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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Terrorism and the Boston Marathon: Fear, Hope and Resilience

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

On April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three spectators and injuring nearly 265 others. In reaction, Boston College political science professor Peter Krause wrote a stirring letter to the The Heights urging the BC community to respond with resilience and solidarity.

On the anniversary of the bombings, the Boisi Center invited Krause to expand upon his call to hope and resilience, drawing upon his scholarly expertise in political violence and security. He spoke to a packed audience in Higgins Hall on the evening of April 8.

Krause began by noting that terrorism seeks to inspire fear through apparently indiscriminate violence. But we shouldn’t overstate the threat inside the U.S., where more people have been killed by lightning strikes since 2002 than terrorists. Most domestic terror attacks have come from “lone wolf” actors, not global organizations like al-Qaeda, and they have not forced significant political concessions. The Boston Marathon bombing, Krause argued, was a particular failure because it neither changed American foreign policy nor ruined the beloved event. Quite the opposite: the marathon will now be run every year as a symbol of resilience and hope.

Indeed, resilience counteracts the fear that terrorism seeks to instill. Community cohesion prevents alienation and reduces the root causes of terrorism by building social bonds that we can draw upon as we cope with trauma or debate how to enact sounder security policies. From the heroic reactions of first responders to the inspiring stories of survivors like BC alumna Brittany Loring, Boston exhibited impressive resilience in the wake of last year’s bombings.

Krause encouraged the audience to continue building hope and resilience by serving the communtiy, meeting new neighbors and friends, learning more about terrorism and foreign policy, and remembering the names of the bombing victims. Making good on his 2013 promise, Krause successfully completed the 2014 marathon less than two weeks later.