, Salem, MA

April 19, 2013

Benton: Boston blast felt in Arizona

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — For those lacking the protection offered by a full head of hair, a hat is mandatory in this part of the country. And on the morning of this writing, the one I pulled from the shelf happened to be one given me last June by a good friend and former colleague bearing the image and name of Salem’s iconic Friendship.

The hat, like the Roy Cross painting of the Friendship under sail in Salem Harbor hanging on the wall of our new home in the high desert northwest of Phoenix, serves as a reminder of the many years this reporter spent living, working and reporting in the city founded in 1626 and named for the Hebrew word for peace. The ideals brought to the New World by Roger Conant and his fellow settlers have sustained Salem through many crises, ranging from the witchcraft hysteria in the latter part of the 17th century to the collapse of the maritime trade in the early part of the 19th, and should be kept in mind today as we reflect on Monday’s events.

Families from Salem to China are mourning the deaths and debilitating injuries caused by the twin bombings that in a matter of seconds turned this Patriots Day from a time of celebration — for the defeat of British troops at Concord and Lexington, for another Red Sox win, for the latest running of our beloved Marathon — into yet another reminder of the carnage those with evil intent can perpetrate.

We live in a country that is proud and strong, but one that we have once again learned is not immune from the kinds of attacks that are much more commonplace in more troubled parts of the world, particularly the Middle East.

Enhanced security measures of the type put in place after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001 will be the continued price we pay to keep such attacks to a minimum. It’s an effort in which not only our intelligence and law-enforcement personnel, but every good citizen, must play a role.

“See something, say something,” is, sadly, the watchword of this era. But regardless of the outcome of the investigation into the marathon bombings (latest word as of this writing was that police had fragments of the bombs and the bags used to convey them, as well as potential video of a drop in front of the Lord & Taylor store), we must be mindful of allowing our fears to run rampant as occurred in Salem in 1692 when those accused of witchcraft were convicted and hanged on the basis of “spectral” evidence.

It was difficult, at a distance of 2,700 miles away, hearing of friends who were within a few hundred feet of the explosions. But the story was as big here in Arizona as it was back East, and the pain felt just as acutely.

And tomorrow we will, in the words of Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts, “fight back — with sneakers” by proceeding with the run dedicated to former ASU and Cardinals football player Pat Tillman, who was killed fighting for his country in Afghanistan nine years ago. “To do otherwise would be unthinkable,” she noted.

This is, after all, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” And the fact we are the former is only possible because there are many brave men and women among us, some of them fighting in Afghanistan and others of whom didn’t hesitate to plunge into the mayhem on Boylston Street on Monday afternoon to help the wounded.


Nelson Benton spent 40 years covering politics on the North Shore before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at