I live in Watertown, Massachusetts which, as you may have heard, was the centre of a rather big story on Friday. It’s a nice town to live in, not as expensive as (and more working class than) neighbouring Cambridge and Belmont, but close enough to Boston to not feel too much like you’re out in the suburbs.
Very early Friday morning we were woken by the sound of sirens, gunfire, and explosions (actually, my wife was woken up and she woke me) and, putting the news on, realized that some serious shit was happening just a few blocks south of our road and that we weren’t getting back to sleep. Even if we’d wanted to, the helicopter flying overhead and the thought of a fugitive terrorist in the neighbourhood would’ve kept us awake.
By the time the sun came up we also knew that we weren’t going anywhere that day as we’d been told to stay indoors (“shelter in place” was the rather cozy phrase they used) while the police carried out a house-to-house search in a zone around where the second suspect escaped the gunfight.
Luckily we live on the outside edge of that zone so we never had the pleasure of an armoured, quasi-military SWAT team entering our house to search it, but we did see about half a dozen cops carrying assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests sweep our street — checking cars, back yards, and basement doors. It was very surreal to see something like that through your living room window, from my side of the glass the swiftly efficient way they split up around each house and then regrouped before moving on to the next one was like watching some silent, eerie modern ballet. Being a Brit I’m uneasy seeing a policeman with any sort of gun and to see these guys in our front yard carrying the kind of weaponry they had was entering I’m-in-a-Hollywood-movie territory. Though they were only a few feet away I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t want to find out how itchy their trigger fingers were.
I’d been down to our basement earlier in the day (armed with only a Maglite torch) to check if the fugitive was down there. It seemed highly unlikely, but a lot of things were highly unlikely that day so I thought it better to be safe than sorry no matter how nervous it made me.
The other tricky thing I had to do that day was tell my daughter what was going on. It was easy enough to bullshit her little brother, but there really isn’t a convincing lie when a 6-year-old keeps asking why she can’t go outside to play and why we keep telling her to get away from the windows. We stressed that the bad man was nowhere near us and she was perfectly safe and thankfully she took it in her stride so we didn’t have to deal with freaked-out kids on top of everything else — letting them watch cartoons all day helped a lot.
By early evening they still hadn’t caught him and the lifting of the stay-at-home order was an admission they didn’t think they were going to either. That’s when I started to feel a little anxious at the thought of putting the kids to bed and going to sleep myself knowing that this nutcase could still be out there somewhere. I also didn’t relish the idea of our streets being patrolled by heavily-armed police all weekend — this is Watertown, not Baghdad.
But then, happy at least to be allowed outside, we were on the street chatting with our neighbours when we heard a lot of sirens in the distance and the helicopter overhead getting lower and louder, making tighter and tighter circles. We guessed something was happening but didn’t know where so we told the kids to come back inside with us right away, that was the only time my daughter got a little panicky. Sure enough they’d found the guy and caught him — outside the search zone just like we were, guess it wasn’t that highly unlikely after all. We heard those gunshots too. “Yay! They got him!” my daughter said when we told her. Our very, very, very long day was over.
Friday had been a lovely sunny spring day and we couldn’t wait to take the kids to the playground after they’d spent the day cooped up inside. Typically it was pouring with bloody rain Saturday morning.
Download: Life During Wartime (Alternate Version) – Talking Heads (mp3)