Each year on Patriot’s Day, the Boston Marathon draws 30,000+ runners and more than half a million on-site spectators (plus millions more via television and other media) to America’s Colonial crucible — locale of such American landmarks as Plymouth Rock, Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill and the initial mustering grounds of the fledgling nation’s first Continental Army.
But from April 15th through April 19th, 2013, terror also visited Boston, Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts, in the form of two terrorist bombs. Though the marathon course had been swept for anything suspicious just an hour before, at 2:49 pm on April 15th the first of the two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) exploded near the marathon’s finish line. A second exploded nearby a mere fourteen seconds later. Three people were killed in the blasts, with 183 others injured, many grievously.
Though stunned by the terror attack, Boston’s populace stood tall and strong, assisting the victims, calming one another, and beginning the search for the perpetrators. The total population of the combined statistical area (CSA) of the greater Boston metropolitan region of over 7.5 million residents ranks the city as the fifth largest in the nation. That population contains significant minorities of Irish, Italians, West Indians, Jews, Dominicans, and South Asians. The city’s diversity also manifests itself in business and trade, with such fields as banking and finance, education, health care, and technology driving the region’s economy. Boston’s exemplary sport, cultural and educational attractions — the Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics, North End, Back Bay, Museum of Fine Arts, Freedom Trail, Harvard University, MIT, JFK Library, and Boston Pops, among many others — contribute to the city’s vibrance and appeal.
Response to the bombings was immediate, with many local safety forces going on high alert, supplemented by the national resources and assistance of the FBI, ATF, CIA and NSA, as well as the eyes and ears of local citizens. By April 18th photos and videos were being broadcast of two terror suspects, soon identified as Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, ages 26 and 19 respectively, Chechen brothers residing in the U.S. for more than a decade, each attending colleges in the Boston area.
Before 11 pm that evening, the brothers had killed MIT Police Officer Sean Collier and carjacked a vehicle in Cambridge, where the two suspected bombers had resided. Cambridge, Massachusetts is a city of roughly 7 square miles located mere miles from the heart of Boston, along the northern flank of the Charles River. Named for England’s University of Cambridge by its Puritan founding fathers, the city was first settled in 1630, and land was soon set aside for the founding of Harvard University there in 1636. The city’s other world-class university, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), arrived in 1861, and a number of other educational institutions pepper the community. The city’s mix of ethnicities fairly closely mirrors that of the nation as a whole. Many locals are employed by or involved in the community’s large educational sector.
After the killing of Officer Collier, a subsequent violent car chase and shoot-out between the bombing suspects and police through Cambridge to Watertown, and the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, both MIT and Harvard were locked down, as were many other institutions throughout the region. By the morning of April 19th, the Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority (MBTA) had halted all rail and bus service, and cabs and private vehicles were banned from area roads. Residents were advised to ‘shelter in place’ and businesses were kept closed, as authorities began a methodical block-by-block search through Watertown for the remaining suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He was eventually captured, hiding in a covered boat in a resident’s yard.
Watertown is smaller still than Cambridge, encompassing only about 4 square miles. Its resident population is roughly 32,000, with almost a quarter of the total of Armenian descent. In its early history, the town was known for its fertile fields and gardens, as well as its thriving horse and cattle market. The continued operations of the Watertown Arsenal, a military munitions and research facility, from 1816 to 1995 anchored the local economy. The Arsenal has since been converted to other uses, including Arsenal Mall.