We finally got to see the face of terror.
For some, it's a relief to finally know what we're dealing with. For others, it just confuses things. Regardless, the continuing story about a manhunt for a surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has provided a visual representation of the enemy in this particular case.
Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, and Tamerian Tsarnaev, 26, two brothers from a Russian region with a large Muslim population, were identified in FBI video Thursday as main suspects in the bombings that shook up the world Monday in Boston.
After FBI video and photos of the two suspects were widely broadcast Thursday, most experts predicted that it wouldn't be long before the men were identified by friends, acquaintances or neighbors. The subsequent swirl of events since seems surreal in retrospect considering it's just been a short time since the nation saw their faces.
Recent developments since Thursday afternoon included: the killing of a security police officer, a car-jacking that led to a gun and bomb throwing battle between police and the suspects that ended up with one of the brothers dead, and today's ongoing manhunt for the younger Tsarnaev that managed to shut down the entire city of Boston.
That's a lot for just a few hours. But the end result is that the big question for some has been answered.
Make no doubt, if the suspects had been Middle Eastern or Arab, that would have set off a predictable response from certain circles where stereotyping is rampant and a way to justify long held prejudices against certain groups.
The same thing applies if the suspects had been African-Americans or Africans. Early this week, there actually was a report that the suspects in the bombing were "black or dark-skinned males." Wrong on both accounts.
Imagine if the suspects turned out to be two white American brothers from a conservative background who had expressed resentment or anger about the government or President Obama in the past.
Again, that would be an entirely different scenario altogether for the talking heads on cable news to discuss or ignore.
I think the ethnic identity of the Boston Marathon bomb suspects did a lot to define the source of the madness that has erupted in Boston this week but did little to explain why it happened without a lot more facts.
Broadcast interviews with the brothers' friends, relatives and classmates reveal nothing significant than two brothers who came to this country in search of a better life. According to reports, both were here legally as either a naturalized citizen or on a student visa.
One friend told a reporter that the younger brother was "as American as I am."
Some friends I've talked to this week will be relieved the two suspects are white men who have been living in America for years because it prevents sweeping generalizations about race, immigration or religion. Others questioned whether the ethnic identity of the terrorists means much when innocent people die regardless whether the evil is foreign based or home-grown.
The Boston bombers seem to be a little bit of both, a disturbing sign that perhaps just knowing the face of the strangers who want to kill you is no longer enough to feel confident about finding a way to stop them.
Next time, the face could look like yours. In many ways, that's what America is about.
Eugene Kane is veteran Milwaukee journalist and nationally award winning columnist.
Kane writes about a variety of important issues in Milwaukee and society that impact residents of all backgrounds.