Last Monday, April 15, was supposed to be a grand day on all fronts in Boston. The sun was shining so brightly -- twinkling, actually -- and it was that perfect New England early-spring cool; just a sliver of cold lingered. Daffodils, magnolia buds and cherry blossoms had joined us. Our long, harsh, winter beating was finally over.
Boston was outside last Monday because they could be and wanted to be. April 15 was Patriot's Day, a proud Massachusetts holiday. There was no school, no postal service. Banks were closed. This makes it easier to play outside and to cheer the marathoners on all along the course, a 117-year-old tradition for Bostonians.
My family and I did not go to the Marathon because I had to take my two older daughters to a dentist appointment at lunchtime. We were driving home on that portion of the highway that runs beneath Boston when the two bombs went off. We did not hear the explosions. We pulled into our driveway excited to watch some of the marathon on TV and to get outside to enjoy the glorious day.
We entered the house to find our eight-year-old daughter and babysitter watching the news. Our sitter, Amber, had just come from the finish line of the Marathon and was madly texting her friends, whom she had just left in downtown Boston. Once I got a glimmer of the situation, I whisked my eight-year-old into the next room.
After the Sandy Hook killings, the principal of my kids' school sent a note to parents advising us to keep our young children from watching the news. That the young cannot process tragedy is obvious. Less obvious is the adults' struggle.
My older daughters, who are teens, glued themselves to the TV. I remembered that the principal's note explained that older kids need information to feel empowered. Dazed, I took my eight-year-old to the backyard. I then convinced her to watch a movie inside.
Panic was on the television. Boston was chaos. My kids were worried that we would be bombed at home. I told them we were safe; I didn't completely believe it. Then the local news station reported that the mayor advised us not to move around the city -- via foot, bike, car or public transportation.
Tickers on the bottom of the TV screen then began tallying the injured and the dead. So did Twitter and Facebook. We heard a report of a possible bomb at the John F. Kennedy Library. Again, my kids asked if we were safe. I said yes.
By the end of the day, we knew only that our city had been attacked -- no details. I knew that my almost-13-year-old did not want to sleep alone. She asked me about the little boy, Martin Richard, who was killed in the first blast, and about his sister, whose leg had been blown off, and about their mother, who was having surgery to remove shrapnel from her brain. These were not questions a child should ask. Was it right to let her keep watching the news?
As the sun went down, my oldest daughter and I decided to take our puppy for a quick walk around the block. We needed to be outside, to get some air, to be in the light. The twilight was calmingly lovely. That early spring air, clinging to the thread of cold that had started the day, surrounded us. Orange ricocheted off the glass-fronted library. The grass was washed briefly in light green. Boston was -- and is -- heartbroken. I needed to find solace somewhere, and I found it in the sky right then.
The next day, my kids did not have school. All area schools were closed. I have lived through hurricane days, having spent high school in Miami, FL, and blizzard days in Boston, but never a bomb day. Never a bomb day. Never a bomb day.
After the "bomb day," April 17, I flew to San Francisco for Weathermob work. The fly day was perfect, as was the weather upon arrival in San Francisco. It was so good that my Weathermob partner, Michael, who had lived for many years in San Francisco, said that there is NEVER perfect sun and a dry 70 F degrees in that city. This was pure weather luck. I considered the divine sky a gift of peace and decided to be truly in the moment. Between meetings, I basked in the majesty of Northern California.
I blocked out the Boston turbulence, my powerlessness as a parent, as a citizen. After our meeting in Cupertino, CA, Michael took the scenic route back to San Francisco. It seemed wrong not to stop to absorb the magnificence, to take weather pictures. We drove by the Golden Gate Bridge, through Presidio and North Beach, and by the Embarcadero.
Once back downtown, I had a patio beer in Union Square, which was teeming with people thrilled to be outside. At 7:00 PM (PST), I returned to the hotel in order to go to bed and stay on East Coast time -- and to be sharp the next day.
I did not turn on the TV. I took pictures of the sunset, the graceful palms out my window, the dry twilight. I awakened the next morning to a text from my husband in Boston and hundreds of messages from the Weathermob asking if I was OK: there had been a shootout between the bombing suspects and the police about ¾ of a mile from our house.
My husband could hear sirens all night and arose to an official lockdown: the suspect was at large, possibly in our neighborhood. I called home immediately and turned the news on. I felt sick.
The San Francisco sun rose in front of me softly. It was pink, hazy and juxtaposed against the neon -- not yet relieved from its night shift -- that flashed on the tops of buildings. On the phone, my husband walked me through the details of the Boston-area manhunt. He told me that, as we spoke, some of our friends had SWAT teams searching their houses for Suspect #2.
I felt powerless on Marathon Monday when I was home. Now, 2700 miles away from my family, I felt disembodied. The day before, I had inhaled a day of great natural beauty and light, but Friday, April 19, 2013, was dark and suffocating.
Then, after a day full of meetings, I learned that the suspect was still on the loose. My mind raced again. I was helpless in San Francisco; my family was helpless at home. Back in my room, I closed the blinds and turned on the TV.
The loveliness outside was nothing but a distraction. I called my family. The lockdown was in its ninth hour. "This is boring, Mama," my oldest daughter complained. "Boring is good," I thought. I just felt happy to hear the normal hustles and bustles of dinnertime in our kitchen.
Violent paralysis, if that is not an oxymoron, was the new normal in Boston: SWAT teams, helicopters, police cars, armored vehicles, sirens and fear. My Boston friends posted videos of the surreality on Facebook. Some wrote nervous jokes about lockdown dinners. Others were being interviewed by news organizations on Skype in their basements.
Suddenly, it was over. CNN's Anderson Cooper announced that the suspect was caught in a boat. Not in the water, like in the movies, but in a driveway under a tarp. I was still processing Marathon Monday. I was ill at ease with the great distance between my family, my city and me. Evidence proved that it was over, though. I opened my hotel curtains.
The sun was setting again, as it does, and I could see an American flag across from my room on the top of a skyscraper. It fluttered weakly in the light at half mast. I was teary. I remembered the solace the sky gifted me earlier in the week. I remembered that I felt the healing effects of my drive around a luminous Northern California. I knew that my family was safe. I repeated the names of those who lost their lives to the bombers: Officer Sean Collier, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, and Krystle Campbell. I don't want to forget their names.
I don't want to forget the feeling of renewal and hope that a magnificent sky promises. I don't want to forget that I needed this feeling and the light. We all do right now.