The other Saudi Arabians at the Boston Marathon

April 16, 2013

Flowers were placed at a security gate near the scene of Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

You've probably already heard about the 20-something Saudi study-abroad student who, though he's not a suspect, was interviewed by police after being injured in Monday's Boston Marathon bombing and who volunteered to let police search his apartment.

But you may not know about the second Saudi citizen hurt in the blast, a young woman who was also studying in Boston and who, according to Al Arabiya, almost lost her leg. The report, citing a friend of the young woman, says her wounds were so severe that surgeons considered amputating the leg but ultimately were able to save it. A Saudi embassy official, speaking to CNN's Mohammed Jamjoon, confirmed the woman had been injured, adding that she had been at the race with her husband and child.

There are about 1,000 Saudi citizens studying in Boston, according to a Saudi cultural attache in the United States. Others were also caught in the chaos of the attack, just as terrified as anyone else. A Saudi student named Omar Moathen, headed to meet a friend at mile 26 of the marathon route when the bomb went off, later recounted being corralled into a crowded hotel to wait as police swept for other explosives. His account, translated into English by Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran, was like so many others that day. He was confused and feared for his nearby friends, for the children no one could seem to comfort and for himself. He tried to call a friend, waited anxiously and prayed.

People were screaming and crying. I was worried that I was running to the location of another bomb. I reached the entrance of a hotel and saw that some people refused to enter because it is a high building. The memories of a previous attack came to them. I entered the hotel. It was full of people. Children in severe panic and tears. Everyone asking about who they are missing of their family and friends. I remembered that Mohammad was on the phone before the call dropped. I called him. He did not pick up!!! He later called and said he was fine. When you are in the scene, you don’t know what will happen. That was clear on the faces of people scared by the two bombings. That was the worst thing. We did not know if it was over. How will it end? Is it going to be alright? When you watch on TV or someone tells you, that’s much easier than being in the middle of explosions. I was praying, realizing that I could die today. Death was before us.

The friend he mentioned, a Saudi student in Boston named Mohammad Bokhari, later tweeted: "I'm home, a long & sad day, sincere thanks to everyone, my prays and heart are with the victims of this terrible incident, we're all BOSTON." (Credit to Al Omran, who writes at Riyadh Bureau, for originally reporting much of the material in this post, including Bokhari's tweets.) Fatima Al Banawi, a young Saudi woman studying in Cambridge, announced that she was heading to a local hospital to donate blood for the victims.

Now, almost 24 hours after the blasts along the final mile of the marathon route, we still have no real information about who may have carried out the bombings or why. To search for any hint of meaning is a natural human response to tragedy. So is, as details trickle out, an inclination to examine every possible lead.

But it's worth noting that the wounded study-abroad student questioned by police was not the only Saudi Arabian citizen touched by Monday's tragedy. His story, like the story of the young Saudi mother who almost lost her leg and the stories of those two Saudi students who stood shell-shocked alongside fellow race-watchers, can still be one about coming together in shared mourning and hopeful recovery.

As another Saudi Twitter user who says he once lived in the United States posted: "God save America and its great people, more than 4 years, I did not feel any discrimination or injustice because I am a Muslim."

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Caitlin Dewey | April 16, 2013