Return from travels to very changed Boston
Travelers come back to a city that endured bombs, manhunt
Kyle Barron stepped out of his taxi from Logan International Airport just after 11 p.m. Friday. He had been away nearly a week, on business in London. From afar, he had watched as bombings and gunfire sundered his community and neighboring cities.
The worst part was Friday, when Barron was cut off from information, crossing the ocean on a plane as police hunted for one of the suspected bombers from Monday’s Boston Marathon.
“I didn’t have access to what was going on and I was nervous the whole flight,” the 23-year-old Cambridge resident said. “Anything could have happened in that eight hours.”
They had gone away — for work or pleasure, maybe with the family for school vacation week, which had more than the usual number of residents visiting far-flung places. But for locals out of town this past week, their hearts and minds were very much still in Boston, their eyes never far from a TV or news-streaming Internet connection.
Often they wondered: What would their city look like when they returned? Would there be a new reality?
“I don’t think it’s going to be the same anymore,” said Barron, adding that his street — just blocks from the Cambridge address where the bombing suspects grew up — feels less familiar, more “haunting and eerie.”
Others, arriving at Logan from various points on Saturday, said the week’s events left them anxious to be home.
At a medical conference in Washington, Somerville resident Cynthia Graber, 40, found herself disconnecting from discussions about health care in order to plug in her headphones and tune in to WBUR’s radio news stream.
“In my heart, I was in lockdown,” a tearful Graber said after landing at Logan, where her boyfriend met her with a fierce hug. “I just wanted to be here because it’s my home. All my friends are here, all the people I love, and everyone was going through it together — so to be separate . . . I didn’t feel guilt for being away, I just felt longing to be here.”
Even after stepping off their flight home from New Jersey, Leah Jacobson and her sons were anxious, stopping in Logan’s Terminal C to buy a newspaper so they could read the latest account of Friday’s manhunt and arrest.
“Every time we saw a picture we said, ‘We’ve been there, we go there,’ ” said the 44-year-old Swampscott mother, who had taken her kids to visit relatives. “It was like a dual reality — I’m tearing up because it was hard — we were there to have fun, but we’ve been focused on it the whole vacation. No matter what we did we were checking on it.”
Again and again, locals returning to Massachusetts in recent days told the same story: Instead of enjoying a sunny day or a moment by the pool during last week’s spring break, they found themselves inundated Monday with texts and calls from worried relatives, then addicted to updates from Massachusetts.
“I did watch CNN every single day just to make sure I was coming back to something still whole,” said Darlyne Johnson, 55, of Milton, who was traveling home with her children. “I was glad to be away because of my kids. I’m glad they weren’t in the middle of it.”
Johnson’s 13-year-old son, Michael, had a hard time talking about the bombings, which hit him so hard that his mother said he was unable to finish his dinner after first hearing the news.
While they waited for their baggage Saturday, Johnson hugged her son as his face crumpled with tears when he recalled the moment.
“I was telling you they were going to get the bad guys and they did,” she said as he nodded and tried to smile.
Shrewsbury resident Amit Swarup and his family first learned of the bombings while standing outside a bar with a British theme at Disney World’s Epcot in Florida. His 13-year-old daughter, Aanchal, discovered the news when she used her phone to check something on Instagram. The family tried to carry on with the vacation, eating ice cream and enjoying amusement park rides, but found themselves turning frequently to their phones for news.
Swarup, 43, said he is hoping some time at home will help him reconnect after last week’s horrors left him feeling “violated” and “a little lost” -— particularly since he lived near the Marathon finish line when he was a young man.
“We’ve always thought of Boston as this pristine, safe place, intellectual, where nothing ever goes wrong,” Swarup said, as he waited to collect his family’s bags at Logan. “That feeling is gone.”
What remains for many, however, is a sense of pride in the fortitude of Massachusetts residents, who sent numerous tips to investigators, sequestered themselves in their homes for hours Friday in order to aid police, and danced in the streets when an arrest was made.
“The city did a tremendous job,” Swarup said. “We saw it on the news about the city fighting back.”
Returning from a trip to check out potential colleges in Florida, 17-year-old Avery Seltzer, of Ashland, said the whole experience and the pride it has engendered has him rethinking his future.
“It made me want to look at schools closer to home. Now if I leave Massachusetts, am I betraying my hometown?” Seltzer asked.
“It puts life in perspective,” replied his father, Jeff Seltzer, 50.