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David Cleary Headshot

Boston's Own Zero Dark Thirty Shuts Down City

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To be honest, I never thought they'd take him alive.

From roughly 6 a.m. on the morning of Friday, April 19, until almost 9 p.m. that evening, the ongoing story in Boston held me completely captivated. Late Thursday night into early the next morning the much needed breakthrough came in the all-out manhunt for the two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, those allegedly responsible for the horrific bombings at last week's Boston Marathon.

Waking up Friday morning I quickly caught up on what I'd missed throughout the night. Dave Portnoy's ("El Pres" to his fans) recap on his popular Barstool Sports blog ran at 6:02 a.m. with the title, "If You Just Woke Up You Missed The Craziest Night In The History of Boston," and provided a pretty accurate summation of those intense hours. Despite Barstool Sports' raunchy reputation, Dave and his staff deserve credit for working tirelessly throughout the ordeal to provide objective, real-time reporting on the events by gathering intel from police radio frequencies and other sources. One such police radio broadcast has even become an Internet meme now. In the report, you can hear one officer mentioning to a superior, "Sir, just so you know, we've received reports that this channel is being broadcast on the internet," followed by several warnings (that have taken on internet notoriety), "remember, we're on an open channel, watch your mic."

It wasn't until Friday morning that I learned that the two suspects -- heavily armed and possibly strapped with more explosives -- had held up a 7/11 store in Kendall Square and eventually killed an MIT police officer. This deeply disturbing news hit close to home, as I'd often stopped by this 7/11 while working in Kendall Square during the past year. What's more, I later learned that the two suspects were Cambridge residents who'd lived nearby my former apartment, the same one where my best friend still lives. Knowing that the FBI had found "explosives, synthetic powder and an unspecified number of pipe bombs" in this home really put into perspective that feeling of terror I and the rest of Boston felt when the government was forced to take unprecedented measures and shut down the entire city.

To call this situation in Boston "surreal" is almost an understatement: for those following intently via social media, traditional news, word of mouth, and especially via live police scanners, it was like watching a horror movie of which no one knew the ending and for which the consequences were dreadfully real. One anonymous blogger augmented his police radio webcast with a live message board where I and thousands of others shared the tension of Friday's manhunt, listening to every detail unfold live. Several of us drew parallels between what was going on then and the recent film Zero Dark Thirty, referring to the Boston events as a sort of "Part 2" playing out right before our eyes.

My only respite from the coverage came during a job interview of all things. The person I met with, a middle-aged woman from Australia, and I spent the majority of our time discussing what unfolding events of that day Boston. What I remember most about our conversation was this woman's honest and heartbreaking concern about having recently brought a child into the world, a world which has increasingly turned toward acts of violence as a means to express outrage or seemingly accomplish other agendas (still unclear in this case). Having emigrated from Australia to the United States as an adult, she'd never experienced in her childhood the horrendous acts of terror that have plagued us in the past decade and a half, not just in the United States but also throughout most of the rest of the world. With this woman's own past experience being in such stark contrast to her and her child's current reality, she understandably admitted an apprehension and hesitation about how to approach such events when her child becomes old enough to register them -- and inevitably lives through something similar. Eventually our conversation turned to the question that was on everyone's minds that day: "why" would two brothers resort to such violence against the innocent?

As the investigation now proceeds with the second brother, Dzhokhar, having been captured and taken into custody late Friday evening, the "why" remains at the forefront for nearly everyone, from the victims and their families affected by the bombings to the rest of the world tuning in from abroad. Though alive, Dzhokhar apparently suffered injuries severe enough to keep him in critical condition in Boston's Beth Israel Hospital, ironically the same hospital where several bombing victims are still being treated. According to reports at the time of this writing, his wounds are so grave that he has not yet been able to speak (since this piece was originally written, he has apparently begun to answer some questions). Whether the responses he gives will ever satisfy our to need to know "why" this all happened remains to be seen. As similar incidents have shown in the past, no matter what we hear from Dzhokhar firsthand, we'll never stop wondering if there were any signals that someone -- a teacher, a relative, a friend -- missed along the trail to the bombings. Was there any indication that these two young men, described by friends and family alike as "angels" and "kind," could even be capable of carrying out such destruction? The brothers' aunt has even started demanding evidence that her nephews are responsible for the bombings at all, despite their reported admission of it. Will the remaining brother appeal to religious conviction? To rampant racism directed at him during his schooling in the states? President Obama has repeatedly urged the American people not to jump to any conclusions or to make unsubstantiated claims of connections these two may or may not have had, but instead, to "relentlessly gather the facts." His request came alongside a justification of the police's controversial decision not to read Dzhokhar his Miranda rights upon his arrest.

However, even during such a short period of time, facts and rumors alike have poured in. Reporters on Friday and ever since have scrambled to fill in the missing pieces on these two. Will their YouTube channels, Twitter accounts and Facebook profiles help paint a picture of their motivations? Everyone remains on the edge of their seats waiting to know exactly what happened, what went wrong, and especially the "why" behind their acts. Unfortunately, only time can tell whether we will ever find the answers we so desperately seek.