It was a long, long day Friday in the town of Watertown, Mass. And Friday night, it ended. At least part of it.
Dzhokar Tsarnaev, one of two brothers eyed as the prime suspects in the bombing of the Boston Marathon, was taken into custody after a long day and thousands of law enforcement officers who shut down Watertown and many of the areas outside of Boston. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his older brother, died earlier after a shootout with police.
The younger Tsarnaev was discovered hiding in a boat by a citizen who called police. But that citizen wasn’t alone. For anyone who doubts the power of social media and other technologies, tens of thousands of people around the city of Boston along with those on Facebook, Twitter and other social media should stand with the police and other law enforcement in taking some credit for the ending of this nightmare.
Some estimates had more than 250,000 people monitoring Boston police and fire radio on their computers or smart phones. And while there is some debate on the safety of that practice, citizens working with police is not the worst thing that could happen. People were vigilant, they were staying inside as ordered yet they were the eyes and ears of the police. People sent in videos and photos from the Marathon and law enforcement gives the public a lot of credit.
Social media has changed our world. Technology has changed our world. Some of it may be a bit scary like video cameras seemingly everywhere but if you’re not committing a crime or doing what you shouldn’t be doing then you really shouldn’t complain. In this world we live in, cameras may now be just part of the way we live. As long as there are crazy people going around doing crazy things, what choice do we have?
But the ending to the events in the Boston area in a week we’d all love to have never happened is bittersweet. All together four people – including an 8-year-old boy – died. Hundreds were injured. Law enforcement expended probably thousands of hours of time and I’m sure the price tag for the investigations, apprehension and soon the prosecution of the younger Tsarnaev will reach into the millions of dollars. It is bittersweet. I have watched video of the relatives of the suspects. It’s a very sad story. We watched as an aunt defended the boys, their dad defended his sons and yet an uncle called them “losers” who brought shame to their family. It’s a tragedy all around no matter what you think.
But it could have been a lot worse. These two could have had the opportunity to set off more bombs. There seems to be some evidence that there were more available to them. So that is something to be thankful for.
And for those of us in the news business, this can be called what it’s been called by some – a game changer. Monitoring police scanners gave the watching world an instant update: “suspect in custody.” And thousands of people tweeted and retweeted and posted to Facebook before most of the news organizations even knew what happened. Cameras, videos, photos, police scanners monitored on the web, it’s a new world for all of us.
It’s a new world in terms of technology and the web and all that went into this event. But it’s the same story when it comes to the terror that is in our face every day. One of the commentators said tonight that we can wage the war on terror, the war on crime, the war on drugs. But these are wars that we can never really, totally win. We can do our best but it will never end.
And while we are all celebrating a victory as police and law enforcement brought this horrific episode to an end, the truth of the matter is that tomorrow is another day and another chance for another tragedy. Every time we hear of things like explosions in Texas at a fertilizer factory, terrorism is the first thing that comes to mind.
That’s a shame. That’s our world. This is our new reality.