Instead of triumphant images of runners finishing the world-famous marathon, the lasting memories of the 2013 Boston Marathon will be the poor souls who were gravely injured by two explosions near the finish line of the race. One particularly disturbing image shows shrapnel from the initial explosion knocking down a runner, feet from the finish line, followed by National Guard reservists and volunteers running into the fray to respond to the injured spectators.
At the time of writing, the most recent reports coming from Reuters state that there may be undetonated explosives in the area, though it seems that the bomb squads and K-9 teams have located any remaining suspicious packages. An unattended parcel left behind in the chaos in Boston was intentionally exploded as a precautionary measure - whether it was a bomb or an abandoned backpack is unknown at this time.
Reports on the scene are that an improvised explosive device, like those seen in roadside bombs in Iraq, is suspected to be the origin of the explosion. Other reports indicate that two unattended bags were left at the site of one of the explosions, making a terrorist attack, rather than an accidentally exploding generator, a real possibility.
One saving grace was the location of the medical tent -- mere feet from the explosions. EMS, security, police, and National Guardsmen were already on scene - mitigating damage and saving lives. Investigators will likely analyze the residue from the explosions to verify that it was indeed an act of terrorism, and to identify the type of explosive used.
Meanwhile, also courtesy of Reuters, counter-terrorism vehicles are deploying around New York landmarks, including hotels, as a preventative measure.
If this turns out to be an intentional act of terrorism, the perpetrators face severe punishment at the hands of federal authorities. A single act of maiming carries up to a 35 year sentence. Capital punishment is an option when victims are killed.
So far, the Boston Police Department has reported 2 dead and 23 injured.
The federal anti-terrorism statute also requires that all sentences be served consecutively. The casualty reports indicate that the perpetrators, if and when caught, will likely spend the remainder of their lives in prison, if not on death row.
Editor's note: Those trying to connect with loved ones in Boston can use Facebook, Twitter or the Red Cross Safe and Well Listings.
- Many Hurt in Blasts at Boston Marathon (New York Times)
- With Al Qaeda shattered, U.S. counter-terrorism's future unclear (FindLaw's Legal Professional News)
- Capital Punishment at the Federal Level (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)