in Watertown, just a half mile from our home, thanks to an astute Watertown resident who noticed a “body” in his boat stored in the backyard.  I was also glad that he was captured alive, even after apparently suffering several bullet wounds from the earlier and final shootouts with police.

Many questions remain about this latest deadly bombing incident in the US – what motivated these two bombers to undertake such wanton violence?  Why didn’t we identify this threat earlier, especially after Russian officials raised questions with US law enforcement several times?  How and where did they obtain the makings for such deadly, homemade bombs?  And what lessons can be learned from this incident to help improve the security of all US citizens in the future?

One of the most important lessons for me is that we have got to pay more attention to our most basic domestic needs at home – poverty, food, water, education, public health, crime, violence, infrastructure, environment, immigration – so that we can build a truly sustainable society for all.  Boston, Cambridge, and Massachusetts pride themselves on being a welcoming region for all – the true melting pot of the US, beginning with the landing of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims.  Yet these two suspected bombers, both immigrants from Chechnya in Russia, somehow fell between the cracks, regardless of their integration into the Greater Boston community.

And, at the same time, we’ve experienced poison attacks with ricin in Washington DC, a tragic explosion in West, Texas, and the defeat of a modest effort in the US Senate to strengthen gun control laws.  These are all important signs that we are not headed in the right direction now to prevent alienated citizens from being identified and receiving preventive intervention before violence erupts; to establish minimum standards for security and safety at dangerous chemical, biological, nuclear, and other high-risk sites which potentially threaten thousands of innocent citizens with accidents and terrorist attacks; and to help identify and restrict gun buyers who may want to use them for nefarious purposes as we’ve seen all too often now in Newtown, Connecticut and elsewhere.

On behalf of all of our Green Cross International and Global Green USA colleagues, we thank Boston for standing strong and continuing the fight to build a safe, secure, non-violent, and sustainable world.  And we send our heartfelt condolences to the many victims of the Boston violence, including the families of the three dead Marathon watchers and of the MIT police officer allegedly shot by bombers.”

Everyone in the Green Cross family wants to wish the city of Boston, its inhabitants, and everyone affected by the 15 April events well wishes and hopeful thoughts for the future.

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