It is always difficult and imprudent to draw too many conclusions too early about terrorist attacks like the carnage at the Boston Marathon. But there are three significant lessons from this horrendous event that deserve serious and sustained attention from everybody involved, including public officials, law enforcement authorities, members of the news media (old and new) and citizens.
First, Boston is blessed with multitudes of surpassingly courageous men and women in its police force, fire department and emergency medical services. It is impossible to watch the video of the immediate aftermath of the first bomb without being amazed and inspired by the rush of first responders toward the smoke and blood. These folks knew there might be another explosion aimed specifically at them, yet they didn't hesitate to aid the dying and injured.
Let it also be noted that among those pulling away the debris and rushing victims to waiting ambulances were uniformed members of the Massachusetts National Guard and swarms of yellow-vested marathon volunteers. Also lending aid were spectators, marathon competitors, doctors and nurses who happened to be present, and even journalists, all pitching in despite the potential for lethal consequences. It is a shame that too often a tragedy is required to see America's spirit and courage on display, yet it is nevertheless a great blessing and should serve as a stern warning to those who mean this nation harm.
Second, while the specific identities and motives of the attackers may not be confirmed for some days or weeks, there was little doubt that they intended to inflict maximum death and destruction without regard to age, gender or residence. Although President Obama did not specifically call it a terrorist attack in his first comments, his aides lost no time making it clear that the event was officially viewed as an act of terror. It was nevertheless jarring and illogical to hear officials at all levels subsequently speak of insuring that "justice" is done for the responsible party, as if the bombing was akin to a drive-by gang shooting, car theft or armed robbery. Regardless of the motive, detonating a bomb that kills and maims innocent people on behalf of any political or religious cause is not a crime against civil justice; it is intrinsically an act of war against civilization and must be punished as such. Justice means the death penalty.
Finally, terrorism experts have warned for years that sooner or later, a successful terrorist attack in the U.S. homeland would be mounted using an improvised explosive device, the infamous IEDs that have killed thousands of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that it has happened here at home, security measures put in place in the wake of 9/11 must be revised with all due haste in light of the new tactic.