How to Respond to a Terrorist Attack

Boston is letting due process run its course.

bostonmarathon1.jpgReuters

BOSTON - There is no right way to react to a terrorist attack.

Oklahoma City rebuilt after Timothy McVeigh's 1995 truck bomb attack on the federal government. Atlanta moved on following anti-abortion activist Eric Rudolph's 1996 bombing of the Olympics. New York displayed staggering resiliency after the September 11 attacks.

Boston, though, may have set a new standard.

Customers swarmed restaurants and businesses on Boylston Street, the site of the marathon bombings, after police reopened the area on Wednesday. There is overwhelming pride here in the public institutions - police, hospitals, government officials and news outlets (forgive my bias) - that responded so swiftly to the bombing. And there has been no major backlash against the city's Muslim community since two Chechen-American brothers were identified as the prime suspects.

There have been missteps, of course. The FBI apparently failed to follow up aggressively enough on warnings from Russian officials about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother accused in the attack. Police fired on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his younger brother, when he was unarmed, wounded and hiding in a boat. And a transit police officer, who was gravely wounded in a firefight with the brothers, may have been mistakenly shot by a fellow officer.

But this city's brave, charitable and tolerant spirit so soon after the attack is an extraordinary example for all. There is mourning here, but little sense of fear. There is anger, but a realization that terrorism is a reality for communities worldwide. And there is a determination to not allow attacks on civilians to paralyze or divide this city.

"You can't blame everybody for a few radical lunatics with hatred in their hearts," said Neil Tanger, a 65-year-old longtime Boston Marathon volunteer, who choked back tears when visiting the bombing site Thursday night. "Most of the people who come here come for the opportunity."

Tanger, filled with pride in the city and its people, said the examples of his immigrant grandfather and his father, a World War Two veteran, inspired his response.

"We have what we have here because of their commitment to the American dream," he said. "We're not going to give that up because of a few lunatics. We're going to continue to be strong."

On Thursday, this modest-sized but global city was back. On a glorious spring afternoon in the Boston Public Gardens, parents showed toddlers the duck statues made famous by the children's classic Make Way for Ducklings. Nearby, blooming magnolia trees and expectant college students filled Commonwealth Avenue. And at night, the streets around Fenway Park grew electric as the Red Sox battled the Houston Astros.

Khaled Lottfi, a 47-year-old Moroccan-American taxi driver and 25-year Boston resident, is on a one-man mission to explain his faith. Lottfi, who is Muslim, prayed in the days after the attacks that the perpetrators would not be Muslim.

After the surviving brother reportedly told investigators that they carried out the attacks to defend Islam, Lottfi started impromptu conversations about his faith with passengers in his taxi who seemed friendly.

Presented by

David Rohde is an investigative reporter for Reuters and a contributing editor for The Atlantic. A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, he is a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. His latest book, Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East, was published in 2013. More

He is also the author of Endgame and, with Kristen Mulvihill, A Rope and a Prayer. He lives in New York City.

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