From the moment I saw the trailer for “Patriots Day,” a film depicting the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt for the two bombers, I wanted to see it. While I was in Wooster at the time of the explosions, two people, both in Boston that day, offered me glimpses in the tragedy and the capture of the perpetrators. The first was Kathryn Gabriele, a Wooster native who was running in the marathon, and the second was Seth Mnookin, someone I connected with at a conference for health care journalists in Boston just about a month before the bombings.
In December 2013, my wife, Wendi, and I went to Boston area to visit my side of the family. On one of our trips into the city, we ended up at Copley Square, the site of the finish line of the Boston Marathon. When we got there, Wendi said, “I bet you want to get in the middle of the street and take a photo.”
Of course, she was right. She usually is.
I took the photo you see above, and then we said a short prayer. Normally, the finish line would have been cleaned from the road’s surface, but a decision was made to leave it. Across the street, construction remained on buildings damaged in the blast. I wonder what damage remains to those families who lost loved ones and those who were injured.
Even though I grew up in the Boston area and knew of the Boston Marathon, I never knew of the route, the starting line or finish line. But, I began to learn about it after the tragedy there. Kathryn talked about how she was halfway between mile 25 and 26 when she and the other runners were told to stop. I was interviewing her for a story in The Daily Record, where I am a reporter. (You can read the story here.) She thought someone must have gotten onto the course. While she did not see the first explosion, she could see — and smell — the second one.
Mnookin, author of “The Panic Virus” and co-director of MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing, was among those giving presentations at the 2013 conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists in Boston. I began following him on Twitter, and through his tweets, I got a chance to relive the manhunt that ended in Watertown, Mass.
With Gabriele and Mnookin giving me a view of the events, I really wanted to see the movie. The movie did not disappoint. Director Peter Berg crafted a film that takes on many different looks. At times, it was cinema verite; then it was a documentary; then it was a television newscast; then it was an emotional feature film. Because a script needs to follow a certain arc and formula, there was some artistic license taken. Wahlberg’s character, Sgt. Tommy Saunders, is a composite character. As the Boston Globe wrote, Saunders is at every key and pivotal point of the story.
After the bombings, Saunders says, “I don’t even understand what I saw.” When the FBI’s special agent is a bit tentative to release photos of the suspects, Saunders tells him, “You got to let Boston start working for us.” In other words, put the photos out there, and let the residents of Boston help in identifying and finding the brothers.
At one point, Saunders is sitting down with a colleague who asks whether something like this was preventable. It is here when Saunders gets philosophical, talking about how he and his wife could not have children and how inside there was a war of good vs. evil. The only way to fight back against something like this was with love, he said, adding it was the only thing the terrorists couldn’t touch. Saunders ultimately concludes something like this could never be preventable, but at the same time, he didn’t think the terrorists would ever win.
It was fascinating to see all the resources deployed to identify and capture the terrorists, who were brothers. The older one was actually killed by his younger brother, who drove over him trying to get away in Watertown. The younger one eluded police for several hours, but was captured hiding in a boat in a Watertown resident’s backyard.
At the end of the movie, the real life victims and law enforcement talk about the bombings and aftermath.
If you got caught up in this story as it unfolded in real life, then you will want to see this movie. Below is a Storify piece I did using Mnookin’s tweets. Time has a piece about the true story behind the film; you can read it here.
This past March, I had the honor of receiving a fellowship from the Association of Health Care Journalists to study health care reporting at the group’s annual conference. This year, it was in Boston.
I had the opportunity to attend a presentation in which Seth Mnookin shared insights into how to turn complex topics into compelling stories. Here is one of the things I wrote down:
Seth says to think of what you write as a detective story. Tension and drama is not what happens, but how you get there.
I was shocked to learn this morning on Twitter how Mnookin became intricately tied to the events unfolding at MIT and Watertown, Mass., late Thursday/early Friday involving the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.
I was so intrigued by Mnookin’s adventure on Twitter that I wanted to capture it. You can read it here (via Storify):
Originally published April 29, 2013
Shortly before going to bed Thursday night, I saw on Twitter about a shooting at MIT. I retweeted a couple of things and called it a night. For a journalist, I went to bed too early as I would discover the following morning what unfolded. I could have been there “live” via Seth Mnookin’s tweets.