I’m still sorting through my thoughts about this week’s events. When the bombs exploded near the finish line on Monday, I was napping. Ill with food poisoning or the stomach flu (I never figured out which), I was struck dumb by a text from Jay saying someone had bombed the Boston Marathon. His text was followed shortly after by a message from my best friend in Minnesota who said she was thinking about me.
Knowing my parents were probably at that moment watching Fox News, I called home and spoke to my mother. She immediately picked up on the strangeness of my voice, and was relieved to hear it was because I was home sick and miserable from the nausea and fever. While I was on the phone with her my phone buzzed with a text from my sister. Thinking phone service would be down, my mother had asked my sister to try and reach me instead of calling herself.
After assuring her I would be go see a doctor if my condition didn’t improve, I took to Facebook to see the reactions and confirm my friends were all okay. My office is in Cambridge, so Patriot’s Day is not a paid holiday, but many of my coworkers planned to take the day off because of school vacation week. Thankfully, most checked in right away and as far as I can tell, I don’t know any of the victims personally (though I would later learn a friend of mine was an acquaintance of Krystle Campbell).
That night and the following day were a blur. I started to feel better physically, but took an extra day at home to process the recent events and clean up the house. It felt good to be able to do something. The clutter that fills our apartment is a constant drag on my sanity–I struggle with a reoccurring urge to box up all the read books, unwatched DVDs and dusty CDs and drop them off at Goodwill just to make a little space in our home–so I felt the least I could do was wash all the sweat-soaked bedding, take out all the trash and recycling, and give the place a good scrubbing. It may have made the fur tumbleweeds go away, but I still hadn’t really faced the world outside our yard.
Wednesday and Thursday I worked. Stepping out of the Harvard Square station that first morning was strange. I passed by a few Post-It notes that said “You are loved” along my route, but other than a couple National Guardsmen stationed underground there was nothing to remind us of what had happened only two days ago. Once I sat down at my desk it was time to settle back into routine (minus the coffee since my stomach was still not functioning at 100%). Falling two days behind with deadlines looming was motivation enough to get me through the rest of my work week. I didn’t have time to think, or talk about it with any of my coworkers. We were all on our own deadlines, and we all had plenty to keep us occupied during the day.
The routine was shattered all over again on Friday when I woke to Jay’s alarm and breaking news about a shootout on Thursday night that left one suspect dead and the ensuing manhunt for the second. Right before he hit snooze I caught the phrase “MBTA service shut down” and told him turn the radio back on so we could hear what was going on. It wasn’t a dream. They were shutting down the T until they could catch him. Despite the fact that I didn’t have to be to work for a couple more hours, we got up and turned on the TV (we have only network cable and spend most of our time watching Netflix so the TV is never actually on the stations outside airings of Community and SNL) to watch the news. It wasn’t long before my office, which was in the lockdown area, emailed to say we were closed for the day. Assuming they would catch the guy by 10am I had a cup of coffee and began to watch the story unfold. By the time all of Boston was included in the lockdown, we knew neither of us was going to work that day.
As I said, we don’t watch network TV, and we certainly don’t get our news from it. But that day our living room was filled with the voices of reporters. We watched the same clips over and over, listened to interviews with people who knew the suspects, and waited for it all to be over. By noon I was stir crazy. I now understood how people could get PTSD from watching the news. My head was full of theories, speculations, and sadness. There was a new victim, an MIT police officer from Somerville, who was ambushed by the two suspects. Former classmates talked about how bright and full of promise the younger suspect was, then reporters informed us he ran his own brother down trying to get away. It was all just too much to understand. I refreshed the live feed on Boston.com, checked and rechecked Facebook for updates, and read dozens of articles, but nothing gave me any solace. I mourned the victims, worried about the citizens of Watertown, and grieved for the families of the suspects.
I could tell from the type of bomb used that the killers were looking to maim people (were they aiming specifically for spectators or were those the easiest targets given the barriers to separate the runners, obviously I have no idea). If the idea was to kill a lot of people, I think they would have used a different device, one that focused more on a big explosion than the shrapnel that caused so much damage. Tragedies happen every day, violence is so common that it is almost commonplace, but this calculated attack on innocent bystanders is such an affront to our common decency that we become transformed by it. I saw friends crumble under the weight of this cruelty, others focused their frustration into anger and a need for vengeance. And a few like me buried themselves in information, seeking an answer to the riddle of why two young men would commit such an atrocious act.
Since Jay and I live in Somerville, we were not under the “stay indoors” order so we grabbed lunch at one of the restaurants open in our neighborhood. Then we went for a walk. When we got home we were immediately engulfed in the news again, but it wasn’t long before I suggested we go back outside to escape the talking heads. That second walk in the cold, windy rain steeled me for a few more hours. When they finally opened the T at 6pm, I suggested we walk to Cambridge. We ended up having a burger at Bukowski’s Tavern in Inman Square, and it was during our second beer that the place erupted in applause as they announced the capture of the second suspect.
We walked back to Harvard Square, which was almost a ghost town given that it was 9pm on a Friday and the suspect was no longer on the loose. I have never been so happy to see the Red Line train round the corner to enter the station. At home we listed to Governor Patrick thank the citizens of Boston and law enforcement officers before going to bed exhausted and drained by the whole ordeal.
Saturday greeted us with gray skies and the knowledge that the scary part was over. Now it was time for speculation and finger-pointing. People argued over the waiving of his Miranda rights, the ability of officials to shut down an entire city and its transit system to catch a criminal, and whether the FBI failed in preventing the attack in the first place. We have plenty of time to pick apart every detail of the investigation, but Saturday felt like a good day for healing so we grabbed our cameras and headed into the city.
We visited some of my favorite places, the Os Gemeos mural on the Greenway, the Common (where, forgetting it was 4/20, I was surprised to find a crowd of people smoking weed on a hill), and the Public Garden before making our way to the memorial on Boylston Street. Not surprising, a crowd was gathered between the barriers. Therapy dogs roamed among us, and we were encouraged by others to accept their “free hugs.”
It will be a long time before many of our questions are answered, and I don’t feel a need to share my opinion on the case until more facts are in. But what I saw yesterday was a community, working together to bandage each other’s wounds, wounds that will never fully heal, but will someday turn into scars to serve as a reminder of our ability to recover and face a new day.