April 26, 2013

Boston and Lower West: How Two Disasters Stack Up in the Media Eye

Jeff Bauman in a wheel chair

West Texas fertilizer explosion

On April 15th, two bombs planted near the finish line of the Boston Marathon exploded within seconds of each other killing 3 people and injuring 282 others. That was followed by a massive manhunt for the attackers which lasted four days and resulted in a one day city lockdown. In the middle of that episode, on April 17th, an explosion at a fertilizer plant leveled part of the Texas town of West, near Waco. Fifteen people died and over 160 were injured. More than 150 buildings were destroyed or damaged and a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety compared the blast site and the scale of the event to the Oklahoma City bombing.

Through the post, we chosen out pairs of photos that draw an equivalence.

Arlington Street Church candlelight service

Plant_Explosion_Texas candlelight vigil

In terms of the scale of media and public attention, however, the Marathon attack dwarfed and largely overshadowed the Texas disaster. Is it perverse to say West, worthy of our concern, care, questions and support, was the victim of unfortunate timing? What it also brought to mind, if you’ll permit the political incorrectness, is “the seductiveness of terrorism” … at the expense, in this case, of domestic safety and environmental security. Given that intensity of the coverage, one might even conclude that “terrorism pays.”


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Lest you say that a fertilizer blast, in categorical terms, is something more pedestrian, however, consider America’s veneration of the “first responder” since 9/11. Among those who lost their lives in West were 11 firemen from five different departments. Given that many Marathon victims have almost become household names while the firefighters in West remain anonymous, Boston had to be that profound.


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(photo 1: Charles Krupa/AP caption: An emergency responder and volunteers, including Carlos Arredondo in the cowboy hat, push Jeff Bauman in a wheel chair after he was injured in an explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday, April 15, 2013 in Boston. At least three people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy, and more than 170 were wounded when two bombs blew up seconds apart.photo 2: Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald/AP caption: An elderly person is assisted at a staging area at a local school stadium following an explosion at a fertilizer plant Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in West, Texas. An explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco caused numerous injuries and sent flames shooting high into the night sky on Wednesday. photo 3: Reuters caption: Arlington Street Church: Those in the Boston Public Garden, pictured, also held a candlelight service at Arlington Street Church. photo 4: Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune Herald/AP caption: Baylor University student’s hold a candle light vigil outside Waco Hall for the victim’s of the West fertilizer plant explosion, Wednesday, April 17, 2013. photo 5: Mario Tama/Getty Images caption: Crime scene investigators continue to inspect buildings near the scene of the Boston Marathon bombings on the day after the second suspect was captured with crime scene tape remaining (L) on April 20, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. A manhunt for Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing ended after he was apprehended on a boat parked on a residential property in Watertown, Massachusetts. His brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, the other suspect, was shot and killed after a car chase and shootout with police. The bombing, on April 15 at the finish line of the marathon, killed three people and wounded at least 170.photo 6: Tony Gutierrez/AP caption: Firefighters set a brace to hold up a sagging beam during a search and rescue operation at an apartment complex destroyed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, Thursday, April 18, 2013. A massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. killed as many as 15 people and injured more than 160, officials said overnight. The explosion that struck around 8 p.m. Wednesday, sent flames shooting into the night sky and rained burning embers and debris down on shocked and frightened residents..photo 7: kfdm.com photo 8: John Tlumack/The Boston Globe via Getty Images caption: Boston Marathon bombing leaves more than 130 injured and two dead, including an 8 year old boy.)

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Michael Shaw
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