I’ve been surprised by the large number of people around the world who have shared videos related to the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday, April 15, 2013. But it mirrors the large number of people around the world who empathize not only with the families, friends and colleagues of the people killed and injured that day, but also with the entire Boston community.
I noticed this on Tuesday, April 16, when “Explosions at the Boston Marathon” became one of the top videos in the Viral Video Chart. As of last night, The Boston Globe video by Steve Silva of the aftermath of the explosions that rocked Boylston Street during the Boston Marathon had more than 23.8 million views and over 323,000 shares. This included almost 288,000 Facebook shares, over 35,000 Twitter shares, and 367 blog posts. Looking at the Buzz by language, 76% is in English, 13% is in Spanish, 8% is in Portuguese, and 3% is in French.
Later that evening, the New York Yankees paid tribute to the victims by playing the Fenway Park favorite ‘‘Sweet Caroline’’ at Yankee Stadium after the third inning. A ribbon was also shown on the scoreboard displaying the insignia of the Red Sox and Yankees and the words: ‘‘New York stands with Boston . . . Pray for Boston.’’
And even later that night, Stephen Colbert’s “Intro – 4/16/13” addressed the Nation. Colbert said, “What the Boston Marathon terrorists really don't get is that they attacked an unshakable group of people who run 26 miles until their nipples are raw on their day off.” This went on to become one of the week’s top clips.
On Wednesday, April 17, I saw a full-page ad from Aer Lingus in The Boston Globe, which read, “Today, we are all Bostonians. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
And another video, “Boston Bruins. Buffalo Sabres National Anthem at TD Garden – First Home Game Since Marathon Tragedy,” joined the Viral Video Chart. As of last night, John Bain’s video had more than 931,000 views and almost 317,000 shares. This included over 310,000 Facebook shares, 6,500 Twitter shares, and 64 blog posts. Looking at the Buzz by language, 97% is in English, 2% is in Danish, and 2% is in German.
On Thursday, April 18, Donna Deprisco picked up the theme in an ad that also ran in the Globe. It read, “Boston is my city, it’s your city. And on April 15th, it became the world’s city. Our hearts and prayers go out to all who are suffering. Today, with tears still in our eyes, we are all Bostonians.”
Later that day, the FBI released “Surveillance Video Related to Boston Bombings.” The two suspects were identified with help from the public as brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. As of last night, the 30-second-long video had almost 17.5 million views and close to 70,000 shares. This included more than 59,000 Facebook shares, over 10,000 shares, and 222 blog posts. Looking at the Buzz by language, 83% is in English, 7% in Spanish, 6% in French, and 4% in Italian.
Five hours after the release of the video, the suspects allegedly killed an MIT police officer, then hijacked a car and its owner who they later released. Police tracked the suspects to Watertown and an extended firefight ensued, during which a public transit police officer was critically injured.
Later that night, Jess Ica published “[ORIGINAL] 4/19/13 BOSTON BOMBERS SHOOTOUT IN WATERTOWN, MA.” As of last night, the video had more than 1.1 million views and over 26,000 shares. This included more than 24,000 Facebook shares, almost 2,000 Twitter shares, and 19 blog posts. Looking at the Buzz by language, 71% is in English, 18% is in French, 6% is in Italian, and 6% is in Swedish.
Following the shootout, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was captured and died in the hospital from his injuries. Dzhokhar was injured and fled from police.
On Friday, April 19, thousands of police and military personnel conducted a manhunt for Dzhokhar in a 20-block area of Watertown. Authorities requested all residents of Watertown and the surrounding areas including the city of Boston stay indoors. Most public institutions and businesses as well as the public transportation system shut down, resulting in a deserted urban environment. When the shelter-in-place order was lifted that evening, an injured Dzhokhar was found by a resident checking a loose tarpaulin on his boat. After a standoff, Dzhokhar was captured by police and taken to a hospital.
On Saturday, April 20, the Boston Red Sox held their first home game since the Boston Marathon bombings. And coming less than 24 hours after authorities had successfully taken suspect Dzohkhar Tsarnaev into custody alive, the game acted as a city-wide celebration of triumph over the bombers who tried to terrorize the city less than one week earlier.
Designated hitter David Ortiz, better known to fans as “Big Papi,” took the mic for a short but effective speech to the crowd. “This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say Red Sox; it says Boston,” Ortiz began. Then, he said, “This is our f***ing city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong!”
Finally, on Sunday, April 21, Maria Konnikova, a Globe correspondent, wrote a column entitled, “We are all Bostonians now.” Konnikova was born in Moscow and came to the United States when she was four years old. She grew up in Acton, Mass., the town where I live, and went to school with my kids. Her first book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 14 languages. She also writes the “Literally Psyched” column for Scientific American, where she explores the intersection of literature and psychology.
On Sunday, she said, “In the moments following the Boston Marathon explosions, amid the general confusion and uncertainty, one thing emerged with overwhelming clarity: People were rushing to the aid of strangers….It was as if, galvanized by a single moment, differences and rivalries had vanished. Everyone in the city suddenly saw one another as part of the same group.”
Konnikova added, “That sentiment spread quickly. Within hours, it wasn’t just local to Boston; all over the world, people proclaimed themselves at one with the city. New Yorkers lined up in Red Sox caps. A photographer in Afghanistan snapped photos of locals holding signs that read ‘To Boston, from Kabul, with love.’”
And she concluded, “What we are doing, in these times of crisis, is reorganizing our sense of who we are: not Jews or Christians or Muslims, or men or women, or writers or accountants, but simply, say, Bostonians. This process, the spontaneous birth of social bonds among strangers arising from shared experience – and, clearly, shared geography – is known in psychology as mass emergent sociality.”
Konnikova’s article was accompanied by a video, which was also entitled “We are all Bostonians now.” Ironically, this video doesn’t enable the Globe’s staff to interact with viewers the way that they can with videos on The Boston Globe’s YouTube channel. There is no easy way for viewers to share it via social media, embed it in a blog post, or build a genuine community around its content.
This isn’t meant as a criticism. No one could have foreseen what is now perfectly clear with 20/20 hindsight. As Konnikova observed, “In the face of extreme circumstances, we recategorize ourselves. Our personal sense of self recedes, and instead, a new, collective sense of who we are rises to the fore.”
That’s why the Globe and other Boston media should publish more of their videos on YouTube, where more people are more likely to share them with family, friends, and colleagues outside the 617 area code.
All over the world, people have proclaimed themselves at one with our city. In addition to the the videos of unmitigated chaos, We should publish videos of the runners and spectators who donated blood, the volunteers who helped the wounded reach medical assistance, and the families who opened up their homes to anyone who needed a place to stay as well as the writers like Konnikova who help us recategorize ourselves.
Who knows, we may be surprised by the large number of people around the world who share them.