A Friday in Watertown

April 22, 2013 - 2:50 PM

While the events after the Boston Marathon bombing unfolded last week, I spent less time watching the wall-to-wall Boylston Street remotes on cable news, and got most of my information online. As I was also in North Central Massachusetts mid-week, I thought I’d be fairly isolated from the goings on a mere 70 miles east of where I staying. I couldn’t be further from the truth.

Like some of you, I watched the coverage of the gun battle through the streets of Cambridge and was in a state of amazement when it temporarily came to an end in Watertown - the place my family moved to when I was nine years old. It didn’t take long for me to grab the camera and head east, not to get in the way, but merely to observe.

One of the things that bothered me about the cable news coverage in the days after the bombing was the number of little things that added up. One being, in my nit-picking opinion, was the general lack of knowledge of the area they were covering. When MRCTV went to Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy, we were escorted around by a retired New York City detective. Not just for safety sake, but also, he knew the streets, the names of surrounding towns… the little things so if we needed to present our product properly to the public, we’d know what we were talking about.

But one-by-one, cable news anchors on the scene butchered the names of streets and towns from Monday through Friday. Boston is a quirky city but surely someone locally could have corrected them, that is, if they felt their corrections would be welcomed

When I arrived in Watertown, I talked off-camera to some of the officers from the many towns that joined in on the manhunt. Some were former Iraq and/or Afghanistan veterans, annoyed that the national media were not only spreading incorrect information but on a few occasions, the movement of the officers on the ground. They were trying to find a terrorist, and it was assumed he may be monitoring those movements via social media. It was clear they were there to keep the public safe, wanted to catch the suspect, and the media were not helping at all.

Another sentiment most of the cable news outlets were reporting was the air of fear in the Boston area following the bombing, culminating with the unprecedented “shelter-in-place” order given that in essence shut down the whole city.

Walking around, I noticed there was a smattering of people walking about, mostly walking their dogs. After all, dogs HAVE to be walked. But there were also people hanging around on their porches, talking to neighbors as well as some of the police officers that were on some of the street corners. At no time did I sense the “cowering in fear” the cable stations conveyed. If anything, there was a sense of annoyance with the rank-in-file Bostonian.

At one point, a cable news anchor said that Watertown was a “bedroom community” and was mostly multi-ethnic and “urban.” While you can say that about most places in America, and while things may have changed dramatically over the years, Watertown was very Armenian. I personally found no immediate connection with the terrorists and any gripe about Armenia, but this was yet another example of people who came into a fairly complex area and dumbed it down in ignorance.

Because of the actions of a couple (as far as we know) evil people, the T was shut down so people couldn’t get around, go to work, go shopping, grab a bite to eat, watch the Red Sox… it didn’t take long for this to become very old.

By around 5pm, the word was spread that the “shelter-in-place” order was being lifted. One could almost feel the sense of relief, not just because the terror suspect was said to no longer be in the area, but that people could finally go about their business again. But, a couple of things were still odd.

One small part of Watertown was clearly being surrounded. There were two officers on every corner of this perimeter and no one was being let in. Also, some police cars were also leaving the scene. The only thing that made this different was that the caravans had all of their lights flashing: a very public exiting. And, after talking to the officers earlier, it was almost like (and this is pure speculation) law enforcement was using the media to get anyone who may have been watching to, maybe, drop their guard.

Of course, we know how the story ended.

Students come to greater Boston from all over the world. When the terrorists were caught, it wasn’t just the locals who took to the streets. It was the people who didn’t look like the victims the media portrayed them to be. The attitude towards the terror suspects was “They’d better not come around here.”

They did, and that's where their story ended.

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