TALLAHASSEE, Fla.,April 10, 2015 — People far beyond the blast site took the Boston Marathon bombing very personally.
Like many others, I have run marathons, finishing two out of three. I finished the first in just under four hours, the second in just over four hours, and the third sent me to the medical tent at mile 20.
Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev chose the four-hour mark—a time when devoted amateurs are often finishing the race— as the time to detonate their pressure cooker bombs.
Recognizing that the bomb was aimed at people like me, I took the bombing personally.
And I would like to see Dzhokar Tsarnaev die for his actions.
Back when I felt invincible, striving toward that finish line, 26 miles, 485 yards from the start, I would have entered the home stretch with a feeling of joy and accomplishment.
Just a few feet farther. I know I can make it to that next light pole. The finish line is just past the last turn. There is my son, holding a sign. You can do it, Dad! My six months of endurance training have paid off. I’m almost there.
The final 100 yards of a marathon was the place they chose to destroy the spirit of innocent people: runners, their families cheering them across that line and, worst of all, the children who were maimed and who witnessed the senseless carnage.
Beyond the deaths, after the treatment of the many who were rushed to emergency rooms and who will live with the physical wounds of that day, an entire nation was put on edge, suddenly reminded of the last terrorist attacks on American soil.
The psychological impact of terrorism persists beyond the physical, and that is what the Tsarnaevs intended.
It should not be that way.
Every marathoner in America wants to qualify for Boston. It’s a relatively easy downhill course without many hills that would break the spirit of those who are not adequately trained.
For the elite who qualify by finishing other marathons under a particular cutoff time for their age group, the Boston Marathon is a goal beyond finishing. For many, it is the ultimate goal of a runner.
The majority of runners who qualify for Boston are your neighbors, the people who get up early, lace up their running shoes, and knock off a 10-mile run before the sun comes up.
Most marathoners have never been paid for their efforts; training for a marathon is for them alone. They pay the entry fees out of their own pocket, pay for the plane fare for themselves and their families, and foot the bill for food and lodging while they are at the race venue.
They should not have to run in fear.
Now that Dzhokar Tsarnaev has been convicted of every offense to mankind for which he was charged, the legal system enters the post-conviction phase.
He can no longer protest his innocence. He admitted his guilt from the start. He blames it all on his brother. He is not accountable for his own actions, his lawyers claim. They intend to argue during the sentencing phase that he was an innocent victim of his older brother’s evil influence.
They may even argue that he ran his brother over with a stolen car to end years of abuse at his brother’s hands. No, he killed his brother trying to escape the police. They attempted to move Tamerlan out of the way before Dzhokar ended his life.
Ironically, he was not charged with the death of his own brother.
The threat of the death sentence raises some serious questions: Now that a jury under our American system of justice has determined guilt, should the method of his execution match the crimes for which he has been convicted? What influence do the victims have in that decision? Should we do away with the death penalty altogether, and just lock him away for the rest of his life, without any possibility that he will be able to walk the streets of Boston again?
Many people have opined about the method of execution, ranging from duct-taping him to a pressure cooker bomb and allowing the victims and their families the opportunity to detonate by remote control, to more heinous means.
If the punishment fits the crime, this is the path to justice.
A more mainstream punishment would be life in prison without parole, perhaps leaving Tsarnaev to live his life as a martyr to radical Islam. He would never be a free man, but he would be free to disseminate his hatred for America and to promote the vile delusion of radical Islam.
He has already made the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. Charles Manson managed to become engaged to a young woman while on death row.
Maybe our decision is whether to kill the killer, who has been promised the affection of many virgins in the afterlife, or to leave him in prison until the end of his days.
Either way the pain of the victims continues. For them there is no possible justice that fits the crime.
Mark Becker is the author of the Max Masterson political thriller series. Visit his website At Risk of Winning