The chaos gripping Boston has the nation on edge to a degree not felt since the aftermath of September 11, when nobody knew the extent of that deadly conspiracy or whether more attacks were imminent.
This one is different. The toll, mercifully, is far lower. A young MIT policeman became the last victim early Friday, setting off the gun battles and explosions that left one of the attackers dead. By dawn all of Boston was on lockdown as police officers, FBI agents and other security forces swarmed from house to house and car to car seeking 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and trying to determine if he's part of a larger conspiracy whose inspiration we can only guess.
Thank the ubiquitous presence of cameras for quick identification of the Tsarnaev brothers, who it appears set out on the Thursday night rampage after seeing their photos on media everywhere. At the same time, the photographic record that has emerged is unnerving. More cameras than we know log our everyday travels. To find terrorists, we are glad of them. For a society increasingly sacrificing privacy, this silent observation of all is eerily reminiscent of Orwellian tales that had come to feel quaintly apocalyptic.
We have confidence that, having killed one bombing suspect and having captured the other, authorities will find the extent of any immediate conspiracy and neutralize it.
The harder thing may be coming to grips with the forces that apparently turned two young men away from a path to success in America and toward the darkness of bloodthirsty terrorism.