It was a busy extended weekend in Boston as the city hosted the 127th Boston Marathon on the 10th anniversary of the deadly terrorist bombing at the event’s finish line that killed three people and injured hundreds more.
A four-day series of events including the usual Boston Marathon Expo and Fan Fest, two remembrance events honoring victims, survivors, and first responders from the bombing, along with more than a dozen volunteer activities city-wide, and the dedication of a new commemorative Boston Marathon finish line, ringing of bells, and unveiling of a One Boston Day marker, were held Friday, April 14, to Monday, April 17.
That was capped off with the Boston Marathon itself on Monday, which was back to full strength for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic and was expected to draw an estimated 30,000 competitors from more than 100 countries and all 50 states to the event along with spectators along a 26.2-mile route.
At the center of the massive security effort for the event is Brian Heslin, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in New England. The Center for Homeland Defense and Security Master’s alum (MA 1701/1702) served as the federal coordinator for the event, which was designated a Special Event Assessment Rating that requires a team led by a federal coordinator to support state and local officials and help them access federal capabilities and resources. Heslin was named the federal coordinator for the event by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Heslin, who also served as federal coordinator for the Boston Marathon last year, as well as other events including last year’s Boston Fourth of July Spectacular, noted the historic nature of this year’s Boston Marathon but said his job remains the same—protecting the public at a massive public event.
“There’s obviously a historic significance of this event, but from a security perspective we treat it like any other Boston Marathon with the goal of everyone feeling safe to attend and enjoy the event,” he said. “We definitely want to make sure we honor those who lost their lives and honor the event. The Boston Marathon and events like that are important to our community and we can’t let tragedies make us stop doing them.”
“There’s obviously a historic significance of this event, but from a security perspective we treat it like any other Boston Marathon with the goal of everyone feeling safe to attend and enjoy the event.”– Brian Heslin
In all, Heslin has worked in the Boston office since 2009 and worked security efforts at eight Boston Marathons and eight Fourth of July events.
During the fateful 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Heslin said he was on vacation, although when he returned he participated in Homeland Security Investigations efforts related to the ongoing response and investigation.
What stood out to him, though, was what he called the “unprecedented joint effort” among federal, state and local officials during the Boston Fourth of July event later that year, even comparing it to the multi-jurisdictional cooperation in the wake of 9/11. “It was a game-changer,” he said. “And it’s continued every year since then.”
“I definitely feel honored to represent HSI in this role,” Heslin said. “It reinforces the importance of a team effort. It doesn’t matter what uniform you wear, we’re all in this together to make sure everyone stays safe.”
Heslin said his experience at CHDS helped prepare him for his work, including events like the Boston Marathon. “I treasure my time at CHDS,” he said. “The classes themselves helped me succeed, but we also made great contacts and we know who to call with questions.” Heslin said that in many of these events he has worked side by side with fellow alumni of CHDS and members of the executive leader program from the CHDS, all with the goal of ensuring the events run smoothly and everyone can enjoy themselves.