New England

The Boston Marathon Bombings and the Week of April 15, 2013

I am a Bostonian and during the week of April 15, 2013, I witnessed the response to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Monday April 15, 2013: Fear

Tim and I spent our morning at Fenway Park. We love going to Fenway on Patriots’ Day because we get to watch two events: the Red Sox and the marathon. Throughout the game the Sox use their centerfield TV screen to display clips of the runners and to show the winners cross the finish line.

The game ended around 2:00 pm, which would have given us plenty of time to walk from the ballpark to the finish line to watch hundreds of runners finish their run. Thankfully, we did not head to the finish line. After two weeks of hosting houseguests we really needed groceries so we went to Whole Foods instead.

The bombs went off just as we walked out of the store. As we neared Symphony Hall we heard sirens, lots of sirens. A police officer standing in the intersections (not unusual for Marathon Monday) started screaming: “GET OUT OF THE WAY! GET OUT OF THE [Expletive] Way! Move! Move!” at drivers (unusual). As the drivers tried to get to the side of the road, 5 or more police cars came barreling down Massachusetts Avenue. More kept coming. Tim commented that something must be up, which prompted the woman standing next to me to say: “There are bombs going off at Copley.”

Our walk home felt like a scary game of Frogger. The noise of the sirens filled the air and bounced off the sides of the buildings. We found it impossible to tell where the emergency vehicles were coming from and therefore nerve racking to cross the streets we needed to get home. A couple of long sidewalks made it possible for us to call our parents. In both instances we informed them of the bombings before they had heard about them.

As soon as we arrived home Tim and I turned on the TV and our Twitter feeds. Within moments we received several frantic e-mails, Facebook comments, and text messages from friends and family trying to determine if we were okay. As we replied we kept thinking: “if we hadn’t had to do our grocery shopping, we would have been there.”  


Wednesday, April 17: Sadness

I had an appointment that took me to the corner of Dartmouth and Stuart Streets, one block from Copley Square. As I crested the small hill on Dartmouth Street, I looked down on to Boylston Street. Humvees, armed soldiers, and police officers guarded the Square. The white first aid tent stood abandoned and a breeze blew its flaps open and closed. Outside of the Boston Public Library the American flags flapped listlessly. The whole scene made me sad and tears welled in my eyes as I spied the blue and gold marathon pennant that hung from steeple of the Old South Church. It had wrapped around its pole in such a way that one half flapped with the breeze while the other half hung trapped in the rope used to display it.

I knew what had happened, but the eerie and sad scene before me brought the event home. Boston had been attacked. My city had been targeted. Real people had been killed and injured.


Friday, April 18: Anger, Frustration, & Joy

We awoke with a start at 6:30 am. Tim’s employer called, texted, and e-mailed to say that his Cambridge office would be closed for the day. By 8:00 am Governor Patrick had ordered all of Boston to “shelter in place.” We left the house twice while the order was in effect because we had to walk the dogs.

With the exception of our two, brief dog walks Tim and I felt trapped; the knowledge that we could not go outside took a psychological toll on us. Friday proved to be the first, gorgeous and temperate day of spring. Throughout the day we felt anger and frustration. We wanted to be outside and enjoy the weather. We wanted the bombers caught. We wanted the day to be over. Each time we aired these frustrations we reminded each other that staying inside was the one thing we could do to assist in the capture of the bomber Tsarnaev.

When the Governor lifted the “shelter in place” order, we felt a mixture of frustration and relief: Relief that we could go outside and frustration because after spending a whole, distracted day inside, the police had yet to find Tsarnaev. It felt like we might have to endure many more days sitting in fear of what the suspect might do next. But around 7pm the police found Boston’s man, hiding in a boat.

We spent Friday night just as we had spent the day: glued to the TV. We refused to turn it off because we did not want to miss the moment the police captured Tsarnaev. When they finally caught him we felt joy. Even more so when we realized that they had taken him alive, which meant that we might finally learn why he and his brother bombed our city.



I will remember last week as one of the longest and saddest of my life. It has been hard for me, and every other Bostonian and New Englander, not to take the attacks a bit personally. Boston is the center of our universe, our “Hub,” and the Tsarnaevs attacked it. They killed 4 people and grievously wounded over 200 more. The manhunt may be over, but I am not sure when I will feel normal again. Right now, I feel hollow. Time will soften this feeling, but I will never forget what happened. I suppose that is why I wrote this post.


The New England Approach to Snowstorms: The Blizzard of 1978 and Nemo

On February 7, 1978, a blizzard dumped 27.1 inches of snow on Boston and equivalent amounts on other New England communities. New Englanders refer to that storm as the "Blizzard of '78." Since 1978, the storm has been the benchmark by which New Englanders measure all other snow storms. The "Blizzard of Blizzard1978 '78" left an indelible impression in the minds of New Englanders. Although a February 2005 storm brought 27.5 inches of snow, which surpassed the Blizzard of '78's accumulation by nearly a half an inch, the "Blizzard of '78" has remained the standard for snowfall.

The staying power of the '78 storm can be attributed to how it surprised and crippled the region. In 1978, regional weather forecasters had a reputation for inaccuracy. New Englanders listened with great skepticism to the predictions of possible 2-foot accumulations. When the storm failed to arrive on time, many people left their homes to go to work and run errands. When the storm arrived, it stranded many New Englanders at their jobs, on highways, and at home. It took Yankees more than a week to dig out.

The Blizzard of 1978 dropped an all-time record 27 inches of snow on Boston. Here, residents of Farragut Road in South Boston are digging out their cars from snowdrifts. (AP)

Since 1978, New Englanders look upon snow predictions with greater care. A big reason for their caution stems from frequent reminders of the infamous storm. Weather forecasters compare impending nor'easters with how they will stack-up against the "Blizzard of '78" and local newscasts provide follow-up segments with visual reminders of how the '78 storm paralyzed the region.

Today, nor'easter Nemo has many New Englanders reminiscing again about the "Blizzard of '78." Nemo threatens to replace the Blizzard's benchmark for regional snow fall by several inches; Boston and coastal New England are told to expect as much as 34 inches of snow, while other areas may receive 1-2 feet. Although Nemo promises to rival the famous blizzard's snowfall, it seems doubtful that it will mimic the severity of '78. The lessons learned 35 years ago have most New Englanders preparing for the worst. Even Yankees like myself, born after the historic storm, have taken its lessons to heart. This morning I went grocery shopping, did my laundry,checked the batteries in my emergency lantern, and bought a shovel to dig out my car. Tonight, I plan to prepare meals that my partner and I can eat cold if necessary. What are you doing to prepare for the "historic, crippling storm ahead?"