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Editorial: We honor those who ran toward the blast

Today, in the wake of the horrific bombing of the Boston Marathon, we honor those who ran toward the blast. Many of them were exactly those the injured and the terrified hoped to see: police officers, paramedics, firefighters, doctors, nurses and others trained to provide help. But others were runners and spectators whose instinct told them come to the aid strangers rather than flee.

That impulse is all the more remarkable for coming as it did a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks and two long wars fought with dreaded IEDs, improvised explosive devices. By now, even schoolchildren know that a second bomb is often timed to go off to inflict maximum harm to those who rush in to tend to the wounded and dying. We celebrate the courage of the heroes who did so on Monday.

New Hampshire state trooper Sean Haggerty was one of those who ran toward the blast. He had finished the race, his ninth, in the time that counted most yesterday: fast enough to have been safely past the point near the finish line where the first bomb exploded, and even farther from the site of the second blast.

Haggerty used his training to aid the wounded and personally placed a tourniquet on an injured woman’s leg. He described a grisly scene of severed limbs and streets awash in blood. Roupien Bastajian, a Rhode Island state trooper, also finished the race fast enough to escape the blast but slow enough to be able to turn back and help.

“There are so many people without legs,” Bastajian told a New York Times reporter. He too, put improvised tourniquets on what was left of severed limbs.

Marathoners ran toward Boston Hospital to donate blood. Police officers and bystanders raced in to tear down the snow fences and other barricades separating Boylston Street and a pile of wounded spectators on the sidewalks. Runners, race volunteers and fans helped emergency medical technicians carry people on stretchers, load them in wheelchairs, and staunch their wounds with the shirts off their backs. A peace activist and a former Boston Patriots player were among the civilians who helped people to safety.

Terrorists attacked the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, and in an attack eerily similar to Monday’s bombings, in Atlanta in 1996. The homemade shrapnel bomb detonated in that city injured 111 and killed two.

Terrorism didn’t cancel the Olympic Games – and shouldn’t have – and it won’t spell the end of the Boston Marathon. In time, as President Obama said in response to the Patriots Day terrorist attack, we will learn who turned common pressure cookers into deadly bombs and why. We will learn what the final death toll will be, and follow the lives of many of those maimed by the blasts. For now, though, there are many unknowns.

We do know, however, that there will be a 118th Boston Marathon. We know it for the same reason we know that wherever the next attack occurs, or whatever the disaster might be, there will be people who run toward the blast.

For that we’re both grateful and in awe.

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