Years ago, the world was rocked by one of the most horrific events in modern history: the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
On April 15th, 2013, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring at least 264 more. The tragedy stunned the city of Boston and put a nation on alert as authorities moved to track down those responsible for this heinous act.
Today, we look back at that terrible moment in our collective history and reflect on what it meant to our society. We explore how this tragedy impacted the people involved and how it shaped our current understanding of security and counterterrorism. We also examine what lessons we have learned from this event and consider how to be better prepared for similar disasters in the future.
Don’t miss the new Netflix documentary, American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing.
The Events of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing
On April 15th, 2013, the world was forever changed by the events of the Boston Marathon bombing. This tragedy occurred during the city’s annual 26.2 mile marathon race when two bombs made of pressure cookers and explosives were detonated near the finish line.
The blasts killed three people and injured an estimated 264 others, as well as damaging significant portions of nearby buildings. Law enforcement personnel uncovered a complex network of connections spanning several countries involving suspects Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
In addition to the immediate victims, many people suffered long-term hardships due to the attack—both physically and emotionally. Many survivors had to undergo multiple surgeries and months to years of rehabilitative therapy while trying to cope with the post-traumatic stress associated with such a traumatic event.
It was an unprecedented attack on American soil—one that has forever altered how we view security and safety in public places as well as how we understand international terrorism.
Victims and Survivors of the Tragedy
The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing left an indelible mark on the city of Boston, as well as on the running community at large. As a nation, it shook us to our core.
On April 15th, 2013, three lives were lost and nearly 260 people were injured by bombs placed near the marathon finish line. In a single day, families and friends had their lives forever changed when loved ones were killed or gravely injured.
The stories of those who died in the attack are heartbreaking: 8 year old Martin Richard who was standing on the sidewalk with his family; 23 year old Lu Lingzi of China who was visiting America to pursue her studies; 29-year-old Krystle Campbell from Medford who was there to cheer on her friend crossing the finish line.
From that tragedy came stories of courage and heroism—those who ran toward danger to help others, first responders like officers and fire fighters putting their own lives in danger to save strangers; doctors and nurses risking their own safety to care for terrified patients with unknown injuries. The survivors gave us hope for a better future—like Jeff Bauman, who assisted in identifying one of the bombers from his hospital bed after having both his legs amputated; and many others who have drawn strength from the tragedy to rebuild their lives and contribute something positive to society.
Community Response to the Tragedy
Although the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing was a tragic event, it brought the community together in an inspiring way. Numerous acts of kindness, courage, and resilience were demonstrated by Boston residents and those who had come to support the marathon.
People working together proved that even in times of tragedy, we can come together and help one another.
Acts of Kindness
The people of Boston responded to this heartbreaking event with an incredible outpouring of support for those affected by the tragedy. Businesses provided free lodging and food for victims, volunteers gathered supplies for first responders, and churches opened their doors to provide comfort and shelter.
Throughout the city, people ran toward danger instead of away from it. Runners who had just finished the race offered medical assistance to those injured near the finish line. Many Bostonians also volunteered their time to help in charitable efforts in order to raise awareness and funds for victims’ families.
The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing was a reminder of how our communities can unite in times of great distress. The unity displayed by first responders, volunteers, local businesses and citizens is a testament to the power of human kindness when faced with tragedy.
The Investigation and Manhunt for the Suspects
As news of the bombing spread, police were quick to act. Within hours of the tragedy, they had identified two suspects: brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The investigation that ensued was massive and intense, as authorities worked hard to bring the bombers to justice. The manhunt stretched across multiple states and cities as police gathered evidence and conducted interviews with witnesses.
At the same time, law enforcement went on a massive information-gathering mission. Surveillance footage from the marathon area was collected, as were photos of people who had been in the crowd at the time of the blast. Tips were also solicited from members of the public in an effort to track down any clues that could point them towards a suspect.
In addition to these efforts, hundreds of agents from various law enforcement agencies swarmed Boston and its surrounding areas in search of any sign of the brothers – ultimately leading to their arrest nearly four days after the bombing occurred. In total, over 9,000 officers were involved in bringing these two perpetrators to justice.
Legal Proceedings and Sentencing of the Suspects
The two main suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing were Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. On April 19th, 2013, after a five-day manhunt, Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police forces. On April 20th, Dzhokhar was apprehended after being tracked down to a nearby boat.
After extensive legal proceedings that lasted for months, Dzhokhar was found guilty on all 30 federal charges brought against him; these included use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection in June 2015. In addition, he was ordered to pay restitution of more than $101 million to victims and their families.
The legal proceedings continued beyond Dzhokhar’s sentencing; three of his associates were also charged with aiding and abetting terrorism during the 2013 bombing. One of them was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison while another received 2 1/2 years; the third pleaded guilty but has yet to be sentenced.
The Boston Marathon bombing will always remain one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in recent US history. Through an extensive legal process over multiple years, justice has ultimately been served for those affected by this tragedy.
Memorials and Honorings to Mark the Tragedy
The bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon will always leave an indelible mark on the city and its people. In its wake, a number of memorials and honorings have been held to mark the tragedy.
The Richard Family Fund
Jeff Bauman and Carlos Arredondo were two of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, who were both seen being rushed to medical care in a now-iconic photo. In their honor, Jeff’s father joined forces with Carlos’ son to form The Richard Family Fund, which provides financial assistance to those affected by tragedy.
One Boston Day and Other Memorial Sites
In 2014, Mayor Marty Walsh declared April 15th “One Boston Day”, a day to honor those affected by and injured in the bombing. On this day, many memorials are placed around Boston such as at the memorial on Boylston Street where the bombs went off. There are also memorials near the finish line in Copley Square as well as outside Fenway Park that feature banners with decorated flags honoring those lost in the attack.
In the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, the nation was left to pick up the pieces and move forward. While the death toll of the bombing was tragic, the compassion and resilience of the Boston community showed itself and rose up in the face of hate.
From the courage of first responders, to the incredible acts of kindness from across the globe, to the “Boston Strong” mantra that captured the spirit of the city—the events of April 15th, 2013 will never be forgotten. In the wake of tragedy, we remain reminded of the incredible power of our communities and our shared humanity.