Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Wicked Week in Boston

My wife pinged me with an instant message: "A bomb was set off at the Boston Marathon finish line!" What?

The Boston Marathon is held on the Massachusetts holiday of Patriots' Day, kicking off a state-wide school vacation week. For that fateful Monday, the Red Sox were at Fenway for an early game, and the Boston Bruins were scheduled to play in the evening. For Lexington and Concord, battle re-enactments are staged. The federal tax deadline is pushed back one day. All of Massachusetts takes a bit of a break.

A bomb exploding at the Boston Marathon finish was hardly believable.

When I finally got home to see TV footage, it was stunning. I spent a few years living in the Back Bay, and whenever I took the T home, I would get out at the stop near the marathon finish (Bolyston Street, Copley Square). It's a gorgeous block: the Boston Public Library on one side, the magnificent Trinity Church on the other, with the Hancock Tower in the immediate background. Walking home with a roommate from Copley, he remarked in admiration: "Can you believe we live here?"

Now that famous street was shut down, a crime scene to be examined.

Since the events of 9/11, all of America has become familiar with terror. For Boston, however, like most of the country, terrorism was confined to the newspapers and the all-news television stations. It was at a remove. The Marathon Bombing was not distant: it took place in our back yard. All of Boston fretted.

When one of the victims was revealed to be a local woman who lived in Arlington, and grew up in Medford, I felt an immediate sadness. I live in Arlington, and I've certainly been through Medford. In our small town (40,000), the loss felt personal. The president visited Boston, and offered this comfort: "Every one of us stands with you." And as I responded to various texts, Tweets, and e-mails from far-flung friends, I felt that.

By late Thursday, however, I had a thought that the suspects would be long gone. They were shown on television, and I was prepared for a nationwide manhunt to start. But around 4AM, my wife woke me up, saying that she had heard distant explosions. The suspects apparently were in a firefight with authorities, throwing pipe bombs from their car. Suspect #1 was killed, and Suspect #2 raced by foot into a Watertown neighborhood.

As night turned to day, the governor locked down Watertown and its surrounding cities. He called it "shelter in place." He stopped all mass transit, and told businesses to take a day off. I live just outside the "stay inside" map, but I was distracted at work. The state highway that I commute on was as clear as a weekend morning.

Relief came Friday evening, with Suspect #2's capture. There is a certain humor in the fact that he hid in a parked boat in Watertown, but the prevailing feeling was relief and joy. And pride. Boston cooperated with a shut down, flooded Watertown with enforcement, and after careful work, captured their man. We stood up to terror, the Boston Strong way.

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