Boston Globe reporters Sally Jacobs, David Filipov and Patricia Wen spent five months researching the lives of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar (Jahar) Tsarnaev, the two brothers accused of setting off bombs at the Boston Marathon.
Their epic profile, The Fall of The House of Tsarnaev, has very little information about the planning and carrying out of the attacks. What information exists about that is undoubtedly tightly held by the government.
But the article is long on details of the brothers’ lives up until then, and it’s a sad story of a dysfunctional family ill-equipped to handle life in the U.S. Among other things, we learn:
- Tamerlan, the older brother, complained of hearing voices that told him to do things; his parents refused to seek treatment for him
- The only thing Tamerlan showed any promise at was boxing, but his successful amateur career was derailed by a Golden Gloves rule change banning foreign-born fighters from competing for the national GG title; with no back-up plan, his life went more and more adrift from there
- Jahar, the youngest Tsarnaev child, seemed to be an afterthought to his parents; though they bragged to others about his intelligence and studiousness, they were largely absent from his school life; though he was the captain of his high school wrestling team, neither parent ever attended any of his matches or awards ceremonies
- Jahar used his time at college to party and sell weed; academically, he was a miserable failure
- Both sisters in the troubled Tsarnaev family have also run afoul of the law; since the bombings, one of them has been arrested for dealing marijuana
The authors make no claims about what ultimately drove the brothers to their wanton killing spree. But if one wanted to connect the dots from the article, one might surmise that they deflected personal responsibility for their failed lives onto to their adoptive country, with radical Islamic websites as a catalyst. And, contrary to earlier theories that cast older brother Tamerlan as the domineering leader of the plot, the inspiration to act may have come from the more reckless and thrill-seeking Jahar. The bombing occurred just a few months after Jahar flunked out of college and moved back to the family apartment to live with Tamerlan and his American wife (both parents had already given up on the US and left the country—and their four young adult children—behind). By then, both brothers had a lot of time on their hands, and very little constructive ambition.
Mesmerizing and very, very frightening.