I didn't know anything at all was amiss until I was waiting for my bus outside the nearest subway stop, at around 3:30 this afternoon. I heard an announcement that due to "police action", that particular train wouldn't be stopping at either of the two most central stations on its route. I thought it was odd for it to be two stations, since usually police actions only include one, but I didn't think much of it since I knew the marathon was happening today, so there'd be thousands of people around those stations, and it didn't surprise me if a couple of them had gotten into a fight or someone was injured or something.
While I was riding the bus to work, I overheard someone say, "They found another one," and then also what sounded like something about a woman's leg. I realize now that the leg must have been one of the injuries, which I guess is marginally better than what I had thought at first, which was that they'd found a leg, and it was just one more of what had been several disembodied parts uncovered so far. That understandably had me feeling a bit sick to my stomach as I walked into work.
Then I checked the news and discovered that the "other one" they had found was a third explosive device, and that two had already gone off near the marathon's finish line, killing two and injuring about two dozen.
Previous years, I took groups of students to that very same finish line, so we could watch people right as they ran by among all the people cheering in the stands. I didn't go today, because I was fired from that job and this morning I felt too lazy to go all the way downtown when I didn't have to for work. But I know a lot of people for whom this is a really big deal. They go with their families every year and really enjoy participating in the exciting and festive atmosphere, all the way along the route but especially downtown where it finishes. I know a lot of people who were there today, including some who were still there when it happened and heard it and were caught up in the chaos and panic afterward.
Fortunately, at least from my own emotional perspective, I am so far unaware of anyone I knew who actually got hurt by the blasts. But it still makes me feel sick to think of previous years when I was standing with a group of laughing students and friends right near where this happened today, and I can only imagine how I'd feel if I were personally responsible for leading a field trip of international students down there to see this amazing coming-together event that Boston is proud to host every year, only to have it end so horribly.
And then, in the aftermath, out come the racists. As usual, the very first wild baseless speculations everyone's throwing around are that it must have been Muslim terrorists, even to the point where some news outlets reported that Boston PD had a Saudi national in custody for the attacks. No such suspect exists, but it didn't stop people from leaping to what they assume is the most logical conclusion. And sure, 9/11 was instigated by Muslim extremists, but people are way too quick to forget the other recent terrorist bombings in the US, such as Oklahoma City and the Atlanta Olympics, which were planned and carried out by white, Christian extremists.
But no, it's too difficult to be violently suspicious of average looking white guys. Easier by far to suspect everyone of Middle Eastern descent (or who looks like they conceivably could be) of being somehow responsible for or at the very least pleased about today's attacks. Easier to be angry at every bearded brown guy instead of having to pick and choose which clean-shaven white guys might be terrorists, and which ones are just here to live their lives like everyone else. I have a number of current and foreign students from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern and North African countries, and it pained me today to have to advise them to be extra careful of their personal safety now and over at least the next few days (much longer if it actually does turn out that anyone even vaguely related to Islam or the Middle East was responsible).
Edit: and holy shit, this picture puts the first bomb at exactly the corner I (and countless others) stood at to watch people cross and get a better view on the Jumbotron they set up there.