Editors Note: We asked one of our contributors, a resident of the Boston area, to share with us their first hand experience with regard to the Boston Marathon bombings. They have asked to remain anonymous. This is their story.

Boston is my city and always has been. Normally at this point in the year, I would be out of state, away at college, but some extenuating circumstances kept me home this semester. And because I was home, I experienced a lot of the feelings and emotions that surrounded the April 15th bombings firsthand.

I live approximately 20 miles north of Boston, which equates to about a 20 minute drive on an average day. To say the least, I live close to the city. Luckily, on April 15th, I was not in the city, but sitting on my bed 20 miles north, Skyping with a friend from school. I had my television on, but the volume off. It did not even occur to me that it was Marathon Monday; I never really payed any attention to the race. Around 3:00pm I looked over, saw that there was breaking news about “two explosions at the Boston Marathon,” but I brushed it off. I thought maybe some electrical box has exploded; that happens sometimes--it’s not unheard of. A couple minutes later, though, I looked over again, only to see a live feed of the marathon: Boylston Street flooded in smoke, chaos ensuing. The smoke is what made me worry. Something small would not, could not, create clouds of smoke like that. People were panicked, running, terrified, and I honestly did not know how to feel. No one knew what was going on. Was it a bomb? Was it something else?
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Photograph: Stringer/REUTERS
At the same time, I had Chrome open, and Facebook and Twitter were two of the tabs I had up. One of my friends, whom I had plans with later, sent me a Facebook message: “Did you hear about the terrorist attack in Boston?” I stopped. How did he know it was a terrorist attack? Was it really? Was this like 9/11? Was something else going to happen? Were more people going to get hurt? I did not know how to react. I was terrified. What if they made their way north? Was I safe?
My Twitter timeline was clogged with tweets from one of my friends. Her father, a former EMT, now works as a firefighter in a neighboring town, their reason for having a police scanner. She was tweeting everything she was hearing from this scanner, some of which I have not heard anything about from the media. Whether or not it was all true, I do not know. Everyone was panicking, worried, police were working tirelessly trying to ensure the public’s safety. I will not go into the details of the information in these tweets because it is not directly relevant to this writeup, but needless to say they left me even more worried.

I sat on the couch with my father, watching the news. Watching them say that these explosions were indeed bombs, watching them talk about caring for the injured and making sure everyone was okay. I remember asking my dad, “Is this going to be like 9/11? Are my grandkids going to ask about this one day?” And he had a simple answer: “Yes.”

I drove to my friend’s house later on that night. I was in my car alone, and I honestly considered canceling my plans for the night because I did not want to drive by myself. What if something happened? What if the people that caused this were here? But I still went, and the night was much more somber than anticipated. We sat, listening to the news, hearing that people died and hundreds were injured. I just kind of sat there. Who would do this and why?

For the next few days, everyone was a bit on edge. We did not know who supposedly did it. The police did not know. You could have walked by the person responsible on the street and not even know. The bombings were the only thing people were talking about, but no one really had anything to say because we knew so little. That is, until Thursday. I remember sitting with my dad again, watching the videos of suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar  that had just been released. I remember my first thoughts exactly: I thought that Dzhokhar looked too young. I remember thinking that he looked about my age and I could not imagine being able to do something like that at such a young age. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I felt both a bit relieved and nervous about their pictures being released. At least now, if someone recognized them, they could tell police. But what if now that they knew their pictures were out, they would strike again? Cause more destruction since they knew they would get caught?

Friday morning, the day after the videos and pictures of Jahar and Tamerlan had been released, I woke up around 8:00am to get ready for work. The first thing my dad said to me that morning was, “Did you hear?” He explained to me that last night there had been a shootout in Watertown (about a half hour away from my town), that one of the suspects was dead and one was on the loose. I immediately panicked. One was on the loose? They don’t know where he is? What if he makes his way up here?

But that did not stop me from going to work. I listened to the news in my car on the way there, and they repeatedly warned people to stay away from places where large groups of people congregate, specifically mentioning malls. I was nervous. I did not want to go. I drove by a man walking down the sidewalk in a white baseball cap and black coat, the outfit Dzhokhar had been wearing in the video released by the FBI. I started panicking more. If one person on the street could make me so nervous, how would I feel in the mall?

I remember walking into work that morning, and seeing that a good number of stores were not open. I asked my manager and she said that about half of the stores in the mall were closed because we had been warned to stay away from malls. My entire shift, everyone was nervous. My manager on duty was calling the company, trying to get them to let us close, to go home and hopefully be safe; they would not allow it. Every little thing made us jump. A teenager stood outside of our store, leaning against a pole, and my manager came up and grabbed my arm, panicked. “Who is that kid?” she asked me. “What is he doing? Why is he just standing there?” Everyone was suspicious of everyone. Everyone was nervous. No one felt safe. The two men on the news had looked so normal. They could blend in anywhere. Who is to say they were not at the mall? The videos on the news had been so unclear, no one probably would have noticed.

I heard about people being in lockdown. I heard about people’s homes being searched, but at that point I did not think much of it. Had they needed to search my home, I would have gladly allowed it, as long as it meant I was safe. But then I thought about it. There was a suspected terrorist on the loose in Watertown, and they were having these innocent residents leaves their homes and stand on the street while SWAT teams searched their house? Doesn’t that seem a little dangerous? That did not sit well with me.
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Photograph: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle
That night, I went out to dinner with my father. When we arrived at the restaurant, we saw on TV that the lockdown had been lifted, that residents were now allowed out, but the suspect was still on the loose. We sat down, ordered food, and waited. Then the news changed again: the suspect was now found hiding in a boat in someone’s backyard, and police were attempting to get him out. The restaurant was too loud to hear anything that was being said on the news, but we were watching it all happen. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the TV. This went on for some time, how long I don’t remember, but I do remember a woman at the table next to mine saying, “Oh, they got him!” when he was finally taken from the boat. When that happened, you could feel the relief in the room. Everyone finally felt safe. Everyone could breathe a sigh of relief.

At that point, there was really no speculation that the two brothers were innocent. No one was really thinking, “Well maybe they didn't do it. Maybe it was done by someone else, or maybe even by the government. Maybe the caught the wrong guys.” I do not think people wanted to think about that. People just wanted to feel safe, and they did. They caught the suspected terrorist. We were being told we were safe, and after a week of feeling so threatened, it was a nice feeling.But after a few days, things started to not sit right with me. One of my friends pointed out to me all of the holes in the stories, the inconsistency in the media, and I automatically jumped to doing my own research, trying to see things with my own eyes instead of those of the media. So many things were not adding up . . . so were we really safe? What was going on?

The thing that sat the worst with me, though, was that the two “suspects” were automatically referred to as the “Boston Marathon Bombers.” I said to everyone that would listen, “They are still suspects. They are innocent until proven guilty.” But the vast majority of people here would not listen. I believe they just wanted to feel safe, wanted to truly believe that the people responsible for this horrific tragedy were either dead or in custody. They were angry, hurt, devastated. They wanted justification.

Less than two weeks after the bombings, I went into Boston with a few of my friends. We went to the memorial at Copley Square. We walked down Boylston Street, went to both explosion sites. Windows were boarded up, and makeshift memorials had been placed at both sites. Flowers, signs, flags. Everyone stood back probably a good 20 feet from where it happened, silent, taking pictures. No one said anything. I started crying. I cannot put into words the feeling of standing on Boylston, looking at the damage, and knowing that less than two weeks earlier the exact spot you are standing in was covered in blood. Hundreds of people were hurt in exactly the same place you are standing. Hundreds of lives were changed. People lost limbs; people died. Right on the same pavement that was under your feet. I wish everyone could walk down Boylston and feel what I felt. It was honestly the most emotional moment I have ever experienced and it just makes you think: no matter who did it, no matter what happened, it was horrific. So many people’s lives are changed forever. They will never be the same.

As we made our way back to the T, we came upon a man on Boylston holding a sign, surrounded by a small group of people. We walked over to see what it was about. The sign contained the pictures we have all seen, the ones saying that the bombings were carried out by Craft International, that the whole thing was a false flag operation, and that Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were innocent. I will not go into too much detail on this, but no one was happy about this man being there. People felt disrespected. One young man was having a fierce debate with the him, politely arguing his theories as to why Dzhokhar and Tamerlan did do it. Another was not so polite. I do not know how to word it other than to say he was completely enraged, literally screaming at the man. Exactly what he was saying I do not know, as I quickly walked away when this fight ensued, but I can guarantee that he still felt hurt from the bombings, felt disrespected by this man, that he wanted justice for whoever was the source of these attacks. He was angry, and he was never going to open his mind to any other opinion.

In a way, this organization, WEARETHELION, is similar to all three of the men present in that situation. In regards to the angry man, they want Justice for Jahar whether he is guilty or innocent. In regards to the man holding the sign, they want people to be open to other possibilities, to realize that maybe not everything is so set in stone. And to the man politely voicing his opinion, they are helping others, like me, do the same.
Prudence
5/15/2013 01:43:21 am

Beautifully said. Thank you very much with sharing your account and perspective.

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Fa Realz
5/15/2013 03:30:10 am

Good insight, thank you for that. In my opinion, alot of people are looking at this tragedy from so many different angles because our instincts are telling us somethings not right.

Our FBI knew of a possible suspect well before anything ever happend and they denied it to the public at first, FEMA shelter in place was used to search homes (not what it was intended for), people had guns pointed at them, and the list goes on.

I honestly question what would have happend if a suspect would have been found in someone's home...would they have been charged with harboring a fugitve? Would they have been condemned and labeled "terrorists" by the nation as well? These are things to think about moving forward. It doesn't mean to be disrespectful to victims in the least.

My own stance is to speak out, fight for our rights, and to receive transparency into this issue...no matter who perpetrated it.

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genesis
5/18/2013 08:31:05 pm

This was very touching for some reason. I hope all the victims recieve the justice they deserve. Xo

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