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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Essay: Thoughts About What Was Happening Six Months Ago Today

State police in Watertown, Mass., on April 19, 2013. (Alex Ashlock/Here & Now)

State police in Watertown, Mass., on April 19, 2013. (Alex Ashlock/Here & Now)

It was dark and sort of chilly. The sun wasn’t up yet. I was in Watertown, Massachusetts, along with dozens of other reporters. It was April 19, 2013, six months ago today.

The shootout had already happened. One of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was dead. The second was loose.

At that time we only knew him as Suspect Number Two.

What was going to happen next?

A bomb-sniffing dog checked the media equipment where we were set up. Many communities, including Watertown were already on lock down. State Police Colonel Timothy Alben spoke to reporters on the scene: “I want to be clear. This situation is grave. We believe these are the same individuals that were responsible for the bombing on Monday at the Boston Marathon. This is a very serious situation that we are dealing with.”

The sun came up. Helicopters whirred. Sirens screamed. Busloads of police officers arrived. The parking lot at the Arsenal Mall looked like the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. It was filled with police cars and military vehicles. A line of heavily armed state police troops formed around the area where the media was assembled, getting ready for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to speak. Two black SUV’s pulled, windows darkened. Men got out wearing bullet proof vests, carrying machine guns. They sheltered the governor as he came to the microphones and said “Suspect One is dead. Suspect Two is on the run. There is a massive manhunt underway.”

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years and I have never been scared while covering a story.

That morning six months ago I was scared.

I don’t think I was alone.

  • Alex Ashlock is a producer and the director of the show.

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  • fun bobby

    was it the lone teenager on the loose or the jackbooted thugs with automatic weapons holding the city hostage?

    • Watertown Strong

      So wonderful to have 20/20 hindsight bobby. The fear came from a murderer on the loose who had fired weapons and explosives in Watertown. Who may have had an explosive suicide-vest strapped to his person and possibly more guns stashed in the getaway car that he abandoned. The fear came from thinking that he might shoot or kill you or your family in order to get away. That bobby is where the fear came from and you are an insensitive jerk.

      • fun bobby

        i hate to break it to you but some where in watertown at this very moment there is most likely some teenager on the loose with a firearm and/or fireworks. without all the police state pageantry you would probably feel the same about that kid and the “terrorist”. there was an armed robbery on the same night at the same gas station the alleged terrorists went to. have we heard any more on that case? I do not live very far away and I can tell you the lockdown was absurd. I live in Worcester and there are probably 1000 armed teens within a mile of here. I have a friend in Watertown and she did not know what was going on until a million cops showed up. she was not afraid before.

        • Watertown Strong

          Feel free to say that you live near plumley village and had a latin king pull a gun on you. All that goes to show is that there is a WORLD of difference between someone who has blown up and killed spectators at the marathon and a campus cop and has a deep motivation to cause indiscrimnate harm and a kid with fireworks or a gun. The SWAT team came to my house, I was woken up by the sounds of screeching tires, gunshots and a bomb going off because I live in East Watertown. I am sorry that your friend lost her ignorant bliss, and only became afraid afterwards, but the police believed she was in credible danger and so wanted to keep her from running down Mt. Auburn street while they searched for the teenage murderer/terrorist. My neighbor took his dog out into the yard and was politely asked by a policeman to go back in. As someone so far away you do not understand what the lockdown was really like and what the fear and stress level was like. YOU HAVE NO IDEA whatsoever.

          • fun bobby

            I have only had a Caucasian pull a gun on me and I was no where near Worcester at the time.I live 40 miles away its not far at all. a guy one street over from me was awoken by gunshots 2 days ago. I must have slept through them. I guess the cops arrested the guy without any lockdown needed. My point is that the lockdown was what was stressful not the actual threat. the actual threat did not justify the response and stressing people out.

  • Miles Howard

    I had left Boston for a trip to New Hampshire mere hours before all hell broke loose. Listening to the entire manhunt unfold, from a radio in the White Mountains was incredibly surreal. I was thankful to not be in Boston, and yet, I wanted to be there: with my friends. I was scared for them.

  • watertown resident

    We were locked down in our house 1/2 mile away from “The Boat.” By mid morning our house was “swept” and then a State trooper, looking and carrying exactly what is pictured above, was stationed by a telephone pole on the street overlooking our backyard and watched me at my desk all day and into the night when the street lights came on. A guardian angel I will never forget.

    • fun bobby

      at least the cat was entertained at taxpayer expense. did you also have your rifle locked and loaded?

  • Watertown Res

    I was in Watertown the day of the marathon and told friends that live in the city if they wanted to escape being so close to the finish line they could come to Watertown to get away. That seemed really ironic on the 19th as my friend who lives on School Street called to see if I was home because cops were parked in her yard and she just heard a ton of gunshots from around the corner.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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