Meadville Tribune

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December 29, 2013

Year in review continues with stories 6 to 4


MEADVILLE — 5. Boston bombings

While taxpayers across the nation raced to meet the federal April 15 filing deadline, runners from around the world gathered in Boston for a much more physical contest. Carrying on a tradition dating back to 1897, more than 27,000 runners representing 96 countries gathered on Patriot’s Day, the third Monday in April, to participate in the 117th Boston Marathon.

The winners had finished long before, but John Spataro, a judge on Crawford County’s Court of Common Pleas, had just completed his third Boston Marathon and was making a stop in the baggage pickup section when a loud noise followed by a white cloud surrounding an orange fireball erupted about 150 yards away. A second blast rang out less than 10 seconds later about a block away. Both explosions ripped through areas crowded with spectators cheering on runners approaching the finish line; in the end, three spectators died and 264 were injured.

“If I would have been 15 minutes slower, it would have been disastrous for my family and possibly me as well,” Spataro, who finished the race in 3:58:43, told the Tribune later that afternoon. His first thoughts were of his family members meeting him near the finish line, but after a few anxious moments, he was able to establish contact via cellphone.

In a reflection on the day written for a newsletter published by the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts two months after the marathon, Spataro wrote that “it seemed to me then, and now, that the focus should remain on what (the victims and their families) suffered. The 8-year-old child who was killed while waiting to see his father cross the finish line is perhaps the saddest of the many sad and painful stories to come from this tragedy.”

According to the Science section of the Boston Globe, efforts were almost immediately being put forth by researchers from fields ranging from communication theory to medicine “to salvage something of value from that horrible day.”

Ear specialists, for example, plan to spend three years following 100 patients experiencing hearing loss to see what their symptoms and recovery from the violent blast trauma can reveal about how to treat ear injuries.

Doctors leading that study have already encountered one unexpected result. “You do not want to burden (the victims) with anything else. Our biggest goal is to be sensitive to that,” the lead researcher told the Globe. “One of the interesting things is people have been very willing to participate. They want to do something better ... or have something good come out of it.”

On a legal note, authorities allege that brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev built and planted two pressure cooker bombs that exploded along the parade route. Tamerlan, the surviving brother, has pleaded not guilty to a 30-count federal indictment. With more than half the charges carrying a possible death penalty, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to decide by Jan. 31 whether to seek it. A trial date has not been set.

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