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Wed., April 17, 2013

Editorial: Carrying on with lives, community events important after bombings

In a photograph on the Boston Globe website, an 8-year-old schoolboy proudly displays a poster he crafted with these words, “No more hurting people. Peace.”

Martin Richard, of Dorchester, Mass., was one of three people who died from the explosions Monday at the Boston Marathon. His mother, father and sister were among the approximately 170 people who were injured. Brave responders and expert medical care doubtless saved many.

Heartbreak Hill gained a darker meaning after a seriously sick person or group detonated two homemade devices packed with gunpowder, pellets, nails and BBs. The blasts severed legs, broke bones and burst eardrums. Blood streamed over the sidewalk. A scene of joy and celebration was instantly transformed into a cauldron of pain and panic.

This time it was Boston, but it could happen anywhere.

If alert workers hadn’t spotted a backpack bomb two years ago during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade, it could have occurred in downtown Spokane. Authorities eventually captured white supremacist Kevin Harpham of Stevens County, and he pleaded guilty to the plot. Much like the detective work underway in Boston, the Harpham case combined multiple federal agencies and local law enforcement.

A tragedy averted has already placed this community on high alert for public events. You can bet law enforcement will be extra vigilant at this year’s Bloomsday race, on May 5.

But as the Boston tragedy shows, preventing attacks at such large events is difficult. Police swept the course for bombs before the race, a practice that had become routine after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Despite heightened security, it appears the bombs were planted after the race began and in the midst of thousands of spectators.

Spokane police Chief Frank Straub promises safety for Bloomsday and Hoopfest, but he isn’t giving out many details, for obvious reasons. He says he will be in close communication with Boston authorities to learn from that attack. He has had experience implementing counterterrorism tactics in New York.

Even with the best precautions, there are no guarantees. But it’s still important for communities to carry on with events that bring people together. We can be angry about Boston, but once we stop living our normal lives, we’ve surrendered to the wishes of truly evil people.

When a 10-year-old schoolmate of Martin Richard was asked how she felt, she replied, “Scared. I never know where they are.” She was referring to the marathon attackers. That sentiment is common in our post-9/11 world, but another outgrowth of that fateful day is a resolve to stay strong by staying calm.

This weekend, London will stage a marathon that will incorporate a tribute to Boston’s victims. Runners will be encouraged to wear black ribbons. Thirty seconds of silence will be observed before each group starts.

But the best tribute is deciding to press forward and not back down.

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