Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Bloody Marathon Patriots' Day in Boston

I've always wondered what it's like to live in a place like Israel, Iraq, or Afghanistan where bombings are a regular occurrence. How do you get through the day, after your city has been hit? Sure, I lived through 9/11, from a distance, but that was different. After today, with the two bomb blasts at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I no longer have to wonder.

While Patriots' Day is a legal holiday for state offices in Massachusetts, and the start of a school holiday week for a lot of public school kids, it's a regular work day at our office and a lot of others.

Before heading into work this morning, I read a quick report online about the reenactments at Lexington and Concord. One of these years I'm going to get out there to watch. A lot of the spectators arrive before dawn, just like those first minutemen back in 1775. I walked past a few uniformed service men and women on Cambridge Common milling around the review stand getting ready for the start of the observance at the Washington Monument, where George Washington took command of the militiamen encircling Boston a few months after Lexington and Concord.

Today was also Tax Day, when state and federal income tax returns are due. I stopped by the Post Office this morning to return a Netflix movie, and there was a long line of people waiting to get their tax returns postmarked and mailed. There was a Red Sox game at Fenway, which started in the late morning. A lot going on in and around the city, including the Boston Marathon.

I was at work when the bombings happened. One of my coworkers asked me if I had heard, and said Boston.com was down with the heavy traffic. It was mid-afternoon, a couple of hours after the lead runners had finished. The Boston Marathon starts out in the western suburb of Framingham and ends on the normally busy Boylston Street in the Back Bay, about 4 miles and across the river from our offices in Cambridge. I understand that runners and spectators just a few blocks from the bombings didn't hear the blasts. We didn't see or hear anything.

I've only been down by the Boston Marathon finish line on race day once. It's a crowded scene. People stake out the bleachers and streets near the finish line to watch the lead runners finish. You have to get there early or know someone to get good seats or even standing room. But then the early birds and VIPs leave and the situation at the finish line gets very fluid. Runners are dispatched from Framingham in three waves and come in all afternoon and into the evening. Family members and friends come down to the finish around the time they expect their runner to finish, collect their runner, and leave. Imagine finishing a 26.2 mile marathon, and then having to run for your life.

So what did I do? I considered calling people, but figured the circuits and cell towers would be busy. I went back to my desk and wrote an email to family members saying I was safe. I checked online. The first reports sounded like maybe a couple of dozen people injured, now we're at 144 and counting. There were reports of subway station closings. I checked in with one of my coworkers who commutes by Red Line from Quincy. He was getting MBTA text alerts indicating that the Red Line would be bypassing Green Line and Orange Line stations. That was good for him if that meant he was an getting express train home, bad if that meant they were putting people in buses to go around those stations.

There was nothing left to be done but get back to work. I won't say I didn't check the internet a few times or that I got a whole lot done. Then I walked home, about a mile, and watched television with the rest of America.

I hate to say this, but I can see how people who have to live with the possibility of attacks every day could get used to it. You develop a routine. Where was the attack, who do you need to check with, how does it affect you. I hope these attacks don't become routine in the United States of America. Maybe I just don't want to admit that they already have. I'm up too late and tomorrow morning I'm expecting the electrician I scheduled last week.

Do I feel terrorized? No. Do I feel angry? Some. Do I feel sad? Yes.


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