Friday, April 19, 2013

Wake-Up Call

With the FBI's reveal of the marathon bombing suspect photos, it was another jolting newsday here yesterday.

M had an event at BU; the campus was a little down with the death of Lingzi Lu, a Chinese national and grad student who was the third victim of the bombing. BU has had a terrible year; Lu was the fourth student to die of terrible causes -- the school has lost two students to cycling accidents, and another to an alcohol poisoning.

M's event at the corner of Comm Ave and Silber Way required passing through the Charlesgate intersection three times. Remember that.

When the event let up at 2, I went to pick her up and her assistant D, a sharp pre-law student from NYC and an undergrad at UMB. D is from the DR and a rarity in Boston: a student with a car. Living in Roxbury, she'd parked her car at the JFK T stop near UMB. Since D had been so helpful, and I have been proud of finding a faster path to UMB, we offered to drive her back rather than spend two hours on the T.

On the way we passed by Mass General Hospital. MGH is one of the nation's best, and after the 11 a.m. memorial service downtown, President Obama and the FLOTUS were visiting bombing survivors at the hospital. The police presence as we drove down Storrow right across the street was significant.

They were gone when we drove back by half an hour later.


Late yesterday afternoon, the suspect photos were displayed, and we spent the evening riveted to coverage.

Our coverage now doesn't rely solely on TV, however. NECN is a regional cable news outlet that has won major stripes this week, but we'd been spending more time there trying to get a better handle on local information. Twitter especially has become a prime source of breaking news, as has Facebook to a lesser extent. Anonymous' Twitter feed is all over breaking news.

We mainlined news coverage until 11 p.m. Then we switched to The Daily Show, because man, did we ever need a laugh.

Still, things seemed to be moving so quickly that we kept checking our phones and flipping during commercial breaks to see if there were any new developments.

I saw some alerts about a 7/11 robbery, and a shooting of an MIT security guard. Curious. And the way things had gone this week, it seemed dicey.

But the bombers, who had been outed just hours before, surely couldn't have anything to do with that, right? Because those guys were surely out of the country by now, far, far away and watching the coverage from some distant point.


We were exhausted. So by midnight, we decided to call it a day.

The fan was about to be hit. Watertown's city limits start at the end of the block, about 120 yards away.

The shooters had commandeered an SUV, somehow deciding to release their hostage at a gas station (has to be the Shell station, although they haven't said yet) on Memorial Drive in Cambridge before cops got on their tail and they sped to Watertown.

NOTE: I haven't been to the 7/11 at MIT, but I've been near it. But all the other places discussed from here on out are places that I routinely drive to or by on an almost daily basis.

ANOTHER NOTE: Boston in a lot of ways, at least the area that includes Cambridge and environs, is sort of a small town. If you have business in Cambridge, you're going to hit the surrounding towns like Allston, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Brighton, Somerville... and Watertown.

There's almost never a day when we don't cross through all of these towns. Brookline and Somerville are the ones we hit least, but Somerville is where we take the dogs to the vet, and Brookline has a heavy Jewish population. These towns are "our neighborhood."

Between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., war broke out in Watertown. Black Hat and White Hat had a firefight with the authorities, tossing bombs. The videos are everywhere, see for yourself. The denouement of this part of the story had Black Hat killed, apparently from a combination of gunshot wounds, a possible detonation of an IED and possibly being run over by his fleeing brother, White Hat.

This happened about a mile from here. I can't believe we didn't hear it, but one thing that's surprised me here is how windy it is. The wind is usually the loudest noise in the night, except for the rattling of windows it produces.


At 6:30 a.m., our landline phone rang. Officials were advising everyone to stay home and not answer the door unless a confirmed police presence was seen.

Uh... what?

The communities were on lockdown.

For the last seven hours, we've watched and wondered. Our usually busy neighborhood is almost silent. We've seen three cars drive the street all day. A cop car and later, motorcycle, have also sped by.

Helicopters have circled overhead throughout the day. The governor has spoken twice from a staging area set up at the Watertown/Arsenal mall... a place we've visited frequently. Broadcasters have stood in front of landmarks that are among the few familiar places in our new home... outlets along Mount Auburn street, Arlington, Arsenal... places we tread daily...

Remember the mention of Comm Ave and Charlesgate? We went through that intersection three times Thursday. This morning a bomb squad detonated a suspicious package there.

It's kind of freaky.

M has seen this shit before. Her pre-teen years in Israel were marred by the terrorist dangers that people there don't take for granted, but don't let inhibit their way of life. She's told me stories in totally matter-of-fact ways that are reality are pretty harrowing... of learning how to don gas masks and hunker down in a closet, of hearing Saddam's Scuds approaching.

I'm a rube from Texas. I've been near tornados and severe thunderstorms. That's about the extent of it for me. Danger is not my middle name.

So all this insanity... it's hard for me to know what to think of it all. I've got no template for it. Being trained to be a dispassionate journalist/observer, I try and remain kind of detached and soak it all in.

But putting that aside for a moment... there's a desperate, misanthropic mass murderer loose and potentially hiding in my neighborhood. He's already maimed and killed children, and engaged in a shootout with law enforcement. His brother is dead. I'm pretty sure how this ends, and certain he's capable of killing again.

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