Faneuil Hall, Boston. (Flickr/Tony Fischer)
It happened that I was scheduled to do a Boston radio show Monday afternoon. We were going to talk about national politics. But the deadly bombing at the Marathon changed everything, not just in Boston, but nationally.
It was one of those days when we all had to pause and reflect on where our country is at, and where it might be headed.
But it was not the first such day. We’ve had a lot of them. Indeed, we have had a lot of them in mid-April.
We all know April 15 as Tax Day. But is also a day that has seen deep tragedy. One hundred forty-eight years ago, on April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln died.
Lincoln’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth terrified a nation—not just Northerners but Southerners who had only days earlier concluded a brutal Civil War and who understood the importance of Lincoln to the reconciliation of the Republic.
One hundred thirty years after that agonizing period in American history, on April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh terrified the nation when he drove a truckload of explosives to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. Enraged by the siege two years earlier at the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, McVeigh committed what would be recognized as the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the September 11, 2001, attacks.
As I talked with my friend Jeff Santos on his Boston radio show, and as I participated in other interviews Monday, plenty of calendar connections were mentioned. It was on April 20, 1999, that the Columbine killings took place in Colorado, and on April 16, 2007, that the Virginia Tech massacre was carried out.
The calendar seems to have a dark spot in mid-April. But we should be careful about seeing it as much more than that.
In various interviews Monday, I was asked (as someone who wrote extensively about the Oklahoma City bombing and who was in Washington and wrote a great deal from that city on 9/11) whether there might be a connection that could tell us something about the Boston attack.
I kept coming back to a memory of 1995, when a number of “experts” suggested in the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing that it looked to be the work of terrorists with Middle East connections. The speculation was linked to recent history; the World Trade Center had been attacked in 1993 by conspirators, later identified as Muslim extremists with ties to terrorist cells, who had used a truck bomb. But the speculation with regard to Oklahoma City was off the mark.