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Monday, May 6, 2013

My Boston Bombing Experience

The plane that took me from Chicago to Boston had just touched down.  I turned my phone on and CNN quickly flashed on  the screen “Blast at the Marathon 6 to 12 injured”. I looked to the woman next to me whose phone was also just waking up.  She was 40ish with a greying boy’s haircut. She grimaced at her phone, and figuring she may have seen what I just have seen I shoved my Iphone in her face with the CNN update. The surprised look on her face let me know that A. I was intruding on her personal space and B. she was just upset that her phone was taking so long to load.

Then the texts came in.  Some from home here in Boston, some from my recent former home LA, one from New Mexico. They all said something along the lines of “Are you ok?” This was more then a simple explosion. I went to the CNN app on my phone; information was nascent at best.

I was cruising through the terminal, trying to figure out what was going on while simultaneously trying to collect my bag as fast as I could because my girlfriend was supposed to pick me up soon. The only thing that separated the sight of the terminal today from any other day was the unusually large group of people gathered around the TVs at the Legal Seafood. The internet connectivity of my phone was sluggish, and service was spotty.  I did get a call out to my girlfriend, she was going to be late. I had some more time to figure this out.

I put on NPR and it appeared as if there was an explosion that was tentatively being called a bomb. A friend called me and asked what was going on. I told him what little I knew.  His follow up question: “What happens to the rest of the marathon and runners?” I hadn’t even thought about that. Then again he was an alumni of the running the marathon, I was not. “It gets canceled?” I ventured. The news reports of the total injured continued to rise.

The next couple of hours were filled with disbelief, lack of information, and misinformation. There were seven bombs, then there were just the two, there was a JFK Library bomb, then it was electrical fire. Who did this? Why did they do this? No one claimed responsibility. This is Bullshit. Obama spoke, Mayor Menino spoke, nerdy Deval Patrick spoke. Everyone was glued to NPR, or the local channels or CNN. Why didn’t we know anything concrete?

Wednesday I was on Newbury Street. As described by many others I’m sure, seeing Boylston Street- one of the busiest streets in Boston- devoid of activity and blocked off  was eerie. There were large Army trucks, FBI, Bomb squads, and school busses  full of National Guardsman.  There was something like 9000 cops and troops and agents in the city. Fifteen blocks around the bombings were a crime scene on Tuesday. On Wednesday, that radius shrunk. Details of the bombing were coming in to focus, three people were dead and in excess of 150 were hurt (that number has risen to 264). One of the people killed was an 8 year old boy. There were two bombs that went off separated by several seconds.

The news cycle was viciously repetitive. We had no real new information until Thursday night when they released the photos of the suspects.  At some point afterwards we learned that the FBI did this because of all speculation that was occurring on the internet with photos of people at the site. What was most shocking to me was how young the suspects looked.

  Waking up Friday morning was like touching down at Logan all over again, What Had Happened?  The city of Boston was shut down, as there was an ongoing manhunt. At some point on Thursday night the bombing suspects who were brothers had killed an MIT cop, hijacked a car, gotten in to a firefight with police, and seriously injured a transit cop in that fight. The older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was dead. He had a wife and a child. The younger brother Dzhokar, who was only 19 was on the loose in Watertown, possibly elsewhere in the city. Piecing this all together Friday morning was difficult and truly bizarre.  This nightmare took such a strange new turn. As a precaution the city stopped all train service, and asked people to stay in doors and not to drive. The only time I can remember them ever turning the T off was for snowstorms and hurricane Irene.

As the day wore on the news cycle again started to become stale. Dzhokar was nowhere to be found. During the day we learned that he attended UMASS, that he was seemingly a really nice guy, and that the brothers were Chechen. Several times I heard Robin Young of NPR interview her nephew who had gone to high school with Dzhokar. I also heard the clip of the young men’s uncle call them ‘Losers’ several times and that he wanted everyone to know that this did not reflect on Chechens.  By around 6 that night, they allowed people to leave their house and the trains to run again. Very soon after however things began moving again.

There were reports that there were shots fired in Watertown. Then there was a house surrounded, and then we found out he was hiding in  a boat. I sat at my friend’s house with his family listening to a police scanner for about an hour and half. Four grown adult sitting in anxious silence as we tried to figure out was going on until they caught him.

I still choke up a little sometimes when I hear the news stories or firsthand accounts. When the entire Garden sang the National Anthem during the Bruin’s first game afterwards, it put a lump in the back of my throat. We are still learning little pieces, and there is obviously a lot more dredging that will come with trial process. At least with young Dzhokar captured there is some calm for us. But, For the people who lost limbs, and you hear how grateful they are to be alive, I’m not sure there is much calm or will ever be.  I can’t imagine ‘Boston Strong’ will comfort the families who lost someone.

As beautiful as it was that the city came together and that we tried to focus on the ‘helpers,’ the proximity I had to lives being shattered is still so unnerving to me. 

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