Skip to main content

Our 'greatest day' turns to horror

By Dan Kennedy, Special to CNN
April 16, 2013 -- Updated 0935 GMT (1735 HKT)
An injured man is loaded into an ambulance after two bombs went off near the finish line of the fabled Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15. For the latest details, <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/17/us/boston-blasts/index.html'>read CNN's developing news story</a>. An injured man is loaded into an ambulance after two bombs went off near the finish line of the fabled Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15. For the latest details, read CNN's developing news story.
HIDE CAPTION
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Photos: Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Photos: Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Photos: Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
Deadly attack at Boston Marathon
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dan Kennedy: Before Monday, the Boston Marathon marked city's annual "Greatest Day"
  • It brings the marathon, Patriots Day and an 11:AM Red Sox game; kids are off from school
  • Kennedy: Marathon is 26.2 miles, in future, must every mile be checked for bombs?
  • Celebration of patriotism, pride, Spring's return irretrievably marred by bomb horror, he says

Editor's note: Dan Kennedy is an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston and the author of the forthcoming book "The Wired City: Reimagining Journalism and Civic Life in the Post-Newspaper Age" (University of Massachusetts). He blogs at Media Nation.

(CNN) -- I was going through my Twitter feed Monday morning when I came across this: "Happy greatest day of the year, #Boston!" And so it is. Or was, until about 2:50 p.m., when explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon transformed a celebration into a scene of carnage.

What matters now, needless to say, are the victims — the dead, the injured and their families and friends. But if you are looking for some insight into Boston at this horrible moment, it helps to understand why our marathon matters and where it fits into our civic psyche. Why it was, until Monday, our greatest day of the year.

To begin with, Marathon Monday is a holiday — Patriots Day, an annual commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Not everyone has the day off, but many do, including schoolchildren, for whom this is the first day of spring vacation. That's why so many people descend on the marathon every year, and why so many people found themselves in harm's way.

Dan Kennedy
Dan Kennedy

In a city and a region obsessed with tradition, you couldn't ask for more than the oldest marathon in the country coinciding with patriotic re-enactments of colonials versus redcoats, all playing out against the backdrop of the budding spring. Today was cool but sunny, and -- finally -- with not a filthy black snowbank in sight. It's a time of year that gives us hope of better days to come.

Rothkopf: In the face of terror, keep calm

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



To complete the celebration, Patriots Day marks the annual 11 a.m. Red Sox game at Fenway Park, an utterly local tradition concocted so baseball crowds wouldn't get in the way of marathon crowds. The runners stream through Kenmore Square, a block away from where other, considerably better-paid athletes are engaged in more sedentary pursuits. The Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Monday. There wasn't much time to celebrate. The explosions came less than an hour later.

As a spectator sport, the Boston Marathon probably hit its peak in the 1970s, when local favorites Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson were dominating the race. These days, it's more of a pure spectacle, and I doubt many of those watching could name even one of the East African runners who have won in recent years.

To be honest, I have never attended the marathon in person, let alone run in it. My only direct involvement came in the early 1990s, when I worked as editor of the official program for several years. It is, nevertheless, something that all of us here take pride in.

Witness: Pool of blood in middle of store
Marathon bombing kills 3; injures 144
Police: 'I have multiple people down'

Moreover, just about everyone has a personal connection. We all know people who were running in it, and perhaps we donated to the charitable cause they had registered with so they could gain entry. As the terrible news began to spread, my Facebook feed was filled with messages from people I know telling me they were all right, or asking if someone else had been heard from.

I am not privy to what sort of security arrangements go into planning the Boston Marathon, but there's only so much you can do along a 26.2-mile route that passes through seven cities and towns in addition to Boston. As I write this, there is some speculation that bombs may have been placed in trash cans. That may or may not prove to be accurate, but can you imagine securing every trash can, every manhole, every nook and cranny from Hopkinton to Boston?

Sadly, the marathon will not be the same after today. Security will be tightened, and it will transform what had been a joyful and carefree experience into something else. "Boston is a tough and resilient town," President Obama said in his White House remarks Monday evening. And we are. The marathon will go on. The Patriots Day tradition will continue.

But it may also be a long time, if ever, before anyone again refers to this as our "greatest day of the year."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Kennedy.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT