Boston Strong

After learning about crisis communication and studying the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot, I wanted to analyze another sport’s crisis to compare and contrast the different techniques used by authorities, public leaders and civilians when dealing with public tragedy and trauma.


The Boston Marathon began the morning of April 15, 2013: Patriot’s Day. The race ran smoothly with police officers checking the area for suspicious behavior and potential bombs throughout the event. Spectators walked freely between cheer zones with bags in hand.
Just before 3 p.m., there were 5,700 runners still running to finish the marathon. At 2:49 p.m., two homemade pressure cooker bombs exploded in the crowd near the finish line off of Boylston Street, 210 yards apart. The immediate crisis threw the crowd and the runners into chaos. Police reacted quickly to shut down the area, redirect incoming runners away from the finish line, search out unidentified and potentially dangerous objects, evacuate buildings close by and take care of the injured victims. Although some runners continued to finish the race after the explosions, the rest of the runners following them were stopped and the race abruptly finished because of the tragic circumstances.

When the pressure cooker bombs exploded, bystanders and runners were both hit with a great force and a number of different shrapnel pieces. The injuries appeared to be “war-like” and many were diagnosed with perforated eardrums. Because the bombs were placed on the ground, leg and feet injuries were more common; fewer deaths occurred because there were not as many chest, neck and head injuries.

The two bombs resulted in injuring 264 and killing three Boston marathon participants and bystanders. At least 16 of those injuries resulted in lost limbs and 14 people who needed amputations.
In the days that followed, many people stepped up to help contribute. Boston residents opened their houses to stranded Boston visitors who were left without a place to stay when hotel shut down to keep people out. Google Person Finder was opened publicly online to help find missing persons under the Boston Marathon Explosion title. Spectators were asked by authorities to send in their pictures and home videos to get a better grasp of what happened and who the killers could be. Social media networks were also scrutinized to understand the full scope of the situation. The search started from scratch because law enforcement had no previous evidence of the attack.

The Boston Marathon bombing made international news and the Internet was used as a huge medium to connect citizens with victims and their families. Crowd funding websites were used collectively to raise money for victims. Over two million dollars were pledged on these websites alone. A China-based social website, Weibo, was used to post condolence messages commemorating one of the victims who lost her life, China citizen and American graduate student, Lu Lingzi. A picture of another victim who lost their life, eight-year-old Martin William Richard, became the picture to represent the tragedy. The sign Martin held in class holds an ominous foreshadowing of what was to come but also rallied hurting civilians and citizens from around the world. martin-richard-3

The biggest campaign used to help the hurting victims was the “One Fund Boston” campaign started by Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Their “Boston Strong” slogan lead to black remembrance ribbons wore in other big races, The “Boston Strong” concert featuring Aerosmith, Boys II Men, New Kids on the Block and other stars and raising over 69.8 million dollars in donations to help victims and their families.

The Boston Marathon bombing lead to multiple other remembrance runs including a cross-country relay from Venice Beach to the Boston Marathon finish line, the Boston Remembrance Run in Portland, Oregon, the OKC Memorial Marathon where all the runners wore red socks and a moment of silence at the London Marathon where runners were also adorned in back ribbons.

  bill-iffrig-bostonIn comparison to the Vancouver Stanley Cup riot, the Boston Marathon bombing was very different but used similar tactics, like online identification and social media rallying, to tackle the crisis. However, there was less selfish gain as the act of terror from the bombing was much more publicized, mourned and remembered. Written publications covered both crises including Sports Illustrated and The New York Times. The bombing had a more positive reflection on the political and enforcement leadership than the riot. Visual photographs spoke of the devastation from both and many famous pictures surfaced after both the bombing and the riot. . The two crises are very different but both were turned into bonding and supporting opportunities



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