1500 Miles Away
and Still Afraid
I know the mile count well.
My car tires have worn a groove on I-95
from Massachusetts to Florida.
I hate it when I wake filled with fear. Tap, tap, tap on my bedroom door woke me at 3:25 a.m. Friday. Just before leaving for work, my son learned of the shoot-out in Watertown, Massachusetts, and he wanted someone to talk to for a few moments. I checked the Internet and went back to sleep. I woke again an hour later to say goodbye to my friend and houseguest—from Massachusetts—who was leaving in a few minutes for the airport. I again checked the Internet: one MIT policeman murdered, one suspect dead, and another suspect on the run. I went back to bed, filled with unease.
I woke at 7:30 to a tearful phone call from my daughter who lives in Littleton, Massachusetts. She had yet to hear from her friend who lives in Watertown. As we spoke, blessed relief washed over her (and me) when she received an answering text that her friend was okay.
Fear washed over me and continued to drench my spirit as I read news reports and saw photos of riot-clad law enforcement officers stream into the city streets.
Killing and maiming without compunction was the suspects’ modus operandi, an MO that fed my fear. I felt paralyzed; my day was overtaken by care and concern for those I know and love in the radius of terror in Massachusetts. I lived in Massachusetts, although not near Boston, for 15 years. I have friends, family, and colleagues who live or work in or near the city. I know runners who have met the challenge of those 26.2 miles on Boston streets. I know people who have waited at the finish line. I know someone who waited (and was not hurt) at that line on Monday, her infant daughter in tow.
Paralysis from fear was not how I wanted to continue my day. I had fought that fear all week. But even more fear threatened to compel me to step away from my life and into the abyss experienced by so many in harm’s way. I noted that fear and my reluctance to let it overtake me on a Facebook status. Instantly, I was chastised by someone who lives just outside Boston. “Come on, Chris. You’re 1500 miles away.”
I know the mile count well. My car tires have worn a groove on I-95 from Massachusetts to Florida. Since I returned to Florida, many a week, a car bearing Massachusetts tags sits in my driveway, also having worn a groove on that I-95 path.
I also know that part of my heart remains in Massachusetts; that part is connected across those miles to those who continue to live and work and play there. In our ever-connected world, I remain connected to those folks daily, hourly, even minute-by minute at times on social media.
So, yes, at 1500 miles away, I was paralyzed with fear, worry, concern. But not only for the people in the Boston area. My fear extended across the globe because of the human condition—the human desire—to seek a place where there is no fear. In a world that sometimes seems gone mad with anger, retaliation, retribution, my instinct was to curl up, curl away from that fear whose evil tentacles fingered out and spread the vast distance across the earth.
I resisted curling up, curling away on Friday, even as I sat in my Vero Beach home. No—I wasn’t barricaded behind locked doors to be opened only to a law enforcement officer. No—I didn’t crouch in a tub as bullets raced through windows and walls. But I was afraid for those behind locked doors, afraid for those unable to work, to walk, to open their windows wide and embrace the scent of spring.
So, from my 1500 miles away, I pushed away my fear, all the while praying for safety and peace for the folks in Massachusetts.
* * *
Later, when the suspect was captured and I saw the news stories showing people cheer the police and gather in the streets to celebrate the end of the siege, I, too, was relieved—even 1500 miles away.