Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Bombers will never change multi-cultural heritage of US

Lu Lingzi
Lu Lingzi

It's a cliche that many people in Irish-American-laden Boston have the "map of Ireland" written all over their faces. As for the broader city itself, it has long had the map of the world upon its face.

Lu Lingzi, the 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China who died in the Boston Marathon bombings, was one shining example of Boston's international DNA.

One of 2,000 Chinese students among Boston University's 33,000-strong student body, she was among hundreds of thousands of foreign students who've flocked to Boston over the years to take advantage of one of America's premier academic meccas.

Two other faces that underscored Boston's worldly population were those of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (19) and his 20-year-old brother, Tamerlan – the Kyrgyzstan-born brothers named by the FBI as prime suspects in the marathon bombings.

In the hours after the pair were named, following a series of violent incidents that included the fatal shooting of Tamerlan, US Press speculation was rampant about a possible Chechnyan extremists link, as they were initially identified as Chechans.

In the days prior, a debate had raged as to whether the bombings were the work of homegrown, domestic terrorists. The rudimentary nature of the bombs, coupled with the fact that the attacks happened on Patriot's Day – the anniversary of Timothy McVeigh's 1995 attack in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people – led many to favour a domestic link.

But when news emerged that the pressure-cooker bombs had been used overseas, others advocated a potential foreign plot.

In the end, a sort of hybrid picture emerged, with the foreign-born Tsarnaev brothers having been longtime Boston residents before their deadly attack.

Yet, even with the heavily-armed brothers appearing as certain culprits, until the eventual, bloody denouement, an element of caution – rightly – remained.

Consider the case of a man identified by sections of Boston's media as a potential suspect. Some TV outlets concluded that, as he was running while others were hitting the deck, he was suspicious. One can only imagine the panic of that unidentified soul as he saw his image splashed across media outlets – and his relief when the actual suspects were identified.

Events also underscored the reality that random bombings can – and will – happen anywhere at any time. But the flipside is if such horrific attacks can happen at random at any time, what can be the use of worrying non-stop?

Almost without exception, every person I interviewed in Boston this week said that they would not change the way they live.

At the end of the day, what has made Boston, and America, strong is the fact the likes of Lu Lingzi have come to its shores and contributed to its educational, cultural and economic dynamism.

And, as has happened for centuries, that influx of foreigners will continue to enrich and expand America's horizons.

And that is a reality that the bombers, whatever their motivations, will never change.

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