Thoughts on the Past Week

Web photo courtesy of WGBH


On Morning Joe today, Kenneth Feinberg, who has become the guru of victim compensation after unspeakable carnage, commented on the extraordinary charitable impulse of people, Americans and persons from outside the country. He said 50,000 people have contributed to the One Fund for victims of the Marathon Bombing—and the gifts continue to pour in. In Lowell, we have seen this generosity of spirit and fortune in efforts to help people from this area. Benefit events are coming  up, including a major gathering at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center set for this Saturday at 6 p.m. The suggested donation for attendees is $26.20, referencing the marathon distance.

Here are websites for donations:


The Boston Globe, Sun of Lowell, and New York Times proved themselves clutch players in this tragedy. Despite the turmoil in the newspaper industry, this situation proved why we still look for a good newspaper to report what is happening. Many people felt the urgency of the moment and wanted information. Television news and opinion programs played a role this past week, but newspapers added a weight to the coverage. TV and radio broadcasts fly by—with a paper you can go back to the kitchen counter and pick it up again to re-read what you scanned at first glance. The web provided a mixed bag of speed, startling and emotion-packed images, links to longer articles, diverse commentary, etc.—and some of it felt essential while some it came off as extraneous and sensational, like the reckless tabloid in New York City that threw around incorrect information. The home video of the Watertown shoot-out and the eyewitness on web-cam or Skype offered a riveting account of that encounter. State Police helicopter thermal imagery gave us an x-ray of the boat with the surviving brother in it. Data came at us in all kinds of forms. Locally, the social media users showed how effective an organizing tool Facebook can be in bringing people together to support a common cause.


Massachusetts functioned like a small town this past week. Our state population is not large, but the surprising thing to me was how many close connections people have to the attack in Boston and the suspects. I don’t have personal connections, but one and two steps away there are many—friend of a friend, colleague of a colleague, friend of Facebook contact, and the like. It seemed that everyone knew someone who was at the Boston Marathon, near the Finish Line, or in a network that linked in some close or distant way to the Tsarnaev brothers. A retired UMass Lowell professor has a friend who was a teacher of eight-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed. Middlesex Community College’s Pat Cook and his family and friends were on the scene of the blasts. A Lowell High student and her mother and a former UMass Lowell student were among the wounded. The older Tsarnaev brother was written up in the Sun for his Golden Glove bouts. Radio journalist Robin Young of WBUR reported that the younger brother had been at her house once for a party as a friend of her nephew’s. The world of Greater Boston was reduced to a living room. I was reminded of 9/11 and the planes that left Boston—news and history and community converged in an instant. Suddenly, we were all involved. We remain in it.