Last Saturday was the day after the day that the city stood still, and it was meant to be about victory. The Boston Police Department had set the tone the previous evening, at 8:58 p.m. Friday, when it ended a spectacularly dreadful five days with an oddly poetic tweet. "CAPTURED!!!" went the official word. "The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won...." Horns blew, streets and bars filled; stir-crazy families broke out of their homes. Who could blame them? It felt like a championship.
Indeed, the speed with which investigators identified, flushed out and ran to ground the brothers allegedly responsible for the bombing death of three spectators—and the maiming of 180 more—at the 2013 Boston Marathon was truly breathtaking. Police work almost never moves this fast. Each surreal and violent turn in the case came whirling into view before the previous one had even begun to be digested, and the public mood—from shock to defiance to weary resolve—hustled to match the manic pace. YOU COWARDS MESSED WITH THE WRONG CITY, read a sign held up at the Bruins game at TD Garden on April 17, Boston's first major postmarathon public event. Two days later Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was dead and his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, was under arrest. Stories detailed their Chechen ethnicity, their seemingly smooth assimilation into American life. No one could say if either was relevant.
After a night of heavy rain, on Saturday Boston's beloved Red Sox played their first game at Fenway Park since the explosions. And the winning continued. Has any city deserved it more? After the Boylston Street bombs on April 15, the savage gun-battle in the streets of Watertown last Thursday night, and Friday's historic, 12-hour shutdown of a major metropolitan area, Sox slugger David Ortiz, returning from injury, played for the first time this season and declared in a sun-splashed speech before the game, "This is our f---ing city. And nobody going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong."
Profanity and all, Ortiz was voicing a civic attitude that has spread like a contagion. Runners of every grade have vowed to return to next year's Boston Marathon; fields and crowds bigger than ever have already been predicted for 2014. "Absolutely," said Matt O'Brien, a Boston University criminal justice major who ran his first marathon this year and had just walked out of the medical tent when the two bombs exploded near the finish line. "Next year it's going to be even better."
O'Brien, in his blue marathon zip-up, stood in the front row of seats next to the Red Sox dugout before the game. Next to him, with her young son and daughter and husband, was Karen Centola of Watertown. Her home is barely half a mile from where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured in a backyard boat; her family lived firsthand Friday's searchlights and sirens and fear. Next year's Marathon will be the first she attends. She and O'Brien had just happened to meet, and already he knew he'd have at least one supporter at the race. "I'm going to be there cheering for Matt," Centola promised.
City and team came together next: After the salute to victims and heroes, after Neil Diamond led the crowd in singing "Sweet Caroline," Daniel Nava, screaming at the ball as it flew out, ripped a three-run homer in the eighth inning that gave Boston a 4--3 win over the Royals. He pointed to the sky. When the game ended, everybody sang "Dirty Water"—with no line louder than, "Bos-ton, you're my HOME!" The mood in and outside Fenway was near giddy now.
Maybe, it should be anything but.
That's admirable bravado, but it's really unacceptable to go forward with the same kind of attitude," says Ray Mey, a former FBI counterterrorism expert now working as international security consultant for The Soufan Group. "Because these bad guys aren't going away. They're here. There's going to be, potentially, more of them. I'm waiting for the next step—which is going to be suicide bombers."
By most measures the investigation was a soaring success. Still, the Marathon bombing raised disquieting questions about terrorism security, the future of porous events like marathons and lesser road races, and—most pressing of all—the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, set to unfold in February just 260 miles from Chechnya. Most alarming, perhaps: Despite the billions of dollars spent and the man-hours deployed since 2001 to prevent such acts, last week the most puzzlingly slipshod of operations still managed to kill innocents and paralyze one of the nation's most revered cities.
If the results weren't so tragic and the fear so widespread, in fact, the aftermath would almost qualify as farce. The FBI had identified and interviewed Tamerlan as a possible terrorist threat in 2011—his U.S. citizenship application was reportedly held up based on that concern—but by all accounts the Tsarnaev brothers moved without the precision you might expect from trained killers. They seem to have had no escape plan and little money. Their getaway car was actually in a repair shop. In the ensuing days, Dzhokhar reportedly worked out at a gym; went to a party at UMass-Dartmouth, where he was a sophomore; and tweeted. His final message, issued at 10:43 p.m. on April 16, 32 hours after the bombs went off, was "I'm a stress free kind of guy."