"There's no place to run, no place to hide," said Dr. Stuart Fischoff, a professor of media psychology at California State University in Los Angeles. "It's like perpetual shock. There's no off button. That's relatively unprecedented. We're going to have to pay the price for that."
"We're dealing with future shock on a daily basis," Fischoff said.
Steffen Kaplan, a social media specialist in New Jersey, tried his best to protect his young son from the madness. His television stayed off. He browsed the Internet with caution. But reality finally intruded at a local pizzeria, where a TV was playing images of the injured in Boston.
"What's going on?" his son asked. "Nothing," Kaplan replied. "That's just a movie."
Kaplan fears the world his son will inherit. To cope, "I rely on faith in humanity," he said. "If we raise our children correctly, somehow, some way, humanity will prevail."
But the present remains difficult, Kaplan said: "It seems to be a spiral of things happening one after the other. It can be inundating on your senses."
The downward spiral steepened Tuesday morning. As authorities in Boston searched for leads, and the nation debated whether the perpetrators were terrorism or a different type of killer, congressional leaders said a letter containing the poison ricin had been mailed to Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. It touched off memories of the jumbled days after 9/11, when letters containing anthrax were sent to politicians and media organizations..
On Wednesday, the Secret Service said it had intercepted a ricin letter mailed to President Barack Obama. Tensions immediately rose in Washington, with a half-dozen suspicious packages reported and parts of the Capitol complex shut down. On Wednesday evening, a suspect was arrested in Mississippi.