‘Here & Now’: Shocked by violent change of the boy they knew

Here & Now is a “daily news magazine” on public radio produced by WBUR in Boston. It’s name has never been more appropriate than today, as the program reported live from a city in turmoil.

The hunt for the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has affected the lives of everyone in Boston, including Here & Now host Robin Young. Young’s nephew was a friend and former high school classmate of Dzhokhar Tsarnev, the 19-year-old identified by law enforcement as the subject of the ongoing manhunt. Young, her nephew, a teacher from the high school and other members of the community all expressed shock and bewilderment that the “caring,” friendly boy they knew is now alleged to have committed acts of appalling, senseless violence.

“Something happened,” Young’s nephew said, unable to reconcile the person he knew with the armed and dangerous person now pursued by police and the FBI.

It’s a disturbing, compelling, confusing story told firsthand, with gripping immediacy.

I can’t say it will help you to make sense of any of this, but it helped me better understand the kind of senselessness at the heart of this story.

Check out all the coverage from Here & Now online.

I can only hope that this young suspect hears and heeds the words of his uncle: “Turn yourself in. And ask for forgiveness from the victims, from the injured. … Ask forgiveness from these people.”

I know there are some readers here from the Boston area. Please stay safe. You are in our thoughts and prayers.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • No sympathy for the devil

    Fuck him.
    Hang that piece of shit.

  • Lori

    In the other thread I predicted that the idiotic remarks made by Rep. Nate Bell would not turn out to be the most assholish thing said today. Thanks so much for proving me right on that score.

    Nice troll handle by the way. Did you think that up all by yourself?

  • lowtechcyclist

    Only the belief that it doesn’t do our own selves any good to descend to the level of people like this holds me back from the wish that we could inflict a medieval-style execution on this guy. That he and his brother designed their bombs to maximize shrapnel and pain, that’s about as sick as you can get, and frankly they deserve the more hideous sorts of executions described in, say, Hilary Mantel’s Bringing Up the Bodies.

    It’s for the best – for my best, certainly – that we have a system of laws that forbids such punishments.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Whatever. This is why authoritarians make for shitty police. It would be a good idea to find out where they got the guns and grenades, as well as what other contacts they have before you have him dancing at the end of a rope.

  • Narcissus

    Imagine if, in the wake of Boston, a drone was dispatched to strike the suspect, killing them and anyone w/in 500 feet. That’s Yemen.

    In the 1970’s there were hundreds of ‘terrorist attacks’ and yet no city went into lockdown. Let alone for a 19 yo kid. Whatever your views, I would say having an entire city on uncomplaining lockdown is an unmitigated surveillance state success.

    Do unto others… oh, never mind.

  • Steele

    I’m in the Boston area. Everyone’s staying inside at the moment, we’re on lockdown. We’ll hopefully be save. :)

    Fred, your blog is beautiful. Much love for you!

  • Lori

    I don’t think the guy’s age makes any meaningful difference. He’s an adult and assuming that he’s guilty (which would appear to be the case) he was old enough to participate in planting bombs that killed people and those people are just as dead as they’d be if he was 40. The fact that he’s only 19 doesn’t mean that he’s not dangerous.

    Aside from that I agree with you. Those involved with the drone program pat themselves on the back for a level of “harm minimization” that no one would consider acceptable to apply on US soil. The fact that the entire city of Boston and the surrounding areas have been on lockdown for hours and there has been no major complaints or questions about that says a great deal about where we are as a society and I fear that much of it isn’t good.

  • Magic_Cracker

    In the 1970’s there were hundreds of ‘terrorist attacks’

    Somehow, the threat of nuclear death from above and pipe-bombs below didn’t turn the country into a bunch of pant-shitters. Or maybe it did — wasn’t that what the Reagan years were really about? Guess things just moved slower back then.

    The more I learn about history, the more it seems like there’s always been a police state lurking beneath the surface of our constitutional republic, whether it was the National Guard and Pinkertons breaking strikes in the late 1800s, A.G. Palmer’s Red Squads in the 1920s, or COINTLPRO in the ’60s. Mass media and mass surveillance have finally parted the waters to let rise Leviathan.

  • insufficient data

    I don’t think the people in Boston *want* to be wandering around outside right now. If it continues until tomorrow, then you’ll probably see some “complaints or questions”, but right now I think people are just *scared* rather that just being compliant sheep.

  • There’s certainly a side of the lockdown that’s authoritarian, and troubling. There’s also a side that a city like Boston’s transit system is a complex piece of machinery, and when they started instructing transit workers to stay home this morning, it was with full knowledge that the city would basically be shut down for the day.

    I suspect that at this point, people are staying indoors as much because there really isn’t anywhere to go as anything the police have said. I suspect that many of them are also thinking “I’m just going to watch this on TV/my computer all day anyway, might as well do it from home.”

    If the lockdown continues into tomorrow without complaint, I think you’ll have a much more salient point.

  • P J Evans

    I’m seeing that sentiment elsewhere, too. People who apparently feel that laws should only apply when and to whom they say.

  • I had the immense joy of listening to the Sean Hannity show today–he was terribly quick to point out that Dzhokhar was known to at least one other human being as a QUIET sort of person, and that many people say that you should watch out for the quiet ones.

    Because above any other possible character trait, you can always suspect someone of being a terrorist if he is a quiet sort of guy.


  • P J Evans

    It’s an advisory kind of lockdown, while they’re searching house-to-house in a couple of areas. Mostly it’s because they don’t want people getting in the way, especially if the police have to move fast. It also helps to keep the guy from holding someone hostage who happened to be outside or open the door at the wrong time.

  • Lori

    It’s an advisory, but people are following it. Folks have been posting pictures they’ve taken out their windows. The streets are empty. Yes, there are advantages to having people inside and out of the way, but this is actually out of all proportion to the danger.

    As a few people are finally starting to point out, there are potentially dangerous fugitives with little to lose on the streets of every major city, every single day and we don’t shut everything down while the cops look for them. This is being driven more by emotion than logic and while that’s understandable it’s not good.

  • So, you would rather have a situation where people are going about their days, getting in the way of law enforcement and endangering themselves? And what if someone took it upon himself to pull a Jack Ruby, either on this young man or someone else?

  • GDwarf

    At least Hannity is on the very trailing edge of that prejudice. While it’s still an extrovert’s world, it’s very rare now to have people actively treated differently for being quiet or loners. At least here.

    One also wonders how bin Laden and other such folks count as “quiet”, given all the statements they go out of their way to make.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Of course it’s the quiet ones. By its nature conspiracy weeds out the loudmouths.

  • Lori

    I agree that people don’t want to be out, but I think some of their reasons for not wanting to be out are coming from a less than ideal place. For one thing, we seem to have collectively accepted and internalized the idea that when the pressure is on we can’t expect the cops not to shoot the wrong guy.

    For another thing, as I said above, people who live in cities are in metro-area proximity of dangerous fugitives wanted by the police every single day and they don’t stay in their houses as a result. If we reacted to every fugitive on the lamb the way we’re reacting to this one guy we’d be a nation of self-created agoraphobics.

    To echo something I read elsewhere, this guy is not Carlos the Jackal or Jason Bourne. He doesn’t have years of experience living on the run and assuming new identities. There’s no evidence that he’s part of any organization that can provide him with safe houses or transportation. His name and picture are everywhere. The police know the names and locations of his family and close friends. His brother & partner in crime is dead and can’t help him. It’s tough to argue that it’s reasonable to consider it necessary to disrupt the lives of a million+ people and effectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make it a bit easier to catch him.

  • Yeah, and in the 50s, as long as not too many good respectable middle-class white folks were killed in the bombing, society would just shrug and say “Yeah, those people. No harm done so long as they keep it among their own”

  • Lori

    I think there’s reason to be concerned about vigilantism and I don’t want to see that happen. That doesn’t mean that those concerns represent something positive about our situation. It’s obviously not new, but it’s also not good.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Just in case we don’t get a Left Behind post this week — and I think we all understand if we don’t — there’s this. Imagine someone did with Revelation what Webber and Rice did with the Gospels. Wait, you don’t have to imagine. Click the link.

  • Jessica_R

    It has been bleakly funny watching the Islamaphobes and racists and racist Islamaphobe’s heads short circuit over the suspects’ identity, “Wait…they’re white? But they’re Muslim? But they’re white! Does not compute! Does not compute! Error! Error….”

  • Guest

    How about instead of viewing this as a sinister indication that everyone in Boston has turned into a sheep, we look on it as a collective act of justice-seeking?

    This was a particularly horrific act of senseless violence. Sure, there are always dangerous fugitives in a large city, but typically there aren’t known terrorists running around.

    The people of Boston are pulling together to make way for the police to catch the culprit, whose bomb could have targeted any one of them who’d happened to be at the marathon. For some maybe it is fear or cowed compliance, but most Bostonians I’ve seen talking about the situation are showing the same spirit that drove scrap metal drives and victory gardens. They want to do their part to make sure justice is done.

  • In general, as someone who isn’t in Boston, I’m reluctant to make assertions about how Bostonians should handle the situation. I think, rhetorically, it’s best to just let those on the ground – those who live and work there – decide for themselves in that regard.

    And in specific, on behalf of my friends who live in Cambridge and surrounding, I kind of want to shout “fuck you” at anyone who’s accusing them of being Sheeple. I trust my friends more than I trust blanket condemnation of my friends by strangers who don’t have the first first-hand clue what they’re going through.

    It’s slightly reminiscent of non-New Yorkers talking about how outraged New Yorkers ought to be over the “Ground Zero Mosque,” and my New Yorker friends were giving those concern trolls a round “fuck you” too.

  • Heh. From the moment I saw that he had answered some survey question “what is your view of the global future” with “Islam” (rough paraphrase), I’ve been expecting to see the media go all “OMG he’s trying to convert people to Islam by the sword!” who would of course see as perfectly normal anyone who’d answered the question with “A Christian World” or “Jesus.”

    In more rational and measured dialogue, I have seen it pointed out that no one factor is going to explain everything. White male entitlement issues? Religious prude? Muslim? Chechnyan ex-pat? Teenager (ish)? The real and complex portrait of an actual human being and his motivations isn’t going to come from yelling “Jihadist!” or whatever.

    I also suspect that the situation he created didn’t become real to him until he created it. Like a magnified-to-woah version of the big sister who looks up from her cross-stitch at her little annoying brother, looks down at the needle in her hand, then sticks him in the arm with her needle – and only once he yells in pain and her parents yell at her does she go “Oh, shit, I actually did that – what the hell was I thinking?”

    (Sorry, bro.)

  • Lori

    It wasn’t a criticism of Boston residents in particular. I think the same basic thing would have happened in any city. I know that people are just doing the best they kind and they need to do what they need to do for themselves. That doesn’t mean that this reaction is the best possible reaction.

  • JustoneK

    silly, russians are still clearly not merican, and they’re communists.

    so it’s a communist russian muslim gun enthusiast. it’s a conservative wet dream.

  • arghous

    Sorry, no. They couldn’t change their dirty pampers until Tim McVeigh was hanged. Made it more easy to find John Doe #3, don’t’cha know.

  • Turcano

    My first thought upon learning the identities of the suspects was, “Goddamnit, why did it have to be Chechens?” This gives ammunition to both Islamaphobes and Putin.

  • And they’re so desperate that he not be American, even though he’s been in the States since he was six years old and is a citizen. Hell, he’s more American than a lot of people I know. The anti-immigration crowd is really struggling with this one…

  • Katie

    On the other hand, I’ve twice been in situations where the police were actively chasing someone in my area, and everyone in the area was advised, via loudspeaker, to lock their doors and stay inside until the all clear was given. I don’t think that this is really that much different, given that the suspect was armed, dangerous and apparently into chucking bombs all over the place.

  • Lori

    I’ve experienced it too. They asked people in about 3 blocks in all directions to stay inside once they had the suspect’s location narrowed down. They didn’t shut down the whole city because “he’s around here somewhere.”

    Fortunately, it’s now a moot point since the guy has been captured.

  • Chris

    From everything I’ve heard and read today, it seems likely that his now-deceased older brother was the driving force behind all this, and that Dzokhar was unable (or unwilling) to see just how nuts his brother had become.

  • Chris

    Put him through the full legal process, find out exactly what he did and why, and sentence him accordingly.

  • Getting a bit ridiculous

    People following the advice of professionals is a bad thing? Don’t let Mercans no one tell them what do do! Freedom!

  • I’m glad they got him alive. Hopefully he can finger others involved.

  • guest

    So it seems they’ve caught him now. I’m glad he’s alive, at least we’ll get some kind of explanation, even if there is no explanation that could be adequate.

  • P J Evans

    Heck, a lot of them have trouble with the idea that he’s a citizen and has exactly the same rights that someone born here does. Some of those people are *elected officials*, for Ghu’s sake.

  • Honestly, it did. People romanticize the past because they don’t remember it (either because they weren’t born yet or because they would rather not remember it) but reacting badly to the perception of violent onslaughts isn’t something that suddenly appeared in human society in 2001. If it seems like the changes are radical and sudden it’s because we personally are paying more attention to it now than we did to lockdown drills from the 70s and 80s.

  • Lori

    Your (fake) user name is an accurate discription of your reply

  • Keulan

    I’m glad they caught him alive. With one of them alive, we can find out their reasons for that terrible attack.

  • To be fair, though, that’s been our answer to pretty much everything since the early days of the New Amsterdam colony.

  • Getting a bit ridiculous

    Wow, I’ve been told. What a stunning rebuttal. Obviously following the advice of professionals is, in fact, a terrible thing to do because my user name is different to the name on my birth certificate. Thanks for setting me straight Lori no-last-name (I assume that is your non-fake name?)

  • Fanraeth

    So should the drone operators who kill dozens of innocents to kill one terrorist be hung? Gotta love that selective moral outrage; when someone is hurting us it’s evil, but when we’re hurting others for MURICA! it’s just fine and dandy.

  • Fanraeth

    And lest I be accused of not caring about the dead and wounded in Boston, I do care, a great deal. But the level of outrage over what this horribly misguided (and yeah, maybe even evil) man has done when viewed in comparison to the atrocities that happen every day is absurd.

  • > That doesn’t mean that this reaction is the best possible reaction.

    What would you propose as a better reaction when police are asking me to stay indoors to cooperate with a manhunt for a killer?

  • That’s easy. Russian neo-nazis don’t consider Chechens to be white, so local bigots in America can follow their example.

  • He’s not ethnically Russian. When speaking about the former Soviet Union, assuming ethnic wankery and some good ol’ blut-und-boden is mandatory.

  • Samantha C.

    The lives of a million+ people were already disrupted. I live just far enough outside Boston that I still had to get up and go to work and I had a tough enough time making sense of anything and focusing. To have been trying to go about a normal life in that area would have just short-circuited me completely. After just the bombing it maybe would have felt like overkill, but this was a man who had proven his intent to keep killing, anyone, for no reason. A million+ people were already unable to have a normal day. Keeping them inside and safer and leaving the police fewer distractions may not have actually done anything to speed up the process (although I believe it did) but it sure as hell felt better.

  • One thing that semi-coincidentally helped a little is that this was Massachusetts’ public-school spring vacation week (I say semi-coincidentally because scheduling it to coincide with Patriots’ Day/the Marathon is probably no coincidence).

    Most schools didn’t have to be shut down, because they were shut down anyway, and many parents were consequently taking the week off from work or were out of town (though the need to shut down some day-care centers in the central metro area probably caused some disruption). That probably made the lockdown much easier to arrange than it would have been on a normal Friday.

    My wife, child and I were in New York City for most of the week, and fortunately scheduled our Amtrak trip home for Thursday afternoon rather than Friday. We live in Haverhill, so we were way outside the lockdown area.

    On Friday, I was planning to visit a friend in Brookline, and had initially been thinking I wasn’t going to do it. But once I’d heard that Brookline was still running and the guy was probably confined to Charlestown, I went ahead and made the visit. It was easy enough to loop around to the west and avoid any highways or areas the police had cordoned off. Brookline was quiet, but there were a fair number of people on the highways.

    I didn’t see any attitude of unquestioning obedience; I think most of the people who stayed home probably just felt they were being prudent with an obviously dangerous shooter/bomb-tosser on the loose. I did go through South Station on Thursday before the incident at MIT, and there didn’t seem to be any attitude of panic or hysteria there even though everyone knew the bombers were out there.