A surreal scene in Boston

By Rosalyn Borg

Boston on April 15, was, to borrow from “A Tale of Two Cities, ”the best of times: a sunny spring day, great for the Red Sox ball game, for a walk, for the Marathon; and the worst of times: when a horrendous, deliberate, vicious act of murder was committed.

A proud city celebrating Patriots’ Day, with kids off school and families enjoying the tradition of going to the Sox ball game, then afterwards, strolling over to the Boston Marathon finish line to watch and cheer for the runners. It also was a city harboring malice and evil that exploded before millions of eyes.  


I will never ever hear sirens without remembering the bombing and neither will anyone else in Boston.  Sirens from police cars, firetrucks, ambulances, screaming all day Monday and that night, into Tuesday, continuing sporadically on Wednesday. The sirens were the music of the day. Sirens are my strongest memory, other than the shock and horror of pain and destruction.  

I will be forever impressed with the tremendous efficiency and coordination of the various law enforcement agencies, which seemed to be on the scene almost immediately.  There were no turf issues, no political puffery, everyone cooperating: city, state, FBI, ATF, Haz Mat, Homeland Security, National Guard, highly visible.

It is impossible to describe the fluidity of the medical community, like a well-rehearsed ballet with the dancers waiting in the wings for their clue.  It was awesome. Hospitals had been drilling, practicing for years for just this kind of crisis.  It paid off.  Everyone knew exactly what to do. Off duty personnel came back and smoothly picked up the rhythm.   In an interview, a hospital spokesperson talked about how they had drilled over and over and over for just this kind of crisis.  Even to the point where a decision had been made that precious time was wasted writing down information on the patient’s ID bracelet, so white bracelets with just a number were ready, i.e. 001, 002, etc., to clip on the patient wrist’s and when he or she was stablized, fill out the information later.

Walking toward Bolyston Street, the first thing I noticed was that all the walk/wait stop lights froze on “wait.”   All cell phone service ceased.  Only land line or email or text were used for communication. The 14 blocks surrounding the finish line were closed and became a crime scene.  Bus service ceased in the area, same for taxis.  Flights were frozen. Service stopped on the entire Green Line, the major north/south subway (the “T”); the entrance and exits were barricaded. Unless you were walking, you were trapped.  No one was allowed into hotels at or near the scene.  

Local media had by far the better coverage than national TV networks or cable.  This was their city.  They knew it best, had the best contacts and reported clearly, calmly and accurately.  

Boston was a ghost town. People were told not to go out unless it was necessary.  Streets were deserted around the bombing site and all the neighborhoods. My hotel was in the 14-block area considered part of the crime scene.  There are approximately 15 to 20 restaurants close by. Only Panera Bread and Legal Seafood were open. Legal was busy with tourists and runners. It was like any night except that the conversation centered around the marathon and the bombing.  I sat at the bar where you meet friendly, interesting people like the three couples with the wives running and the husbands cheering them from the side lines. Every event was canceled. Colleges in the immediate area were in lock down. No traffic — just police cars with sirens blaring.  If you could have driven into the area, parking spaces were available without even looking for one.

What we saw on television and read about the fantastic volunteers who did everything they could to help, the uninjured who performed heroically, the sudden quiet throughout the neighborhoods punctured only by the high pitched sirens are images that stay with me. The word “surreal” doesn’t even cover what happened on Patriots Day.  Heroes, courage, sorrow does.