There’s no doubt September 11 was more destructive and horrific and game-changing, but the week of terror that just played out in Boston hit a lot closer to home for me.
The target was not only physically closer but philosophically closer as well. For those who grew up in pre-Providence renaissance Rhode Island, Boston was our big city. I grew up wanting to be “Mayday” Malone pouring beers in Beantown, not Gordon Gecko making millions on Wall Street.
As such, I have been celebrating Marathon Monday since the long-gone days when we thought Rosie Ruiz was the biggest black mark that could ever happen to the world’s greatest road race. That, of course, all changed last Monday, when two homemade bombs probably forever skewed the security-to-civil liberties ratio at American sporting events.
A childhood friend, with whom I have enjoyed many a Patriots’ Day Bloody Mary, pinged me about it just before it hit my social media feeds. Not Boston, I responded. I shrugged it off as confusion with some car bombs that went off in Iraq that same day and ever-so briefly went back to not caring about terrorism. Seconds later it hit my Twitter timeline – my sorry, 21st Century stand-in for a real Walter Cronkite.
Terrorist bombings killed at least 33 people in Iraq on April 15, 2013 and, here in Boston, three. But it’s proximity, not volume, that makes terrorism effective. I very well could have been in Boston that day – in fact, just seven days earlier I was. One friend couldn’t find her sister-in-law who ran in the race, and another knew the Newport woman who was injured in the blasts. That was plenty close enough.
Then, on Friday, it got even closer. The day began with a post I wrote a month earlier going viral as the internet misidentified the man as a suspect. It ended when I learned the dead suspect was married to a woman who lives less than three miles from me. My Facebook feed exploded with kids I grew up with who living in the area, driving into the city or deciding to stay home.
My cousin who lives in Cambridge happened to be crashing at my mom’s house Thursday night. I spent the better part of the day texting with a good friend who lives in nearby Somerville. Another friend has a cousin who is a Cambridge cop, and his dad went to Cambridge Ringe and Latin High School. This was essentially a home game for me, to use a sports analogy.
Like most of America, I woke up to one of the most terrifying news cycles of my life: the suspects had killed again, carjacked an SUV and engaged in a shootout with police – in which they used homemade grenades – and one of them had eluded capture and was on the lamb.
A sort of de facto martial law had been declared to find what initially seemed to be a bad guy version of James Bond. As it turns out, it’s not easy for 9,000 law enforcement officers to locate one bleeding-to-death 19-year-old in the suburbs. I’m not sure which scenario is scarier for America.