New Book on Boston Marathon Bombings Gives Foreboding Look Into Future of Lone Wolf Terrorism
Contact: Tom Ramstack at (202) 479-7240; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A new book hit cyberspace and Amazon.com’s book list recently that puts the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings into a new perspective.
Called Boston’s Bloody Marathon, the book is the most complete account yet of the terrorist bombings that killed three persons, made 17 lose limbs and injured more than 260. It also traces the trial of prime suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev through his conviction and death sentence.
The book portrays the Boston Marathon bombings not as an isolated event, but as part of a developing pattern that increasingly plays out in the world’s news stories.
In a note to the reader, the author writes, “Although this book focuses on the April 15, 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon, its victims and the prosecution of the prime suspect, it is equally about “lone wolf” terrorists. Lone wolves refer to terrorists who plot their attacks alone, usually with no organization to support them and no official links to violent groups. There is almost no way to know their next target until they strike. U.S. intelligence agencies call them perhaps the biggest terrorist threat to the United States and its allies. They also say the threat is growing as the U.S. military and its allies dismantle the most deadly terrorist organizations, forcing them to turn to lone wolves to continue their violent campaigns.”
The book was written by veteran journalist and Washington, D.C., lawyer Tom Ramstack. He has reported on court cases for much of his three decades career as a journalist as well as defended a few criminal defendants.
He comes into the situation as a witness to a similar event. On July 27, 1996, he stood outside Atlanta’s Centennial Park as a different terrorist bomb ripped into a crowd of people watching a concert during the Summer Olympics.
Boston’s Bloody Marathon is Ramstack’s third book. Ramstack is available for interviews on request, either in person, through Skype, by phone or e-mail.
Chapter 1: A Mangled Marathon
On a brisk April 15, 2013 morning, the annual running of the Boston Marathon started with no hint of the tragedy that would befall it hours later.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the 26.2-mile trek to Boston’s Back Bay on a bright, shiny day, ready to hand the runners cups of water and to cheer them toward the finish line.
The announcer at the starting line in Hopkinton asked for a moment of silence to honor victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in nearby Newtown, Connecticut that claimed the lives of 26 persons four months earlier.
It was the work of a madman with a gun, according to press reports.
After the 26-second pause for the fallen, America’s oldest public marathon began with 52 wheelchair-bound racers giving the first spins to their wheels at 9:17 a.m. They were followed by 51 elite women runners – selected as some of the world’s best marathoners – at 9:30 a.m. Next came elite men at 10 a.m.
The remaining roughly 23,200 competitors from across the United States and 92 countries were released in three waves over the next 40 minutes.
Among them was a 57-year-old mother from Maryland named Carol. Her surname, along with those of her family members, are omitted to protect their privacy.
As usual, the Kenyans and Ethiopians set the pace, finishing two hours ahead of most competitors. The first three runners to cross the finish line for both elite men and elite women were from Kenya and Ethiopia. The first Americans finished fourth in both men’s and women’s divisions.
The only American to claim a first place prize was Tatyana McFadden, who won in the women’s wheelchair race.
But before the race was over, few people cared who won or lost. Boston’s Patriots Day, a day of festivities to celebrate the American Revolution, was about to become the latest nightmare in America’s ongoing war on terrorism.
At 2:50 pm, as the biggest chunk of racers approached the finish line, a bomb concealed in a backpack exploded on the sidewalk nearby. It was followed 13 seconds later by another concealed bomb on the sidewalk only 210 yards away on Boylston Street.
The blast prompted widespread screaming and spectators to run for cover. Windows shattered in nearby buildings while two large puffs of white smoke billowed upward over Copley Square.
One witness told CNN, “It felt like a huge cannon.”
Three people were killed almost immediately. Another 264 were injured, 14 of whom required amputations.
A Florida trauma care doctor who was watching the race as a spectator described for national television networks what he saw as he approached the “mangled” blast site.
“I saw at least six to seven people down next to me,” he said. “They protected me from the blast. One lady expired. One gentleman lost both his (lower) limbs. Most of the injuries were lower extremities.”
Some witnesses told about a man who lost his legs not fully understanding what had happened as he struggled to stand on feet only barely attached to the rest of his body.
The pungent smell of gunpowder hung in the air while shrapnel, ball bearings and nails littered the streets near the blast sites. Spectators left behind backpacks, cell phones and handmade signs with runners’ names.
Doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital later treated one patient whose body had been pierced by 12 carpenter’s nails.
Cell phone and surveillance camera video of the moment of detonation show 78-year-old Bill Iffrig, a veteran marathoner, running in the street near the finish line. As the first bomb exploded, “the shock waves just hit my whole body and my legs just starting jittering around,” he told reporters.
The video shows Iffrig falling to the ground while wearing his running shorts and an orange tank top. An event volunteer stepped up to help him to his feet.
Iffrig suffered only a minor scratch.
At first many of the runners speculated that it was an electrical explosion. Moments later they realized it was a bomb.
Carol’s daughters, Erika and Nicole, along with son-in-law Michael, stood near the finish line, waiting for Carol to cross it.
Instead, shrapnel from the first blast ripped into the bodies of Erika, Nicole and Michael.
Michael suffered lacerations to his upper body. Nicole’s legs were severely injured.
Erika, a 29-year-old preschool teacher, suffered the worst of the injuries.
A day before the marathon, she was doing homework for a master’s degree in early childhood education she sought at a Maryland university. The day of the marathon, she had a good view of the finish line to watch her mother complete the race.
Unlike some survivors whose injuries left them with no clear memory of the explosion, Erika remembered nearly everything, right up to the time an anesthesia mask was put over her face in the emergency department of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
As the first bomb detonated, she remembers seeing flashes of orange and yellow. She didn’t hear the blast because her eardrums were perforated by the explosion. She was knocked to the pavement.
Her left foot would not move. In a later news media interview, she said, “I’m lying there and I have this horrible moment that I’m going to die. I had a conversation with God. I said, ‘I’m not ready to go. I’m not done yet.”
An uninjured bystander approached, introducing herself as Joan from California and saying she was there to help. She gave a belt to an emergency medical technician who used it as a tourniquet around Erika’s leg, perhaps saving her life as she bled profusely.
Within minutes, the streets filled with stretchers and wheelchairs as ambulances crowded the neighborhood for blocks around.
Erika screamed for her sister and brother-in-law but received no reply.
While still lying on the pavement, she grabbed her purse, glasses and Kindle e-reader before being loaded onto an ambulance gurney. Her camera still was strapped around one wrist.
Emergency medical technicians put her into the ambulance beside another seriously injured woman. One of the EMTs described the women as “criticals” who needed to be immediately transported to a hospital.
Erika was wheeled straight to an operating room, where surgical personnel cut her clothes off, including her Baltimore Ravens shirt.
Then she remembers the anesthesia mask over her face. Then she remembers waking up in the intensive care unit.
By the time her mother arrived at Beth Israel Deaconess, Erika’s left leg was amputated below the knee. Her mother was one of the first to speak with her after she revived.
Carol said her daughter’s first question was, “What happened to Nicole and Michael.” Next she asked, “What did they tell my kids?” Finally she asked, “What happened to my leg?”
Following the first amputation, doctors cut off more of her left leg above the knee as Erika suffered painful spasms and her medical team determined the leg could not be saved.
Her right leg required muscle and skin grafts and insertion of a rod to stabilize it. The leg was scarred from burns.
Erika would be the last of the bombing victims to leave the hospital, spending 50 days confined to her sixth floor room. Twenty-seven hospitals participated in treating the bomb victims.
“It’s going to be a long, long road,” Carol’s husband told ABC News. “At least everybody in our family is alive.”
During a Nov. 8, 2013 appearance on the ABC television show The View, she demonstrated her hesitant and halting ability to get up from her wheelchair and walk with a prosthetic leg as the audience applauded.
* * *
Down the street from Erika when the second bomb detonated stood a married couple named Adrianne, 32, and Adam, 33.
The couple attended the marathon as spectators. It was one of Adam’s first social events since returning from Afghanistan, where he served in the Air Force.
They had planned to spend Patriots Day shopping and watching the end of the marathon.
The blast knocked the couple to the pavement where they fell on top of each other.
“I said my foot hurt, and he held up my foot, and we both just screamed bloody murder,” Adrianne said in an interview with local media in Boston.
They crawled into a nearby restaurant. Her husband used his belt as a tourniquet around his wife’s leg as she asked him to tighten it, hoping a tight squeeze would diminish the pain.
Other spectators rushed in to help the injured married couple before they were carried away in an ambulance.
Doctors were unable to save her left foot. They also removed part of her left leg below the calf.
Until the blast, she worked as a dance instructor at Arthur Murray Studios in Boston.
Her husband suffered a perforated eardrum. Shrapnel cut a nerve and artery in his left foot. His right foot needed a graft from his thigh to repair torn skin and muscles.
Adrianne’s mother broke the news to her daughter as she woke up in a Boston Medical Center hospital room after surgery.
Adrianne asked her mother to help her move her left foot. Her mother told her she had no left foot.
Adrianne responded by punching her pillow, throwing a water bottle and sheets.
While she still awaited a prosthetic leg, she pledged to herself that she would dance again, perhaps even run the marathon.
* * *
An image that came to symbolize the tragedy of the marathon bombings emerged from a family photograph of 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was one of three people killed by the blasts.
His mother, father and sister were seriously injured. Their 7-year-old daughter lost a leg.
The photograph taken before the marathon shows Martin holding up a drawing he made with crayons. At the top it says, “No more hurting people.” Below the sentence, he wrote “Peace” in multi-colored lettering with hearts on each side of the word and a peace sign drawn at the bottom.
Martin, who was known for liking knock-knock jokes and math games, is shown looking at the camera with a half-smile and a missing baby tooth.
“My dear son Martin has died from injuries sustained in the attack on Boston,” the boy’s father said in a statement. “My wife and daughter are both recovering from serious injuries. We thank our family and friends, those we know and those we have never met, for their thoughts and prayers. I ask that you continue to pray for my family as we remember Martin.”
Martin’s father, a respected civic activist in Boston, suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs.
The family went to the marathon to participate in what has become a Boston tradition: celebrating the beginning of warmer weather while watching one of the nation’s most famous races.
Martin’s family originally watched the race several blocks away from the blast site near Hereford Street. They were watching for neighbors they knew were running the race.
They left their vantage point to buy ice cream, then returned to a spot closer to the finish line. After 15 minutes of watching sometimes bedraggled runners end the race, the first explosion hit them.
A bystander who came to help Martin’s sister moments later was quoted by local television station WCVB saying, “I saw her laying in the street. I held her head in my hands and I tried to rub her and comfort her.
“She was just a baby and so badly injured and scared,” the bystander said. “But she was so incredibly brave. I saw him [Martin] and at that point I knew he was gone. I’ll never forget them. That little girl, she was so brave.”
Martin’s family put out a public statement May 9 to respond to inquiries about their progress. It included several sentences about their daughter, who underwent 11 surgeries in 23 days.
“After not being able to communicate with [our daughter] for the first two weeks, she woke up with difficult questions that needed to be answered,” the family’s statement said. “There are not words to describe how hard sharing this heartbreaking news was on all of us.”
Martin’s schoolmates drew a makeshift memorial to the third grader in chalk on the pavement at Hemenway Park, where he and his friends from Neighborhood House Charter School would play.
“Pray for Martin,” said one of the messages written in pink chalk. Other messages pledged they would never forget him.
* * *
The other fatalities were identified as 29-year-old restaurant worker Krystle Campbell and 23-year-old Boston University graduate student Lingzi Lu.
Beth Roche, an Indiana woman who was watching her daughter finish the marathon, remembers her injury vividly.
“My knee opened up like a sardine can,” she said. “Everything now in slow motion. I was lying on the ground and people were walking over me to get into Marathon shoe store. The last thing I saw before feeling alone was blood trickling down the leg of a girl that was going in the store.”
A police officer arrived. She was moved first to a triage tent, then an ambulance and finally Tufts Medical Center.
As the physical pain of the bombings subsided, Roche and other victims dealt with psychological struggles.
After returning home and receiving her third surgery on Oct. 23, 2013, she said, “I am determined and positive most of the time but this last surgery has really challenged my will and soul. I am still fighting with the help of [physical therapy]…
“As far as the terrorist, I have no comment other than I feel he will have to face the consequences of his actions,” she said.
* * *
Sarah Girouard, a college student from Maine who suffered serious leg injuries in the bombing, said for this report, “I don’t know if you can call it a coping mechanism or not but soon after it happened, I tried not to get emotionally attached to the event – as impossible as that may sound. I don’t have much animosity toward them because I think I’ve emotionally disassociated myself away from this event so much in order to stay strong.”
As the victims and their friends spoke about coping with tragedy, police and lawmakers were promising that someone would pay dearly for the crime.
President Barack Obama issued a statement shortly after the bombings saying, “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will feel the full weight of justice.”