Editorial: Life After Boston

 

Just about anyone with a connection to Boston is likely to remember where they were the night of April 19 at about 7:30 p.m. That’s when a horde of law-enforcement officials surrounded a house in the Boston suburb of Watertown, leading to the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

The arrest capped one of the most horrifying and chaotic incidents in the history of one of America’s oldest cities, prompting a massive, region-wide outpouring of relief and tempered joy. 

As a Massachusetts native with countless connections to Boston, I doubt I would have forgotten anything about that day even under normal circumstances.

That weekend, though, posed extremely abnormal circumstances. When the Boston Police Department tweeted that Tsarnaev was in custody on Friday, I was following on my iPhone from a back room at Kelly’s Gastropub in New Haven, where I was with my family and soon-to-be-in-laws at the rehearsal dinner for my wedding.

My wife, Meghan, and I were scheduled to get married the next day at the New Haven Lawn Club, but the manhunt for Tsarnaev had placed an unavoidable cloud over the festivities.  

The horror unleashed on Patriots’ Day in Boston, when two bombs went off near the finish line at the marathon killing three and injuring nearly 200, has impacted countless lives, thousands of them far more profoundly than mine or Meghan’s.

Thinking back on that weekend now brings back many things, some sobering and some enthralling. Among them are two extremes, oddly juxtaposed: the far-reaching impact of terrorism, and the simple joy that comes from celebrating our most cherished relationships.

Twelve hours before Tsarnaev was captured, Meghan and I had awakened to find that the day before our wedding would be about far more than putting the finishing touches on a day that had been more than a year in the making.

As we and most other New Englanders slept, Tamerlan Tsarnaev—Dzhokhar’s older brother—had been killed in a shootout with police. Dzhokhar, who had run over his brother’s body in a frantic effort to escape, was at large, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick had issued a “shelter in place” order, urging residents of Boston and several surrounding communities to stay home and lock their doors.

As it happened, two of the residents being asked to “shelter in place” were my siblings, both of whom were supposed to be en route to New Haven for the wedding festivities. My sister, Katie, is a junior at Brandeis University in nearby Waltham. My brother, Joe—my best man—had stayed the previous night at a friend’s place in Cambridge, the suburb where the Tsarnaev brothers lived, and where MIT officer Sean Collier had been killed the previous night during a confrontation with the brothers.

Even as Meghan and I ran last-minute errands, we were mesmerized by the unfolding news.

As if it wasn’t dramatic enough to have the entire Boston area at a standstill, just after 9:30 a.m. Connecticut State Police put out an alert that they were looking for a gray Honda CR-V, on the road somewhere in the state, with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the wheel. Police also stopped an Amtrak train in East Norwalk, searching it for a person wanted in connection with the bombings.

Just before 10 a.m., I got a text from Joe: “Well, the hunt seems to be spreading to CT. … right on my path.”

Luckily, the CRV was recovered a short time later in Boston, and the call that prompted police to search the Amtrak train proved to be a false alarm. As the morning progressed, it became increasingly apparent that the search for Tsarnaev was confined to Watertown, Mass. Taxi service resumed in Boston, and though there weren’t many, some cars began appearing on the roads in Cambridge.

Joe decided to make a run for it. He picked up Katie at Brandeis, and the two were on their way to New Haven. Not only did they make it on time for the rehearsal, they were the first two there.

Having our families intact in New Haven was a relief: Proof positive that the show would go on, manhunt or not. But it was hard, as we completed the rehearsal and got ready for the celebratory dinner, not to think of what was happening not far away—especially since about a fifth of our wedding guests were from the Boston area.

I had just begun to relax, when my mom, Ronni, a former newspaper reporter, told me I’d better get out my phone and start following the developments. Tsarnaev was cornered. The nightmare was about to end.

Sure enough, Tsarnaev was taken into custody—seriously wounded, but alive—before we finished dinner.

All of our wedding guests from Greater Boston—an aunt, uncle and cousin from Newton, a cousin from Brookline, and a dozen or so friends—made it to New Haven the next day for the wedding.

At the reception, we danced to “Sweet Caroline,” the Dropkick Murphys’ “Shippin’ Up to Boston” and the Hub’s unofficial anthem, the Standells’ “Dirty Water,” all tributes to a shaken but resilient city.

Less than 36 hours after he left Cambridge amid fear and chaos, Joe gave a speech that perfectly summed up the weekend: While there is a tiny minority of people in the world who wish to do great harm to others, there are countless more people, he said, who treat one another with kindness, generosity and love.

We were in a roomful of the latter, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.
 

Ben Doody is Group Managing Editor for 21st Century Media’s Connecticut cluster.
 

Editorial: Life After Boston

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