April 15th, 2013 was a tough day for people all across the country. The bombings that took place in Boston hit home for those of us from the New England area. I am not from Boston or Massachusetts, but the event touched me in a way that I could never forget. It seemed that everyone knew someone or was in some way connected to the blasts that shook Boylston St. that afternoon. It was especially hard to see those from Boston and its surrounding areas having to deal with the fact that their home was under attack. Just a few years before, in 2007, I was standing right across the street from where one of the bombs went off to watch the Red Sox World Series Parade, not knowing what would take place in the future. The parade was a day filled with excitement and joy for the city. But it was a much different day on April 15th.
At the time of the attacks, I was taking classes and interning in Washington, D.C. with the CBS Evening News. That day my class was taking a trip to CNN’s Washington Bureau to get a tour and learn a little more about what it is that they do there. I remember sitting on the Metro on our way to the Verizon Center stop and getting a text from one of my friends which read something like “this Boston thing is crazy”. Being someone who constantly checks Twitter for the latest news updates I was confused and quickly hopped on the social networking site. It didn’t take long to find out what my friend had been talking about.
My timeline was filled with pictures of smoke and a scene of pure chaos. I was trying to read everything at once but my eyes kept locking on to the word “bombing” and I knew something had to be seriously wrong. I showed the feed to a few of my friends who I was with and instantly we knew that this was something serious. When we arrived at CNN one of my friends who is from Boston was frantically calling her family and friends in the area who were supposed to be cheering on runners at the marathon that day. The sheer look of fear on her face as she tried to locate her loved ones scared me even more. I just felt hopeless being so far away from a city that I have been to so many times and wishing, like so many others, that there was something I could do.
It wasn’t the average tour of CNN to say the least. We were supposed to meet with the Bureau Chief but he was running around the newsroom trying to figure out what was going on himself. The group I was with had our eyes locked on the TV screens throughout the building trying to learn anything we could about what was unfolding up north. Everyone was just silent and it reminded me of 9/11 when people just stood there, shocked and not knowing what to do.
The rest of the week was eerie in a way. There were stories coming out of a suspect being arrested and then those turned out to be false. You had a city and a nation in fear that terrorists were now roaming the streets with seemingly no one knowing who had planned or carried out the attacks. You had a major city on lockdown. My experience working at CBS News during the weeklong manhunt was unique in the way that I was able to see all of the information being collected in real time. I was personally watching press conferences on the latest updates and transcribing them as well as monitoring social media for any new leads that would pop up. Then the images were released of the two suspects and it seemed like a whole new wave of chaos. People were searching frantically for anyone who knew the suspects or anyone who had a connection to them.
The bombings took place on a Monday but it took almost a week for the suspects to be caught. That Friday when it all ended was a day I won’t soon forget. I woke up that morning to a bunch of email and text alerts on my phone about some sort of massive shootout that had taken place overnight in Boston. I saw something about a shootout, an officer being shot, a robbery and a car jacking. I had no clue what was going on. I went in to my internship and the newsroom was in a state of controlled mania. Everyone was split up into teams and was assigned a different task. One group was monitoring social media and collecting pictures from that mornings shootout, another was transcribing interviews of press conferences throughout the day while others called their sources to find out any new information. The team had been working since early in the morning and the network stayed on air for a good portion of the day. That night the Evening News was extended from the normal half hour time to a one hour show. But that quickly changed. During the broadcast the events just outside of Boston started to unfold. Mass movement of emergency personnel started to move and focus on a boat in the backyard of a house. It turned out to be one of the suspects who was captured later on that night. The show stayed on the air until around 11pm. The manhunt was done, the week of fear was over, and now the healing process could begin.
It all happened so fast but it all seemed to last for so long. It was only five days between the bombings and the capture of the suspects, but it was five days that no one will forget. The term “Boston Strong” was coined and stands as a reminder to all of us in this nation that you can knock us down but we will just get right back up. I returned to Boylston St. for another Red Sox World Series Parade just seven months after the attacks. It served as a symbol that Boston is stronger than ever and that we as a nation will continue to support the city and its people. This was an experience that no one will forget, and that is the best way that we can honor those who were injured, and those who we lost on that day.