It was with an odd fascination that many of us watched the events unfolding in Boston last weekend. We watched the capture of the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings in real time. Was it creepy, voyeuristic? Maybe. Yet, it was not much different than most TV police shows fare — except this time it was really life or death.
With four dead and dozens maimed and severely injured, we had seen enough to be angry even from 3,000 miles away — angry enough perhaps to see a little more blood shed, that of the presumed bombers.
It was gratifying to see the technology that we pay billions for — such as the images from the infrared camera borne by a helicopter high above the scene, which was able to ‘see’ the suspect under a boat cover in a backyard. Earlier, we had seen photos of the suspects made possible by image enhancing software. There were maps, records and tactical discussions that allowed the public to participate vicariously in the identification of the two suspects.
Many sought to be part of the story by being the first to report any movement or rumor. Texts and Twitter reported every step. At the behest of police, reporters lay on the sidewalk as gunshots rang out, glad to put themselves out there to tell the story. Others who knew the two brothers inserted themselves in the drama. Terrorist experts weighed in.
Of course, there was the huge tragedy in Texas. A bit guilty, we figured maybe we should be thinking more about them. Perhaps we relied on the fact that help and relief — if not media attention — was on its way.
It was moving to see the people of Watertown cheer their police when the ordeal was over. They were more than grateful to the public safety officers who worked for hours to protect them while relentlessly pursuing the remaining suspect and any possibility of more violence.
In the end the police work, both high tech and low tech, was stunning. But it was a sharp-eyed homeowner who set the end in motion. He saw something amiss in his backyard and called 911.