Like most of you, I spent Friday at home, checking eagerly for news — mostly confident that the outcome would eventually be good, praying that no more people would be hurt.
People close to the killer-on-the-loose spent a night and day in real fear. From where I was, over a mile away from the boat, I am not sure I heard any gunfire. I certainly heard the sirens and helicopters. I didn’t feel at risk — it was almost like a snow day, although I did think twice about looking out the window.
Some questioned the decision to shut down the city — giving in to terrorism — but in my mind, it was absolutely the right call. As in a big storm, it is much easier for public safety officers to do their job with the streets clear.
Public safety officers did their job bravely and well. As the days go on, some will find decisions to second guess, but the rapid and coordinated concentration of huge resources was indisputably impressive. The leaders of many agencies worked well together. We cannot take that collaboration for granted. It is the result of years of planning about how to communicate in times of crisis.
Equally important was the effective communication among citizens, the media and law enforcement leadership. Everybody knew what was happening more or less in real time. The final capture of suspect #2 was the result of a citizen promptly following instructions to feel free to go outside. He knew what the hazard was and instantly reported what he saw. The police response was then immediate.
Over the days before the final capture, I was amazed by the power of citizens interacting through social media to help law enforcement zero in on images of the suspects and then disseminate those images. It felt as if the immune system of a single giant organism were heating up to find and expel invading germs. It was only a matter of time.
We are most moved by the heroism of individuals: The bystanders and first responders who plunged into danger to staunch the bleeding; the first line of police officers who, in the middle of the night on a short block in Watertown, engaged in a necessary wild firefight with desperate bomb-hurling murderers.
As Governor Patrick said at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross last Thursday, “The grace this tragedy exposed is the best of who we are.” To that thought, I would add: The unity that this tragedy exposed is the best of what our nation is.
Like any family, we have much to quarrel about — real differences, indeed — but the stunning power of our unity, both local and national, shone through last week. We can thank those the leaders who fought to preserve our union and forged a peace that has now endured for almost 150 years.
As the Governor urged, let’s aspire to remember that grace and that unity as we subside back into our day-to-day personal and political concerns.