TIME Parenting

How News Coverage of the Boston Marathon Manhunt Affected Local Kids

Explosions At 117th Boston Marathon
Women and children are evacuated from the scene on Boylston Street after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Bill Greene—Boston Globe/Getty Images

You may not be surprised to learn that children who attended the 2013 Boston Marathon were six times more likely than non-attendees to suffer from PTSD. Given the carnage and panic wrought by the bombs, which caused 3 deaths and 264 injuries, you’d expect more trauma symptoms from those on the scene. But a new study reports that kids who had up-close views of the ensuing manhunt were just as likely to suffer PTSD as those with near exposure to the bombing. And kids who may not have had first-hand experience of either—well, the more news coverage they watched, the more mental health disturbances they suffered.

The study, published online June 2 in Pediatrics, surveyed 460 parents of children who lived within 25 miles of the marathon or of Watertown, where the manhunt took place. They were asked about their children’s experiences during the week of the attack and about their psychological and social functioning in the following six months. The investigators, led by psychologist Jonathan Comer, formerly of Boston University and now at Florida International University, were interested in the impact both of the bombing and of its ripple effects afterward. They also wanted to measure both PTSD and less severe mental health issues such as conduct and peer problems, hyperactivity and inattention. Interestingly, they found an even stronger link between broad mental health problems among the kids with dramatic exposure to the manhunt (hearing shots, having their house searched, for example) than among kids with similar sensory experience of the bombing itself.

The investigators also measured both the time the children spent glued to the set and whether parents had tried to limit their news viewing. Overall, the kids watched an average of 1.5 hours of attack coverage and more than 20% watched for over three hours. “Two thirds of the parents did not attempt to restrict their children’s viewing at all,” Comer says. “Yet we saw after Oklahoma City and 911 that TV exposure can have negative mental health effects on children, both near and far.”

Experts on children and media tend to agree that restricting children’s media exposure to violent events is critical. Casey Jordan, a criminologist and justice professor at Western Connecticut State University, says that adults can put in context the sensationalism of media coverage designed to create a sense of danger. But children generally cannot. “The best rule,” he says, “is TURN IT OFF unless you really have a suspect on the lam in your neighborhood.” Just get the basic facts, he suggests, and do so by Internet if possible.

Parents can help their children through these scary times by speaking to them honestly but calmly about what is happening and letting them express their reactions and fears. “It’s important to reassure them that they are safe,” says psychologist Daniel J. Flannery, who directs the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University. “Explain,” he says, “that the event was very unusual, and sometimes bad people do bad things but not everybody is like that. Their sense of normalcy has been taken away from them, and they need to get that back. “

Calm matters, agrees Jordan. “Do not go off on a tangent about ‘those people’ or a rant about who is to blame,” he says. “Children are sponges, they will learn from parents’ own reaction to crime and chaos, and absorb all the fall-out from what they hear and see.”

This new study suggests that parents be alert to changes in their kids even months after—and miles away from—a violent incident. Are they eating or sleeping less—or more? Are they more withdrawn or anxious, acting out at school or with friends? The children may not have been personally involved in the traumatic event, suggests this research, but they may still be suffering trauma. “The reach of terror and associated fear,” write the authors, “is not confined to the boundaries of an attack itself.”

TIME justice

Massachusetts Man Charged With Obstructing Boston Bombing Investigation

Officials say there is no indication Khairullozhon Matanov had any advance knowledge of the bomb plot

A Quincy, Massachusetts, man has been charged with destroying evidence and lying to investigators who have been looking into the Boston Marathon bombing, according to an indictment unsealed Friday.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston alleges that Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, tried to impede investigators and hide his connection to Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the men suspected of perpetrating the bombing. Prosecutors allege that Matanov lied to investigators and deleted information from his computer, including his browser cache, which stored records including his Google searches and a list of websites he visited.

Officials have no indication that Matanov had advance knowledge of the plan to bomb the marathon.

Prosecutors accuse Matanov, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan who legally emigrated to the United States in 2010, of being friends with Tamerlan Tzarnaev and participating in “a variety of activities” with the accused, including “hiking up a New Hampshire mountain in order to train life, and praise, the ‘mujahideen.’” According to the indictment, hosted here by CBS News, Matanov was in close contact with the bombers shortly after the bombs exploded on the afternoon of April 15, 2013, and bought them both dinner that evening.

If convicted on all counts against him, Matanov faces decades in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. His initial court appearance is set for 2 p.m. Friday.

TIME boston bombing

Boston Bombing Suspect’s Alleged Accomplices to Face Trial

Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov, Robel Phillipos
This courtroom sketch shows defendants Azamat Tazhayakov, left, Dias Kadyrbayev, center, and Robel Phillipos, right, college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, during a hearing in federal court Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in Boston. Jane Flavell Collins—AP

A federal judge set a trial date for alleged Boston bombing accomplices Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both Kazakh nationals, who are charged with aiding Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to get rid of incriminating evidence and flee authorities

Two Kazakh nationals will stand trial for allegedly helping Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev evade authorities and jettison incriminating evidence.

USA Today reports that Federal Judge Douglas Woodstock rejected the defense team’s request to have all charges against Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov dropped, saying he would not weigh the evidence and act as “fact finder” before the trial dates.

Woodstock also rejected the defense team’s request to relocate the pair’s trials outside of Boston, where emotions might not run as high among selected jury members. Woodstock argued that the defense team’s concerns could be resolved through the usual jury vetting process.

Kazakh nationals Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov stand accused of obstructing police investigations by removing a laptop from the Boston bombing suspect’s dorm room and taking a backpack filled with firework shells emptied of explosive powder in the days after the April 15, 2013 bombings.

Tazhayakov will stand trial on June 30, and Kadyrbayev on Sept. 8. A third suspect, Robel Phillipos, will stand trial on charges of lying to investigators on Sept. 29.

[USA Today]

TIME

Pictures of the Week April 18 – April 25

From mourning the victims of the South Korean ferry disaster to the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to Obama in Japan and the running of the Boston Marathon, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME

Feel Good Friday: 14 Fun Photos to Jump Start Your Weekend

From a joyful reunion to a cute baby giraffe, Time's photo editors offer a selection of photos to brighten your day.

TIME Athletes

Meb Keflezighi’s Boston Marathon Win Is a Victory For Us All

Meb Keflezighi crosses the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. Jim Rogash—Getty Images

A year after the Boston Marathon bombings, the immigrant American's victory sends a strong, symbolic message to the perpetrators of that awful event

One year ago, two young immigrant men, fed up with the American way of life, allegedly terrorized the Boston Marathon. A year later, an old — by marathon-running standards — immigrant who has totally embraced his adopted country won the historic race, thrilling everyone in attendance. On the first running of the Boston Marathon since last year’s bombings, Meb Keflezighi is the perfect man for the moment.

The message this victory sends to the bombers is not subtle: Screw you. You squandered your opportunity, your chance at the American dream — which still exists, thank you. You blew it. This could have been you.

Keflezighi became the first American man to win a Boston Marathon since 1983. No one gave him much of a chance, given his age — he will turn 39 next month — and the reality that since 1991, a Kenyan has won the race 19 times.

But Keflezighi has surprised skeptics before. He won a silver medal in the Athens Olympics marathon in 2004, and in 2009 became the first American to win the New York City Marathon in 27 years. That win kindled a tortured debate about “real” Americanism; a CNBC.com commentary, entitled “Marathon’s Headline Win Is Empty,” said that “the fact that [Keflezighi] is not American-born takes away from the magnitude of the achievement … Nothing against Keflezighi, but he’s like a ringer you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league.” Comments on a running site included: “Give us all a break. It’s just another African marathon winner” and “Meb is not an American – case closed.”

Yes, Keflezighi was born in an Eritrean house with no electricity. But his family fled that country’s war with Ethiopia when he was still a young boy. “I ran my first mile here,” Keflezighi told me in a 2012 interview before the London Olympics, where he finished fourth in the marathon. “I didn’t know the sport was an option in Eritrea.” He ran cross country in grammar school and high school in San Diego, and at UCLA. He’s a product of the American running system.

CNBC.com, for its part, apologized after the flap. But all questions about Meb Keflezighi’s Americanism have surely been answered by now. Especially on this day. Last year, Keflezighi attended the race, but did not run: he left only about five minutes after the bombs went off. “When the bomb exploded, every day since I’ve wanted to come back and win it,” Keflezighi said afterwards, via USA Today. “I wanted to win it for the people of Boston. It’s beyond words.”

He doesn’t need them. A year later, Keflezighi’s win speaks louder than any bomb ever could.

TIME cities

Newlywed Boston Marathon Bombing Survivors Finish Race Holding Hands

Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky each lost a leg in the bombings last year, only six months after getting married. One year later, they crossed the finish line together

Boston Marathon husband and wife bombing survivors Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who each lost a leg in last year's bombings, roll across the finish line in the 118th Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, 2014 in Boston.
Boston Marathon husband and wife bombing survivors Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who each lost a leg in last year’s bombings, roll across the finish line in the 118th Boston Marathon, April 21, 2014 in Boston. Elise Amendola—AP

Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky lost limbs as victims of the Boston Marathon bombing last year. One year on, they rolled across the finish line in wheelchairs, hand-in-hand.

After the first explosion on Boylston Street in 2013, the couple, watching the race together, suffered matching injuries: They each lost their left leg below the knee. Patrick’s memories of the crisis are murky but Jessica remembers the trauma clearly. In an interview with the Boston Globe, she recalled trying to block Patrick’s view from his own severed foot while a passerby extinguished her flaming clothes.

The couple recovered together, and returned to the marathon in 2014, side by side. “We’ve been married a year and a half,” Patrick told the Boston Globe, “but it’s like we have the knowledge of a couple that’s been married 10 years.”

TIME U.S.

Man Proposes to His Girlfriend at the Boston Marathon Finish Line

"After last year I realized the people you love and your life can be taken so quickly"

Shortly after completing the Boston Marathon today, runner Greg Picklesimer decided to make the day even more memorable by proposing to his girlfriend at the finish line.

He also completed the marathon last year, just a few hours before the terrorist attack that killed three people and injured dozens more.

“After last year I realized the people you love and your life can be taken so quickly,” Picklesimer told CBS Boston. “I didn’t want to lose that so I decided to come back and seal the deal.”

She said yes, luckily, because wouldn’t that be so awkward if she didn’t?

 

TIME cities

Boston Marathon Winds Down Without a Hitch a Year After Bombings

2014 B.A.A. Boston Marathon
Rita Jeptoo of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Ma. Jim Rogash—Getty Images

Marathon went smoothly Monday night without incident, amid increased security measures following last year's bombing near the finish line that killed three people and wounded 264 others

Updated 3:00 a.m. ET

The Boston Marathon began winding down Monday night without incident amid heightened security measures after bombings near the finish line of last year’s marathon killed three people and wounded 264 others.

Almost 36,000 people ran in the marathon, the Associated Press reports, in what officials called a powerful display of resilience after last year’s tragedy. In one particularly uplifting scene, an unidentified participant in the day’s race appeared to collapse near the 26th mile marker only to be carried across the finish line by fellow runners.

Marathon officials went to great lengths to prevent another incident, forbidding backpacks and rucksacks, containers with more than one liter of liquid, and costumes that cover the face, CNN reports. Large signs are also banned, and unregistered runners and cyclists were no longer allowed to join the race. Surveillance cameras dotted the course and police officers were perched on rooftops.

Meb Keflezighi won the men’s race in 2:08:37, becoming the first American to win this marathon since 1983, the Boston Globe reports. Defending champion Rita Jeptoo of Kenya won the women’s race in 2:18:55, beating her winning record from last year by over seven minutes. She’s the seventh the-time winner in history, the AP reports.

Authorities accused brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev of the 2013 bombings. Tamerlan was killed days later after a shootout with police ended with Dzhokhar running over his brother with his car. Dzhokhar is awaiting trial.

On the one-year anniversary of the marathon attack last Tuesday, police arrested a performance artist who wore a veil and screamed as he carried two rice cookers in backpacks to the site of the original explosion last year. Kevin Edson, who has a history of hospitalization and mental health issues, was arrested and held on $100,000 bail before he was sent to a mental hospital.

TIME Opinion

Boston Marathon Bombings: Making Sense of the Social Media Blitz

Scribbled notes for the first rough draft of history

When I first heard that two bombs had exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I was sitting on my couch — the afternoon sunlight streaming through from the tall window behind me — cradling my 12-day-old daughter in my arms. While she slept peacefully, I took the opportunity to catch up on my Twitter feed.

I’ll always have that tranquil moment as a reminder of how April 15 began, before the bombs. It is a stark contrast to the feeling that immediately followed, reading a barrage of tweets — information and misinformation — originating from Boylston Street, less than 10 miles south of where we sat.

Of course I found out from Twitter; everybody did, it seemed. After reading the news in my feed, my wife and I turned on the TV to see what was going on, but after a few minutes of watching television reporters spout empty speculation and unverified information, we turned it off again.

The previous week I had returned to work after a short paternity leave; I teach journalism and writing courses at a small college just south of the city. It happened that I was teaching an Introduction to Media Studies course that semester. In the last class before my daughter was born, I asked my students to consider what the most significant revolution brought on by the Internet might be. Just over a week after I returned, we were seeing it in action.

There has been no shortage of handwringing over the role that the Internet played in the events of that day and the tense week that followed. Though there is plenty to praise — the excellent work of some eyewitnesses who truly became amateur reporters, the absolute immediacy of information — there’s also much to worry about: the emotion-fueled speculation, the misinformation, the vigilante journalism.

The Internet made all of these things a reality, and while it’s impossible to try to assign a quantitative “good”or “bad” to these developments, what we can know for sure is that we will never go back. This is how big news is reported now.

In some ways, I’m right there with the hand wringers. I’ll take truth over immediacy any day. But, from the vantage point of a year later, I’m beginning to see a great value to the stream of tweets and status updates that (sometimes inaccurately) reported the news of the Marathon Bombings and the subsequent search for the bombers as it happened. But I wouldn’t be able to see this value if it weren’t for archivists and collectors, curators, scholars, and storytellers who have, in the year that’s passed, begun to make sense of the social media blitz of that week.

If journalism is the first rough draft of history, eyewitness reports captured on mobile phones and broadcast to the world are the first notes — scratchings, written hastily on Post-its, which later become an outline that eventually inform the first draft as well as the drafts that follow. They are hastily scribbled and stuck in the moment, but later, when a skilled storyteller comes along, they begin to take shape into a cohesive narrative. And, particularly in the case of the Marathon Bombings, they take on a life of their own as a kind of meta-narrative — we get a sense of how we respond when tragedy strikes.

It’s not always a pretty picture. The false identification of the perpetrators first on Reddit and then on the front page of The New York Post, the hasty and lazy reporting by cable news networks, the threats against Muslims here in Boston, serve as a perfect example of how instant news culture can do very real harm. But even those mishaps can teach us something valuable.

I’m grateful to those organizations like the NULab at Northeastern University who, in collaboration with WBUR, are creating a digital archive of artifacts from the bombings. And the marathon memorial that will open at the Boston Public Library, which features items such as running shoes, t-shirts, and photos left near the finish line as an instant tribute. And the hand sewn flags, mailed in from around the country and the world, on display at the Museum of Fine Arts as part of its “To Boston With Love” installation.

What all of these have in common is that they are collections of natural and emotional reactions in the immediate wake of tragedy, and though they may not mean much individually, when collected and curated, they tell a story of their own; they truly become a memorial. This is how I choose to think of those tweets and status updates. Even with their misleading and sometimes flat-out wrong information, even if they are a testament to the ways in which the cult of now has reshaped our news consumption, taken together they are a monument to a city that experienced tremendous grief on an otherwise beautiful day in April, and they tell the story of how we continue to cope with that tragedy today.

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is the author of Not Your Mother’s Morals: How the New Sincerity Is Changing Pop Culture for the Better and the editor of Patrolmag.com.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser