What’s even less suspicious than a guy standing on a roof during a giant spectator event? How about a guy running away after almost being killed by a surprise explosion? That seems like pretty reasonable post-explosion behavior. Nevertheless, it was precisely this behavior that led a bystander to tackle a Saudi student and hand him over to police following the Boston Marathon blasts. The illogical explanation for the Saudi’s capture and questioning might suggest that there was something else people found suspicious about him, namely, the terrorist-y pigment of his skin.
However, to our surprise, the Saudi student isn’t the only bystander whose attempt to flee the scene of the bombing has been deemed suspicious. This report by WHDH, the local Boston NBC affiliate that has provided otherwise fantastic coverage, singles out a white man in bomb-tattered clothes fleeing the scene — let’s call him Running Away Man — of the first Boston Marathon blast as some sort of suspect character.
“One man, with his clothes shredded, is running from the scene,” a WHDH reporter notes. Running! Why would he do that? Aside from the desire to not get murdered?
In fact, people were scattering in all directions. But the man who took the series of photos from a nearby office building doesn’t care about those people. For some reason, he only cares about Running Away Man.
“One [photo] after another, you see this individual really fleeing from the scene, which is either for one or two reasons,” the man says, astutely. “So either he was badly burned and panicked, and fleeing, or he was fleeing for some other reason.”
Yes, this is true. It is also true of everyone who ran away — probably thousands of people. Why the local news is highlighting Running Away Man, as if he’s the one person who didn’t calmly sit down crossed-legged on the pavement after the blast, we have literally no idea.
There’s probably a psychological term for this sort of thing, the irrational fixation on mundane details in the search for answers to a traumatic event. It’s what brought us Roof Man, and now Running Away Man. Tomorrow maybe it will be Crying Man, or Making a Phone Call Man. The urge is understandable, though. We all want desperately to solve this riddle.