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April 22, 2013

After the Bombings, Boston Marathon Remains an Inspiration

Posted by Bonnie Docherty

The Boston Marathon has long held a special place in my heart.  In an earlier life, I covered the event for three years as a reporter for the Middlesex News, now known as the MetroWest Daily News.  My beat at the time encompassed two towns along the route—Hopkinton and Natick.

Beyond combining a challenging assignment and a festive atmosphere, the Marathon provided an annual source of inspiration.  In 1996, I stood at the starting line in Hopkinton for the 100th running of the storied race, when record numbers of athletes set off with enthusiasm and determination.  The next year marked the 25th anniversary of women’s official participation, and I had the honor of interviewing several of those who helped to break the gender barrier.

I dreamed of running the race myself, and although I never have, reporting on it was one of the highlights of my newspaper career.  I think fondly of the Marathon every Patriots Day.

First responders tend to the wounded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
First responders tend to the wounded at the finish line for the Boston Marathon. (Creative Commons-Licensed Flckr Photo by hahatango)

A week ago, uplifting memories from my years as a journalist collided with my current work as a human rights researcher.  Over the past 12 years, I have documented the effects of armed conflict on civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Gaza, Georgia, Libya, and elsewhere.

The news reports of horrific injuries and lost limbs at the Marathon’s finish line immediately conjured up images of war wounds I have seen.  Eyewitness accounts echoed those I have heard in far-away conflict zones.  And the red sidewalk on Boylston Street brought to mind the bloody ground in Lebanon where a cluster munition dud killed a 12-year-old boy two hours before I arrived.

The weapons that inflicted the injuries in Boston had an unnerving similarity to munitions I have investigated overseas.  The ball bearings packed in the homemade bombs closely resembled those used in rocket attacks in the Middle East.  I show samples of these steel spheres to my classes when explaining how they serve to maximize bodily harm.

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