Tragedy strikes the Boston Marathon. Updates as news is confirmed.
Two explosions rocked the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon around 2:50 PM, leaving three dead and over one hundred-fifty injured. Seventeen remain in critical condition at area hospitals, and at least four lost limbs in the blast. Some officials have blamed improvised explosive devices (IEDs), given the minimal structural damage to surrounding buildings.
The city was placed on lockdown Monday afternoon as security forces swept the marathon route for additional devices; none were found. Any suspicious packages remaining on the marathon route have been destroyed. On Tuesday morning, a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital claimed that the bombs contained intentionally-placed shrapnel. Later reports indicated that pressure cookers were filled with nails, ball bearings, and metal scraps, then hidden in duffel bags along the route to the finish line. Investigators have since discovered an electronic circuit board at the blast site, potentially part of the detonator.
Citing security concerns, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) suspended subway service through downtown until nightfall. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered a no-fly zone over the city, grounding all flights into Logan International Airport. The flight ban was lifted shortly before 6:00 PM, while the area surrounding the finish line will be off-limits for at least the next 24 hours.
Military humvees have been seen patrolling Boylston Street. The National Guard has established an encampment on Boston Common, dispatching heavily-armed guards to several subway stations (especially the main hub at South Station) and the State House.
Both President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick received security briefings within an hour of the first explosion. Recovering from surgery to repair a broken leg, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino joined Patrick for a joint press conference Monday afternoon to address the city’s safety concerns. By Tuesday morning, the President and Governor had each called the attack an act of terror.
Though no group or individual has yet taken responsibility, authorities have questioned a Saudi student from Revere injured by shrapnel. The man’s roommate told reporters that police arrived at their apartment late Monday night and searched until morning. He has not been charged with any crime and investigators have not identified a foreign or al-Qaeda link to the bombing.
Rumors circulated after the attack that cellular service had been terminated across the city to prevent remote detonation of additional explosives. Later statements from AT&T suggest otherwise, blaming the apparent cellular “blackout” on extraordinary strain on the system. City and state officials have asked that cell calls be kept to a minimum in favor of text messages, landlines, and social media.
A third explosion was reported at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, located on a peninsula adjacent to the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Early reports suggested that it may have been tied to the downtown blasts, but police have called it an unrelated electrical accident. Unconfirmed reports surfaced of explosive devices across the area at Northeastern University, Boston College, and across the Charles River in Cambridge. These appear to have been false alarms.
Breaking from its usual business, the U.S. House of Representatives observed a moment of silence just before 6:00 PM. Flags were lowered to half-staff at the U.S. Capitol a half hour later. Flags were lowered at the Massachusetts State House around 9:00 AM Tuesday morning.
Though difficult to watch, video of the first explosions can be viewed below courtesy of The Boston Globe.
Governor Deval Patrick: “This is a horrific day in Boston. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured. I have been in touch with the President, Mayor Menino and our public safety leaders. Our focus is on making sure that the area around Copley Square is safe and secured. I am asking everyone to stay away from Copley Square and let the first responders do their jobs.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner: “Words cannot begin to express our sorrow for the families who are grieving so suddenly right now. The House of Representatives offers its prayers to the victims and the city of Boston. We also give thanks for the professionals and Good Samaritans who prevented further loss of life. This is a terrible day for all Americans, but we will carry on in the American spirit, and come together with grace and strength.”
President Barack Obama: “We’re continuing to monitor and respond to the situation as it unfolds and direct the full resources of the federal government to help state and local authorities protect our people, increase security across the United States and necessary and investigate what happened.
The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight and Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss.
We don’t yet have all of the answers, but we do know that multiple people have been wounded, some gravely, in explosions at the Boston Marathon. I have spoken to FBI Director Mullin and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano and they are mobilizing the necessary resources to investigate and respond. I have updated leaders of Congress in both parties and reaffirmed that on days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats, we are Americans united in concern for our fellow citizens.
I have also spoken with Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino and made it clear that they have every single federal resource necessary to care for the victims and counsel the families, and above all, I made clear to them that all Americans stand with the people of Boston.
Boston police, firefighters and first responders as well as the National Guard responded heroically and continue to do so as we speak. It’s a reminder that so many Americans serve and sacrifice on our behalf every single day without regard for their own safety in dangerous and difficult circumstances and we salute all those who assisted in responding so quickly and professionally during this tragedy.
We still do not know who did this or why and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all of the facts. But make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this and we will find out who did this, we will find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.
Today is a holiday in Massachusetts, Patriots’ Day, it’s a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation and it is a day that draws the world to Boston’s streets in the spirit of friendly competition. Boston is a tough and resilient town, so are its people. I am supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other and move forward as one proud city and as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.
You should anticipate that as we get more information, our teams will provide you briefings. We are still in the investigation phase at this point but I just want to reiterate, we will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable. Thank you very much.”