Boston Lockdown: What It's Like Inside

boston marathon bombings
On April 16, a day after the Boston Marathon bombings, Boylston (where the race passed through) is desolate. (Image credit: Kristina Grifantini)

BOSTON — The drone of helicopters and scream of sirens have become a way of life in Boston this week.

As I write, I’ve been glued to news station sites, Twitter and Facebook for the last 18-some hours, keeping the streams up during a fitful night's sleep.

The first sign that something was wrong at the end of this deeply wrong week was last night's (April 18) emergency text from MIT, where I worked as an assistant editor for the university's magazine up until last year. The word was that there was a robbery at a 7-11 convenience store, and a shootout near the iconic Stata Center. Immediately, you think of everyone you know who could be working there late, who lives nearby, who might be passing through at the wrong time. Panicked messages spread through the networks; friends and friends of friends working there late posted on social media accounts that they were barricading doors, keeping the lights off. [Inside Twisted Terrorist Minds — Where Is the Empathy?]

More alerts came through: Injuries reported. Area unsafe. MIT police officer down. Still no word of the police apprehending the gun-wielding criminal, which seemed unusual.

My fiancé and I were around the corner from the race on Monday (April 15) when the two bombs went off — a block and a half down from the finish line, where we had been shortly before the explosions. My first thought had been, "earthquake," before the grim reality set in — before we made our way, anxious and confused, across the city with hordes of others to find a working subway station. It's too easy to get consumed in the what-ifs. Colleagues and friends of mine were at the finish line, thankfully physically unharmed, but not OK. The bombing of our local holiday — Patriot's Day, a day meant for Boston — has cut deep in residents' psyches.

A view of Boylston in Boston, about a block from the finish line where the Boston Marathon bombings occurred on April 15. The photo was taken about a half-hour after the explosions. (Image credit: Kristina Grifantini)

Since then, the spring that Bostonians have been waiting for had crept in, life had slowly resumed almost to normal for those not directly injured or witnesses to the bloodshed. You could almost start to put it behind you, except for the perpetual police and military everywhere you looked, staring stonily in the "T" stops (the local public transportation system), scattered in knots across popular tourist spots, like Boston Common and Faneuil Hall Marketplace, downtown.

Early this morning (April 19), we found out the MIT campus police officer had died. The news scraped at hearts and minds already raw from grief and unease. The news was unreal: a connection between the shooters at MIT and the bombing suspects, a carjacking toward the west, a shootout at Watertown, another officer injured, a death of one of the brothers, escape for the other. Again, we needed to stay home, to try to stay safe.

I called my parents, not even sure how to sum it all up.

For the second time this week, people posted that they were safe for now. Again we worry — worry for friends in Cambridge, worry for friends in Watertown, trying not to think of bombs and hostages and all of the other things that could go wrong in our normally safe and stoic city.

The last time we were hunkered down inside, trapped and restless like this was not so long ago, during the approach of Hurricane Sandy. Trapped inside, feeling unsafe. But this is much more insidious.

Like on Monday, we wait for more information. The police scanner apps are down so that the suspect can't get wind of the search. News stations run themselves in circles, speculating.

As I sit writing, we can hear the drone of helicopters, still. The networks are quiet, waiting for information. There’s an eerie calm, as if before a storm. The subway system is resuming, people are cautioned to be careful when venturing out. But most are still staying in. Everyone in the city is holding a collective breath, batting back worse-case scenarios, hoping for a quick, bloodless resolution.

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