On Monday afternoon in Boston, I was sitting in my hotel room doing some prep work for the broadcast that night of the Boston Bruins-Ottawa Senators game.
Like most news reporters, I was constantly checking Twitter to see what was happening around the sports world. At 3 p.m., I noticed a tweet from somebody that said, “Whoaaa… what just happened at the Boston Marathon?” I clicked on the accompanying picture and saw a disturbing scene: A man lying on the ground with blood everywhere. It appeared as though he had lost a limb. There was smoke in the air and the grandstands were empty.
I had a terrible feeling in my stomach and within two minutes, The Associated Press was reporting that two explosions occurred near the finish line of the race. I immediately shot my wife a Blackberry message to let her know that I was fine. I didn’t want her to hear about a major explosion in Boston and then have to worry about me. Even if it took me one minute to respond to her, that was 60 seconds of anxious waiting that she didn’t need to experience.
Hearing there were multiple explosions about a mile away left me with an uneasy feeling. At that point, I’m not thinking like a journalist. I’m thinking like a husband and father of two who wants to stay safe. A couple of my fellow reporters were planning on taking the subway to the game, but I sent them an email and told them to stay off mass transit because it looked like there was a bombing at the marathon.
I decided to walk to the TD Garden Arena and head to our broadcast compound. While heading to a major sports venue about 20 minutes after bombs went off at the Boston Marathon doesn’t seem like the best idea, I figured our broadcast truck would be a safe place to set up shop. It’s past a security entrance and technically outside of the arena itself.
I had a phone conversation with Sonia on my way to the rink and told her that what was happening was likely a terrorist attack. She was obviously concerned about what was unfolding. I told her, “Don’t worry, I’ll be safe” — which probably wasn’t overly reassuring to her back at home.
Sonia spent the next several hours in a state of fear because I was in a city that was possibly under attack. She was online and reading the stories that were starting to trickle in. There were reports of other explosive devices planted around the city, which only served to raise her panic level. I tried to stay in constant contact with her via Blackberry, but due to the strain on the cell service in the city, it wasn’t always a quick connection. I reiterated to her that I was not in any danger, but that is never reassuring to the spouse on the other end of the phone. All they want is for you to walk through the front door.
During this time of uncertainty, Sonia did a good job of shielding our kids from the news. At no point did she let them know that I could be in danger and I think that was really important. She tried to put on a brave face for the kids, while she herself was stressed on the inside.
As parents, we were having a difficult time processing this news ourselves. So to try and tell an eight-year-old and a five-year-old that their father was in a city that was under an attack would be too overwhelming for them to process. And if the kids were worried about me being away on this trip, they may have anxiety and stress the next time I get on an airplane — which sadly will happen in the next week or two.
Sonia did not turn on the news on Monday night until after she put the kids to bed. And at that point, she was glued to the coverage. But there was no way that our kids were going to see any of the damage or carnage from Boston.
We did the same thing with the Sandy Hook tragedy back in mid-December. We made a conscious decision to shield our girls from that horrific news. We are both journalism graduates and work in this field, but we feel it’s important to make kids feel like their environment is safe. If another kid brought up the Sandy Hook shooting, we would definitely explain to them what happened. But we didn’t feel the need to tell them about it. And to my knowledge, our kids have no idea what happened at the elementary school in Connecticut.
During the commotion in Boston on Monday, there is one image that will forever stick out in my mind. About one hour after the bombings, I was outside on the crowded streets near the arena.
There was a mother there who had just run the race. I knew this because she was wearing her running gear and had a medal around her neck. She was holding the hands of her two little kids — who looked like they were maybe six and three years old. Those kids were holding ice cream cones and completely unaware of the chaos and bedlam that was unfolding about a mile away. There were police and ambulance sirens blaring in the downtown core, but they seemed not to notice.
I am certain that the mother knew about what happened at the finish line. At that point, all of us in the city knew. But the innocent look on the face of those kids eating their ice cream is the picture that I’d like to keep in my mind from Monday in Boston.