I wasn’t sure how to approach this post so I decided just to write and see what came out. Of course my thoughts are entirely with the people whose lives have been changed by the events of this week. I felt I should record something, living in Cambridge, being a ‘runner’, and wanting to watch the marathon in person this year. My account isn’t likely to be any different from most people’s in Boston.
You don’t need me to tell you it’s been an extraordinary week in Boston. To be present in a city, one I was only vaguely aware of a year ago, when such momentous events occurred still leaves me open-mouthed. Only last month when we were in Australia we had to show people where Boston is on the map. I don’t think we’ll need to do that again.
Monday 15th April 2013
So Monday. I was at school near Faneuil Hall when we heard the news. It was about 3.20pm and I was just about to head out to the Museum of Science with my students. In the minutes it took me to comprehend what was going on I tried to call running-partner Helen, who I knew was watching the race. I got her voicemail and so left a message. Then at 3.24pm I got a text from my brother in the UK checking I was ok. I texted back that I was, then it occurred to me to post on Facebook: “Wasn’t at Marathon, we’re ok”. At this stage we had no idea of the scale of the situation. At 3.29pm Helen texted back to say she was ok but couldn’t get through on the phone.
Obviously plans for the Museum of Science were rapidly shelved. I took my students to the nearby Marriott – a place they were moving to the next day. While they were sorting themselves out I could see people huddled around a TV in the lobby. I couldn’t hear the audio but I could now see what had happened at the finish line. A woman runner came into the lobby wrapped in two sheets of mylar. She was visibly shaken and a few people asked if she needed any help. She seemed to be being looked after by three guys – who I later realised were actually reporters. She said she had been close to the finish line. The reporters left and the staff at the Marriott took care of her.
So now I had to figure out a way to get home: I erroneously assumed the T wouldn’t be running. So I started walking – I needed to basically follow the Red Line to get home anyway. It would be about 4 miles to home in a straight line. I emailed my husband to let him know I was heading to Downtown Crossing to check if it was open. He texted back to say it wasn’t. I said ok I’ll go to Park, then he called to say that was closed too. While I was talking to him, walking along Washington St, my Dad in the UK phoned and left a voicemail (obviously hadn’t checked Facebook!). I tried to text him back but now had no signal.
I walked through large crowds – all seemingly going the opposite way to me – and headed towards Park St station. I was momentarily confused as to how to get to Charles/MGH station, having never walked there from the city, but after a few seconds I worked it out. I crossed Boston Common. The park was surprisingly empty but almost everyone I saw was looking at their phone. It was surreal. The air was full of sirens – coming from all directions. People who had obviously been in the marathon were wandering about slowly and stiffly. I saw a camera crew interviewing a couple of runners. I wanted to take photographs on the Common to record the scene but I didn’t want to upset anyone. So I kept walking.
I walked along Charles Street in Beacon Hill which was a bit busier, and again, everyone was just looking at their phone. My text to Dad finally went through at 4.15pm. I arrived at Charles/MGH at about 4.30pm unsure if there would be any trains. Amazingly one came almost immediately. Everyone on the train was grim-faced.
Walking home from my station in Cambridge, I called Helen. She said she’d been heading for the finish line and had got to about mile 25.5 when she saw runners had stopped.
So that was the awful Monday afternoon. One of my new years resolutions had been to go see the Marathon in person. If I hadn’t been working I would have been there and this story may have been very different.
Tuesday 16th April 2013
Tuesday revealed a heavy presence of army uniforms at the Harvard T station – checking everyone’s bag. I’m sure it was the same across the network. In the city there were police on every corner and my nerves were frayed every time I heard a siren. Most people still had serious faces. The Globe’s front page photograph was blood-soaked.
Wednesday 17th April 2013
There were less police and army visible on Wednesday – but that was only compared to Tuesday. Everyone on the T was looking carefully at one another.
Thursday 18th April 2013
The headline in the Metro free newspaper Thursday morning was “Caught on camera: Police zoom in on terror suspect”. I hadn’t yet seen the paper when I got to the station but noticed that, unusually, almost everyone was reading it, and they were all focussed on the same page. All searching for the photograph that the headline promised, but wasn’t there.
Friday 19th April 2013
I was woken at about 6.30am on Friday by our downstairs neighbours having a loud conversation in their bedroom. Odd, I thought. Perhaps they have guests. It was at this point I noticed the traffic was very light outside. I went back to sleep. At 7.30am my alarm woke me. I opened the blinds and noticed the car park across the street was empty. Odd, I thought, again. Then I saw a voicemail on my phone. It was work: “just confirming the school is closed today”. My first thought was “Oh God, what’s happened now?”. I turned the TV on at 7.45am and didn’t turn it off til 10pm.
It was an exhausting day – and all we had to do was sit at home, several miles from where the serious business was taking place. I still can’t get over how this was happening right here, where we live. I couldn’t get over how this was the third time the city has been closed down since we’ve been here (Hurricane, Blizzard being the other two), how the TV news editorialized constantly all day because there really wasn’t anything new to report until 7pm, and how there was such a movie-like ending to the day.
I will be running in Boston’s Run to Remember in May. It will have a renewed meaning for all of us.
Reports from others at the marathon: