As a U.S. Army Reserve intelligence officer and someone schooled in disaster emergencies, Mike Raderstorf got an insider’s look at one of America’s most painful terrorist attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15.
And the memories linger, as he shared in vivid detail Monday with the Rotary Club of Gainesville.
“For those who lost their lives and those who were injured, that was a horrific day,” he told the group, meeting at the First Baptist Church on Green Street in Gainesville.
“It could have been a lot worse. I want to give huge credit to the city of Boston.”
Raderstorf, security and emergency preparedness director at Northeast Georgia Health System, said authorities and emergency responders jumped immediately into action, not knowing the nature of the explosions or whether more would come.
“They were there to save lives, and I think that’s been a big (mindset) change since 9/11,” he said.
“We’re probably going to actively fight” in the wake of a terrorist attack, Raderstorf said.
As part of his talk, he showed the group a video clip of the explosions and the immediate chaos, as filmed by The Boston Globe. The scenes were familiar ones from news images shown on TV that day.
“It is still painful to watch that,” Raderstorf said.
He was involved in an annual Reserve exercise in California when the explosion happened.
“Working in the (intelligence) community, you don’t have to be at the scene in order to get reports of what’s going on,” he said after the speech.
Two days later, an explosion took place at a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas. And then, the next day, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology officer was shot to death during a manhunt for the bombing suspects.
“There was a lot of assumption that this (series of events) was a complex, multitiered attack across our nation,” Raderstorf said. “What made it so challenging for us in the (intelligence) world is who did this and how sophisticated are they?”
He told the Rotarians that terrorism isn’t always state-sponsored or connected to a particular group.
The bombing suspects, brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, “had no ties to any terrorist organization,” but rather were motivated by Inspire, a magazine “that goes out electronically ... to inspire them to conduct individual attacks,” Raderstorf said.
“This is our greatest threat. When we have an individual (or several people) who have the mindset they are going to attack us, there is very little opportunity for us to stop them,” he said. “That’s important for everybody in this room (to know), because we all play a big part in picking up (suspicious) indicators.”
Before joining the hospital, the North Georgia College & State University alumnus worked for Georgia State University in Atlanta as its emergency management director.
Raderstorf also “was responsible for establishing a strategic security and emergency response program in response to the mass shootings at Virginia Tech (in April 2007),” according to the Rotary program.
His Army work is in Joint Intelligence Reserve Element-European Command, based out of Fort Gillem.
“Mike has responded to terrorist bombings, tornadoes, hurricanes and other active-shooter events,” the program states.
Raderstorf told the club that area authorities, including fire and police, meet regularly to “discuss and share information.”
“One thing I can say about Hall County ... is that we’re doing it right,” he said.