Skip to main content

Our 'greatest day' turns to horror

By Dan Kennedy, Special to CNN
updated 5:35 AM EDT, Tue April 16, 2013
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
updated 8:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 3:17 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT