2013 Boston Marathon Bombings

2013 Boston Marathon Bombings

Updated Apr 15, 2014 at 03:14PM EDT by Brad.

Added Apr 15, 2013 at 04:57PM EDT by chowzburgerz.

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2013 Boston Marathon Explosions refer to the deadly bombings that took place in Boston, Massachusetts during the annual Patriots Day race on April 15th, 2013. Due to the close proximity of the detonations to the finish line, the moment of the blasts and the immediate aftermath were captured on footage and instantly shared online.


On April 15th, 2013, at approximately 2:50 pm (ET), two bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street near Copley Square, killing three people and injuring at least 176 others. Later that day, law enforcement officials said that the bombs appeared to have been homemade, with at least one of them identified as a pressure cooker filled with shrapnel and planted on low grounds for lethal impact.


As of April 16th, three people have been confirmed dead, including an 8-year-old boy named Martin Richard. According to hospital employees, at least 10 of the injured suffered severed limbs and 15 remained in critical conditions.

Online Reactions

Within minutes, numerous photographs and video footage of the explosions and the aftermath from the site began circulating on Twitter and YouTube. A total of six real-time discussion threads were created within 24 hours of the explosion, with many Redditors updating each others with the latest developments and links to helpful resources such as the temporary housing registry for displaced marathon attendees, live scanner feeds, Google’s Person Finder and the #bostonbombing IRC channel.[9][10][11][12][13][14]


Immediately following the explosions, many people turned to Twitter as a way to share photos, report news and check on loved ones attending the event. On April 15th, the phrase “Boston Marathon” was tweeted 2,910,316 times.[16] Approximately an hour after the bombing, USA Today[17] compiled a chronological series of tweets from news media outlets as well as attendees showing how the event unfolded via Twitter.

Tweeted messages of sympathy from celebrities, politicians, journalists and athletes were compiled on the NY Daily News[18], Fox Nation[19] and the Huffington Post.[20] Additionally, the hashtag #PrayForBoston[21] began trending on Twitter minutes after the bombing.[22] The hashtag was ranked #1 globally until 9 PM EST that night[23] and was used a total of 2,828,464 times on April 15th.[24]

In the hours following the explosion, Twitter became a soundboard for people to discuss conspiracy theories surrounding the event[25], attributing it to North Korea or the Tea Party. Simon Rickettes, a reporter from The Guardian[26], noted at least 12 pieces of unverified information that were traveling through Twitter as if it was confirmed news.

Random Acts of Pizza

For people who were not in the Boston area and wanted to help out people affected by the blasts, many turned to the Random Acts of Pizza subreddit[4], offering to send pizzas to hospitals, people housing stranded runners and police departments. Around 5 p.m. (ET), Moderator iamnotevenperturb launched a general Boston Marathon thread[6], garnering nearly 600 comments within 18 hours. Many of the orders were made through Anytime Pizza, who called in their entire staff the make and deliver pizzas, completely emptying their kitchen. Four local hospitals eventually had to stop accepting deliveries and Redditors were encouraged to donate to other places in need.[5]

Patton Oswalt’s Status Update

At about 5 p.m. (ET), American comedian Patton Oswalt posted a Facebook status update[27] detailing his initial reaction to the news. Praising those who ran towards the detonation site to help others and reassuring that the good will always outnumber those who stand in the darkness, Oswalt’s message was met by positive responses from his fans and followers on Facebook. Within the first 24 hours of posting, the status update received at least 298,000 likes and 224,000 shares.

Shelter Finder Google Doc

At approximately 5:30 PM EST, two Google Document forms began circulating the web, the first for displaced runners who needed a place to stay and the second[7] listing contact information for people offering their spare beds or couches. Though it is unclear who began these Google Docs, Allston resident Chris McCartney-Melstad was the first person to use the form to offer a place in his apartment. As of 1:30 p.m. (ET) on April 16th, hundreds of people in the area have added their names to the list.

Google Person Finder

Immediately following the explosions, Google launched a Boston Marathon Person Finder page,[15] which allows users to search for or add information about specific individuals. To address privacy concerns, Google allows users to set expiration dates for each record added and announced they will be removing all records from the database several months after the crisis. Google had previously deployed Person Finder pages following the Haiti earthquake (January 2010), the Chile earthquake (February 2010), the Pakistan floods (July 2010), the Christchurch earthquake (February 2011), the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami (March 2011) and the Van earthquake (October 2011).


On the day after the attacks, British Redditor oops777 launched the /r/FindBostonBombers subreddit as a hub site for community members to collect and analyze photographs and videos that have been captured from the scene.


The Family Guy Episode

Later that same day, a YouTube video of an episode clip from Family Guy[31] began circulating online, which showed main character Peter Griffin triggers explosions with his cell phone and driving over injured victims at the Boston Marathon. First uploaded online by conspiracy talk radio host Alex Jones, the video was soon revealed to be an edited clip from an episode titled “Turban Cowboys” that aired on March 17th, 2013, in which Peter Griffin becomes a Muslim and discovers that he is part of a terrorist plot to blow up a bridge. Shortly thereafter, FOX removed the original episode from online streaming services in the light of the tragic real-life event.

Man in the Red Shirt

Another image from the scene that went viral on Facebook depicted a man in a red shirt embracing an injured woman on the ground with an emotional backstory suggesting that the man had planned on proposing to his girlfriend after crossing the finish line.[32] It was soon debunked as a hoax based on a photograph taken by John Tlumacki for Boston Globe and Getty Images, the original description of which read: “A man comforts a victim on the sidewalk at the scene of the first explosion near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon.”

Mystery Man on the Roof

Within hours of the bombings, a particular photograph[29] of the second explosion taken by Suffolk University student Dan Lampariello began drawing attention from conspiracy theorists after a viewer spotted a hazy figure of a man standing on rooftop at the time of the detonation. By 5 p.m. (ET), the image had been retweeted at least 5,000 times[30] and sparked a debate regarding its authenticity and significance in connection to the bombings.

Blue Robe Guy

On April 17th, F.B.I officials released a photograph of one of the backpacks believed to be linked to the bombings (shown below, left) , which quickly spread across the front pages of daily news sites and blogs. Within hours, amateur investigators on Reddit and 4chan began analyzing photographic evidence gathered from the site shortly before the detonations in an attempt to identify of potential suspects matching the description provided by the authorities.

By 8:30 a.m. (ET), several individuals who were seen in photographs with backpacks moments before the explosions had been marked as persons of interest, particularly one man who became known as the “Blue Robe Guy” for wearing a blue fleece and a black backpack that faintly resembled the one shown in the FBI image (shown above, right). At least 57 photographs brought up during the discussion were subsequently compiled into an Imgur gallery post, gaining more than 1.6 million views in less than 24 hours.


On April 18th, F.B.I. released the first surveillance photos and videos of two main suspects being sought after. In one of the photos posted on the F.B.I website, both suspects were seen wearing black jackets, khaki fatigues and black backpacks. Shortly after, Redditor SPAtreatment posted an image identifying the hat as a Bridgestone golf cap, while many others searched for additional photos matching the official description.

Online Speculations

In the early hours on April 19th, a Redditor submitted a link to a Huffington Post article[36] about Brown University student Sunil Tripathi who had been missing since mid-March, implicating that the student might have played a role in the attack. The post[37] soon reached the front page of Reddit and the speculation continued to spread elsewhere as users on Twitter began reporting that they had heard Tripathi being named as one of two possible suspects via police scanner.[38]

However, by the next morning, the rumor was debunked as pure speculation after the deadly shootout between the suspects and the police. In response, the moderator of /r/FindBostonBombers issued a statement apologizing for the misimplication of Tripathi in the case and cautioning people to refrain from doxing personal information until official confirmation.

Manhunt Operation

Later that same day, the investigation saw its first breakthrough in the case when a violent shootout erupted on the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, leading to the death of Boston police officer Sean Collier and a wild police chase in Cambridge.

During the course of the explosive-ridden standoff, one of the main suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was fatally wounded and later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Ruslan Tsarni’s Plea

On April 19th, as the manhunt for the second suspect continued amidst a city-wide lockdown, the uncle of the two bombing suspects appeared in a local news interview to publicly denounce the nephews for their alleged involvement and called them “losers” for shaming the entire people of Chechnya. Furthermore, when asked if he had any advice for the younger Tsarnaev at large, he asked Dzhokhar to turn himself in and ask for forgiveness.

The uncle’s emotional address towards his nephews quickly made his name rise to a trending topic on Twitter, where his remarks were highly praised by many viewers as patriotic and heartfelt. The viral takeoff of Tsarni’s interview statement was picked up that same day by The Washington Post[45], Gawker[46], New Yorker[47] and TIME Magazine among many other publications. Meanwhile on Reddit[48], Tsarni was hailed as an unforgiving patriot through the impromptu advice animal series “Uncle Ruslan.”


The Arrest

The manhunt came to its fruition on the evening of April 19th, when a resident of Watertown, Massachusetts found a body laying in a pool of blood inside a boat stationed in his backyard, suspected to be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The authorities subsequently surrounded the boat and used a thermal imaging device to verify that the body was still moving (shown below). After exchanging fire with the suspect for more than an hour, Tsarnaev was taken into custody and transported to the hospital, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.[49]

On April 22nd, after being treated for severe injuries at the hospital, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged with “using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death” and “malicious destruction of property resulting in death” in connection to the bombings. In addition, Tsarnaev was also charged with four counts of murder. On July 10th, 2013, Tsarnaev made his first public appearance at the arraignment for a total of 30 charges, to all of which Tsarnaev pled “not guilty.” On January 30th, 2014, United States Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement revealing that the federal government will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

#FreeJahar Movement

Similar to the online fandom that grew out of support for Aurora, Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, the arrest of the younger Tsarnaev was met by supporters who rallied around him on Twitter with the hashtag #FreeJahar,[50] inspired by Tsarnaev’s Twitter handle[51] that was exposed by Gawker[52] the previous day. Throughout the third week of April, the hashtag was mentioned by several news sites including The Blaze,[70] Wired[71], the Week[72], Gawker[73], the Huffington Post[74] and Heavy.[75] As of July 2013, the hashtag has been used on Twitter more than 140,000 times[69], with both serious and mocking sentiments.

In addition to the Twitter hashtag, the support spread to Tumblr[76][77] where at least three single topic blogs claiming his innocence have launched since April. The movement saw a renewed interest in July 2013 when a group of supporters assembled in front of the Moakley Federal Courthouse for Tsarnaev’s first public hearing, chanting “Free Jahar.”[81] Two days later, The Atlantic[82] published a piece investigating the reasons why women have gotten involved in actively supporting the alleged bomber.

Rolling Stone Cover Story

On July 16th, 2013, Rolling Stone magazine revealed that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev[53] would be featured on the cover of the upcoming August 1st issue, along with an editorial piece about Tsarnaev’s transformation into a suspected terrorist, based on interviews with dozens of his friends, teachers and neighbors. In less than 24 hours of online publication, the feature article accrued more than 1,900 comments. Rolling Stone also shared the cover on their Facebook page[54], generating more than 4,500 shares and nearly 15,000 comments. The post also generated thousands of tweets criticizing the magazine for treating Tsarnaev like a rock star (shown below). On the 16th, “Rolling Stone” was mentioned on Twitter more than 165,000 times according to Topsy Analytics[55], a 3,126% increase in volume from the previous day.

Between the evening of the 16th and morning of the 17th, the impassioned response to the Rolling Stone cover photo was picked up by dozens of news outlets, including Huffington Post[60], Buzzfeed[61], CNN{62], Business Insider[63], USA Today[64], CBSNews[65] and Boston.com[66] On the morning of July 17th, the hashtag #BoycottRollingStone[56] began to trend, drawing endorsement from Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler[57] as well as newsmagazine distributors including CVS and Tedeschi’s Food Shops.[59] Within hours, the hashtag was used more than 1,800 times.[58] According to a tweet from Fox 25 reporter Catherine Parrotta[67], Boston mayor Thomas Menino called the cover a “disgrace” and plans to contact the publisher. Meanwhile, supporters of Tsarnaev also slammed the cover[68] for calling him “The Bomber” without being proven guilty (shown below).

On the afternoon of July 17th, Rolling Stone editors responded to the outcry on their Facebook page[83] stating that their thoughts are with the victims of the bombings but they were standing by the story. As Tsarnaev fell into the age group of many of their readers, they found it necessary to examine all of the layers of his character to gain a better understanding of how a tragedy like this one happened.

CBS The Good Wife

On November 24th, 2013, CBS’ legal procedural drama The Good Wife ran an episode titled “Whack-A-Mole,”[84] in which an ad-hoc investigation launched by a group of online vigilantes on the fictitious social news site “Scabbit” inadvertently leads to the racial profiling of an American professor of Middle Eastern descent and false accusations of a bombing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, fueled by the heated discussions of conjectures, theories and circumstantial evidence (shown below).

On the next day, Redditor Kneeco28 started a discussion thread about the episode on /r/television[85], where it garnered more than 654 up votes within the first 24 hours, while similar articles comparing the episode plot to the timeline of /r/findbostonbombers soon followed on Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, AV Club, TechPresident and Vulture,[86] just to name a few.

Search Interest

External References

[1]CNNExplosions Near Finish of Boston Marathon

[2]Wikipedia – 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings

[3]ABC News – Three Dead, Including Child, in Boston Explosions

[4]Reddit – Random Acts of Pizza

[5]Reddit – /r/random_acts_of_pizza: UnfortunatelyMacabre’s comment

[6]Reddit – /r/random_acts_of_pizza: Boston Marathon

[7]Google Docs – Need a place to stay – Boston Marathon explosion

[8]Google Docs – I have a place to offer – Boston Marathon explosion

[9]Reddit – Live Update Thread 1

[10]Reddit – Live Update Thread 2

[11]Reddit – Live Update Thread 3

[12]Reddit – Live Update Thread 4

[13]Reddit – Live Update Thread 5

[14]Reddit – Live Update Thread 6

[15]Google Person Finder – Boston Marathon Explosions

[16]Topsy – Tweet Statistics for “Boston Marathon”

[17]USA Today – Horrific details from the scene of the Boston Marathon explosions

[18]New York Daily News – Boston Marathon explosions elicit outpouring of grief, anger, information on Twitter

[19]Fox Nation – Condolences – and Grief – on Twitter for Boston Marathon Explosion Victims

[20]The Huffington Post – Athletes React To Boston Marathon Bombing (TWEETS)

[21]Twitter – #PrayForBoston

[22]Viral Read – #PrayForBoston Begins Trending Immediately After Boston Marathon Explosions

[23]Twee.co – #prayforboston Statistics

[24]Topsy – Tweet Statistics for #prayforboston

[25]International Business Times – Boston Marathon Explosions: Knee-Jerk Twitter Rumors Run The Gamut From North Korea To The Tea Party

[26]The Guardian – How the Boston Marathon explosions reveal the two sides of Twitter

[27]Facebook – Patton Oswalt’s Status Update

[28]YouTube – YouTube Spotlight – Explosions at the Boston Marathon\

[29]ABC News – Mystery ‘Man on the Roof’ Sparks Boston Marathon Chatter

[30]Topsy – Tweet Results for Mystery Man

[31]Los Angeles Times – Fox pulls ‘Family Guy’ episode after Boston bombings

[32]CNN5 viral stories about Boston attacks that aren’t true

[33]Reddit – /r/FindBostonBombers

[34]Imgur – 4chan Think Tank

[35]Gawker – Your Guide To The Boston Marathon Bombing Amateur Internet Crowd-Sleuthing

[36]Huffington Post – Sunil Tripathi, Brown University Student, Is Missing As Search Expands In Northeast

[37]Reddit – Is missing student Sunil Tripathi Marathon Bomber #2?

[38]Daily Dot – Sunil Tripathi is innocent, still missing

[39]Salon – The Biggest Internet Manhunt Ever

[40]FBIUpdates on Investigation Into Multiple Explosions in Boston

[41]TIME Magazine – FBI Releases Photos of Suspects: Let the Crowdsourcing Begin

[42]Reddit – [Mod Note] Despite what was allegedly overheard on a police scanner, Sunil Tripathi was misidentified and is innocent.

[43]Forbes – Boston Marathon Bomber Suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s Twitter Account Shows Discontent

[44]The Onion – Internet Comes Up With 8.5 Million Leads On Potential Boston Bombing Suspect

[45]The Washington Post – Uncle Ruslan’s inspiring words -- a moment we needed

[46]Gawker – Bombing Suspect’s Uncle Makes Raw Emotional Plea, Goes Viral

[47]New Yorker – The Suspect’s Uncle

[48]Reddit – Search Results for Uncle Ruslan

[49]CNNCAPTURED!!!’ Boston police announce Marathon bombing suspect in custody

[50]Twitter – Tweet Results for #FreeJahar

[51]Twitter – @J_tsar

[52]Gawker – ‘Stay Safe People’: Here Is The Fugitive Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect’s Twitter Account

[53]Rolling Stone – Five Revelations From Rolling Stone’s Boston Bomber Cover Story

[54]Facebook – Rolling Stone’s Photo

[55]Topsy Analytics – Tweet Statistics for “Rolling Stone”

[56]Twitter – Tweet Results for #BoycottRollingStone

[57]Twitchy – #BoycottRollingStone: MLB pitcher slams mag for terror-glorifying cover

[58]Topsy – Tweet Statistics for #boycottrollingstone

[59]Gawker – CVS Will Boycott the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Rolling Stone Cover

[60]Huffington Post – Rolling Stone Boston Bomber Cover Story: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Image Stirs Controversy, Boycotts

[61]Buzzfeed – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Covers New Issue Of Rolling Stone

[62]CNNRolling Stone puts Boston bombing suspect on cover, ignites firestorm

[63]Business Insider – Rolling Stone Portrays Alleged Boston Bomber As Dreamy Teen Heartthrob

[64]USA Today – ‘Rolling Stone’ Tsarnaev cover stirs firestorm

[65]CBS News – Rolling Stone cover featuring Boston Marathon bombing suspect stirs online backlash

[66]Boston.com – Tsarnaev makes cover of Rolling Stone, draws outrage, boycotts

[67]Twitter – @CParrottaFox25: Mayor Menino calls Rolling Stone cover a disgrace. Says it should’ve been about 1st responders. Plans to contact publisher #fox25

[68]Twitchy – Not dreamy enough? #FreeJahar terror groupies shriek about Rolling Stone cover

[69]Topsy – Tweet Statistics for #freejahar


[71]Wired – #Freejahar Hashtag Rallies Emerging Cult of Boston Bomb Suspect

[72]The Week – ‘Free Jahar’: The online push to exonerate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

[73]Gawker – #FreeJahar: When Conspiracy Theorists and One Direction Fans Collide

[74]The Huffington Post – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Fan Club: Boston Bombing Suspect Gets Support From Girls, #FreeJahar Following

[75]Heavy – #FreeJahar Trending on Twitter: 20 Tweets You Need to Read

[76]Tumblr – Posts tagged “free jahar”

[77]Tumblr – Posts tagged “freejahar”

[78]Tumblr – jahar-t

[79]Tumblr – freejahartho

[80]Tumblr – supportingthelionjahar

[81]CBS Boston – ‘Free Jahar’ Chant As Boston Bombing Suspect Heads To Court

[82]The Atlantic – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Female Supporters Are Not ‘Fangirls’

[83]Facebook – Rolling Stone: Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing

[84]CBSThe Good Wife / Whack-A-Mole

[85]Reddit – The Good Wife s5e9 on Reddit post Boston bombing

[86]Google News – News Articles about ‘The Good Wife’ and ‘Whack A Mole’

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