Blasts, manhunt, trial, healing: Boston’s longest marathon
BOSTON (AP) — The champions were already across the finish line — the elite marathoners, the ones whose names would go in the books. And Associated Press photographer Charlie Krupa had set himself up amid the celebrative crowd and snapped their triumphant pictures from a makeshift overhead bridge.
After covering 25 Boston Marathons, he knew the drill. He then hustled to the press area to edit these photos and transmit them to the world so he could hurry back to capture the unpredictable but always memorable next part of this carefree rite of spring. What would those follow-up images show this year? Would it be the runner kneeling to propose to his girlfriend at the finish line? Or maybe an exhausted participant struggling, even crawling, across? Would it be someone clowning, arms outstretched, swooping and dipping like a stunt plane, or, as happened one year, someone completing the race by walking on his hands?
Who knew what was ahead on this festive Patriots’ Day when, as usual, state workers and schoolchildren got their mid-April Monday off and hundreds of thousands of others played hooky to descend on the city for the quintessentially Bostonian celebration of the end of another long New England winter? The holiday is a chance to see the Red Sox play one of their first home games of the new season at Fenway Park. A chance to lick the year’s first ice cream cone.
Maybe best of all, a chance to cheer on the day’s signature event: that sweaty stream of jubilant, jostling humanity known as the Boston Marathon.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A little more than two years after explosions shattered the Boston Marathon, jurors on Friday returned a death sentence for the surviving bomber. In between, the city endured terror, a manhunt and lockdown, a painful trial and the start of healing, which continues. Now, Associated Press journalists who covered all aspects of this long ordeal have collaborated on a book, “The Boston Marathon Bombing: The Long Run from Terror to Revival.” The new AP Edition (www.ap.org/books), published this week in partnership with Mango Media, offers stories behind the story. Here is an excerpt.
On the cool, bright afternoon of April 15, 2013, near the marathon’s blue-and-yellow finish line decal on Boylston Street, spectators were clapping and clanging cowbells for the stream of 27,000 runners. Each was someone’s friend or spouse or significant other, parent, child, colleague or neighbor. Each was taking part for a reason: to set a personal best, to raise money for charity, or simply to experience the magic of America’s most venerable footrace.
At 2:49 p.m., when the first deep boom sounded amid the happy din, it didn’t immediately register to most people. They heard it, but to some, it sounded like the celebratory cannon fire that rings out over the Charles River every Fourth of July when the Boston Pops orchestra plays the “1812 Overture” outdoors. Nothing sinister.
When he heard it, Krupa was in the press room set up at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. He thought it must be a heavy piece of equipment falling. But 12 seconds later, there was another explosion.
Indoors, he couldn’t hear the cheering turn to screaming, couldn’t smell the stench of sulfurous smoke and burnt hair, couldn’t see the people collapsed on the sidewalk or the spectators knocking over barricades in their rush to get away from blood-spattered Boylston.
Still, Krupa knew something was seriously wrong. As he scanned the press room, searching for clues, someone suddenly entered and announced that no one could leave.
“We’re in lockdown,” the official said, as security guards took up posts at both main doors.
Then Krupa remembered: Behind the drapes near a podium was a door that led to another door to get out of the building. He grabbed three cameras, a laptop computer and a wireless transmitting device and ducked behind the drapes. Reaching the outside door as guards approached it, he sprinted from the hotel and onto Boylston Street.
Amid the commotion, he focused on three people a half-block away helping a stricken man in a wheelchair, Jeff Bauman, whose eyes locked on Krupa’s.
“His face was ashen.... And as I got closer, I could see how shattered he was, that he had no legs, that these three people that were with him, they were going to get him the care he needed.”
As they did, Krupa shot photos, then ran on, to the finish line, where again he climbed the photo bridge. The scene was ghastly.
“EMTs. Firefighters. Everybody was triaging all these people in a cluster,” he said. Medical attendants and volunteers worked frantically, using their belts and shoelaces as tourniquets. Something else registered through his lens: Although the panicked were peeling away in every direction, a quarter of the crowd was running toward the blast sites to help.
Three people lay dead or dying — Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China; Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager from suburban Medford, Massachusetts; and Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy from Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.
More than 260 others were wounded, scores of them moaning and dabbing at bleeding gashes. Sixteen clutched helplessly at legs that dangled from shreds of tissue or were simply gone; another had her mangled leg amputated months later.
This carnage was wrought, as the city and the world would learn, by the jagged shrapnel unleashed by twin pressure-cooker bombs. On Patriots’ Day, terrorists had struck at Boston’s heart.
Fear gripped the city. With the bomber — or bombers? — still on the loose, a no-fly zone was imposed over downtown Boston. The Bruins and Celtics canceled games.
Shortly after 6 p.m., President Barack Obama addressed the nation: “We will find out who did this. We’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will feel the full weight of justice.”
Investigators found nails, ball bearings and other shrapnel everywhere. They also found pieces of pressure cookers and the tattered remains of two black backpacks used to carry the bombs.
Krupa remembers the next 100 hours like this: “On Monday, the city was shattered physically. And as the week went on, there was a sort of shattering emotionally.”
Rumors swirled and misinformation circulated among rival state and federal law enforcement agencies, some of it leaking to reporters. At one point, several news organizations, including AP, reported that a suspect was in custody. It was based on information from insistent authorities, but it was wrong.
Billy Evans, Boston’s high-energy police superintendent who later would ascend to the top job of commissioner, had run the marathon for the 18th time Monday and was soaking in a hot tub afterward when he heard about the explosions. At first, he didn’t believe it was terrorism — but reality sank in when he got to Boylston, where an hour earlier he’d been running. “To see the bodies lying in front of the Forum and the banners blown apart: It was a vision I don’t think I’ll ever get out of my head.”
The rest of the week was a frenzied blur for him, but by Wednesday, he was told the FBI thought they had spotted the bombers on surveillance video.
On Thursday, three days after the bombings, the FBI called a news conference to release images of two men, their names still unknown. (It would be Friday before authorities identified the men they were hunting: brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.)
For now, suspect No. 1 was simply called “Black Hat.” Suspect No. 2 was “White Hat.” Grainy images showed them nonchalantly mingling with the crowd packing Boylston’s sidewalks.
Their pictures were transmitted everywhere, and the manhunt intensified. It didn’t take long to flush them out.
Within hours, Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer Sean Collier was shot to death.
Soon afterward, a terrified carjack victim told authorities he had just escaped from two men -- one claiming he had bombed the Boston Marathon and had just killed a police officer in Cambridge.
Police spotted the stolen Mercedes SUV in Watertown, and a firefight erupted.
A Watertown police officer later would testify that Tamerlan Tsarnaev emptied his gun, then threw it at him. Dzhokhar, behind the wheel of the stolen Mercedes, then drove straight at three officers who were trying to handcuff Tamerlan. Dzhokhar ran over his brother. Tamerlan died of gunshot wounds and injuries from being struck by the car.
But Dzhokhar escaped — simply vanished — managing to elude a massive police dragnet that gave normally carefree, collegiate Boston and its leafy environs a surreal quality in scenes broadcast live.
In an unprecedented announcement, Gov. Deval Patrick issued a “shelter-in-place” order for Boston and surrounding communities, instructing people to stay in their homes as the search continued. It had been Monday when the bombers struck; now it was Friday, and one of them was still out there, somewhere.
Jesse Bonelli, a young video game artist in Watertown, dutifully stayed inside his apartment. But just in case, he removed a decorative machete from a wall and sharpened it, explaining, “It’s the only weapon I have. I want to be ready in case anyone bursts into the house.”
After everything that had happened, he said, “I keep wondering what’s next.”
Finally, around 6 p.m., the governor lifted the shelter-in-place order, even though Tsarnaev hadn’t been found. When David Henneberry ventured outside his home on a quiet Watertown street, he noticed something amiss. The shrink wrap on his boat appeared loose. When he peered inside, he saw blood -- then a man lying on his side.
Billy Evans raced to the scene and called for tactical backup, to prepare to get the man out of the boat. “The problem at that time is everyone had been searching for him for a long time. They had adrenalin pumping. People were coming from all directions. For whatever reason, someone let off a round. Once one let off a round, we had multiple shots fired,” Evans said.
“I was screaming,” he recalled in his thick Boston accent, ”‘Hold yah FI-YAH! Hold yah FI-YAH!’”
After the shots stopped, the FBI used flash grenades to try to flush Tsarnaev from the boat. Finally he climbed out, covered with blood.
Celebrations erupted in and around Boston. “I will always remember the feeling leaving Watertown,” Evans said. “People were out waving flags, people were clapping like we had just won the war.”
Now Boston and the nation asked: Who were these two brothers. And why had they done this?
The Tsarnaev family moved to the U.S. from Russia in 2002, settling in Cambridge. They were ethnic Chechens who had lived in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and the Dagestan region of Russia, an area bordering Chechnya that has been plagued by Islamic insurgency and tensions between ethnic groups.
Parents Anzor and Zubeidat and their four children — Tamerlan, Dzhokhar, Bella and Ailina — appeared to adjust to their new country. Anzor worked as a car mechanic, and the children attended Cambridge schools.
When Dzhokhar graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 2011, he won a $2,500 scholarship and attended the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Tamerlan had some success as an amateur boxer, married an American woman and had a daughter with her.
But more than two years before the bombings, Tamerlan had been placed on U.S. authorities’ radar. In March 2011, Russian intelligence told the FBI that Tamerlan was a follower of radical Islam. The FBI investigated but found nothing to link Tamerlan to terrorism.
He went on to spend six months in Dagestan and Chechnya in 2012; his parents had divorced and returned to their homeland by then.
His father told the AP in Dagestan that Tamerlan spent most of his time lounging around. But a cousin said Tamerlan told him he went to Russia to try to join jihadi fighters.
Back home in November 2012, he interrupted a sermon at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center about it being acceptable for Muslims to celebrate American holidays. Two months later, he had a second outburst after a sermon that included praise for the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Boston Strong.” The phrase became a signature, a slogan capturing the resilience and spirit of survivors and the city itself. It appeared as a Twitter hashtag, on T-shirts, on Fenway’s Green Monster wall and on the helmets of the Boston Bruins.
Survivors of the bombing seemed to personify “Boston Strong” — their slow, painful, determined recoveries covered extensively in news stories.
Over the months that followed the blasts, Krupa and former AP reporter Bridget Murphy spent hours at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital meeting with amputees getting ready for prosthetic limbs.
“I felt like they were giving us a gift by letting us be there while they were vulnerable,” said Murphy, now a reporter with Newsday. “A lot of them were very buoyant at the beginning. But as time went on and they were confronted with the reality of what their lives would be like from here on out, a lot of them got frustrated.”
Mery Daniel was one of them. Daniel, a 31-year-old medical school graduate, was near Marathon Sports when the first bomb exploded. Doctors amputated her left leg above the knee.
Murphy was there when prosthetic specialist Paul Martino helped Daniel slide into the kind of socket that would encase the top of her left leg and connect it to a replacement knee and foot. The fit was awkward initially. Daniel cringed in pain. She tried on two different knees, but even the most advanced technology was clumsy compared with the leg she lost.
“I had one that worked perfectly,” she told Martino.
“Yeah,” he said. “You did.”
As the bombing anniversary approached, so, too, did the 2014 Boston Marathon.
There was never any question that the race would go on. The day after the bombings, the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the marathon, vowed that the race first staged in 1897 would return.
To mark the anniversary of the 2013 race, a mountain of running shoes, medals, plush toys, notes and other items laid in remembrance at the finish line went on poignant public display.
The 2014 field swelled to 35,671, second-largest in race history. Security was unprecedented: Jets flew low sorties over all eight cities and towns along the route; officers with bomb-sniffing dogs fanned out along the course.
Meb Keflezighi, a naturalized emigrant from Eritrea, became the first American in 31 years to win the men’s race. The crowd roared as he approached the finish.
But the loudest cheers of the day came after a moment of silence held at the finish line at 2:49 p.m., the time of the first explosion. The hush that fell over the crowd gave way to boisterous whooping, clapping and the clanging of cowbells.
And crossing the finish line were several bombing survivors. Among them was Heather Abbott, who lost her left leg. Now fitted with an artificial limb, she ran the last half-mile with a friend.
Once again, Charlie Krupa was back on the footbridge to photograph the race, and he couldn’t help but marvel at the euphoria: “The race became whole again.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial began with a bombshell.
“It was him,” defense lawyer Judy Clarke acknowledged in her opening statement, startling many in the courtroom by bluntly admitting he participated in the bombings. But Tamerlan, she insisted, was the mastermind: If not for the radicalized elder brother the attacks wouldn’t have happened.
In the weeks that followed, the jury heard gut-wrenching testimony as survivors took the stand in rapid succession.
Rebekah Gregory was one of the first to tell her story. Her left leg was ravaged in the bombing, but she fought through 17 surgeries and 19 months to keep it, until the pain was too constant and too debilitating. She finally told doctors to amputate in November 2014, just four months before she would face Tsarnaev.
Sitting in the witness box about 10 feet from him, Gregory described watching the race with her boyfriend and his family and her 5-year-old son, Noah, all having fun.
When the bomb exploded, she said, “My first instinct as a mother was, where in the world was my baby, where was my son?”
As her eyes searched frantically for her son, she saw a young woman dying on the pavement. It was Krystle Campbell.
“I could hear Noah...,” Gregory said. “He was saying, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,′ over and over again. I said a prayer. I said, ‘God, if this is it, take me, but let me know that Noah is OK.’”
Someone picked up her son and put him beside her.
Hours after her testimony, Gregory posted a defiant letter to Tsarnaev on her Facebook page: “TODAY ... I looked at you right in the face ... and realized I wasn’t afraid anymore. And today I realized that sitting across from you was somehow the crazy kind of step forward that I needed all along.”
Karen Rand McWatters, Krystle Campbell’s best friend, described how they happily strolled around Boston before heading to the finish line to watch McWatters’ boyfriend cross.
A prosecutor showed her a photo of the two women taken before the explosion, both with huge smiles, McWatters with her arm around Campbell. Moments later, they were thrown to the sidewalk by the first explosion.
McWatters described how she inched across the pavement on her back to get to Krystle. Then the prosecutor showed her another photo of the two women lying on the sidewalk, their faces almost touching, both severely injured, Krystle dying.
“She very slowly said that her legs hurt, and we held hands, and shortly after that, her hand went limp in mine and she never spoke again after that,” she said, choking back tears.
McWatters’ left leg was amputated two days later.
As Bill Richard took the witness stand, a hush fell over the courtroom.
Quietly composed, he described how he and his wife, Denise, took their three children for ice cream just before heading toward the finish line.
They found a spot right up front, near a metal barricade that separated the crowd from the runners. Martin, 8, and his 6-year-old sister, Jane, climbed on the bottom bar of the barricade to get a better view. Their 11-year-old brother, Henry, stood near Denise. Bill stood behind Jane and Martin.
When the first bomb exploded down the street, the Richards decided to get the kids and leave. Just then, the second bomb went off.
Bill Richard saw injured people everywhere. But where was Jane? His son, Henry, came running over to him, hugged him and said, “Is this really happening?”
Henry pointed to Jane, who was right behind him. One of her legs had been blown off.
Richard looked at Martin, lying on the sidewalk, as his wife knelt on the ground over him. He knew then his son wouldn’t make it. “I just knew from what I saw that there was no chance,” he said.
He scooped Jane up in one arm and took Henry in the other, taking them across the street to get help.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadine Pellegrini showed Richard a photo of his family, along with other people, standing near the barricade. One by one, Richard circled his family members for the jury, using a touch-screen monitor. Then Pellegrini circled another figure -- a young man wearing a white baseball cap backward -- standing a few feet behind Jane and Martin.
It was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Defense lawyer Judy Clarke told the jury Tsarnaev was a 19-year-old kid at a difficult stage of his life. His parents had divorced and moved back to Russia. He was flunking out of college and had no family left in Cambridge except Tamerlan. He fell under the influence of his brother, who sent him jihadist publications, recordings and lectures, she said.
Prosecutors countered that Dzhokhar was a willing participant who could have backed out of the plan at any time.
Tsarnaev appeared impassive during the trial, only occasionally glancing at the witnesses.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated 11 hours over two days before returning the verdict: guilty on all 30 charges.
It was an anticlimactic moment. Now the only question was: Would they spare his life?
The heavyset, gray-haired woman walked slowly to the witness stand. She looked at Tsarnaev, a nephew she adored but hadn’t seen since he left Russia when he was 8. He wasn’t a little boy anymore. Now, he was a convicted terrorist on trial for his life.
Patimat Suleimanova began weeping before Tsarnaev’s lawyer could even ask the first question.
Then, for the first time since his trial began four months earlier, Tsarnaev showed emotion. Grabbing a tissue, he wiped away tears as he looked at his heartbroken aunt. Until then, he had sat stone-faced, looking straight ahead.
Now was the time to show emotion. This was the penalty phase of the trial, when the same jurors who convicted him would decide whether he should spend the rest of his life in prison or be executed.
This part of the trial had always been the focus for his lawyers. They called to the stand every teacher, friend, classmate or relative they could find to talk about what a good kid he was.
They showed photos of Tsarnaev as a young boy; holding his teacher’s infant daughter; sitting with big brother Tamerlan. It was difficult to reconcile the photos of this happy, clean-cut little boy with the 21-year-old man sitting in court with an unkempt mass of curly hair.
The jury also heard about dysfunction in Tsarnaev’s family. A psychiatrist who treated his father, Anzor, in Boston said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anzor told the psychiatrist he had been tortured in a Russian camp during the Chechen wars of the 1990s.
Relatives described how Tsarnaev’s mother, Zubeidat, went from a non-religious, high-fashion woman to a religious zealot who appeared to embrace a radical form of Islam and encouraged her sons to do the same.
Prosecutors used the penalty phase to remind the jury of the suffering caused by Tsarnaev and his apparent defiance after the attack. They showed a blown-up photograph of him giving the middle finger to a camera in his cell.
Prosecutors closed by playing a video showing Denise Richard crouched over little Martin and resting her head on his chest as he lay dying.
Steve Woolfenden, a witness who had lost his leg, was next to them. “I heard ‘please’ and ‘Martin’ being uttered by Denise Richard,” he said. “Just pleading with her son.” Begging him to live.
Martin bled to death on the sidewalk.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers had a dramatic final witness of their own: Sister Helen Prejean, a death penalty opponent made famous in the movie “Dead Man Walking,” who’d met with Tsarnaev five times.
Did there come a time, his lawyer asked her, when he expressed his feelings about what happened to the victims in this case?
“He said it emphatically. He said, ‘No one deserves to suffer like they did,’” Prejean said.
If any of the 12 jurors was looking for a sign of regret from Tsarnaev, she gave it to them. Tsarnaev never took the stand in his own defense.
Now Boylston Street was alive again. It was May 15, 2015: judgment day for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but commencement day for many in this city full of colleges.
Giddy graduates chatted excitedly as they made their way along the busy street, some tossing their congratulatory bouquets on the marathon finish line as they passed.
Just a few hours earlier, jurors had sentenced Tsarnaev to death by lethal injection.
The decision, subject to years of appeals, came two years and one month after his bombs bloodied the very street where carefree graduates now headed to parties to celebrate their accomplishments and ponder their futures.
And now scrappy Boston could look ahead, too, sensing a measure of closure.
Karen Brassard, injured by shrapnel along with her husband and daughter, offered words that spoke for an entire city:
“Today feels different only because it feels more complete. Right now, it feels like we can take a breath. We can breathe again.”