Massachusetts and the nation were understandably jittery Wednesday in ways that have not been felt since the days and weeks following the attacks of September 11, 2001. As a state and nation we're more battle-tested since then, less likely to leap quickly to conclusions (cable networks excluded) or strike out rashly at perceived enemies. The whos and whys of the horrible bombing of the Boston Marathon are desperately sought, yet no answers will change the reality that the fight against terrorism is a fight for the long haul.
The FBI quickly put out a call for footage from cell phones, store cameras and any other possible sources that could provide clues to the identity of Monday's bomber or bombers, and in this electronic era when little goes undocumented they uncovered promising leads. That doesn't translate to quick convictions, however.
A down side of this electronic era is the ferocious competition among news organizations, cable television networks in particular, to get a story first, even if they are taking a chance on getting it wrong. Network rumors of an arrest in the case, quickly denied by the FBI and Boston police, sent journalists scrambling to Boston's federal courthouse, which at one point was evacuated so bomb-sniffing dogs could enter, adding to Boston's sense of fragility. Everyone wants answers and justice, but neither may come quickly, and news organizations need to behave coolly and responsibly until there is real news.
Letters sent to President Obama and Senator Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, tested positive for poisonous ricin in preliminary tests, and authorities were investigating a rash of suspicious packages and letters that turned up in Washington on Wednesday. The contaminated letters were postmarked April 8, before Monday's marathon, but the letters recalled the anthrax scare that followed the attacks of September 11, and served to further ratchet up tensions.
Today, President Obama comes to Boston for services honoring those killed in Monday's cruel attacks. Krystle Campbell was a 29-year-old restaurant manager from Arlington, Martin Richard was a third-grader from Dorchester and Lu Lingzi of Shenyang, China was a student at Boston University, one of many young people who come from around the globe to study in Boston's fine academic institutions. In Boston's hospitals, many marathon spectators recover from grievous injuries, including four children aged 10 and under. All came to Boston to enjoy an acclaimed road race on a normally joyful state holiday, and all were in the wrong place at the wrong time when a person or persons with grievances that remain unknown struck in one of the cruelest and most cowardly ways imaginable.