Tuesday Reads: Boston Marathon Bombing Anniversary, Tom Lehrer and NSA, and Other NewsPosted: April 15, 2014
One year ago today, this was the scene at the Boston Marathon finish line.
One year ago today, the finish line of the Boston Marathon was rocked by two explosions that left three young people dead and 260 people injured–many with with limbs blown off by the crude bombs. A year later, the survivors–and the city are still recovering. Last year I was listening to the radio when suddenly I realized something terrible had happened. I rushed to turn on the TV and try to figure out what was going on. It was a disaster. People were lying in the street bleeding along with separated body parts. What could have happened?
Just watching it on TV, I was so shaken that for the next week or so I was in shock. My hands shook, I was easily startled, and I felt an inner tremor that wouldn’t go away. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like to be on the scene or to be one of the injured. But that wasn’t the end of it. Late at night on April 18, word came that a campus police officer had been shot at killed at M.I.T. and an SUV had been hijacked, presumably by the shooter or shooters. I stayed up all night listening to police scanners on line a following reports on Twitter. I knew immediately this must have something to do with the suspected bombers, whose photos had been released to the public earlier that day.
The suspects had driven through Brighton, Watertown, Waltham, and back to Cambridge. They had driven through Watertown three times–who knows why. I suspect they thought there was someone there who would help them hide from the police. One of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died that night after a dramatic firefight; but the other, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev somehow escaped in the stolen SUV. He wasn’t caught until the next day.
At some point the Governor asked people to “shelter in place” in much of Boston as well as Watertown and nearby suburbs. There’s a misconception that this was “martial law,” but there was no “order” for people to stay indoors, and many went out and were not arrested or anything. Still it was shocking. Even more shocking were the massive numbers of law enforcement officers in the streets of a residential neighborhood–knocking on doors and asking to search houses. At one point, hundreds of rounds were fired at a boat in a backyard where the second suspect was believed to be hiding. It was clear that the response by law enforcement was not particularly well organized.
Now, a year later there are still many questions about what happened, about the suspects, and the response by federal, state, and local law enforcement. I’ll spare you further details, but here are a couple of news links to anyone who cares to click on them.
Boston Globe: Marathon victims’ families, survivors gather in Boston
Jun Lu and Ling Meng felt they had to make the 7,000-mile trek from their home in China.
After losing their only child, Lingzi Lu, at last year’s Boston Marathon, they wanted to be at the race, cheering on runners.
“We cherish everything that Lingzi was a part of,” Jun Lu said through an interpreter. “Even though last year’s Marathon [was tragic], we want to be there to witness something good come out of it.”
Lu and Meng will be among the many family members of victims coming to Boston this week for official remembrances that are stirring up hope, but also pain.
Survivors, too, will make the trip for informal reunions with the EMTs and police officers who stanched their bleeding and the doctors and nurses who helped them heal.
On Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of the bombings, Vice President Joe Biden will lead a ceremony at the Hynes Convention Center, followed by a flag-raising and a moment of silence at the finish line.
“The last year has been very painful,” said Lu, whose daughter, a 23-year-old graduate student at Boston University, is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery. “But fortunately, we’ve received so much love from people all over the world. We’re humbled.”
Boston Globe: A year since Marathon attacks, many of wounded struggle
A year later, shattered bones have knitted back together, burned skin has regrown, and the survivors who lost legs are walking on prosthetic limbs. What remains for many are the relentless injuries nobody sees.
While there have been remarkable stories of recovery and perseverance among the 275 wounded in the twin explosions on Marathon Day 2013, many still battle hearing loss, ringing ears, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.
One shakes so badly from anxiety that he has a hard time working as a carpenter. Another, college freshman Sydney Corcoran of Lowell, has developed an eating disorder. Corcoran has endured leg surgeries, complications, and more surgeries, but her emotional scars run deeper. She is often on edge, startles easily, and has trouble sleeping, symptoms of PTSD.
Her mother, Celeste Corcoran, was seriously injured in the blast, too, with legs so mangled both had to be amputated. “My legs were blown off and that’s huge,” she said. “But so many more people suffer in silence because everybody looks at them and sees this whole person.”
On a day for gauging how far they have come, many of the survivors are thankful for the progress they have made in the hands of skilled and caring doctors, nurses, and therapists. Still, some have nerve damage in their legs that has not healed, and the 16 people who lost legs have had to get their prosthetics adjusted repeatedly as their residual limbs shrink.
Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing that left three dead, wounded 264 runners and revelers, and began a bizarre manhunt for the attack’s perpetrators that would end in a shootout four days later.
President Barack Obama and his senior advisers scheduled a moment of silence in the Oval Office at 2:40 P.M., according to Politico. The attacks took place at 2:49 P.M. local Boston time….
Mental-health experts also told the Globe that anxiety is likely to affect children and other victims of the attack as the anniversary approached, and that such concerns affect not only those who witnessed the actual bombing but also those who endured the ensuing lockdown of much of the city.
I can vouch for that. I’m feeling very shaky this morning and I have that familiar fluttering tremor in the center of my chest and an anxious knot in my stomach. As for the questions:
An investigation by Vocativ into the alleged national-security failures that left the Tsarnaevs—who the F.B.I. had been told to look out for by Russian authorities—unaccounted for in the days before the attack revealed that the F.B.I. had indeed lost track of the eventual bombers. In an unclassified report, agents admit a “huge lapse” could have “changed everything.” Meanwhile, the A.C.L.U. has sued the F.B.I. for more information in the death of Ibragim Todashev, an alleged Tsarnaev associate who an F.B.I. agent shot and killed while he was allegedly confessing to he and Tamerlan’s involvement in a 2011 triple murder. A year after the marathon bombing, it seems as though questions of justice surrounding those accused of perpetrating the attack are far from answered.
In other news . . . one silly story and a link dump:
Do you remember Tom Lehrer? Back in the ’50s he wrote a sang darkly humorous satirical songs. A few days ago, Ben Smith had an interesting article about him at Buzzfeed, Looking For Tom Lehrer, Comedy’s Mysterious Genius. Here a bit of it:
Lehrer had been a sensation in the late 1950s, the era’s musical nerd god: a wryly confident Harvard-educated math prodigy who turned his bone-dry wit to satirical musical comedy. His sound looked further back, to Broadway of the ‘20s and ‘30s — a man and a piano, crisp and clever — but his lyrics were funny and sharp to the point of drawing blood, and sometimes appalling. One famous ditty celebrates an afternoon spent “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.”Another cheerful number, “So Long Mom,” dwells on the details of nuclear holocaust. “I Got It from Agnes” is an extended joke about sexually transmitted disease….
In the recent history of American music, there’s no figure parallel to Lehrer in his effortless ascent to fame, his trajectory into the heart of the culture — and then his quiet, amiable, inexplicable departure. During his golden decade, he appeared on The Tonight Show twice,drew a denunciation in Time magazine, and by the early 1960s, seemed poised for a lasting place on an American cultural scene that itself was undergoing a radical upheaval.
Then Lehrer simply stopped performing. His entire body of work topped out at 37 songs. He bounced around Cambridge, never quite finishing his doctorate on the concept of the mode — the most common number in a set — in statistics. He kept the Sparks Street house but began spending most of his time in Santa Cruz, Calif., where he became a beloved instructor in math and musical theater for some 40 years.
“There’s never been anyone like him,” said Sir Cameron Mackintosh, the legendary Broadway producer who created Tom Foolery, a musical revue of Lehrer’s songs, in the ’70s. “Of all famous songwriters, he’s probably the only one that, in the great sense of the word, is an amateur in that he never wanted to be professional. And yet the work he did is of the highest quality of any great songwriter.”
It turns out Lehrer is still alive at the age of 86. Buried deep in Smith’s article is a brief, off-hand mention that Lehrer once worked for the National Security Agency (NSA). It was while he was in the army from 1955-57. Calling Greenwald and Snowden! Time to demolish Lehrer for his perfidy! Amazing, it’s even in his Wikipedia entry–who knew? And he worked at Los Alamos before that.
From an interview with Lehrer I found; I don’t know the date:
>GEO: I was surprised to learn that you enlisted in the Army back in 1955.
TOM LEHRER: That’s one way of putting it, but probably not the appropriate verb. The point is that they were drafting people up to the age of 35. So I dodged the draft for as long as anybody was shooting at anybody. And then when I realized that I would have to go — there was really no way out of it except getting an essential full time job, which I didn’t really want to do — I waited until everything was calm and then surrendered to the draft board. I wouldn’t call it “enlist”. “Enlist” means that you have to spend another year. I allowed myself to be drafted. I was 27 at the time and there were a lot of graduate students who were like me who had gotten deferred as graduate students and now had to pay up. So it was a kind of an odd group there, a lot of educated people in my “outfit”, I believe is the word. And we had a lot of fun. So I did that for two years in Washington DC and had a great time — especially since there was no war — though vice president Nixon was trying to get us into one in Indo-China even then. So there was that little threat. And there was Suez and a few other little things that looked a little tricky. But it didn’t look like there was going to be a real war. So it seemed to be safe to go in. And I’m sure that a lot of my cohort felt the same way.
>GEO: And what did you do?
TOM LEHRER: It was NSA. I think I’m allowed to say that now. I asked around before I surrender [sic] to be sure that I would not be in special services or something playing volleyball with the troops in Korea. I wanted to make sure that I got a nice cushy job. We were called “The Chair Borned”. And I found out that they were hiring mathematicians. So I arranged to be hired.
A few more interesting stories:
So . . . What are you hearing and reading. Please share your recommended links in the comments.