Netflix’s newly released docuseries, “American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing,” outlines the events that played out on April 13, 2013, and how police and FBI agents worked to unveil the incident’s perpetrators. A variety of interviews with victims, witnesses, FBI agents and first responders compose the backbone of this series.
The show begins with emotional testimonies of an array of different people sharing where they were and what they were doing at the time of the bombings. The descriptions depict uncanny parallels to those from 9/11: loved ones going missing, bloodshed spattered throughout and countless photo and video footage that flooded the internet.
The production then moves on to explain how the investigators obtained and used evidence. Considering the Boston Marathon welcomed thousands of runners and their families, consequently, millions of photos and videos had been taken both prior to and following the bombings.
While having a plethora of evidence sounds like a blessing, one could also consider it another obstacle to overcome. Investigators gathered anything from still frames and short three-minute videos to eight hours worth of surveillance footage from surrounding businesses. The problem with reviewing this kind of evidence is that it is extremely time-consuming and draining. Because of this struggle, the investigative process quickly came to a standstill.
Fortunately, out of this evidence came the case of “White Hat-Black Hat.” In one of the still frames produced by a woman present at the marathon, investigators discovered a bag lying unattended near where the second bomb detonated. This combined with the surveillance footage from a restaurant revealed a video of a young white male casually walking in a placing the bag down. When the first explosion occurred a few blocks away from where this man was, his behavior gave him away. At the sight of the first bombing, everyone except “White Hat” looked to their left with panic. “White Hat” looked in the opposite direction and began making his way out.
Eventually, with more footage, agents identified his partner, “Black Hat.” Both of the suspects were determined to be young adult white males.
Making note of their race is important context to add, due to the intense Islamophobia that Muslim people faced after the bombings. One interview with Youssef Eddafali personally struck me the most.
He was in elementary school when 9/11 happened, and then in college when the Boston bombings occurred. He described the incessant and ruthless bullying Muslim children faced at school during both of these periods. Prior to the bombing suspects’ identification, he recalled classmates who pointed fingers at him and his Muslim friends. Even when the photos were released, people still attempted to convince themselves that the police were wrong and tried to convict Muslim individuals.
Not only does this show educate audiences on the events of the bombings and the subsequent track-down of their perpetrators, but it also educates people on the importance of cultural and religious acceptance — that stereotypes and perceptions of 9/11 should not have warranted the hatred and discrimination toward Muslim people.
Youssef was a great friend but at the same time, a terrible American. I can’t say what I would’ve done in his shoes but it seems to me that his experiences surrounding Islamophobia after 9/11 led him to take the position that no Muslim could be bad, rather than, most Muslims aren’t bad. Sadly when confronted with his friends face as a suspect, instead of being concerned and skeptical, his instinctual response was defensive, regardless of facts supporting his involvement.