Even before 10:30 Thursday night, the week had a heavy fog of nervousness and somber mist. What should have been a relaxed holiday weekend and short week for students, residents and tourists around Boston quickly turned into a shocking reminder of the tangible effects of terrorism, with Monday's bombing at the finish of the Boston Marathon.
I, along with several other members of the sailing team, witnessed Monday's explosions from just across the river at the MIT Sailing Pavilion. It's a surreal feeling to be reading stories and seeing reporters live talking about the bombing of your own city, a city that seemed so completely safe... perhaps because we are across the river, what seems to be an infinitely strong buffer, that most of us cross several times a week.
By Thursday, MIT students were flowing back into the norm, complaining about tests, homework and chattering of weekend plans. It all seemed so normal. Everything was normal, as far as I was concerned, as I walked back from my biology lecture. But within an hour of getting back to my dorm, the week was shattered. The stress of the week was far beyond the normal level. For the second time this week, email, text and mobile alert blasts were sent out to the MIT students, faculty and associates, this time, much closer to home.
Updates soon began to flood the networks of MIT. Sirens blasted down Vassar Street, as puzzled students tried to learn more. Soon, we did. An MIT police officer had been shot. Desks began buzzing with a stream of Facebook and email notifications. MIT students began sharing information, and in nearly every room, computers had a link of the Boston police scanner spitting out information none of us were in a state to hear.
One of our own had been shot, and the suspected shooter utterly at large. A strange sort of slowness took over the campus. Work stopped to learn about the developing situation. Buildings were locked down as an SUV chased by police barreled down Memorial Drive, sweeping an air of fear over dorm row.
There were two suspects, now about two miles west of MIT in Watertown. The pulses of WiFi waves beat with the chatter of automatic weapons, explosives, grenades, "Officer Down!" Many were scared.
All of us were aware. Some wanted to do something, but what could we do? We texted and called our families, checked in on friends, and posted we were safe on Facebook to try to calm our friends down. It didn't work. The word trickled through the text threads and Facebook -- "MIT officer dead."
MIT students are perhaps some of the best people at dealing with stress. Our environment is all about being pushed beyond our comfort level. It's hard to destabilize MIT. But the loss of one of our own -- that's how you destabilize us. Upon hearing that phrase, "MIT officer dead," the night changed.
We were all locked in different buildings, but we all felt single spirit. Some students started prayer groups and discussion groups in the common areas and lounges.
We have been given the all clear to return to "normal activities." But it's past the time and energy for normal activities.
We lost something that was a fiber that caused this place to beat, and all of us feel that there's something off. We've lost it; we didn't need to; we didn't want to. We can't ever get it back.
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