“Daddy, why did somebody bomb a marathon?”

All parents know that children ask difficult questions but this one, from my nine year-old son, was one that I found particularly hard to answer while we watched the live news feed from Boston last evening. In reality he probably doesn’t understand why anyone would detonate a bomb anywhere at any time so I suppose I should be grateful for small mercies in that he limited his enquiry to 26.2 mile races.

I recall that soon after the Provisional IRA bombing campaign moved to London in 1973 I asked my parents a similar question about why people I had never met or knowingly upset had started bombing the city in which I lived. My father made a remark that is far too politically incorrect to publish even on the Internet but my mother, being somewhat calmer on the subject, suggested that I should read something about the history of Ireland. The rather brief chronology of events that I managed to find in the Public Library (for my younger readers that’s a place we used to go to before Google and Wikipedia) didn’t in anyway justify in my mind the terrorist action that was taking place but it certainly gave me an understanding of the ill-feeling that existed and in some small way answered my question.

So how can I answer the question posed by my son last night? What could possibly have driven someone (and I appreciate it might be more than one person) to plant two bombs near the finish of the Boston marathon?

One has to assume that publicity for a cause is the most obvious answer but at the time of writing this no person or organisation has claimed responsibility and with a state funeral happening here tomorrow there is already a danger of the whole thing becoming ‘yesterday’s news’ in the UK. In fact with the number of atrocities that happen in other parts of the world it is reasonable to assume that it will get relegated fairly quickly in news bulletins everywhere except in the USA.

So what else can have motivated such a cowardly attack on people merely watching runners achieve possibly their life-time dream of completing a marathon?

Having heard this evening that the two bombs are thought to have been set off in pressure cookers packed with metal fragments and ball bearings the perpetrator certainly seems to have been determined to inflict life-threatening and debilitating injuries on those nearby. Perhaps it is someone with a pathological hatred of the able-bodied? I must admit that doesn’t seem likely to me.

Even if the criminal who carried out this terrible crime is eventually caught we may never know why they targeted the Boston marathon. One thing I do know – nobody should be put off running in or watching the London Marathon next Sunday. If they are seeking both publicity and effect that would give the bomber a victory that in my opinion they don’t deserve.

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