Last night, because Matt was out of town, Grace asked to sleep in our bed. I was hit with a wave of how much longer will she want to do this? and said yes, of course. So she was lying next to me when the phone rang at 5:30 this morning. I fumbled for the phone, instantly nervous, wondering what was wrong. It was an automated recording from school saying that school was cancelled. She was awake so in the near-dark I whispered that there was no school and to go back to sleep.
"Why?" she sat up fast, eyes glowing, nervous.
"I don't know, but don't worry. Everything is okay." I lay back down and waited for her to fall back asleep, knowing that if I got up she would too. If we don't have school, maybe I'll take the kids to the Town Diner, I thought. We live in Cambridge and have been in this house since the kids were born. The Town Diner, about a mile away in Watertown, is our favorite place to have breakfast. Once I felt her even breathing and was sure she was sleeping again, I crept out of bed and up to my desk.
I opened Gmail on my laptop and wrote to my husband: "School is cancelled. Any idea why?" And then I turned on my phone. It lit up like a Christmas tree. I went to CNN and saw what had happened overnight. Aware that I only had a little bit of time before the kids woke up, I turned on the television.
Of course Whit chose this morning to wake up early. Reluctantly I turned off the TV and tried to piece together the events through Twitter, Boston.com, and texts with friends. Sitting in my third-floor office, while Whit played with Legos in the next door room, I could hear sirens. The phone did not stop buzzing. Grace woke up too, wandering upstairs with bedhead, asking why there wasn't school.
"I want to talk to you guys," I said, sitting cross-legged on our tan couch in the family room. This room is a mess, I thought, noticing the Legos scattered all around. I shook my head and looked up at each kid, seated on either side of me, in turn. I didn't even hesitate before telling them that the two suspects had been found, that one had been killed in an early morning shoot-out with the police, and that they were trying to find the other one, who had gone on the run.
"Are we okay?" Grace's face was etched with fear. I explained that the police were ALL OVER this, and that they were taking this very, very seriously. Whit just wanted bacon for breakfast. So I provided that, rushing them a little in my hurry to get back to the news.
"Yes, we are okay." My desperate desire to know what was going on went to war with my even stronger wish to keep my kids calm. I took a deep breath and tried not to glance at the phone which kept on buzzing. I could feel Grace's eyes on me. She wasn't buying this at all. "Guys. I promise. We are safe here. We really, really are." This I do believe. This I can say without any reservation.
Suddenly I had an idea. "You know how you have been wanting to go on Pottermore?" They have been agitating for days to check out Pottermore, the website about Harry Potter. "Let's do that!"
I sat with them and helped make a Pottermore account, feeling my phone buzzing in the pocket of my jeans as I did so. The temptation to check it was overwhelming. No. Set them up at Hogwarts. This is the perfect place to spend today. Then I felt a rush of fierce desire to also spend the day with Harry Potter, in Hogsmeade, at Hogwarts. Anywhere but here. But I can't.
Once they were immersed in Pottermore, I ran back to my office. I pulled up CNN, Twitter and my email. I put headphones into the computer and listened to NPR. Every few minutes I glanced into the family room to watch the kids, sitting side by side and riveted by Harry Potter and his friends. The rest of the time I sat in my office in a widening pool of bewilderment, thinking about the two suspects, one of whom looks like a mere child in the most recent photograph, thinking about the fact that they lived here, went to school here. Wondering what kind of world my children are growing up in.
I thought about my blog post yesterday, about the conversation I had had with Grace on Tuesday morning in which I had said: we cannot be afraid. If we are afraid we let them win. And yet, right then, all I felt was fear. Not fear for our own lives, but fear because I felt as though the dark, cold feathers of evil had just brushed past us.
I heard Grace exclaim, "I figured out how to do that spell!" and then, a few minutes later, Whit say, "I'm playing Quidditch!"
I'd rather live in that world.
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I take for granted how wonderful it is to live in a country where, on the average day, I do not fear for my life. I know not all Americans have that luxury. But ever since 9/11 and the upswing in mass shootings, I've been uneasy. This week has been a wakeup call that we are never truly safe.
Like most Bostonians, I never dreamed that we would experience a day like this in Newton.
Many people directly exposed to mass violence will have traumatic stress reactions, and such reactions may occur off and on, even years later. But these reactions should not necessarily be regarded as pathological responses or even as precursors of subsequent disorder.
I spent my night in a house with three friends about a mile from the manhunt, with continued warnings that anyone nearby should stay indoors.
Right now, Harvard is a ghost town. As far as we know the campus is safe, but we're listening to the officers and staying inside. There's a lot of hugging going on right now and a lot of prayer. People are realizing there are more important things in life, like the relationships that we build.
"Mommy," he said, "I accidentally turned on the news. I saw the guy." He paused for a minute before continuing. "Mommy, he looked like he was a teenager. That's a kid, isn't it? Why would a kid do this?"
My iPhone just shrieked with an alert from MEMA that read, "EMERGENCY WARNING: Shelter in Place still effective." I'm looking out my window at the barren streets of this city and imagining what this beautiful 73 degrees and sunny Friday afternoon would look like if it were any normal day.
My husband Ronnie and I live in Watertown, in a complex of about 80 units, about two blocks from where Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot last night. Our neighborhood is locked down very tight. Helicopters are above and have been circling, and no one is on the street.
The last 24 hours have been surreal. While I have had more than enough time to wrap my mind around this situation at hand, I still feel as though I am living in a slight haze.
Unlike on 9/11 when, like so many others, I could not tear myself away from the television, I could not seem to bear watching the news this time.
I feel like I'm living in a crime show. I woke up in Newton this morning on lockdown. I was at the Watertown Library yesterday, we ate at Strip T's, a couple blocks from (what we are told is) one of the suspects' house on Marathon Day.
This week as I can't tear myself away from my devices, I am heartsick. I cannot believe that Obama's message from the White House was directed at my city. The big news here last year was Whitey Bulger getting caught in Santa Monica. But terrorism?
As I sit in my Cambridge condo in the midst of Harvard Square, I find myself reflecting upon the reactions of my fellow students. Harvard has an extreme abundance of intellect, but I would not consider it to have an abundance of emotion. But this week, I saw emotion.
I sat with them and helped make a Pottermore account, feeling my phone buzzing in the pocket of my jeans as I did so. The temptation to check it was overwhelming. No. Set them up at Hogwarts. This is the perfect place to spend today.
As I and my wife watched, the night was perforated by sirens whizzing by. We slept little hoping for a better tomorrow, but this morning everything is shut down. We're in lock-down while law enforcement does their job and tries to bring an end to this short reign of terror and mayhem.
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.
The post 9/11 discrimination against Muslims has already started again, and it will only get worse. The only way that we as a country will be able to get over this is by standing together. We are all American.
Maybe we've gotten better at handling these crises, or maybe Boston is more on its game, but the coordination of the response here is amazing. Do other entire metropolitan regions ever get shut down like this, or is it something about the cohesion here that makes it possible? And why do I take such pride in that?
Sometimes it's very emotional. I can feel my eyes fill with tears. Other times I just feel angry that my hometown is having to deal with this. It's not pleasant being confined in a lockdown.
Today was supposed to be our first day of finals at Northeastern. And if they had been cancelled for any other reason, students would be celebrating in the streets, but instead we just sit inside as more sirens go by.
At 4 p.m. I have a wedding rehearsal. Maybe that is the way to derive meaning from days like today. Look evil in the eye, affirm your love for one another and step forward. That takes a courage that can banish fear.
I woke up last night to explosions and rounds of gunfire. I looked out the window of our second floor apartment to see groups of police officers carrying machine guns and running down our street towards the noise. I thought I was dreaming.
There are only a few other places on earth that I would expect to see these acts of bravery, like I saw on Monday. New York City, you will always be in my heart, but Boston, I have your back. Thanks for having mine.
We are in America, where elections are always honored and emergencies are always temporary. We may have an occasional bump along the way, but in the end we are both free and secure. Because we have our freedoms and we have each other.
I remember 9/11 from a distance. It touched me, tangentially, but even that seemed far away. This one seems personal.
Here in my Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, all is quiet today. Way too quiet. I can count on my fingers how many cars have driven down my normally busy street all day.
You try not to think about what it would feel like to have 12 nails tear through the flesh of your leg, or our flesh burned from the heat of an explosion, to see your loved ones enveloped by smoke and screams. Try not to picture your or a loved one's pixelated photograph on news sites in the coming days as the three victims' names are released. The fear, anger and disbelief are numbing. But this is mild compared to what others not directly injured went through.
Here in Auburndale, the world is a quiet place -- except the near incessant sirens that can be heard in the distant, and there is not a soul on the streets. While the outside world may be eerily quiet with only the wind for noise, social media is keeping the students both at Lasell and around Boston banded together.
Marathon Monday has become my favorite day of the year. One I look to all winter long, my unofficial start of spring. And, then it all changed in an instant. Two instants, actually. Twelve seconds apart.
What's it feel like to be in lockdown less than two miles from the danger with two young children soon to wake? Surreal, jittery, fraudulent and achingly real.
Follow Lindsey Mead on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lemead