While additional security measures reduce the likelihood of terrorists carrying out another attack, it is the runners and participants who attended this year’s marathon that will most actively combat the terrorists’ cause.
Roughly two hours had passed since 23-year-old Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa had the gold medal draped around his neck, becoming the latest winner of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Still, more than 5,700 runners pushed onward toward Boylston Street near downtown’s Copley Square, determinedly eyeing the finish line of one of the world’s oldest and most challenging annual endurance races, held every year since 1897.
Standing only a few hundred yards from that finish line was Carlos Arrendondo, having moments before carved his way through the throngs of onlookers near the race’s end to congratulate a runner he knew.
The man was part of a team Arrendondo had come to cheer on that was running in memory of veterans and suicide victims.
In 2004, Arrendondo lost his oldest son in the Iraq war. Years later, his youngest son committed suicide after spiraling into depression and substance abuse following his brother’s death.
The timer above the finish line read 4:09:43 as Arrendondo scanned for his friend amid the runners who had made it to the final leg of the race.
Suddenly, an explosion directly across from the 52-year-old self-employed handyman sent shockwaves through the stands and smoke billowing towards the sky.
As confusion and fear gripped nearby runners and onlookers, 13 seconds later, another blast tore through a crowded sidewalk one block to the west on Boylston Street.
It became alarmingly clear to almost everyone there what had just occurred. Terrorists attacked the Boston Marathon.
While others ran from carnage and chaos, Arrendondo did what he always had. He ran towards it.
As a young man, Arrendondo worked as a torero improvisado – a cross between a rodeo clown and a bull handler – in his native home of Costa Rica.
Then, if a performer was thrown or gored, Arrendondo would rush to his aid, distracting the incensed animal and providing medical aid to the wounded rider.
Little did he know that he would have to summon the same courage that he honed back in the bull rings of Costa Rica while standing on the streets of Boston that day.
“Immediately, I turn around and start breaking the barrier – the barrier from the inside out – and I just jumped over the side,” said Arrendondo to the Sun Sentinel, describing the temporary fencing that he climbed over to assist the victims.
“And as the smoke was clearing out, I could just see bodies pretty much everywhere. And I seen blood everywhere.”
Arrendondo’s bravery that day would catapult him into the national spotlight, becoming known as “the hero in the cowboy hat” who aided first responders in helping those injured in the attack.
A photograph of Arrendondo running alongside an injured Jeff Bauman’s wheelchair, pinching his femoral artery after both of his legs were lost in the blast, became one of the most iconic images from the attack.
“After the incident, I had a hard time sleeping just thinking about it,” reflected Arrendondo, almost a year later, in an interview with ABC News.
“You just have to carry on and get some mental support. I take my sleeping pills and talk about it a lot, which helps,” said Arrendondo.
Like so many others who witnessed the horrific bombings, Arrendondo still struggles to cope with what he saw on April 15, 2013. The attacks killed three and injured an estimated 264 others, but those who attended the race weren’t the only victims that day.
A Form of Mass Trauma
In the event of a highly visible terrorist attack, like the one in Boston last year, society at-large experiences a form of trauma.
When these types of attacks occur, we are collectively left with a new sense of vulnerability. We begin to question the state’s ability to protect and safeguard our lives.
“Traumas that occur in the context of cultural of social upheavals create profound discontinuity in the order and predictability that culture has brought to daily life and social situations,” say authors Joan Granucci Lesser and Donna Saia Pope in the psychology textbook, “Human Behavior and the Social Environment.”
“It profoundly alters the basic structure, not just of the individual, but also of the cultural system as a whole,” they write.
This form of mass trauma is not the same type experienced by those present during the attack. Rather, it is a trauma that fosters seeds of doubt.
A sense of fear and apprehension that leads us to believe that nothing is sacred and safe, and no matter where we go or what we do, we are ultimately susceptible.
It is a trauma that is passed along to young children, who struggle to make sense of the horrific images they see replaying in the media, forced to tackle the concept of death at too young an age. Forced to consider that their lives might someday end prematurely.
“It’s visceral. Even just seeing it, if you’re a runner your mind can see itself there so you have that physiological reaction that ties in with emotion, fear, panic,” said Dr. Oren Amitay, a registered psychologist in an interview with Global News.
“It’s the idea of it could happen to me, or it could happen here. That’s what terrifies people.”
This is the ultimate aim of terrorism. It’s a form of fear-mongering that forces us to regulate and modify our behaviors.
Consequently, we take steps to try to restore the same sense of security that we came to expect prior to the attack, which many times, comes in the form of aggressive new protective measures.
In sports, these new protective measures can be especially costly.
The Impact of Terrorism on Sports
The International Sociology of Sport Association analyzed the effect that terrorism has had on how governments approach security at major sporting events in the 2012 report, Sport mega-events and ‘terrorism’: A critical analysis.
In it, authors Richard Guilianotti of Loughborough University and Francisco Klauser of the University of Neuchatel Switzerland write:
“The everyday experience of sport mega-events is increasingly marked by security-related features, such as the enforced closure of public thoroughfares, the searching of individuals in and around stadiums, the constant surveillance of spectators and local residents by CCTV cameras, the routine drone of overhead helicopters or unmanned aircraft that are filming the public below, and the familiar presence of fully equipped police officers and military personnel at street corners or sites of particular public interest.”
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, security budgets for the Olympic Games have grown from roughly $66.2 million for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona to more than $863 million for the London Olympics in 2012.
Security costs for Super Bowl XLVIII this year in New Jersey totaled nearly $5.3 million.
Running to Fight Terrorism
This year, the number of police at the Boston Marathon will be doubled to more than 3,500. More than 100 cameras have been installed along the route and 50 observation points have been set up near the finish line area to monitor the crowd.
But while these additional security measures reduce the likelihood of terrorists carrying out another attack, it is the runners and participants who attend this year’s marathon will most actively combat the terrorists’ cause.
Through their participation, they send the clear and defiant message that our society will not allow itself to be forever crippled by fear.
This year, the race expects to draw more than 1 million spectators (double last year’s attendance) and 9,000 more runners than seen in recent years.
They are expected to inject more than $175 million into the local economy and raise more than $25.7 million for charity.
Even in the wake of such a devastating tragedy, this is why Boston must run.
They must run for people like Arrendondo, who attend the event to raise awareness for honorable causes like suicide prevention and veteran’s assistance.
They must run for those who refuse to allow themselves to be perpetually victimized by those callous, deviant few who attempt to foster mass obedience to a perverse set of ideological principles by attacking the innocent.
They must run to show the world that each third Monday in April, our country will always unite under the motto that we are “Boston Strong.”
This post originally appeared at Elite Daily. Reprinted with permission.
AARON KAUFMAN Originally from Washington, D.C., Aaron started his career working at the intersection of business, journalism and politics after graduating from Kent State University in 2010. Prior to joining Elite Daily, Aaron spent time at Bloomberg BNA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Turkey, Middle East and North Africa Department. Aaron has also worked in public relations at FleishmanHillard and Brodeur Partners’ Washington offices. In his spare time, Aaron likes to travel and surf, though he wishes he had time to do both more often.
Photo: AP/Michael Dwyer