Locally, the news media has been pretty friendly to Beachmont’s Salaheddin Barhoum.
His track and field results are dutifully reported just about every week in this paper, as he seems to do better in the two-mile run every week that goes by.
However, when it comes to the national and international media, they haven’t done so good by the 17-year-old Moroccan immigrant.
Very early Thursday morning, Barhoum and his family were shocked to see the front page of the New York Post, which showed Barhoum and a friend in the crowd at Monday’s tragic running of the Boston Marathon. The problem was that the front-page headline blared ‘Bag Men: Feds Seek These Two Pictured at Boston Marathon.’
Talk about having a target on your back.
Clear as day, Barhoum was pictured standing and watching the Marathon with a headline fingering him as the Marathon Bomber – all this in an international publication from New York City.
The front-page newspaper faux pas followed a report on CNN the night before that basically outed Barhoum as the bomber – with a reporter describing him from the same picture, a picture that had already been circulating on the Internet for two days.
Before he knew it, Internet sleuths had searched the young Revere man out and he had hundreds of threats and violent rants on his Facebook page.
He was scared.
He was confused.
He was angry.
“This is real. I did not do this. I am going straight to the courts now to tell them I didn’t have anything to do with this,” he wrote on his Facebook page Thursday before shutting it down.
Revere Police and the Revere Public Schools got involved immediately after Barhoum reached out to them via his track coach.
Superintendent Paul Dakin said it was hard to figure out what to do in such a situation.
The young man’s life was in danger, as angry onlookers and members of the media began showing up at the family’s Beachmont home, and officials had no idea if someone might try to enact vigilante justice upon the innocent RHS student.
“He was scared and his family was scared,” said Dakin. “They reached out to us for advice, but it was hard to know exactly what to do in that kind of situation. We thought about putting some police cars near the home to protect him, but we also thought that bringing in police cars to the scene might make people think he was actually guilty. It’s hard to know exactly what the right response would be.”
Around Revere, Barhoum’s friends from around the City and his teachers were floored to see him at the forefront of national media reports. Virtually no one believed it to be true.
By the end of the day, most media reports began to trickle out indicating that Barhoum and his friend had been wrongly identified by the Post and CNN.
Barhoum reached out to several media outlets, both local and national, to try and figure out how to clear his name.
Eventually, he spoke to ABC News to tell the story of how he was just a simple Revere High School student who works at Subway and runs the two-mile race and had an interest in watching the Marathon.
“This is terrible what they did to him,” said one teacher who chose to remain anonymous. “This could have had some really bad repercussions. We have to remember he is just a kid, a sophomore in high school, and he had the weight of the world bearing down on him for most of the day. It’s despicable.”
By 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, once FBI investigators released official photos and videos of the newest ‘persons of interest,’ Barhoum and his friend and their terrible Thursday had been all but forgotten.
The Post has since backtracked on its story.