The encouraging news Tuesday morning was that Bostonians went back to work. Not with the same routine, given all the added security, and not with the same hearts, given the city’s shock and grief. But with the determination that the sinister force behind Monday’s attack will not define their city or guide their lives.
As law enforcement searches for the person or persons who carried out the attack, we can profile to a degree. The person, persons and/or group behind the bombing likely hates a government, be it local, state or federal. The person, persons or group wants that government to change, which is unlikely. So the person, persons and/or group resorts to terrorism — the political element distinguishing it from mass murder, such as Aurora and Sandy Hook — in an attempt to even the odds. The innocents, including an 8-year-old boy from Boston, become collateral damage to the greater cause.
Commentators have speculated that, because Boston police had no warning of Monday’s attack, there might be a sense of complacency 12 years after 9/11. But there was no warning in 1995, when Timothy McVeigh detonated the truck bomb that destroyed the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.
Eighteen years and a mindset ago, suspicion focused at first on Middle Eastern terrorists. The first attack on the World Trade Center, also a truck bomb, had come two years earlier. The plotters were led by Ramzi Yousef, a Kuwaiti and the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the 9/11 attack.
The Oklahoma City plotters, though, were three U.S. Army veterans who met at Fort Benning. McVeigh had won the Bronze Star in the first Iraq war. The anniversary of that homegrown terrorist attack is Friday. Monday was Patriots Day in Massachusetts, Tax Day and the commemoration of Israel’s founding 65 years ago. Dates can be powerfully symbolic. McVeigh and the others chose April 19 because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had raided the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., on that day two years earlier.
One of the first responses to Monday’s bombing was added security in Lower Manhattan at One World Trade Center, set to be completed next year near the site of the towers that al-Qaida destroyed on 9/11. At 1,776 feet — to mark the year of America’s birth — it will stand as symbol of resilience. On the ground, of course, are the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, places to reflect and to find purpose.
Oklahoma City features a similar memorial and museum. Through its website, educators can download lesson plans for teachers to study responses to the bombing. The “9:03 fund,” named for the time the bomb exploded, raises money to sustain the memorial and museum. And on April 28, the city will hold its own annual marathon, called the Run to Remember. Officials are considering extra security.
Yet President Barack Obama made the proper point Tuesday when he said “the American people refuse to be terrorized.” Whoever is responsible for Monday’s attack, that must be our response. The website of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum proclaims, “One City, One Nation, One Resolve.” Today, the city is Boston. As one nation with one resolve, no terrorist act can define us or guide our lives.
for The Post Editorial Board