In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday afternoon, the courage and generosity of Bostonians was abundantly evident -- and so were the trigger-happy ways of mass media covering the incident.

After the bombs struck before the marathon’s finishing line on Boylston Street near Copley Square, participants and residents appeared to be in shock. Amateur footage showed people screaming “Oh my god,” with some lying on the road bloodied, and a large cloud of white smoke and debris near a line of world flags along the runners’ path. Ambulance and police sirens could be heard wailing and police officers on the spot could be seen drawing their guns.

Yet the chaos did not deter some at the scene, including Carlos Arredondo, described as a “cowboy hat-wearing hero” of the hour. At 2:45pm on Monday Mr. Arredondo was near the finish line to support a runner dedicating his effort to his son, who was said to be a U.S. marine killed in the Iraq war.

In the videos of the bombing site Mr. Arredondo can be clearly seen clearing debris and fencing away from the bloody victims and making way for emergency personnel to tend to their wounds.

Reports also said that the 52-year-old could be seen wearing his cowboy hat in “one of the most visceral photographs to emerge from the coverage of the bombing, which depicts Arredondo seemingly pinching off the exposed femoral artery of a victim who lost both his legs during the attack as he is escorted from the scene via wheelchair.”

Praise for assistance offered

Meanwhile Google reportedly floated an online tool to help stranded runners find temporary shelter in Boston and social media were flooded with messages from Boston residents offering their homes to those who had nowhere to go.

Mr. Obama praised the generosity of Bostonians too, saying in a poignant remark, “The world saw yesterday in the aftermath of the explosions... stories of heroism and kindness, and generosity and love: Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood, and those who stayed to tend to the wounded, some tearing off their own clothes to make tourniquets.”

Caution marks federal response

Even as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick described the explosions as “horrific,” and the Department of Homeland Security said it would offer “whatever assistance” was required, federal authorities swung into pre-emptive action. Law enforcement agencies announced heightened security measures across New York City, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles following the news of the explosions.

The Federal Aviation Authority said that it had issued a temporary flight restriction over the area of the explosion and “ground stop” for Boston’s Logan International Airport. While the no-fly zone over the area remained in force, the traffic stoppage at the airport was lifted within a few hours on Monday evening.

Shortly after Mr. Obama charged the Federal Bureau of Investigation with responsibility for the criminal investigation of the attacks, the domestic investigative agency raided a high-rise apartment in the Boston area, local media reported. Despite a 9-hour search for “a person of interest” at that site, no one had been charged or detained by mid-day on Tuesday.

In Washington John Boehner, House of Representatives Speaker, said that flags would fly at half-staff over Capitol Hill and other federal government buildings “out of respect for the victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy.” By Tuesday the White House followed suit.

Speculation and controversy

Before the dust had settled, however, some members of the public and media outlets were engaged in speculation on the identity of the perpetrators of the attack. ABC news said that a federal law enforcement authority confirmed that “this was an intentional bombing, using small portable explosive devices,” fuelling speculation about whether the bombs resembled foreign- or domestically-made.

In some cases the media got ahead of itself in reporting the breaking story on the explosions. One report in the New York Post said that a “Saudi national who suffered shrapnel wounds in today's blast” has been identified as “a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing.” Some reports said that a Saudi man running away from the bombings had been “chased and tackled by bystanders” though he was not necessarily a suspect.

However, contradicting the Post’s account the Boston Police Department denied that any suspects were taken into custody, with one official saying, “Honestly, I don't know where they're getting their information from, but it didn't come from us.” By Tuesday morning authorities confirmed that no one had been charged or detained yet in the investigation.

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