The terror attack in Boston on Monday struck at the heart of an America still struggling to recover from the horror of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14.

This country -- and the world -- stopped in shock and anguish at the mid-afternoon reports that two bombs had been detonated near the finish line of the fabled Boston Marathon, causing dozens of casualties.

Law enforcement agencies are now sharply focused on tracking down and bringing to justice anyone responsible for the deaths of at least three people and injuries -- many of them serious -- to about 150 others.

As the country moves forward from that tragic day, it will be incumbent on our leaders -- federal, state and local -- to find ways to reduce the chances of another such devastating incident without infringing on the privacy rights of citizens.

It will also be important for the American people to respond to this tragedy -- as they have with Oklahoma City, Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook and too many other unspeakable assaults -- with resilience, courage and national pride.

It would be easy for governmental and law enforcement officials to overreact and trample on the rights and liberties of citizens in the name of security. They must avoid that temptation.

It would be easy for the American people to cower and hide, to avoid cities and major events, and to allow their rights and liberties to be diminished. But they need to rise above that tempting path.

The attack in Boston was an attack on the United States and its way of life, and it is critical that this country bounce back stronger and more united than ever in continued pursuit of the American way.

Just as the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., zeroed in on symbols of the nation's business and governmental centers, those responsible for Monday's tragedy selected an iconic piece of the American culture.

It was Patriots Day in Massachusetts, which is annually a day of joy and celebration featuring the marathon, a Red Sox game at historic Fenway Park and the turnout of hundreds of thousands of people from all across the country.

A reported 27,000 runners participated in the Boston Marathon, including more than 400 from Connecticut, about 150 of them from this part of the state. The Greater New Milford area has long been well-represented in the marathon, with most runners competing simply for the challenge and others -- including New Milford's Gerry Vanasse, who finished second in 1984 -- seeking strong finishes.

This year's marathon had another Connecticut connection, as tribute was paid at the race to the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, and a contingent of Newtown runners and families took part in the day's events.

Our hearts go out to the families of those who perished in the Boston bombings and to those who were seriously injured.

Our hearts go out, too, to the Newtown residents who were there. They have already suffered enough.

It is our fervent hope that America can find a way to reduce the chances of future acts of mass violence.

It is our hope that Americans will respond to the events in Boston on Monday -- as they always have in times of crisis -- with a sense of unity and resolve.

It is our hope that citizens all across the country will have the courage to live their lives freely and without fear and that they will not allow the Boston bombings to change their way of life.