SCARCELY HAD the terrible news from Copley Square broken when the somber prediction began to be heard everywhere: Boston will never be the same. The Marathon will never be the same. Patriots Day will never be the same.
After such a gory and public atrocity on what is normally such an upbeat, festive day, that was a wholly understandable reaction. "There goes another piece of our freedom, another sacred and oh-so-local institution," wrote the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy in his column yesterday. The horrifying images and grisly details of the first successful terrorist bombing on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001, are now indelibly etched into Boston's memory. The dead will soon be laid to rest; the shattered glass and blood will be cleaned up. But the heartbreak and shock of this week's attack will cast a shadow over the city for a long, long time – never more so than on each Patriots Day to come.
Yet when it comes to what we value most about life in Boston and every American city — the feel of freedom, the relish of an open society — I'm betting that things are going to be the same. Yes, even now.
Remember that after 9/11, too, we were told that nothing would ever be the same. If anything back then was universally taken for granted, it was that more massacres were on the way – a matter of when, not if. Even with beefed-up security procedures and strengthened counterintelligence tools, America would never be able to protect all of its open places from determined terrorists. I'm sure I wasn't the only person who used to wonder why terrorists would bother targeting airports or other fortified public facilities when they could wreak just as much havoc almost effortlessly by setting off a couple of bombs in a crowded supermarket or a busy public park.
Our enemies likewise anticipated more slaughter. Terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed later confessed that Al-Qaeda had intended to follow up 9/11 with additional attacks on the Sears Tower in Chicago, the New York Stock Exchange, and the US Bank Tower in Los Angeles.