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'Sadness And Defiance' The Mood In Boston After Attacks


We will get through this, but we will never be the same. That thought in a moving essay today in the Boston Globe from columnist Kevin Cullen, who joins me now from The Globe newsroom. Kevin, thanks for being with us.

KEVIN CULLEN: Thanks for having me, Melissa.

BLOCK: As you've been out and about in Boston today, one day after these bombings, what have you seen? What really captures the mood for you?

CULLEN: One thing I must say, I spent a lot of time in Northern Ireland covering the troubles. And today kind of reminded me of the mood in Omagh in 1998. It was a terrorist bomb and I remember what it felt like to be in Omagh, and there was this mix of sadness and defiance. And I think that that is exactly what I'm seeing in Boston today.

People are incredibly sad and we're also really angry. And I must say that if the person or persons who put that bomb there think they were going to break this town by doing something like that, they have a profound misunderstanding about this city, about the resilience of the people here and about our reaction to this.

One thing that struck me, Melissa, was when that first bomb went off yesterday, there was a rush to the victims. There was firefighters, cops, EMTs and paramedics, and beside them were just ordinary civilians, just ordinary Bostonians trying to help.

And it was - when the second bomb went off, these people didn't even flinch. The second bomb went off down the street. And for all they knew there were going to be many more bombs. But no one ran away. They ran toward the bomb. And that's why - whoever this person, or persons that did this, they must have been looking at that. And if they think that they won, they would have seen they lost.

BLOCK: You know, Kevin, when we talk about where this happened - the finish line of the Boston Marathon - and we talk about it being in the heart of Boston, explain a bit about what the geography is there because it really is as central a part of the city, the heart of the city, as you can find.

CULLEN: Yeah. Well, it's right - the finish line is right at the Boston Public Library, which is, you know, one of the oldest public libraries in the country. It's a beautiful building. And Boylston Street is the, you know, one of the main drags in the city that connects. It runs all the way down to the Boston Public Garden and the Boston Common, and then runs all the way up through the Back Bay which is that neighborhood.

And, you know, it's a magical place to be. And this is how cynical the person or persons who put those bombs there. They seemed to time it directly to the time when the most people come through. The average - you know, the elite runners were long gone and hard to find. But the sort of plodders, the people that will take about four hours to run a marathon, they were coming through at that very moment. So it's almost as if the bomber knew this would be the maximum number of people there.

And it was also timed - one of the great things about Patriots Day here in Boston, not just the marathon - which we all take great pride in - but the Boston Red Sox, which is sort of a cult here...


CULLEN: The Red Sox always play an early game on Patriots Day. Instead of starting at, you know, one or two, the game starts at 11 because it allows for about a three-hour game. And then everybody - 35, 37,000 people - walk out of Fenway Park and then they walk down through Kenmore Square and walk about another half-mile and there they are, cheering everybody on - the finishers of the marathon. So it's a really special day.

And yesterday was, as I said in the column, the only thing missing was Lou Reed singing "Perfect Day" because the Red Sox had a walk-off win in the ninth inning. The bottom of the ninth, they won the game and everybody left the ballpark thrilled and happy. And they all walked down to watch the marathoners. And then in an instant, we go from a perfect day to an evil day.

BLOCK: You know, there was a line in your column today that really jumped out at me. And it was that on Monday you write: We lost the idea that we will ever feel totally safe in this city. And that is a permanent loss, isn't it, for Boston?

CULLEN: I think it is but I also think - it's funny, I hear - a lot of people responded to the column and liked it and liked this bit. But there were a couple of people that thought that that was too negative, that I was giving in to the terrorists by saying that. Well, I'm just being realistic. I don't think we'll ever look at Patriots Day the same way again. We'll always remember this bombing.

But I do think it is - this is a funny town.


CULLEN: We are a belligerent people. We love to argue. We love to fight. There is - you know, we only care about three things in this town: sports, politics and revenge.


CULLEN: And the revenge will be the laughter of our children. We are not going anywhere.

BLOCK: Among the confirmed deaths is a young boy, eight years old. And you've been finding out more about his family, Kevin. What have you found?

CULLEN: His name is Martin Richard. And as you said, he was eight years old and he was killed. His mother was very seriously injured. And his sister lost her leg. And I know the firefighter who carried that girl to safety.

BLOCK: Oh, my.

CULLEN: And he represents the best of us. And whoever did this represents the worst of us.

BLOCK: Kevin Cullen is a columnist with the Boston Globe. Kevin, thanks so much.

CULLEN: Thank you, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.