The Boston Marathon bombing occurred on April 15, 2013, 7 years ago yesterday.
I remember it vividly. I was a first year attending. I was sitting in the lunch room of an outpatient center at Kaiser, staring at a TV in disbelief. My vision becoming blurry, cloudy from the tears that were forming. I had left Boston less than 2 years earlier after completing my anesthesia residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). I never felt a connection to the city of Boston, even in the 3 years I spent there.
But in a moment, it changed.
I saw people who did not run from the explosions, but ran towards their fellow humans. People who risked their lives for others, working together for a common good. And I felt comforted knowing dozens of my incredible friends and colleagues who still worked at BIDMC would be up for the challenge.
Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were the brothers responsible for that fateful day. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was captured after sustaining multiple wounds in a shootout on April 18th and died early the morning of April 19th at BIDMC. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured later on April 19th in serious condition, again taken to BIDMC for care in the Trauma ICU.
And if he had died, like his brother, the only tears shed would have been in anger.
Except I know people who treated him. Who provided excellent medical care for him. Who saved his life. Because it is our duty to treat every life as precious.
Even the one belonging to a murderer.
He, along with his brother, were responsible for 3 deaths and 250+ injuries during the bombing, including a number who had limbs amputated either in the hospital or by the bombs themselves. Actions stoked by their deluded beliefs. And peoples lives were changed forever. The physical trauma was clear, but the mental trauma was even more insidious.
I spoke to people who witnessed the aftermath of the carnage, describing panic, dozens of victims pouring into the emergency rooms, some even in the lobbies of the hospitals. Of staff gasping as they looked upon blood-covered mangled bodies, casualties of an unexpected war.
These images are powerful, tangible. Clear and evident proof of the carnage, brutality, and selfishness one human can inflict on many others.
I am sure many around the country remember that day. Or the 9/11 tragedy. Or of other wars they may have lived through. These moments have been documented over the years, offering startling images we all can look back upon. To remind us of the preciousness of life. And how fleeting it can be.
I am not just a physician. I am also a documentarian.
I am charged with documenting the preciousness of life. And of documenting the decay of death.
Documenting the sight of a last breath. Of the final heartbeats. Of frantic chest compressions. Of resignation and dejection. Of the first tears of loss and mourning.
Documenting the sound of a last breath. Of the final heartbeats. Of ribs cracking. Of anger and frustration. Of the first sobs of loss and mourning.
I have documented more death in the last month than I have in my entire career. But not on film, but in the reel of my mind. And so it cannot be shared.
But the reel is real.
We are charged with your care. Even when you do not deserve it. Even when you are a killer.
But I wish I lacked your moral code so I could choose not to do so.
Spring breakers. Religious zealots. And many others who stand in defiance and denial of reality.
And on the 7 year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, hundreds of people in Michigan during "Operation Gridlock" planted their bombs in a sick tribute to the Tsarnaev brothers.
And many will soon be murderers. But their bombs are invisible. There will be no audible explosion, no visible carnage. Nothing for the world to document.
But we will in our mind.
The bombs planted will not go off at a particular time, like the Tsarnaev brothers did at 2:50pm on April 15th, 2013. But they have been set. And some protesters will act as both planter and plantee. Both murder and suicide, simultaneously. Some bombs will be faulty and fizzle out. Some bombs will pack a punch, jarring the body for a period of time, and any lasting damage will be TBD.
And some will leave bodies mangled and mutilated, the carnage mostly invisible. The victims body encases the results of that internal explosion.
For those unlucky individuals, eventually the pressure cooker will explode. And the virus will pierce the victim's insides with pellets and nails. And many will not survive.
Such as the 2400+ people yesterday who died from silent explosions all over the US. Including the 153 in Michigan alone.
Yes, people are struggling. But nothing is worth risking a life, especially when it is not your own.
We need to stand united. Just like Boston did.
A life should be worth more than one's livelihood. And it definitely should be worth more than the ability to buy paint or landscaping materials at The Home Depot.
I cannot believe I even need to type that.
And as a result of this stupidity, I cannot stop being scared for my mom and sister and countless other friends and family in Michigan and around the world.
To some, comparing "Operation Gridlock" in Lansing to the Boston Marathon bombing will seem ridiculous and sensationalistic, a ploy to stoke fear.
But if it leads to senseless death all because some value their beliefs over the lives of others, is it really any different?