[UPDATE 9:40: Now we're hearing more about the terrible injuries, which include a lot of amputations. I haven't watched the more graphic images, and don't intend to. But it occurs to me that one of the few pluses of this having happened in Boston (a city involved in 9/11 as well, because two of the four planes involved took off from there, and a great many of the airplane victims were therefore local to the Boston area and New England) is that it has one of the very best medical systems in the world.
UPDATE 9:30: I've been watching local TV coverage, and the reporter was saying that we don't know who did this, or why.
Although that's certainly true, and although it certainly matters what the answers might be, I would submit that to a certain degree we do know. A terrorist or terrorists did it, and the object was to cause terror.
Terrorists, whether foreign or domestic, whatever philosophy they are promoting (and there's no question that Islamicists are disproportionately represented) among them) have the goal of disrupting daily life---especially happy celebratory times, or ordinary times when people feel safe and relaxed---and making people feel fundamentally unsafe. A subsidiary but not unimportant motive is terrorists' desire to blow people up, watch the commotion, and feel their own power to wreak havoc. Sometimes there is a further goal of inspiring a backlash against the terrorist act that can then be exploited in myriad ways.
UPDATE 6:35 PM: the JFK Library explosion appears not to have been the result of a deliberate act.
Another explosion has been confirmed at the JFK Library in Columbia Point, a bit south of Boston. In that one, fortunately it appears that no one was injured.]
Dozens of people have been injured after an explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday afternoon. At least 12 people were seriously injured and transported to local hospitals, according to Boston ABC affiliate WCVB.
The Boston Globe cited witnesses who reported hearing two large explosions shortly before 3pm ET, more than four hours into the race. The Associated Press reported at least one of the explosions came near the entrance of the Fairmont Copley Hotel. Meanwhile, photos posted on Twitter showed several people severely injured along Boylston Street–at the center of the Boston’s main shopping district. Local news reporter Jackie Bruno wrote that she saw some people with their limbs blown off.
Note that there were two explosions, which indicates terrorism. As for potential perpetrators, there are many possibilities. The leading one would always be Islamicists, but because of the target it’s by no means certain that’s the case. Someone with a grudge against the Marathon? Someone from either side of the political spectrum who wants to make a point about Patriots Day? Someone who just likes to see things blow up in a venue where there are a lot of cameras?
Whatever the source, terrorism wants to instill terror, to make people feel unsafe in the seemingly safest of places. I’ve been at the finish line of the Boston Marathon (not as a runner). It’s ordinarily a festive, happy, delightful occasion, like a big party. Now, this.