Right now there are swat teams just blocks from where I am, and they are hunting down the terrorist(s) allegedly responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing. The place is a combat zone. It feels like a snow day because there's no one outside. The only thing you hear is an unsettling quiet interrupted by helicopters buzzing, sirens, and police trucks going by. Local friends in a position to know have called to say don't go outside, it could be a while.
Strangely, it's not the first time I've been in this position. The first time was just after the 9/11/2001 hijackings that changed our lives forever. The hijackers had actually shopped at my work just days before the bombings. After 9/11, we were inside for days, then returned to work while the hunt for Osama bin Laden ensued.
The second time I was in the midst of a terrorist attack was in 2002 when I lived in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The authorities were looking for John Muhammad, the Beltway Sniper, who shot 13 people. For a month, the entire Washington, D.C. area was paralyzed and afraid to so much as go for a walk in their own yard. Since then, Muhammad's ex-wife Mildred and I have become friends. She says we have to stay positive and not let John's sins stop us from living our lives.
The third time was in the summer of 2010. After work, I returned home to find the SWAT team had surrounded my apartment. They arrested a few Russian spies in the house next door, then quickly spirited them out of the country. The spies had recruited boys in the neighborhood to assist them. The media stories were more focused on the attractive nature of the spies than they were the danger they might pose to my family and my neighbors.
Last October, when Hurricane Sandy struck while I was out-of-town, I panicked because my family was still home. Although it was not a terrorist attack, I experienced the same sick feeling that I might not have said everything I needed to say to my loved ones. After that, I started throwing my back into it to be sure they knew how much I loved them. Just little things, like cooking more family dinners and taking weekends off to do fun things with them.
Last Monday, my family had tickets to a museum on Boylston Street that would have taken us right into the area where the bombings occurred. We were going to avoid crowds and go the museum in the afternoon, but the bombings occurred instead.
The first suspect in the Marathon bombings was killed just two blocks from my son's school. Thankfully, it's April vacation this week, and so Cambridge children are home with their parents while these atrocities unfold in our yards.
On Monday, I told my family that since the FBI had swarmed the neighborhood looking for suspects, we were in the safest area in Massachusetts. Go about your routine, don't let terrorists take any more time from us than they already had.
Is Cambridge a terrorist hotbed? The discussion I'm having with my family is that they are justified in being scared, but we can't stop living our lives. Maybe at this moment we can't go outside, but we can make the most of our day together. Yes, there are bad people out there, and sometimes they do terrible things and we don't know why. Perhaps they don't know why they do these things, and so we have little assurance that anyone could stop the evil chain of events they are responsible for.
Most importantly, we usual citizens can only control ourselves. We must impress upon our children that these attacks were not committed by Muslims, they were committed by terrorists. We must be safe, but I won't let terrorists take our Muslim friends too. While we hope law enforcement gets a handle on this situation soon, it looks like it could be a while. Maybe never.
More:Cambridge Massachusetts Boston Marathon Bombing Terrorism Boston Bombings Suspect Boston Bombing
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