As terror ends in Boston, a sense of relief from those with Iowa ties

BY NICK HASSETT | APRIL 22, 2013 5:00 AM

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For Boston, the week that started with a sudden, devastating attack ended with a triumphant victory.
As Iowans in Boston reflect upon the past few days that saw a city in lockdown, the overwhelming feeling is relief.

“The episode has come to a conclusion, and everything can get back to normal,” Iowa City native Katherine Monson said. “There was a lot of celebrating on Friday more out of relief than anything else.”

On April 15, two explosions ripped through a street of Boston near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and leaving almost 200 injured.

Surveillance videos from the scene were released online, and before long, two brothers were identified as suspects: Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a 19-year-old student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

Though the city was on edge for days after the bombings, the situation came to a head when the two brothers reportedly fatally shot a university police officer and led police on a chase. In a gunfight with police, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was wounded and later died in a hospital.

The manhunt came to a close on April 19 when Boston police, acting on a tip from a citizen, found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hiding in a boat, bloodied but alive.

Evelyn Lau, a 2010 University of Iowa graduate, said the city was filled with patriotism after the news.

“From what I’ve seen and heard on the news, there were many celebrations that went on, including apparently a spontaneous break out of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ somewhere in Boston right after the suspect was caught,” she said.  “I think the fact they managed to get him alive is what makes it all the better.”

Lau said gratitude toward the police also swept the city.

“People just seem so proud, and everyone is stopping to thank or hug or high-five a police officer if they see one,” she said. “It’s just a very cool atmosphere to be around,” she said.

Simone Renault, a UI student studying at MIT for the semester, said the national response to the bombings and subsequent lockdown was comforting.

“I saw ‘Georgia loves Boston,’ ‘Colorado loves Boston.’ There are so many colleges in this city that attract people from everywhere,” she said. “[Boston has] national sympathy from friends and family across the country.”

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, expressed relief in a statement following Tsarnaev’s capture.

“I am relieved that the tragic events, which have terrorized Boston and the nation over the past five days, seem to have come to an end this evening.  The work of the first responders, law enforcement officials and the National Guard has been truly heroic. Now that the suspect has been captured, he must face the full force of our judicial system.”

But as the nightmare in Boston comes to a close, many are still asking the question: why?

“When the news media cover this, there are not going to be easy answers,” Monson said. “There’s never a suitable explanation for this kind of violence or any comfort when we find out why this happened. It’s senseless violence.”

The Tsarnaev brothers, Chechen in ethnicity, immigrated to the United States roughly a decade ago; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev became a naturalized citizen in 2012.

UI political-science Professor William Reisinger said he hoped the brothers’ background wouldn’t cast blame upon the region.

“Clearly, the connection to the region is pretty indirect,” he said. “It has to do with what [Chechnya] means to them.”

Reisinger said the area had been a source for terrorism, but only against Russia.

“They had two nasty, bloody wars,” he said. “That bloodshed generates people who want to go to extreme solutions, but the person now in control [of Chechnya] is very unlikely to be behind these attacks.”

Despite some worries that the developments could damage relations in the region, Reisinger believes it could actually strengthen ties.

“There was a period after 9/11 where [the U.S. and Russia] collaborated against terrorism between Al Qaeda and the Chechens,” he said. “Some of that has declined, but if anything, [events like the Boston Marathon bombings] bring us together.”

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