The Marathon Bombings: Images of terror, heroism, and resilience

I am adamant that I keep the focus of this blog on photography and image and not venture into public events or politics.  Still I cannot help but comment on the images of the Marathon Bombings and their aftermath that have literally bombarded us for the last week.

I woke yesterday at five AM to learn that Watertown, Massachusetts, the town where I work was under police siege; that Boston and all surrounding towns had been ordered into lock-down.  These are bizarre and incredible events.

People know that the Boston Marathon occurs on the holiday Patriots Day – conveniently scheduled on a Monday.  The actual events that started the American Revolution in Lexington and Concord Massachusetts, occurred on April 19, 1775.   So as I staggered downstairs into my kitchen in search of my morning coffee, contemplating the unfolding events of this April 19, I was greeted by musket fire as the Sudbury Minutemen reenacted the events of that April 19th.  The effect was surreal and thought provoking.

For the past week images of horror, of mayhem, of heroism have been played over and over again, seeming endlessly.  For those fortunate enough not to be directly involved, such events are a parade of images that will stay with us throughout our lives.  I can recite a list of mine: the Kennedy assassinations, the King assassination  the War in Vietnam, Kent State… The list plays on inescapable.  You may recall my discussion of Howard G. Davis’ collection of the photographs that haunted him and defined his life. I emphasize that these nightmares are for those fortunate enough not to be directly involved.  Their horror is firsthand; ours shared and collective.  None of the platitudes or aphorisms help the murdered, wounded, or maimed.

In the terrible events of this past week we have seen the power of image unfold in two ways: first in the creation of a common social consciousness and second in the way that peoples mementos, such as photos on an IPhone and photos from robotic eyes all around the city ultimately led to the identification of these terrorists.

I return to the contrast between April 19, 2013 and April 19, 1775.  The President was correct when he said that as, clearly seen in the videos and still images of the events of last Monday, terrorism failed in the first instance as law enforcement, medical personnel, and ordinary citizens rushed to the aid of the wounded, oblivious to personal danger.  I have gone many times to Concord Bridge to watch the reenactments.  It’s usually cold and windy, sometimes wet. And I have wondered what special kind of person could stand on that bridge, armed with a flint lock rifle, and be ready to take on the greatest army in world, oblivious to personal danger and even iminent death.  I understand that a little better now.

This entry was posted in History of Photography, Personal Photographic Wanderings.