In the Wake of Tragedy, Boston Strong
Rita Papazian
Norwalk Citizen News
April 26, 2013


I suppose we're all looking for the "take-away" from the Boston Marathon. What observations, lessons, thoughts, ideas, etc. do we take away from the tense tragic event and the aftermath of the twin-bombings near the finish-line? The bombs killed three spectators, including an 8-year-old boy, and days later led to the "assassination" of a rookie MIT security police officer, sitting in his car, during the mayhem that followed the bombings.

Now, a week or so later, I come away with two major observations. First is the awe-inspiring cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement that resulted in the death of one suspect and the capture of the other. My second observation is the significant role the public, the media, social media and high-tech capabilities played in law enforcement's ultimate identification of the suspects and their final apprehension.

The bombings, manhunt and apprehension of the suspects left us riveted to our seats as we watched events unfold in real time right before our eyes. Here, in Fairfield County, last Friday our eyes turned focused on the sky as helicopters hovered above the railroad tracks when law enforcement, following what turned out to be a false lead, stopped and searched an Amtrak Acela train in Norwalk bound for Washington D.C., looking for 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers. He had alluded police following the shootout and subsequent death of his brother Tamerlan. Another Metro-North train was searched in Darien.

As we had come to learn following a lead from an observant Watertown, Mass., resident, Dzhokhar was discovered bleeding from a gunshot wound to the throat, holed up inside a small runabout boat covered with a tarp that was on a hitch in a driveway. Reportedly the resident -- who was among others in the 20-square-block area that had been told to stay indoors during the manhunt -- went outside to have a cigarette and saw a trail of blood leading to the boat. He called 911. Law enforcement flew a specially-equipped airplane with X-ray capabilities to transmit a picture right through the tarp revealing the suspect inside the boat. Then, police responded with assistance from a mechanical arm protruding from something that looked like a tank that lifted up the tarp.

Riveting is the one word that keeps coming to mind as I watched and followed the events as they kept unfolding. Some of the events that occurred during the hunt for these two suspects were just too unbelievable. For example, the brothers had hijacked a car, drove the driver around for about 30 minutes during which time they announced to him that they were the bombers. Then, they released the driver on the road. It was reported that the driver had left his cell phone in the car and police were able to keep track of the car through the cell phone.

During the shootout between the two brothers and police, the elder brother, Tamerlan, finally was stopped by police bullets and fell to the ground. His brother reportedly jumped from the passenger seat into the driver's seat, put the car in reverse to escape police and in doing so ran over his brother who was declared dead when he was transported to the hospital.

After watching for many hours a day, these often bizarre and very scary events, I sought relief. I went to the Garden Cinema and saw "The Sapphires," starring Chris O'Dowd. If anyone can take your mind off such senseless human tragedy it is this Irish comedian/actor O'Dowd, who many of you may recall from his role as the police officer in the movie "Bridesmaids."

O'Dowd plays a talent manager in "The Sapphires." Based on a true story, he meets a quartet of Aboriginal young girls from Australia whom he takes to Vietnam to perform for the American troops during the war. Amid the crossfire of war and racial prejudice, not only in their homeland of Australia but on the frontline in Southeast Asia, the girls channel the "Supremes," as they perform songs from the a '60s hitlist.

While "The Sapphires" is a very entertaining movie that puts a smile on your face, it also introduces us to the great racial divide in Australia that had been hidden from many of us all those years ago. My having just watched and listened to the prolonged bursts of gunfire between police and the Boston bombing suspects, it became a little eerie to watch the war scenes that formed the backdrop for the stage where the Sapphires showcased their singing talents.

Tony Briggs, the son of one of the Sapphires, is co-screenwriter. In a recent interview he said that the movie "captures a world and experience largely unknown to the audience, one filled with beauty and song."

I contemplate that statement this week as I reflect upon the tragedy that took place in Boston. We are still trying to understand why two immigrant brothers who spent much of their lives growing up and receiving their education in the United States, would be responsible for the deaths and maiming of innocent people. The reason is still unknown.

Yet, in the aftermath of such destruction indeed comes "beauty and song" within a city still reeling, at memorial services and ball games, where heroes that emerged from the tragedy have been celebrated. Boston and its residents are resolved to rise again, Boston strong.

There was an off moment of levity at the end of the ordeal. Once the second suspect was captured and the Watertown neighborhood could come out of their houses without any worry, residents stood along the street cheering the scores of police cars and FBI vehicles retreating from the neighborhood. They cheered, whistled and hooted out praises. One law enforcement officer behind a wheel of a vehicle driving by responded to the crowd by shouting out through his public adddress system, "It's been our pleasure."

Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has covered Norwalk extensively.

Copyright 2013 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.