Church bells in Boston began tolling at exactly 2:49 p.m. today, the time that the first bomb went off near the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon two years ago.
It was a day similar to today, sunny, and relatively warm. On that day, I watched the Marathon on Beacon Street at mile 24, two miles from the Finish Line, for about three hours. I sat in the sun with the MBTA trains running ten feet behind me, surrounded by a festive crowd cheering on the runners.
Around 2 o’clock, I walked the half mile to my home, and turned on the TV to keep watching. And then the bombs went off and nothing was ever the same in this city.
Three people, two women and an 8-year-old boy, died that day, and 264 people were injured, many who lost legs or were harmed by shrapnel placed inside the bombs for maximum damage.
Two days later, I went down to Boylston Street to see the memorial that had risen up, just in time to help move all the flowers, notes, tennis shoes, crosses, shirts, hats, and other items from one location to another as Boylston Street was being opened up to traffic.
Last Friday, the surviving Tsarnaev brother was judged guilty on all 30 counts by a jury, and now we are awaiting the sentencing phase.
If the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had been allowed to try the case, Tsarnaev would be facing life in prison, because Massachusetts outlawed the death penalty in 1984. But because the federal government took over the case, presumably so that he could be sentenced to death, people who were referred to as “death-qualified” were the only ones allowed on the jury, so we may very well end up with a death sentence for a state that has outlawed it. However, it will only take one lone person on the jury to vacate the death sentence.
I am very proud to live in a city, and a state, that provided such first-rate medical care to the victims and saved so many of their lives. I am also very proud of Boston which, even in the face of this extreme crime, maintained its belief that it is wrong for the state to murder a murderer.
As Kevin Cullen, a prominent columnist at the Boston Globe wrote,
“For all the horrific suffering that was on display in Courtroom 9 over the last month, revealing the darkest impulses of some, there was also a remarkable amount of testimony about many extraordinary acts of bravery, of humanity, of selflessness, of kindness.
If the Tsarnaev brothers represented the worst of the human condition, those who ran to help their victims represented the best.
Karen McWatters, who lost a leg to the bomb that Tamerlan Tsarnaev placed outside Marathon Sports, told of how she pressed her head against that of her friend Krystle Campbell and slid her hand into Krystle’s as they both lay on the sidewalk. The last thing Krystle Campbell felt, beyond the searing pain in her shredded legs, was Karen’s warm face and comforting hand.
After the bomb that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev left outside the Forum restaurant exploded, Lauren Woods, a Boston police officer, refused a superior officer’s order to leave Lingzi Lu’s side, even after it was obvious the 23-year-old Chinese grad student was dead.
“I didn’t want her to be alone,” Woods said. . . .
Their actions, all of their actions, were an affirmation of the sanctity of life, even for a murderer like Tamerlan Tsarnaev. It was the ultimate repudiation of what the Tsarnaev brothers did. It showed, like nothing else, the difference between us and them.”
And that is why I hope that this jury, handpicked because they said they could hand down the death penalty, remembers that they are living in a state where most people oppose it, and make a stand for the “difference between us and them.”