I am not an emotional person. Hell, I can be pretty aloof. While I can assure anyone that I am, in fact, empathetic and saddened after learning of mass tragedies, I have always felt a sense of distance.
For anyone in my generation, 9/11 was the first big “when were you then” moment; the first international major event to happen within my memory. I was 7, for the record, but I remember the day vividly. At the time, I had never been to New York, but I had certainly flown on an airplane before, and understood the concept of one crashing into a skyscraper quite well. Still, there remained a sense of distance and isolation from the event.
In the years since, there have been plenty of attacks, however, in places that I have visited. I had been to Fort Hood before the rampage there, and I had been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington before the shooting there as well. But there has never been an act of terror committed somewhere I lived, that is, until Monday.
The marathon bomb went on off near the finish line, on Bolyston Street. That area of town is not when that I frequent, but I have certainly been there before. Throughout the day, more news came in about possible other bombs being found throughout the town. One of the possible locations was the subway stop in Harvard Square. I use that station, on average, three times a week. At that moment, finally, it became all too real. Somewhere that was a part of my life was nearly a part of a terrorist attack.
Immediately, I began running the scenarios in my head. This past Monday, known as Patriots’ Day in Boston, was a major holiday observed by many closures throughout the city. As it so happened, my college did not have a holiday, but many did. What if my college had cancelled class? What if I would have decided to go to marathon? I would have probably ended up using the Harvard Square subway station.
Now, as any avid follower of the news knows, there was never a bomb in Harvard Square. It was an example of the non-news the abhorrence known as CNN decided to report this past week. But that didn’t stop my heart from pounding, and that wasn’t even the worst part.
Late on Thursday night, after the media had released their photos, the suspects in Monday’s bombings allegedly murdered an MIT police officer before carjacking an SUV and leading police on a chase. The chase finally ended in the middle of Watertown, a little town to the west of Boston, with grenades, explosions and gunfire. I literally live in the next town over from Watertown, and I have family who live even closer. I go through Watertown more days than not, it seems. Heck, I ate dinner there tonight. As CNN and the Houston Chronicle began discussing the exact street the police had last seen the victim, I knew exactly where they were talking about.
The police set up headquarters at the Watertown Target, the Target I shop at. To say it was an eerie feeling would be an understatement. At this point, the alleged terrorist was less than a mile away from my family, so, as any good brother would do, I stayed up all night watching the news, standing guard and making sure the activity did not go into the next neighborhood over. Luckily it didn’t, and they caught both of the suspects.
I don’t have much of a point to make here, just that it takes a local incident to really put things in perspective. I was never in any danger whatsoever, and I don’t even know anyone who knows anyone directly affected, but it was tough watching my (second) city go through this mess. I want to thank all the brave law enforcement officials who dedicated life and limb to catch the perpetrators, and, once again, my deepest condolences to all of the victims.