It was a beautiful day and I decided to do a little painting on the old homestead. The "weather side" of our house had taken an awful beating over the past few years. So I'm up there on a plank with my scraper and my caulking gun and my pot of paint. The Red Sox game had just ended and now I'm listening to the afternoon sports talk guys. The Patriots have a wide receiver problem. The Bruins still don't have a power play. All of a sudden sirens start wailing and fire engine horns blare. It feels like they're all around me. I jokingly think to myself, well, this is the point in the marathon when the heart attack cases (those people not really in shape to run 26.2 miles) start to drop. Those poor bastards with pork chop-clogged aortas clutching their chests all at once. Then the sports talk guys mention an explosion.
It's funny how a solitary man on plank engaged in such a solitary pursuit can be so plugged in to what was going on. All it took was a radio and proximity to an event.
I went for a bike ride early that morning. There's this route I like that takes me through Brighton, Brookline, Newton and Boston. Small parts of it were sections of the Boston marathon route which I did my best to avoid. Eventually I wound up at my office located at the beginning of Newbury Street, five blocks from the marathon finish line. There I cleaned up and went out to breakfast. Later I ran an errand that took me to the Fenway area. As on every Patriots Day, the Red Sox scheduled an 11:00 home game that morning. I sat for a while and watched the Red Sox fans stream to the park, excited families and lots of boyfriends with their girlfriends clad in Red Sox gear. I almost enquired if there were any standing room tickets left.
If the day wasn't so nice, I would have gone back to the office to catch up on some some work. But it was beautiful, so there I was later that afternoon, up on a plank listening to the radio and the sirens.
The next day, Tuesday, I was able to go to work because my office was exactly one block outside the zone the authorities designated as a crime scene. It was another beautiful day. I felt a little timid running out for a snack that afternoon. The Public Garden was ringed with TV trucks, all of them massive and white with enormous satellite dishes perched on their tops. Reporters roamed with microphones while cameramen carrying tripods hustled to keep up. The atmosphere felt subdued. Nearby was the barrier closing off one end of Boylston Street keeping back a small crowd gazing toward the finish line area. I saw a marathon runner wearing an official blue and yellow jacket being interviewed. Later there were rumors that a suspect had been caught and was being rushed to the Moakley Courthouse in the North End. Everyone was elated by the news. A 5:00 press conference was scheduled. Then somebody called in a bomb threat and the courthouse was evacuated. Then there was no press conference and, as it turned out, no suspect.
Everybody knows what happened. The two Tsarnaev brothers got caught, one killed and the other badly injured, but not before they seriously screwed up a lot lives and disrupted many, many more. That Friday when multiple law enforcement agencies hunted young Dzhokhar in neighboring Watertown, my wife and I "sheltered in place" with our eyes glued to the TV news. Never in my life have I experienced anything like it. That is actually one of the the many good things about this country. Events like this are not commonplace as they are in other places on the earth.
Sometimes when you're working up on a plank, so many feet above the ground, it can be kind of peaceful and removed. Detached. But you can't stay that way.