In September I will have lived within an hour of Boston for a quarter of century and for several years I worked in downtown Boston—in both the North End and the Financial District. When I worked in the Financial District I worked with a couple of guys from South Boston, “Southies,” who were both the nicest and the funniest co-workers anyone could ask for. I don't get in to Boston much these days but, when you live this close, you tend to think of yourself as a Bostonian.
Like everybody else around here I got nothing done yesterday. I was glued to the internet and spent most of the evening with windows open for New England Cable News, WCVB, Twitter, and Facebook, watching breathlssly as the FBI and police closed in on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as he huddled, wounded, in a boat put away for the winter in Watertown. I shared memes on Facebook about how tough Boston is and I also had a few gin and tonics. Finally it was announced that they had him and the internet went wild with celebration. They were partying “wicked ha-hd” in Boston. But there was, and still is, a part of me that felt only pain.
The photographs of the Tsarnaev brothers are hard to look at. They are both handsome young men who looked like they participated fully in life. They were the opposite of restless, bullied misfits. The older brother, Tamarlan, was a boxer with a great physique who had a girlfriend and a child. Tamarlan died in Thursday night's shootout with police. The younger one, Dzhokhar, is a good-looking kid with beautiful hair and was a wrestler, a good student, and had recently become a U.S. Citizen. He is now in custody and in the hospital. How on earth did these two young men get involved with this horrendous situation?
Yesterday on NPR they were interviewing some friends, teachers, and coaches of the two Tsarnaev brothers and, I have to tell you, that was just heart-breaking. Tamarlan's boxing coach talked about what a great athlete he was and how protective he was of his younger brother. Friends of Dzhokhar talked about what a great friend he was, how funny and how beloved. One young man got choked up and asked, “Is there any way for me to talk to him? I need to talk to him.” It nearly broke my heart.
As terrible as the deaths and injuries these brothers caused are, I cannot begin to imagine the sense of betrayal and disbelief those who loved them are experiencing. Usually, when there is a tragedy of this sort, everyone comes forth to say what a misfit the perpetrator was—but not this time. I had a friend who grew up with Jim Jones (of Jonestown infamy) and she said when they were little her mother used to say, “You can play with him but don't let him in the house; there's something not right about that boy.” From what I heard in yesterday's interviews, no one would have said this about these young men. The family of Tamarlan's child are in shock and grief.
Nobody has the answers. Maybe if Dzhokhar survives we'll learn more but maybe not. One thing too many people will have to live with is that they loved someone who turned out to be a monster—and they had no idea. How sad is that?
Thanks for reading.