It’s been a week since the bombings at the Boston Marathon, and people keep asking me what it was like. It’s hard to put into words, really, but here goes:
On Monday, I took the kids to mile 23 of the marathon with our friend umommy and her husband and kids. We brought the Ethiopian flag, watched the wheelchair runners and the soldiers pass by, saw the Ethiopians zip by, and then went for burritos and cupcakes. It was a beautiful, sunny day (as I am finding the days so often are for terrorist attacks, strangely enough), and we were happy. We went home, umommy’s boys came over to play, and the phone rang. I was in the middle of getting the boys some water before they watched a movie, and the conversation went something like this:
My father, from his car: Are you listening to the radio?
Me: No. Why would I be listening to the radio at home? It’s not 1945.
Father (actually letting that one go): They’re saying two explosions just went off at the finish line of the marathon.
Me (thinking, Fuck. Oh, fuck. Shitfuckfuck.): Oh my God. Mmm, water!
Father: You should turn on your TV.
Me: Uhhhh, yeah. Oh my God. WATER IS DELICIOUS, BOYS! WANT SOME FISH ICE CUBES?
Peeta: Hey, what’s wrong with you?
Me, hanging up: Me? Nothing! Why would anything be wrong? Let’s get this delicious water down to the basement and watch some Wallace and Gromit, people!
I got the kids downstairs, ran back upstairs and turned on the TV. I was on the phone with Bucket when I saw the footage of the bomb going off and I almost dropped the phone. I was horrified and terrified and sickened and couldn’t stop crying. I sent umommy a message saying not to worry, that the kids were watching a movie downstairs, and then I stared at the TV, dumbfounded. My mother and siblings called me. My sister asked, “What the fuck with you and terrorist attacks? First, you were in New York for 9/11, and now this?” What the fuck, indeed.
I called Bucket later to say we would come to pick him up from work. “No, you aren’t,” he said. “Yes, I am,” I said. “I will not allow you to come get me,” he said. “Well, asshole, I will not ALLOW you to get on the T,” I replied. “It appears we are at a stalemate, so go ask the other people in your office if you can get a ride home with someone.”
He came home with a colleague that night and we sat in front of the TV after the kids had gone to bed. There wasn’t much to say. It was another terrorist attack. It was another brutal, vicious assault on innocent people. More children were maimed and killed. It had happened three miles from where I had been standing with my children. WITH MY CHILDREN.
The next morning, as planned, Bucket went to work and I took the kids to my mother’s house in Maine to celebrate her birthday. On the way up, I told Peeta what happened. He wanted to know three things: who did it; why; and if any kids were hurt. I gave him a long speech about terrorism and how the people who do it are evil and they want to hurt people, but they also want to scare people. I told him that if we let them scare us, they win. It’s okay to be scared, but we can’t change our lives because of them. We have to tell them F you, we are braver than you are. (Yes, I said it. It’s not like the kid hasn’t heard the F word before, people.)
We (okay, I) talked about how lucky we are that this is a freak occurrence where we live, and how people in the world live with bombs every day. We talked about how this hasn’t happened in Boston before, and how lucky we were that we didn’t know anyone who was hurt and that we weren’t hurt, and that Bucket and I would always try to keep him safe. And then he said, “Can we stop talking about this now? Which car is the best in the snow? Our Outback, right?”
The whole time we were in Maine, I wanted to be back in Cambridge. It was just like on 9/11 when I left Manhattan immediately after the attacks, but after a day or two, I wanted to get back. New York was my home, goddamn it, and I was going to go back there, even if I was pissing myself at the thought of getting on the subway. Now Boston is my home. I wanted to be in my house with my husband and my kids, in the city that I love. We went home on Thursday night, skipping our ski weekend with my dad because rain was scheduled. Bucket and I watched TV until about 11 and then went to bed.
The phone rang at 6:30. Bucket stumbled over and handed it to me. It said CODERED ALERT with an 866 number. Bastard telemarketers! Who calls at 6:30 am? I noticed they left a message, but was too tired to listen to the voice mail. I figured we could listen to it before Bucket went to work, just in case it was a real code red alert. Phone rang again at 7:15. It was his boss, saying, “Don’t go anywhere.” My heart stopped when I heard him say that they found the suspects at MIT and were chasing them. I called our voice mail. Shelter-in-place until further notice. I sneaked downstairs to watch TV. Bucket went back to sleep. (Men!)
I turned on the TV to see that we were indeed in lockdown. The brothers had killed a police officer at MIT, and then went on a bizarre crime spree that ended up in Watertown. We have a neighbor down the street who just started working as an MIT cop. We have a neighbor across the street who is a Cambridge cop. Some of our dear friends live in Watertown. Two of them live up the street from the gunfight. I sent them a message and spent the rest of the day trying not to send them 29843098532 more. The MIT officer who was killed was not our neighbor, and our friends were safe.
Peeta spent most of the morning playing in the basement because our Wii conveniently stopped working on the upstairs TV. I could not turn the TV off. I figured we were safe, being about two miles away, but I was scared for our friends. I was scared for the community. I was just scared. Even though it was 75 degrees outside, we had all the windows closed. The door was locked. I was afraid to let the dog out, in case The Bastard was in our back yard (Bucket laughed at me, but I would like to point out that he actually was in someone’s back yard, albeit not ours). My friend Lisa told me to open the windows so I could hear the helicopters, and I said, “Are you crazy?! He could climb in!!” and then opened them for 30 seconds before immediately closing them. I knew I was being ridiculous, but couldn’t stop myself. I read Twitter and online news stories. I put the live feed from WBZ on the iPad once Peeta came back upstairs. As our friend Daisy said, it was like a bad crime movie. As someone on Twitter said, it was like a season of 24. We finished off all the food in the house (we were supposed to be gone until Sunday, remember) and then realized we had neither coffee nor liquor. We became even more scared at the prospect of more days with two children and no food, caffeine or delicious drinks.
At about six, they lifted the lockdown. I didn’t feel much better knowing they hadn’t found him. Right after they made the announcement, all the neighborhood kids came streaming outside, shrieking with delight. Bucket walked down to the convenience store because the car’s battery died, preventing him from going to the liquor store. I stepped outside to get the mail after he left, and heard helicopters fly over again. I saw the cop across the street looking out his window. I didn’t think anything of it until Bucket came home and the phone rang. It was my sister, saying that they had someone cornered and there was more gunfire.
I was in the middle of cooking our last box of macaroni for the kids’ dinner. We ate, and I told Peeta what was happening. We talked about how crazy it was that the entire city had shut down so 9,000 police could catch one 19-year-old, and how that had never happened before. We talked about how we are lucky to live in a place with such a low tolerance for violence, and how bad guys in Boston would think twice before they did anything like this again. We talked about how something really bad must have happened to or been wrong with these boys to do such terrible things to so many people. We talked about how if he didn’t die, he would go to jail forever. He would never bomb anyone again.
I rushed through putting the kids to bed and came back downstairs. After what seemed like an eternity of watching police lights in the dark on TV, they announced that they had him. I yelled up to Peeta that The Bastard had been caught.
And it was over. Except that it really wasn’t. It’s always going to be there for all of us who live here, especially for those of us who truly suffered, which fortunately (oh, so fortunately) did not include me.