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

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