Friday, April 19, 2013

Dispatch From Boston On Lockdown

This week, I’m told, we are all citizens of Boston. Ordinarily, I don’t think most Bostonians would look kindly on that sentiment, but this week has been extraordinary. The tragic, terrifying events that have transpired and the Newtonian equal-and-opposite reactions they have engendered.

Every week, I’m an actual citizen of Boston. Midwestern-born, I’m not a Bostonian, but this city has been my home for a while now.

This morning, I woke up and discovered my city was on lockdown. Buses and trains shut down. Cab service suspended. A massive manhunt underway. FBI, BPD, NSA, every acronym I can think of involved. Do not leave your houses, the Governor pleaded on TV. So I stayed home, locked the door, and shut the blinds.

We are all citizens of Boston, but only some of us are confined to our homes.

There are armored vehicles patrolling the city streets. I have seen them on the news, thought I heard their distinct rumble in moments of quiet though perhaps I imagined it. I'm told of sightings of Black Hawks landing as well. Boston is militarized. I know it’s all for my protection but I can’t help feeling that I’m trapped in a dystopian movie. I would fill the bathtub with fresh water if only I had a bathtub. For now, the Brita will do.

I’ve heard a lot about the character of Boston this week, about how tough the city’s people are, how you don’t mess with us, that something specific to our nature makes us willing to shut down the entire city just to catch someone who’s trying to hurt us. I like to think that’s true of all cities, but then I’m not truly a Bostonian.

Boston is a tough city, but then Boston is every city. This week, we are all Bostonians.

I’ve been watching the news for about 8 hours. Well, watching on and off. Nothing has happened in quite some time, and the news stopped reporting actual news about the time I woke up this morning. Twenty-four hour news is a perpetual motion machine, a bit of audiovisual irony in a city whose motion is completely arrested.

The police had a house surrounded at one point, but the suspect was not there. Just a terrified woman now with a bullethole in her living room.

Mindless chatter filters in over the airwaves. I know more about the suspect than I do some of my friends. Good kid, whatever that means. Didn’t seem like a terrorist (do they ever?). He has a car, and apparently a mechanic. The mechanic is willing to talk on camera. The suspect is white and his brother dead. His uncle is angry. All this information, but I do not know the one thing I care to find out.

Sirens rush by, relatively infrequently because I’m about two miles from the epicenter of the action but enough to make me wonder. It’s tantalizing to imagine what they might be rushing off toward, but in my house all is mundane.

The sirens carry as little news as what I’m watching on TV.

Relatives check in. Texts, calls, emails. Friends I haven’t spoken to in years want to make sure I’m okay. I feel enveloped by people who want to make sure that I’m locked down. I assure them I’m safe at home, with food and alcohol at the ready.  

I appreciate them reaching out, but for all their efforts, I am still cut off. Still sitting in my house straining my ears for news. For anything, really.

We are all citizens of Boston, but myself I am actually a citizen of Boston.

I just sit and wait, in my locked house, with my sandwich and my Irish coffee. I play Radiohead and watch the trees whip in the wind. Good music, I think a little morbidly, in case I’m to meet my end today. There’s a terrorist on the loose but I feel no less safe than any other day.This could happen anywhere, anytime, to any of us.

We are all citizens of Boston.

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