When stung by tragic events we naturally ask some simple questions: who, why, how? In the case of the explosions at Bostons marathon, it is too early to provide answers. We do not know who is to blame for the multiple blasts that killed three people, including a child of eight, and injured over 100. Nor do we know what motivations they may have had. For now there is no way to explain this tragedy.
The explosions went off in the late afternoon, as runners were still jogging towards the finish line of the race. The blasts knocked some to the ground, but the worst casualties occurred in the crowds of spectators lining the route. Victims were carted from blood-stained sidewalks, some with gruesome injuries. Compounding the horror was talk of possibly more explosions and reports that more devices had been found and dismantled near the marathon area.
Whether or not the blasts turn out to have been a terrorist plot, they had the same immediate effect. Boston officials urged people to stay indoors and avoid crowded places. Train lines were shut down, buildings evacuated and cell service turned off in parts of the city to prevent the detonation of more devices. The FAA even grounded flights into Logan airport for a time. Other cities, including Washington and New York, tightened security.
Anyone watching the news in America will have seen commentators struggle to place the event in context. It is a process that will take time and investigation. We do not yet know if this was the work of a disgruntled hotel employee or an al-Qaeda operative. The answers, when they come, will give the tragedy new meaning. For now, there is only the sight of a frightened city; and for Americans, a sense of discomfort they have not felt in a while.