Boston bombing calendars: Monetizing a tragedy

I was just leaving a meeting with Toronto City Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19) on April 15th, when, as I always do, I decided to check Twitter. It wasn’t quite sure what had happened, all that was known though was that there was an explosion at the 117th Boston Marathon. Several were injured, it was thought some were dead, but no one knew what had happened. I spent the rest of my day in line at a Chapters waiting with my friend so she would get a book signed by her idol, tattoo artist Kat Von D, most of the time following the events in Boston on my phone, as most of the world was. I saw the videos of the explosions, the viral photos of first responders, such as Carlos Arredondo, breaking down barriers and carrying the injured to safety, and was asking the questions millions others were, “who would do this?”

Not too long after, the names of two brothers spread around the news circuit, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and the manhunt had begun. Once again, I followed the dramatic story unfold via Twitter. I read of the two stealing an SUV, apparently killing a Michigan Institute of Technology (MIT) security guard named Sean Collier, and the death of suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev during a shootout in the Boston suburb of Watertown. Then, like thousands, I followed the manhunt of police through Watertown to the find and, finally, capture of the 19 year old suspected terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. News aired of streets loaded with news vans and police vehicles. Cops were busting in doors and patrolling down the streets, guns out. Citizens were to remain inside. Finally they found him, and a photo spread around the world of the bloodied teenager, face decorated with sniper sights. To end the mass of tweets, the Boston Police Force (@bostonpolice) sent one final, less than 140 character, message: “CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody.”  The police had won.

Maybe you can guess my reaction when I read on Twitter from CNN International (@cnni) last week that representatives from the same police force trying to control the terror in that eventful mid-April, Watertown Police Foundation, are asking people to submit their photos, before a September 30th deadline, for none other than a 2014 “Boston Bombing” themed calendar. I was, quite frankly, annoyed and felt it was a disgrace to the victims, including those who passed away, such as eight-year-old Martin Richard. For the price of $13.00, you can buy the calendar which hopes to chronicle the events of those three eventful days, five months ago. There’s a hope for photos which show happiness at the end of the tragedy, memorials, or “people hugging”. At the same time, they want photos taken by individuals of the police action during their Watertown manhunt. Funds will go towards “worthwhile projects that support the work of the Watertown Police”. To me though, it sounds like they’re just trying to bank on the disaster.

In my honest opinion, this is nothing but taking advantage of the situation. I have a really strong belief though that this will sell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this in fact sold very well.  Again, I could be wrong in assuming this (I have yet to find a statement), but I feel many of the victims and their families would in fact think this as insulting. I’ve read stories of dancers who lost their legs, a man who remained in hospital for one hundred days, needing a total of 49 surgical procedures, and, the one that gets me the most, the fact that representatives of the Sandy Hook school shooting were running in the race as guests of honour. Again, they had to experience senseless destruction.

Really? Is this really the best option? The families may simply not need to buy the calendar, but to me, the knowledge that individuals will be looking at the related images every day for a year would be enough to get me angry, sad, and make it impossible to start moving on from the trauma.

A photo spread around the media in the midst of the manhunt. The young eight-year-old who lost his life, holding a sign that read “No more hurting people. Peace” adorned with the well-known peace sign and two red hearts. I feel this was the most powerful image that could have come from the destruction, even if it was before the events of April 15th. I’m certain it won’t be used in the calendar.

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