Chilling Details From The Boston Marathon Bombing

The Boston Marathon has a long and storied history. As per History, the race is held annually on Patriots Day, a holiday in Massachusetts that marks the first battles of the Revolutionary War. The 2013 race, that was the 117th such running since the event's inception, should have been an exciting and successful day for the 23,000 participants. However, the horrific scene that lay before thousands of Americans on April 15, 2013, shook the media and left many Americans shocked and confused.

The 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon was responsible for the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, and Sean Collier, and it injured over 170 others, according to The New York Times. Campbell was a 29-year-old regular of the marathon, and Richard was a small boy of 8. Lingzi was 23, a graduate student from China, and Collier was a young officer shot by the suspects in the days after the bombing. As the days passed after the initial terrorist attack, more and more details of the bombing were released, and, from the unlikely suspects to possible terrorist infiltration, some of details are truly disturbing.

A year later, says History, the mayor of Boston hosted a ceremony to remember and honor those who lost their lives during this horrible attack, and the 2014 marothon continued on schedule.

The Bombers appeared to be average teenagers

They were pedestrians, schoolboys, anyone. The young men responsible for the bombing were Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, often referred to as the Tsarnaev brothers. At the time of the Boston Marathon bombing, the young men were 26 and 19 years of age, and those who knew them claimed there appeared to be nothing suspicious or dangerous about the boys. Larry Aaronson told CBC News that he taught Dzhokhar while he was in high school. "I know this kid to be compassionate. I know this kid to be forthgoing," he said. "He's a great athlete, a sportsman, he's never been in trouble." He even called Dzhokhar generous and thoughtful and said he was popular around school with the other boys, and especially so with the girls. 

The New York Times says the brothers led average lives. They immigrated with their family from Kyrgyzstan at 15 and 8 years of age, and Dzhokhar, the younger brother, became a United States citizen in 2012, just one year before the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon. The boy had plenty of friends, and Dzhokhar is described as having been particularly popular at school. Outside of school, they were involved in extra-curricular sports, and Tamerlan was a gifted boxer, even making it to the Golden Gloves National Tournament during his high school years. The older Tsarnaev brother later married and had a kid.

They used homemade bombs

How did two seemingly average young men bomb a high-priority event such as the Boston Marathon not once but two times? For starters, they made the bombs themselves, using kitchen supplies and gadgets available at many local stores, according to CNN. For example, both bombs were assembled with pressure cookers, and the fuses and detonators were created out of Christmas lights and parts of model cars. The New York Times says the bombs were built in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's apartment, and another Times article explains the young men filled the bombs with nails, ball bearings, and explosive powder extracted from fireworks.

Despite some authorities claiming it would be difficult for two average men to create two explosives alone, the brothers finished making the bombs quicker than they expected. Supposedly, they had planned to attack on July 4, a clear statement against American Independence Day, but when the bombs were finished ahead of schedule, the brothers decided on the April 15 Boston Marathon. 

Authorities have questioned how, without outside help, the brothers could have known how to build these weapons. According to the Times, the Tsarnaevs were possibly informed by radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki's video sermons, as well as Al Qaeda's Inspire Magazine, particularly one article titled "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom."

There were warning signs before the Boston Marathon Bombing

Experts say there were a few red flags in the brothers' behavior before the terrorist attack on April 15, 2013. According to The New York Times, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev seemed to be hinting, mostly on his social media, that he idolized terrorist action and might have had violent thoughts about the United States. Just one week before the attack in Boston, the younger Tsarnaev brother tweeted, "If you have the knowledge and inspiration all that's left is to take action," which is a chilling statement to read after having witnessed the death and destruction he and his brother caused.

NPR says that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had a history of domestic abuse, and he was arrested for attacking his girlfriend in 2009. Tamerlan was also known to talk about Americans with contempt. He said he didn't have American friends because he didn't understand them, even claiming there are no morals anymore and that Americans are out of control. The Atlantic reports that Tamerlan was known for religious and political outbursts and potential associations with terrorists, which earned him a spot on an FBI watchlist. According to the, Tamerlan was even loosely connected to a triple murder in 2011, but police decided not to question him. 

After Tamerlan was killed in a shootout while on the run after the bombing, as per NPR, authorities revealed books on his Amazon wishlist that centered around identity theft and controlling others. Unfortunately, these warning signs were only caught after the tragedy occurred.

The boys knew some of the people in the Boston Marathon

The Tsarnaev boys' old teacher and wrestling coach Peter Payack was there with his son the day the brothers bombed the run. The Boston Globe says Payack is a longtime runner of the marathon, completing 12 runs in his time, and he knew Dzhokhar Tsarnaev well. In an interview with the The New York Times, Payack described Tsarnaev as a calm, mild-mannered popular kid. "We're all laughing; everyone's pulling his hair and saying you ought to do cornrows," Payack said. "Eight weeks later, he blows up the marathon. Why would he embrace us if he wants to blow us up?"

Payack's son was running the marathon that morning. In an interview with BBC, Payack says his son was plagued with cramps that morning, which caused him to slow his pace. Based on his estimates, Payack says his son's life was saved that day by the delay, as he was minutes from the site of the two bombs when they were detonated. His son called him crying right after the bombing and said, "Dad, it's Jahar [ Dzhokhar]." 

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev acted like nothing happened

Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev texted a friend from school. His text to Baudy Mazaev started innocently enough, with Tsarnaev checking in with his friend to ask if he was okay, as per The New York Times. Mazaev responded with alarm, noting that "two bombs went off," and that "people [are] losing limbs." Tsarnaev's text back was rather chilling, with him saying everything was fine and as the Times speculates, acknowledging good news by his response with "mashallah." As Learn Religions further explains, "mashallah" essentially means that God or Allah willed something to happen. 

The text exchange between Tsarnaev and Mazaev ends rather blandly, with Mazaev responding ended up sleeping through the marathon and thus avoided getting caught in the attack. Tsarnaev tells his friend he's happy he's safe and for them to keep in touch. 

A day after the bombing, Tsarnaev seemingly went about his life as if nothing had happend. He reached out to a friend to hang out and spent the afternoon playing video games, later going to the gym. According to the New York Post, Tsarnev took to Twitter saying he was "a stress free kind of guy."

A day after that he met friends for lunch. His messages and actions reveal no inkling that Tsarnaev was involved or even affected by the traumatic event.

The bombs exploded in a powerful gust of fire

According to The New York Times, Bruce Mendelsohn was in the office building above the Boston Marathon finish line when the first bomb exploded. Apparently, the bomb was so powerful that Mendelsohn, who had the windows open, was blown off the couch he was sitting on. Mendelsohn told the Times that he immediately ran down to see what was going on and witnessed about a dozen marathon runners and their supporters laying on the sidewalk with terrible injuries, and there was a piece of the sidewalk blown apart where the bomb had gone off.

The second bomb exploded about 10 seconds later one block down from Mendelsohn's building and blew the windows out of the businesses nearby, including a Starbucks just feet from the blast. This is when, according to CBS News, people in the area sprang into a panic and started pushing the police barriers down to get away from the buildings. Deirdre Hatfield witnessed the second explosion, and she told the Times it looked like a fireball. She says she saw glass shattering and skin and bone on the sidewalk. According to Hatfield, a woman and two children were blown off their feet during the explosion, and plenty of others had their pants and legs shredded by the shrapnel.

Jeff Bauman is one of the people who lost his limbs that day. Bauman was waiting for his girlfriend at the finish line when the first bomb went off. According to Bloomberg, Bauman stared one of the Tsarnaev brothers in the eye as the man dropped a black bag next to Bauman's feet, a fact which Bauman would later use to help authorities charge the Tsarnaevs. Bauman was right beside the first bomb when it detonated, and he was immediately carried away on a stretcher, bruised and bloody and covered in firework soot. He lost both of his legs that day, shredded below the knee by the impact of the bom

Survivors of the bombing will never forget that day

Across the media, survivors relived the traumatic moment, recalling the different ways their flight-or-fight impulses kicked in during the moments after the bombing. Debi Caprio was just about to cross the finish line when the first bomb went off. She told the The New York Times that she heard someone yell out that the bombing was a terrorist attack. "This is how my life is going to end," she believed. She says she was amazed at the selflessness of the volunteers that day.

Hillary Anderson said she kept looking up for planes, thinking this was a second go for the terrorists involved with the attacks on 9/11. CBC News quoted survivors testifying in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial, who said the bombing was like a horror movie, noting the injuries and destruction caused by the bombs. Apparently, one woman said in court that people were telling her to get up and run, but she said she couldn't. Her leg was missing.

Jeff Chin, who was a block away from the blast, told People Magazine, "There was a woman carrying a girl who was maybe 8 years old, way too big to be carried. The girl was screaming, I'll never forget how it sounded. She was screaming, not any words, but just shrieking and kicking and flailing. ... The girl was just terrified." He also said he watched a woman be trampled by the crowd, screaming in pain and terror, a horror he is not likely to soon forget.

The brothers were involved in a violent manhunt

History details the events in the days following the attack on the Boston Marathon. On April 18, the Tsarnaev brothers shot and killed an officer on duty and stole an SUV, taking the driver hostage. The driver eventually escaped during a pit stop at a gas station and called the police to inform them of the brothers' whereabouts. The hostage later told police that the man, now understood to be Tamerlan Tsarnaev, told him he was the bomber of the Boston Marathon — whether this was meant as a scare tactic or a boast is unclear.

When the police later found the brothers, a shootout ensued. During the shootout, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot multiple times and tackled the ground by police officers. Rather than fight, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escapted to the stolen SUV and fled the scene, running over his brother's body in the process. Tamerlan died at the hospital in the early hours of the next day, and his little brother was found hiding in a boathouse that evening. He had written a note on the inside of a boat claiming the bombings were the result of fighting between the United States and Muslim countries.

The Tsarnaev brothers didn't work alone

While there's no proof to suggest an established terrorist organization was behind the men's actions, there is evidence tying the Tsarnaev brothers to Muslim extremists in Russia, where the boys immigrated from. According to CBS News, Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of Russian Parliament, said Tamerlan Tsarnaev was heavily influenced by the radicalized Muslim community in Russia. Nikonov revealed that Tamerlan had actually been marked as an extremist by Russian intellligence in 2011, who then notified the FBI. "The Russian special services requested on the American side whether they had any information of his contacts with the terrorists," Nikonov said. 

According to CNN, three friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbayev, and Robel Phillipos — have been connected to the bombing. According to the authorities, the young men cleaned Dzhokhar's dorm room after suspecting the Tsarnaev brothers' involvement in the attack. This was likely to throw off authorities and give their friend time. In court, all three young men were found guilty of conspiring to obstruct justice and sentenced to prison. The three would later apologize publicly for their involvement, admitting they should have called the police as soon as they suspected the Tsarnaevs of the bombing.

The surviving brother was given the death sentence

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty on 30 criminal counts, with 17 of those punishable by death, as detailed by WBUR, and sentenced to death. However, according to the New Yorker, in 2020, Tsarnaev's death penalty was vacated by a federal appeals court because of claims the case had been handled improperly by the presiding judge. It was argued that Tsarnaev's initial jury could have been swayed by the gruesome news coverage of the event at the time and otherwise questioned their impartiality. Thus it looked as if the young Tsarnaev brother would keep his life, even if it was life in prison. Although the appeals court did make clear that the government could pursue the death penalty. 

And in 2022 the government did just that with the Supreme Court voting 6-3 in favor of reinstating Tsarnaev's death sentence, as per CNBC. Their argument centered around the fact that the jury was impartial and that there was no way that jury members could be completely ignorant of Tsarnev's alleged crimes, as noted in the court's opinion.

Despite the sentence, CNBC says Tsarnaev may never face execution because there is currently a moratorium on all federal executions in the United States.