James (2), watching for helicopters
outside our window

So, apparently, I spoke too soon. Remember last week how I said my family wasn’t directly affected by the events of the week?

On Friday morning we woke up to a phone call at 6:08 a.m. Early morning phone calls are rarely good, and my heart was pounding a little as I listened to the caller i.d.

City of Boston? On school vacation week? That was… odd. I had James, though, so my husband answered it – or listened to it rather – and he gave me the overview: bombing suspect had been involved in the MIT shoot-out the night before, was suspected of being in Watertown… And he was going to take a shower. (He meaning my husband, of course, not the suspect.)

Um, o.k., I thought. Thanks City of Boston for the update. I went back to sleep.

Ten minutes later, the phone rang again. This time it was Boston Public Schools and I’m not sure if they gave more detail, if I was more receptive to it than my husband was, or if it was just that by that time we were more awake. Because, well, Watertown was shut down, no cars in or out? Allston-Brighton was on lockdown? What exactly did that all mean? With plans to go to visit my parents in Connecticut for the day, it was an odd experience to call my mother to say that we wouldn’t be there later in the morning because we weren’t allowed to leave the house. Our house, you see, is on the edge of Brighton. On the Brighton/Watertown line, to be specific. The Black Hawk helicopters everyone was seeing on the news? I was seeing them out my bedroom window.

Once again, Facebook came in handy. With Will (10) in the living room watching Netflix, turning on the news wasn’t an option. And ironically, to begin with, I got more information from friends and family across the country who were watching the news than I was getting at home. Thanks to a friend in Ohio, I was able to get the link to the Boston Police scanner channel and get a better understanding of what was happening for a little while. (And let me tell you, listening to them talk about addresses that I could practically see from my house – to see the command center set up in the parking lot of the Target I go to pretty much ever week, or the reporters talking from the intersection I drive through every day to pick up James from daycare – is a strange and surreal thing.) When that no longer worked, another friend posted a link to a TV station’s website that was running live updates along and live-streaming their newscast along with closed captioning – again a necessity with the kids around.

And what about the kids themselves? Will, as noted above, watched Netflix all day. In fact, he wasn’t even aware that we were “sheltering in place” until Saturday morning, after the events of the previous day were well over. For most of the day, I couldn’t tell if he knew something was going on but had gotten away with watching thirteen hours straight of TV so he wasn’t going to say anything until we did, or if he was truly so wrapped up in his show that he was entirely clueless. (It turned out to be the latter, giving me new insight as to why we have to tell him something nine times before he finally acknowledges that we’re talking to him.)

James, at two, couldn’t have cared less. In fact, he actually handled being cooped up in the house better than I expected. His favorite part was to watch the “big, fat helicopters” (presumably big and fat because they were flying so low and close to our house). It wasn’t until about twenty minutes until bedtime that it was clear that he’d had it. For the most part, however, he was content to just hang out with everyone and to run around. Being allowed to play ball inside the living room, was icing on the cake.

Of the three kids, Lucy, at 12-going-on-13 (literally; her birthday was that very day) was the toughest. She had a friend sleeping over, which was a Godsend for all of us as Maeve provided enough of a buffer for the others to keep them from turning on each other or on us. And I have to say, that the two of them held it together for most of the day. (Although, after telling them what was going on when they ventured downstairs in the morning, Lucy did say, “Well, that’s a lot to wake up to.”) Maeve mostly read her Kindle until her mom broke lockdown to come get her, and Lucy played games on her computer and watched YouTube. It being her birthday, we opened presents (although, unfortunately, I had not purchased any DVDs for her, which would have been an excellent distraction) and ate birthday cake, all along trying not to think about what was going on out in the world on her 13th birthday.

All in all, for as strange as the day was, it wasn’t really that much stranger than the rest of the week. And although I saw several people on Facebook question the difference between “lockdown” and “martial law,” I can certainly say that knowing the strength of the law enforcement presence was more reassuring than frightening. In fact, although I was restless – o.k., and pretty much useless (as my husband will attest) all day – it wasn’t scary. The first time I felt that fluttery panicky feeling was about three minutes after they lifted the lockdown. Because if they didn’t find him in the neighborhood right around the corner from me in broad daylight, and if he were hiding out in some nook or cranny (or, as it turned out, boat), then all I could envision was him making a run for it and ending up in my backyard – or coming in through our back door – and then everything would change.

But that’s what it comes down do, doesn’t it? Everything didn’t change; not for us, at least. It’s been a scary and surreal week, one that I’d prefer not to repeat. In some ways, even, it’s been uplifting – before Monday, the idea of Boston Strong spreading around the world would have been, well, ludicrous. The traffic signs saying “We are one Boston” make me cry every time I see them. And I’ve never felt more of a Bostonian or prouder of my neighbors and city than I do today.

But when the suspect was finally captured, and the relief and rejoicing began, I couldn’t bring myself to join those posting something to the effect of “It’s over.” Because I don’t believe it is. I think about Oklahoma City, and London, and, of course, New York. And, yes, you can be damn sure that I think about Afghanistan, and Syria, and Iraq and Iran. I think about our children and the way of this world and am grateful that, on Friday night, I was able to put my kids to bed saying that the police did what I’ve raised my kids thinking police always would – they protected the public. They got the guys who did this. They were patient, and painstaking, and worked together as a team and didn’t give in to the pressure for more information (true or not), more action (justified or not), or more of anything other than what was needed to get the job done. I also know, however, that there are children out there for who this is not the case, who may grow up not feeling safe or loved or cared for. Who may not grow up, period.

So I will pray for Martin Richard and Lu Lingzi and Krstyle Campbell and Sean Collier. I will pray for their brothers and sisters, their mothers and fathers, for the families, friends, and communities who love them. I will pray for the nearly two hundred wounded in the Marathon bombings, for the recovery of their physical and mental and emotional beings. I will pray for the caregivers and the law enforcement and for each and every person who witnessed or experienced this day. I will pray for anyone anywhere in the world who has feared for or, worse, lost, a loved one be it in the name of peace or of war, whoever defines those terms. And I will pray that someday, there will be a generation of children who grow up and figure out a way to manage their differences in a way that doesn’t involve violence of any kind. Perhaps those children will be ours. 

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