Yesterday, at about 2:30 am, our family was awakened by the sound of the doorbell ringing insistently. I managed to shake the sleep out of my body, check that Pam — lying next to me in the bed — was all right (actually, she was awake and urging me to answer the door) and haul my pajama clad self toward the front of our house where I was met by a man in uniform who identified himself as a member of the Boston Police and told me he needed to come in.
“We’re pursuing a dangerous suspect. He may be right here in your home.”
Of course, I allowed him to enter.
Before I could think, there were several policemen, handguns drawn, standing in my living room battering me with questions.
“Who’s here with you?”
“My wife and my daughter.”
“Where are they?”
“My daughter’s in that bedroom over there and my wife is in our bedroom, right through that door.”
Policemen were dispatched to the bedrooms, still with guns drawn, calling the remainder of my family out into the light of the living room. I could feel waves of fear coming emanating from the men around me.
“Did you know the door to your basement is unlocked?”
“I left it that way,” I explained, turning to the man and taking note of him. He was white, about thirty-five and had the body of an athlete. He wasn’t looking at me — he had his eyes trained on our back door. “The plumber’s coming tomorrow morning. We had an explosion in the cellar last night — the water heater blew.”
Hours before, the basement had been flooded with water, and the local police and firemen had been called. The hot water, blessedly, had been shut off, and we were now awaiting the morning repair promised by the folks at Malcom Plumbing & Heating. It was after that event, and after we’d gone to bed, that Pam and I had been awakened by the sounds of another explosion, and then another — in quick succession.
“Is that the heater?” Pam had asked me.
“No,” I told her then, “The sound isn’t from inside. Somebody’s setting off firecrackers outside.”
“That’s a relief,” she said, “As long as it’s not our plumbing again. It’s turned off, isn’t it — and the gas.”
“Everything’s fine, Pam” I told her, “Just go back to sleep.” Neither of us thought to wonder about the “fireworks” that had gone off about a block away.
That had been an hour before. Now, Pam and Angelique were walking toward the living room, toward the armed policeman and me. Instinctively, I headed in their direction.
“Don’t move,” the policeman ordered. I took stock of his gun.
“Holy shit!” This was serious business.
Policemen kept entering. The room was getting crowded.
“Maybe you should go outside. Until we clear the house.”
After that, chaos. Contradictory orders, confusion, questions asked about the lay out of the condo, about our neighbor upstairs, the beams of flashlights cris-crossing the walls of our home. I was called to lock the basement door, then ordered out of the basement by policemen who told me the suspect might be hiding there.
Then, the incident was over.
“He’s not here,” one of the policemen announced. “Lock your doors and go back to bed.”
The visitors from Boston left, and then the phone rang. A robo-call from the Watertown Police told us to not to go outside.
Little by little we put the story together. Operating her laptop from our couch, Liqa monitored the ‘net, and told us about the MIT cop who’d been killed, the Seven-Eleven that had been held up, about the pursuit of the Marathon bombers. Reports were being filed all over the country, all over the world.
The attention of the entire planet was being directed toward a single neighborhood, a quarter square mile, in East Watertown MA — and we were in the center of it.
Was all of this putting Pam’s cancer into perspective, or had Pam’s cancer prepared us to put these incidents into perspective?
“We’ve got to post something to Facebook,” Angelique told us, “So people know we’re ok.” We were already getting calls, and texts and emails — and it wasn’t yet 3 am.
Pam posted her Facebook status. “Those terrorists should be glad they weren’t in our house. I’ve survived two brain surgeries — they don’t scare me a bit.”
And then, and then … well you know the rest. It was all anyone has talked about over the past 24 hours.