We Are One Boston (Bomb-Busters pt 2)

Following the hellacious Marathon Monday last week, I wrote up about my reaction to the news coverage and politicos (see Boston Bomb-Buster post here), unaware that suspects had been identified and that a terror-filled Friday (April 19th) awaited me.

That Friday morning, I awoke as usual in April, a bit groggy from the pollen seeping through my leaky window (allergies), and pulled myself together for work, only to receive a phone call as I was about to leave. It was my boss calling to inform me that our office was closed, due a “shelter in place” order covering various towns, including Waltham (my office location) while there was a man-hunt on.

I was utterly shocked. I don’t know why, but it never occurred to me that the perpetrators of the bombing would’ve stuck around in the area, nor that they would be identified so quickly.  I certainly would never have guessed that their capture would’ve involved multiple gunfights, a car-jacking, improvised explosives, nor shelter-in-place orders for multiple nearby towns.  I kept wondering, “Is this real?”

I called my girlfriend, who was in one of the shelter-in-place towns (next to Watertown, which was the main focus that Friday) and she assured me she was safe and staying in – she also gave me the run-down on the previous night’s events as I hadn’t listened to any news since Thursday morning. I logged into my work computer and a company message informed me that multiple offices in Waltham and Cambridge were closed today and that we should “work with our manager” to determine where was best to work from.  Seriously?

I was supposed to work from home, but it was a bit distracting with everything going on. I’d already determined the post office near my house was closed and I assumed everything in Medford was, as were most businesses around town, awaiting updates from the police. Knowing that police, FBI and Homeland Security were swarming with guns drawn, looking for armed suspects was pretty unsettling.

And then came my 11:30 am conference call. In the middle of it, alarm bells started going off behind my building (next building over).  And then I receive 2 call-waiting notices (a nearby friend and my mom), which of course I don’t take as I’m on a work call, but I wonder vaguely if there’s some new development, like are the armed suspects in Medford? And I hear sirens.  And then my internet goes out.  And then my phone is having problems (others couldn’t hear me well).  And I hear people yelling nearby (another apartment?).

I stayed on the line a few more minutes, until the conference call ended, making sure my coworker friend knew my internet was out & I was unable to work (repeating simple phrases until she understood through my bad connection).  By then, the alarm bells had stopped but I was still hearing periodic sirens as emergency vehicles appeared to be going to and fro.  When I tried to call my voicemail, I got a “network busy” message.  And when I got up, I realized the power was  completely out in my apartment.

I started to freak out – this was a “sky is falling” moment.  It wasn’t rational – of course, society wouldn’t crumble just because a few violent men set off some improvised explosives and tried to escape police custody. But with the recent violence and “shelter-in-place” order, following the week’s obsessive news coverage and the imminence of more violence, how could I be calm and rational?   Luckily, I was able to get in touch with my neighbor friend by phone and her power was out too and that started to calm me down.  My power came back on while we were talking and the sirens (which had been frequent for 20+ minutes) abated.

After some electricity-enabled lunch, I was able to get back online and continue working, but I got amped up again anytime I heard another siren and it was very hard to focus.  I had to cancel plans with my Mom who was coming to visit that night – we didn’t know what would be going on then – still no capture as of 3pm.  I also had 2 pieces of bad news unrelated to the bombing suspects (I won’t go into here), which of course ramped up my anxiety even more.  Still, I got a bunch of work stuff done and managed to get through the day.  And at night, they lifted the shelter-in-place order, quickly had another (one-sided) gunfight, then finally captured the remaining brother.  It was over.

Aftermath

The positive of this whole experience was connecting to and sharing support with people I care about – we listened to each other’s stories (several of my friends had heard the gun-fights). I felt a real bond with my neighbors and the whole greater Boston area.  Friends were checking in with friends, acquaintances and strangers comforting each other. And we never went to madness.  People really helped each other, not just first responders, but millions of dollars to charity, blood drives and of course the everyday emotional support. Driving home from my girlfriend’s on Sunday night, I saw that all the traffic notification boards on I-93 said “Thanks for all the support.  We are One Boston.”   Normally, I’d scoff at such sentiment, but I felt warm and comforted when I saw that.

On violence, I wonder if we’ll ever realize that “violence is violence” and that only peace can successfully oppose the idea of violence.  I refuse to call the suspects/perpetrators “terrorists” because that’s a loaded term which falsely implies that some forms of violence are legitimate, based on who the perpetrators are and what their intention is.  I reject such claims – the measure of violence should be the victims, never the perpetrators.  If government forces kill unarmed civilians with guns, bombs or rockets (ahem, as US drone strikes have done numerous times in Afghanistan and Pakistan), that is an “act of terror” for the victims, regardless of whether the perpetrators consider it justified, and regardless of whether “we” are the perpetrators or not.

It’s quite ridiculous that some in the media have labeled these DIY pressure-cooker bombs as “weapons of mass destruction” – while that’s technically true, these do not match the previous use of that term and were paltry in comparison to US Military ordinance.  Is that why we invaded Iraq? Because they had pressure cookers and metal shards?  No, this labeling is just a trick to try and emphasize that these people exercised “illegitimate” death and destruction, not like “good” death and destruction, which you should support or ignore.

Here’s a related haiku (based on sound-bites from before the suspects were identified):

Response to Emergent Violent Events Notification of Government Escalation (R.E.V.E.N.G.E.)

“…full weight of justice…”
“…will be held accountable…”
(shred them with bullets!!!)

On the other hand, despite the excessive show of force, I was really glad that the police were there to protect us from these dangerous men.  As my Quaker friend said, this is the good side of the police, keeping the peace is a great service.  And I was glad they were able to investigate and figure it out so quickly – if I were presented with that scenario, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I am grateful for the resources that our law enforcement were able bring to bear in order to resolve the situation quickly, though I wish the capture had occurred with less violence.

For reference, here’s a recap of the events: Officer’s Killing Spurred Pursuit in Boston Attack (NYTimes).

What other positives can we take away?  What can we do?

  • Keep helping each other – friends, family and acquaintances.  It’s not just the big news tragedies that affect us, it’s life, we all can run into personal tragedies and challenges and need some emotional support.
  • Volunteer – do something for  your community, help a charity you believe in, try to make the world a better place.
  • If you feel the need for self-defense weapons, choose non-lethal weapons (pepper-spray, mace, stun-gun). If you have money to spare, you can buy yourself discrete body armor or kevlar clothing.
  • Shift towards a violence-free, plant-based vegan diet; by reducing purchases of animal-based foods (e.g., milk, eggs, meat), we reduce the future impact of violence on animals and human workers.

Peace – let’s hope.

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