fb-pixel Skip to main content

Boston after the bombings: a show of character

Flowers and signs adorn a barrier at Boylston Street near the finish line.
Flowers and signs adorn a barrier at Boylston Street near the finish line.Associated Press

When President Obama arrives in Boston today he will find a city that’s open for business; an investigation that’s well-coordinated and progressing quickly; and a community that is already working together, person to person, to heal its wounds. There is no doubt that Obama will offer words of comfort. They will be welcome, and received in the spirit in which they are given. But the greatest comfort is visible all around. Far from reeling, Boston is firmly on its feet. Far from numb, Boston is openly expressing its grief. Far from dazed, Boston is pursuing the investigation into Monday’s bombings with grim determination.

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet," begins a quote from Helen Keller, but calmness in the face of enormous challenge is an expression of character. In all the hours since the attacks, Bostonians have shown a clear-eyed understanding of what happened, and an almost innate sense of what needs to be done. It would have been understandable if a few choruses of "why us" and "how did it happen here" entered into the public dialogue. But there's been remarkably little self-pity of any sort.

The recovery took its cues, as it always does, from the first responders, whose willingness to answer the call of duty was an inspiration to all. Firefighters ran from their station on Columbus Avenue to the bombing site. EMTs at the Marathon finish line smoothly shifted from treating dehydrated runners to treating bleeding shrapnel victims. Police in their yellow jackets swiftly directed bystanders to safety. Then there were the trauma physicians who saved lives in emergency rooms and surgical units. Communities across the region, from Dorchester to Medford to Boston University, helped to quell the unspeakable pain of the friends and family of those who died.


There were also the law-enforcement officials and political leaders who immediately put aside turf wars and expressions of egotism to focus on the killers, a manhunt that showed signs of bearing major fruit on Wednesday night. The capture and punishment of those responsible for the bombings would be a victory in itself. But Boston's character needs no further validation. The city is strong, and getting stronger.