Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Jesse Washington / The Associated Press
Moment after nail-biting moment, the events shoved us through a week that felt like an unremitting series of tragedies: Deadly bombs. Poison letters. A town shattered by a colossal explosion. A violent manhunt that paralyzed a major city, emptying streets of people and filling them with heavily armed police and piercing sirens.
In this Wednesday photo, a mourner reacts during a candlelight vigil at City Hall in Cambridge, Mass. in the aftermath of Monday's Boston Marathon explosions.
People react as an explosion goes off near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston on Monday. Event after nail-biting event, America was rocked this week, in rare and frightening ways, with what felt like an unremitting series of tragedies.
AP / The Boston Globe, David L. Ryan
Amid the chaos came an emotional Senate gun control vote that inflamed American divisions and evoked memories of the Newtown massacre. And through it all, torrential rain pushed the Mississippi River toward flood levels.
"All in all it's been a tough week," President Barack Obama said Friday night. "But we've seen the character of our country once more."
America was rocked this week, in rare and frightening ways. We are only beginning to make sense of a series of events that moved so fast, so furiously as to almost defy attempts to figure them out. But beneath the pain, as the weekend arrived, horror was counteracted by hope.
"We inhabit a mysterious world," Rev. Roberto Miranda said at a prayer service for the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people, inflicted life-changing injuries on scores more and shook the sense of security that has slowly returned to America since 9/11.
"The dilemma of evil is that even as it carries out its dark, sinister work," Miranda said, "it always ends up strengthening good."
That evil arrived Monday when twin bombs exploded near the finish line of the marathon. Not since 9/11 had terror struck so close to home. Although the scale of the Boston attack was far smaller than the destruction of the World Trade Center, a dozen years' worth of modern media evolution made it reverberate in inescapable ways.
In 2001, we could walk away from our televisions. In 2013, bad news follows us everywhere. It's on our computers at work and home, on our phones when we call our loved ones, on social media when we talk to our friends.
"There's no place to run, no place to hide," said Dr. Stuart Fischoff, a professor of media psychology at California State University in Los Angeles. "It's like perpetual shock. There's no off button. That's relatively unprecedented. We're going to have to pay the price for that."
"We're dealing with future shock on a daily basis," Fischoff said.
Steffen Kaplan, a social media specialist in New Jersey, tried his best to protect his young son from the madness. His television stayed off. He browsed the Internet with caution. But reality finally intruded at a local pizzeria, where a TV was playing images of the injured in Boston.
"What's going on?" his son asked. "Nothing," Kaplan replied. "That's just a movie."
Kaplan fears the world his son will inherit. To cope, "I rely on faith in humanity," he said. "If we raise our children correctly, somehow, some way, humanity will prevail."
But the present remains difficult, Kaplan said: "It seems to be a spiral of things happening one after the other. It can be inundating on your senses."
The downward spiral steepened Tuesday morning. As authorities in Boston searched for leads, and the nation debated whether the perpetrators were terrorism or a different type of killer, congressional leaders said a letter containing the poison ricin had been mailed to Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. It touched off memories of the jumbled days after 9/11, when letters containing anthrax were sent to politicians and media organizations..
On Wednesday, the Secret Service said it had intercepted a ricin letter mailed to President Barack Obama. Tensions immediately rose in Washington, with a half-dozen suspicious packages reported and parts of the Capitol complex shut down. On Wednesday evening, a suspect was arrested in Mississippi.
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Emergency personnel on Thursday search the rubble of an apartment destroyed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas.
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Federal agents wearing hazardous material suits inspect a trash can on Friday outside the house of Paul Kevin Curtis in Corinth, Miss. Curtis is in custody under the suspicion of sending letters covered in ricin to President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.