I want to find some meaning from the horrific and tragic events in Boston, make a teachable moment for my daughters, elevate the senseless deaths and injuries from terrorism into significance, but I find myself at a loss.
Stuck in my head are those first images of 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused attacker, white hat and sweatshirt, carrying a large, black backpack allegedly containing one of the bombs, trailing behind his brother. I look and look, and all I can see is a kid.
From the information out there, Tsarnaev was a good friend, student, and athlete in high school. What happened? Of course no can say yet, but I fear his metamorphosis began with feelings of hurt, anger, and isolation — the same emotional palate of almost every American teenager.
He became isolated from friends and teachers after high school, and his parents had moved back to Russia, leaving Tsarnaev in a cocoon with his older brother.
Isolation from other people, ideas, and perspectives seems a symptom of so many adolescent ills, from abusive relationships, group hazing and appalling behavior, eating disorders, and cutting, all patterns that begin with a false logic developing into destructive actions.
Teenagers aren’t the only ones susceptible to this, for sure. There are plenty of adults who develop addictions and do violence.
There may be a reason, though, why so many fanatics are young. The average age of the 19 terrorists who changed our world on 9-11 was 24-years-old, the same age as James Holmes, the alleged Colorado shooter. Adam Lanza, the Newtown murderer, was only 20.
I look at my daughters, 18 and 15 years old, rushing out the door, late to school with backpacks slung over their shoulders, and wonder how different their path is from Tsarnaev’s. I would like to believe they are worlds apart, but fear he could be almost any teenager, facing a few ill-timed setbacks, getting support from the wrong person at a moment of vulnerability, parents unavailable, and abruptly apart from those who would otherwise provide perspective. Suddenly you have a time bomb.
Is there a way to vaccinate my girls from this path? I know they will feel hurt and, angry and isolated at times. I know they will turn to peers for guidance. We call this growing up. How do I make sure it doesn’t go horribly wrong?
I want to know how Tsarnaev ended up at the marathon. I suspect he was just a kid who took one wrong step, and then another, and another, until he was walking down Boylston Street on April 15. If he can tell me what that first step looked like, what could have been done by someone to turn him back, he may help some parent stop the next bomb from going off.Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.