We are now five days removed from the end of five days of horror in Boston. An event such as what happened on April 15 at the Boston Marathon and continued for the next four days (and in various ways still continues) affects someone like me in a number of different ways. You react as a person, horrified at the event and worried about people in the area. You react as an American who ponders what happened and why. And, in my case, you also respond as a historian (and a teacher), processing events and accounts (both correct and incorrect) as you look to understand what’s happening in a broader context, including a historical one.
It was gripping and fascinating to follow the course of events during the manhunt for the accused perpetrators on Thursday and Friday. What happened (as well as what happened the entire week) reminded me of that time-honored Civil War newspaper headline, seen to the left. I found the most useful sources of information to be local news coverage and Twitter. Indeed, I could ask my own questions about events on Twitter and gain useful information in response. Some people on Twitter proved to be a little careless and thoughtless, of course, relaying information captured from police scanners: I was reminded of how William T. Sherman tried a reporter for relaying information in his newspaper reports that could be of good use to the enemy (both sides used the press of the opposing side to good effect most of the time). One had to sort through the incoming information, make sure not to rush to any conclusions, and discern the reliability and prudence of various Twitter contributors. I found the result more satisfying and informative than what was coming across on national television feeds.