The first Boston Marathon took place on April 19, 1897, when John J. McDermott of New York was first in a starting field of 15, with a time of 2:55:10 for a distance of 24.5 miles, from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to the Irvington Oval in Boston. The distance was later upped to 26 miles, 384 yards, and since 1968 the event has been held on the third Monday in April.
On Monday, April 15, 2013, the Marathon attracted a field of 26,839 runners. About five hours into the race, a bomb exploded in a crowd of spectators on the north side of Boylston Street. Some 12 seconds later, a second bomb exploded about 600 feet from the first.
The blasts killed Lingzi Lu, 23, Krystle Campbell, 29, and Martin Richard, only eight years old. Surveillance photos identified brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev as the likely suspects.
On April 18, the brothers ambushed MIT police officer Sean Collier, shooting him in the head, neck and hand. Police took down Tamerlan in a shootout and Dzhokhar was captured in nearby Watertown, hiding in a boat. Victims of the attack might wonder how the bombers got to Boston in the first place.
In April 2002, Anzor Tsarnaev arrived in the United States on a tourist visa with sons Tamerlan, 15, and Dzhokhar, only eight at the time. The family gained asylum and Dzhokhar became a U.S. citizen on September 11, 2012, despite security concerns. In 2011, the Russian government warned the FBI that the Tsarnaevs had ties to Chechen terrorists.
The FBI did conduct an investigation of Tamerlan but closed the probe in June of 2011 after finding “no links to terrorism.” In fact, more than a year before the bombing, Tamerlan traveled back and forth from Dagestan for terror training.
He learned about the pressure cooker bomb, a favorite of al-Qaida, which described how to make them in the online article.Islamic militants also produced a chapter on the bombs in The Lone Mujahed Pocketbook. The Tsarnaevs packed their devices with nails, ball bearings, and other shrapnel.
The cooker gives the timed explosion incredible force to kill and maim at random. Security cameras showed Dzhohkar intentionally placing a bomb near a group of children. The device sent nails, glass, and BBs into Martin Richard’s internal organs and spinal cord and nearly severed his left arm. The child bled to death on the sidewalk as his helpless mother looked on.
Shrapnel struck Lingzi Lu in the leg and the graduate student bled to death in minutes. The blast nearly severed the legs of Krystle Campbell, who also bled to death on the sidewalk. The hundreds of other injuries included loss of limbs, loss of hearing, and blindness.
In a ceremony one year later, Vice President Joe Biden briefly mentioned the victims but spent more time talking about himself, how he had “traveled the world as vice president,” and so forth. The Delaware Democrat failed to name or condemn the Tsarnaev brothers and only once used the word terrorism.
“We will never yield” Biden said, and “America will never, ever stand down,” because “we own the finish line!”
In 2015, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted on 30 charges, including the killing of Sean Collier, and sentenced to death. In 2020, an appeals court overturned the sentence, ruling that jurors had not been properly screened for bias. As it turned out, this was not Tsarnaev’s only victory.
The bomber received $1,400 in COVID relief payments and by December 22, 2021, Tsarnaev had approximately $3,885.06 in his inmate trust account. Instead of making payments to families of the victims, as the court had ruled, Tsarnaev sent money to his siblings for gifts, support, books and such.
In early March 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 to reinstate Tsarnaev’s death sentence, with Justice Clarence Thomas writing for majority and Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissenting. In January, Tsarnaev made another bid to have his sentence overturned and Dzhokhar must like his chances.
Army Major Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 Americans at Fort Hood in 2009, was sentenced to death in 2013 but the sentence was never carried out. After Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, Hasan proclaimed, “We have won!”
In 2020, Biden promised to abolish the federal death penalty, and the administration reinstated the federal execution moratorium President Trump had ended. In effect, the Biden Administration is Tsarnaev’s pro bono attorney, and the bomber may have inspired others.
On April 6, in the wake of the Nashville massacre, Florida woman Michelle Kolts pleaded guilty to 10 counts of making explosive devices with intent to harm. Kolts made 24 pipe bombs packed with nails, screws, and pellets. Police also found bomb-making materials, books about making explosive devices, and a hit list.
“If used, these bombs could have caused catastrophic damage to hundreds, if not thousands of people,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister told reporters at the time of Kolts’ arrest. “Something tremendous was prevented.” Perhaps it was something like the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013.
A roster of Kolts’ intended targets could prove enlightening but the authorities, “did not reveal the names on her target list.” The aspiring bomber got only “24 months of community control followed by 15 years probation.”
Kolts’ mental health treatment will include counseling at an in-house facility and “there will be no record of a criminal conviction as well.” For aspiring criminals and terrorists, the lessons should be clear.
You can make bombs that can kill crowds of people, get caught, and get off with no jail time. You can detonate bombs that kill three people, keep your own life, and even get COVID benefits.
On April 15 remember Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, and the hundreds of others wounded that day. The struggle against terrorist bombers is the struggle of memory against forgetting.