To describe the events that have taken place in Boston over the past 24-48 hours would read more like an elaborate script to a Hollywood blockbuster, or like an episode of “Homeland”. I’ve seen some crazy things in my life- but this definitely trumps them all. I have never, ever, seen anything like this.
On Thursday afternoon, following the attack on the Boston Marathon this past Monday and a moving speech given to the city and the nation by President Obama earlier Thursday morning, the FBI and Boston officials released video surveillance footage and photographs compiled after hours and hours of research and tips, of two men they deemed as persons of interest. In the surveillance footage, the men can be seen walking a distance apart, but were later photographed standing together, only to separate again. In footage not released to the public, it is said that one of the men can be seen placing down a backpack and then leaving it shortly before the second blast.
The photographs and the footage were viewed and circulated at such a fast speed that the FBI’s official website momentarily crashed- but it means something- it meant people wanted to find these men. They wanted answers.
Meanwhile, Boston attempted to move forward with healing and helping those affected by the attack.
And then Thursday night happened.
Video surveillance from a 7/11 in Cambridge, around the time an unrelated armed robbery took place, shows one of the marathon bombing suspects entering the store. Shortly thereafter, there was a fatal shooting of a MIT Campus Police Officer and a carjacking nearby, leading police on a pursuit into neighboring Watertown. During this pursuit, an MBTA officer was critically injured.
During the pursuit, which extended into the early hours of Friday morning, various explosives were thrown from the windows of the vehicle being chased and numerous shots were fired at police, leading to a massive gunfight. It became clear after determining there were two suspects involved in the shoot-out and the style of explosive devices they were attempting to detonate that these were, in fact, the two men the FBI were looking for in connection with the marathon bombing.
I had gone to bed on Thursday night following the news of the shooting at MIT, but was woken up around 4 a.m. by numerous phone calls/texts/and social media messages- all of which were essentially the same thing: asking me if I was watching the story unfold. By then, one of the bombing suspects had been killed. The other had fled on foot, leading to a massive manhunt in Watertown. Both suspects had been ID’d as 26 year old Tamerlan Tsarnaev (the one who was killed) and his 19 year old brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who immigrated to the United States from Chechnya in 2001.
Within the hour, the MBTA was suspended, which eventually led to taxi service being suspended as well. Certain neighborhoods, including Watertown, were placed on mandatory lock down so that the Boston Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, the FBI, National Guard, and SWAT could conduct an unprecedented manhunt. No one was allowed to leave their homes. Businesses were ordered to close. All vehicles were ordered off the roads. It wasn’t until I was halfway to my office when I was informed that the order had been extended to the city of Boston as well, and not just it’s neighboring communities that were at risk.
And if you think that a deserted city is eerie, you’d be 100% correct.
For the remainder of the day, myself and millions of others stayed glued to our televisions, radios, and social media feeds waiting for updates, press conferences, and confirmations. Some people were saying they’d located him, others were saying they’d found more bombs strewn around the area, and some others were saying he was still at large and had possibly fled the state. The uncertainty of the situation, and numerous conflicting reports, was grueling and frightening.
At 6 P.M. a press conference took place, in which we were informed that they hadn’t been able to locate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but were going to continue the search. Re-instating MBTA services and lifting the city-wide lock down, citizens were once again asked to stay diligent and keep their eyes open, since the suspect could still be within the area- and still armed and extremely dangerous.
And then there was a lead.
A man in Watertown, stepping out to get some fresh air after being cooped up in his home all day, noticed something amiss with the boat he had stored in his backyard- specifically, the tarp covering had been cut open and there was blood on it. Peering under the tarp, the owner noticed an injured man hiding inside the boat and immediately contacted authorities.
Those of us who hadn’t quite gotten to venture outside and were still glued to the news, frustrated that the suspect hadn’t been apprehended, suddenly heard gun shots in the background of the reports- and watched as officers and authorities scrambled into action and ran towards the scene.
The man in the boat was soon confirmed to be Dzhokhar. He had been injured in the gunfight the night before, and had hidden in the one place authorities had yet to search. After another tense stand-off, authorities were finally able to get him out of the boat and take him into custody- news that sent Boston into a relieved, happy frenzy and saw thousands take to the streets to cheer on law enforcement, and each other- after what had been a traumatic, emotional week:
There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered, the biggest one being “why?” Why would two legal residents of this country, and this city, who lived and worked here for years, who friends and neighbors described as funny, smart, well-liked and kind, who were believed to be living a life so many people who want to immigrate to America hope for- do something like this? What is the reason? What was the motive?
The other question, of course, is are there others involved? Did this act of terrorism stretch beyond these two brothers? Did they have help? Accomplices? Other attacks planned?
Hopefully with Dzhokhar’s capture and recovery at a nearby hospital, we’ll eventually get those answers. Until then, this was a huge step in closing one chapter of this attack- and this case.
I am so proud of the Boston Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, the FBI, the brave citizens of this amazing city and the countless unnamed heroes who have emerged in the aftermath of an unfathomable tragedy. This capture- a true victory- is for the people we lost too soon on Monday- Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu. It’s for MIT Officer Sean Collier. It’s for those who were injured.
It’s for Boston.
It’s for Massachusetts.
It’s for New England.
It’s for America.
It’s for us.