After suspect’s capture, city on a hill shines againROBIN WASHINGTON: The streets and landmarks were exactly as I knew them: I had walked along Norfolk Street in Cambridge, just down from where the Tsarnaevs now lived, visiting a
By: Robin Washington, Duluth News Tribune
The streets and landmarks were exactly as I knew them: I had walked along Norfolk Street in Cambridge, just down from where the Tsarnaevs now lived, visiting a co-worker’s home many times. The press scrum in Watertown was in front of Arsenal Mall; bought my ties there off the discount rack. And if I didn’t know the guy who owned the boat on Franklin Street, I can’t count how often I drove past or rode the Mt. Auburn Street trolley bus a block away.
It was all intimately familiar, but when it ended Friday night, a new Boston had emerged, or re-emerged. A shining city on a hill (sorry, Duluth; Beantown had that name before we did) living up to its heritage as the birthplace of American ideals.
That wasn’t always the case. When I moved there in 1987, it still wore the scars of busing from the decade before, visible in continuing racially tinged School Committee meetings. The get-anyone approach of law enforcement — again, informed by racial attitudes — manifested itself in the Stuart Case in 1990, in which a white man shot his wife dead and blamed an imaginary black man, and authorities dutifully complied to find one for him.
Even beyond race I remember the attitude of police that same year when an unarmed young Italian American man was killed by a state trooper in the city’s North End. The trooper was exonerated but before that determination, a police spokesman told me the dead man shouldn’t be included in a count of those who’d died on the street.
And what could possibly shake the city’s shame a little more than decade later, when hijackers boarded planes at Logan Airport for a one-way trip to hell, redefining everything we know about surviving on this planet? Before the attacks, Massport had spent $2.2 million on security cameras but hadn’t installed them, a Boston Herald colleague and I reported afterward. An achievement on the resume of the airport’s security chief before being appointed was that he had been the governor’s driver.
That’s all dirty water under the Longfellow Bridge now.
This time when terror struck, the message from the top was that it was all Boston, not any one segment, that was attacked. This time, authorities
focused single-mindedly on getting the right parties responsible, not getting anyone. This time, it was about acting intelligently, deliberately, and cooperating at every level — the mayor, governor, feds, district attorney, a plethora of police from Staties to Boston, MIT, Cambridge and normally sleepy Watertown, and an everyday citizen venturing to peek under the tarp of his boat.
Most incredible was the restraint of that army — far more lethal than anything mustered to meet the British invaders 237 years earlier — against a suspect who gave them every reason to shoot without question. Instead, they employed the advantage of time and waited him out, in the process writing a new chapter of nonviolent conflict resolution as applied to those armed to the teeth.
For that, the troubled young Dzhokhar Tsarnaev owes his life, and the opportunity to truly face justice. For those who were lost, the assurance they did not suffer unanswerable deaths. For the rest of us, the possibility we may learn why and how these terrible deeds happened, and the chance at preventing another.
Boston and Cambridge and Watertown looked just as I remember this week, only now in the glow of the best of humanity.
A shining city on a hill.
Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune and was a journalist in Boston for 17 years. He may be reached at email@example.com.