So This Crazy Thing Happened on My Street Last Night...

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Apocralyptic

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Edited By Apocralyptic

When two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon on Monday—killing 3 people and severely injuring more than 100 others—my first thought was a fairly obvious one: "Wow... that could have been us." We've been down to watch the Marathon many times, and it was simply a matter of chance that instead of navigating the crowds in Copley Square, we had chosen to spend this Patriot's Day kicking around at home in Watertown. Had circumstances been just a little bit different, it could easily have been my family and I caught in that blast.

Except, I don't think deep down I really believed that. Even though a major terrorist attack had just happened in my city, my family and friends all turned out to be okay, and somehow I wasn't surprised. After all, I'm the main character in this story, and in my experience these sorts of things happen to other people.

Just your typical mid-day armored surveillance. No big deal.
Just your typical mid-day armored surveillance. No big deal.

I'm not sure this kind of narcissistic detachment from reality is particularly healthy, but I bet it's not all that atypical either, and I'm sure the massive amount of time I've spent playing video games in my lifetime has been a factor. Like television and movies, games reinforce our human tendency to distill stories from the randomness and chaos of the universe. We hone our sense of what will and won't happen to a protagonist, which side characters are and aren't expendable, and eventually the whole world appears as a patchwork of overused tropes and predictable plot points.

So inertial was my concept of my own narrative, that when my wife woke me up at 3:00 AM yesterday to tell me that there had been a shootout and explosions here in Watertown, I don't think I was all that concerned. Even when we were informed that we were prisoners in our own homes, even as we drew our shades, locked our doors and windows, and retreated to the second floor of our house, I don't think I felt any real sense of danger. Soon they would catch "Suspect #2", the lockdown would be lifted, and life would return to normal.

But that didn't happen. The governor announced that the lockdown was ending, but that no suspect had been apprehended. Deflated, we began to wander outside to chat with our neighbors and escape the stale air of our shuttered house. Then, sirens began blaring and dozens of police vehicles descended upon our street like it was Nakatomi Plaza, and in an instant my story had veered wildly off course, as though someone was performing very bad (or perhaps very good) improv theater. A firefight erupted about a hundred feet from my house, and I realized it was the first time I had ever heard real gunshots—not Call of Dutysound effects, or the muffled pop of a rifle at a shooting range, but real honest-to-goodness people trying to kill one another. Suddenly my wife and I were laying the floor, cradling our children, and I realized I genuinely didn't know what was going to happen next. This whole thing had gone off the rails, and now I was the guy on the news, and my street was that "somewhere else" I was so used to seeing on the Internet and television.

I took this video from my bedroom window. You can hear the initial barrage of gunfire near the end, right around the time I soil myself.

Fox News, whose excellence in journalism is rivaled only by their excellence in trampling all over our freshly-seeded lawn.
Fox News, whose excellence in journalism is rivaled only by their excellence in trampling all over our freshly-seeded lawn.

Soon it was over. After spending about two hours crawling around the floor of our house while flooding the Internet with messages to friends and family that we were okay, vehicles began to leave the scene, people began peeking out of their houses, and it became clear the ordeal had ended. Amid a chorus of cheers and thank-yous, the police began turning our neighborhood from a parking lot back into a warren of residential side-streets, and then I really was the guy on the news, giving interviews to local reporters and speaking live on the air with Diane Sawyer.

I spent the next few hours hanging out on my front lawn, drinking bourbon out of a coffee cup and chatting with neighbors about how utterly ludicrous this all was. In the back of my head, though, I was adrift. As a mathematician I know logically that every distribution has its tails, so even very rare events happen from time to time. However, as a human being (especially one who plays a lot of video games), I just don't believe these things happen in the real world—they're supposed to happen on a screen, or in some equally far-off land.

Good Morning, America.
Good Morning, America.

As we wake up this morning, my family and I are unscathed, and the news sites look the way they should look, with a violent terrorist in custody, to be interrogated in some secret location and then tried in some court I'll see on television someday. Ultimately, I imagine my egocentric, story-driven world view will bounce back, especially after I spend some more time with my Xbox, pretending to be a legendary hero who saves the world from some great evil. For today, though, the news vans are still here on Franklin Street, and I'm still feeling adrift in a world where truly anything can happen.

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Fredchuckdave

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#1  Edited By Fredchuckdave
This is a great post, I especially liked this bit:
@apocralyptic said:

I spent the next few hours hanging out on my front lawn, drinking bourbon out of a coffee cup and chatting with neighbors about how utterly ludicrous this all was. In the back of my head, though, I was adrift. As a mathematician I know logically that every distribution has its tails, so even very rare events happen from time to time. However, as a human being (especially one who plays a lot of video games), I just don't believe these things happen in the real world—they're supposed to happen on a screen, or in some equally far-off land.

Personally at work (grading math tests) I was functioning at 4 times the average worker's rate which isn't statistically supposed to happen so they didn't know what to do with me and I was forced to slow down as a result, but they were still quick to offer me another position within a week of the project ending. You just have to be aware of statistical improbabilities and hope they don't adversely affect you or conversely help you out immensely. Is it weird to say that I would actually have liked to be in your position? I don't really fear death since that is essentially a guaranteed eventuality; if it's going to happen no matter what what's the use in fearing it; but I'd be very interested to see that sort of thing; not because it would be "thrilling" or "dangerous" but simply very unique and rare. Society and humanity become much more interesting when faced with improbable and chaotic events, as does the fluidity of class mobility. As a mathematician I'm sure you can appreciate this point of view. (Text is grey for whatever reason so I bolded it)
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49th

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#2  Edited By 49th

Wow, thanks for sharing. I can only imagine what it would be like to be so close to something like that.

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Dalai

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#3  Edited By Dalai

If I lived in Watertown during this shootout, I'd be drinking bourbon out of a coffee cup the rest of the weekend. In front of Diane Sawyer.

I don't envy you, though.

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Apocralyptic

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Thanks for the great comments! Holy crap has this been nuts. My wife and I just did like 15 interviews, for places all over the world.

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natetodamax

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#5  Edited By natetodamax

Excellent post. Glad you and your family are safe duder! I'm relatively detached from the events here Maryland but I go to Boston pretty frequently, so I was stressing about the whole thing all week.

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TruthTellah

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#6  Edited By TruthTellah

Wow, really was a crazy scene. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

A few years ago, there was a similar scene about a block down from me. A terrorist was barricaded in his home and the street was closed off by police. He eventually shot himself, the police confiscated a bunch of things from his house, and they all left, but it was still so unreal. Didn't get interviewed on the news though. That's pretty wild. Would I have recognized you on there?

As far as going from here, I think you're correct. Even after something so nuts, you do eventually shift back into thinking of that kind of thing only happening elsewhere, as if your brush with the unreal was but a fleeting memory. Which may well be the best way to deal with it.

Ultimately, glad you're alright and this whole ordeal is finally over.

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Apocralyptic

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#7  Edited By Apocralyptic

Well, if any of you see a duder on TV in a Harvard hat with a wife and a baby, that's-a me.

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ImmortalSaiyan

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This is a great story. I am the same way with feeling detached from events, like I have never had anything too bad happen around my area so I always see things like this is others parts of the world.

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SSully

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#9  Edited By SSully

Thanks for sharing this duder, its an interesting perspective. Also glad you and your family are safe

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MyNiceIceLife

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Very good post. You always hear people say "I've seen it on tv, but I'd never expect something like that to happen to me", and it looks like you had that moment. Glad you're family was ok after everything was over.

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rachelepithet

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@apocralyptic what did wifey think when Diane Sawyer touched your knee?

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#12  Edited By Franstone

I'm from the area as well so I was glued to the TV for most of the week.

Saw a similar video last night on the news before the stand off ended, must have been a neighbor of yours.

Glad you and your family are safe, unfortunately that was not the case for many others.

Horrible week, super stoked it's resolved and without further loss of life.

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Rolyatkcinmai

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#13  Edited By Rolyatkcinmai

I live three buildings over from where the initial bomb went off. My whole area has been on lockdown since Monday. It has been a crazy week indeed. There's something far more surreal about these events when they transpire right next to your home. The Starbucks I go to every single day right next to my apt is blown to shit. Simple things like that are preposterous. The fact that all week when I look out my window there are no cars except SWAT trucks and humvees.

It's probably the weirdest week of my life, and yet there was no point where I genuinely felt scared or unsafe beyond the initial blasts going off.

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Apocralyptic

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I've been feeling something today that I bet is a lot like "survivor guilt"... it's weird to feel so relieved and to want to celebrate with my friends and neighbors that we're okay, when this all started with such a terrible event, and when there are so many people in town that are still hurting and will be for a long time.

Glad you and your family are safe, unfortunately that was not the case for many others.

Horrible week, super stoked it's resolved and without further loss of life.

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MattyFTM

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#15  Edited By MattyFTM  Moderator

Did the police not search your house whilst the town was in lockdown? Based on the news and police radio scanner at the time, it seemed they were pretty much going door to door everywhere they thought he could be. Seems weird that they wouldn't have done that so close to where he later turned up. How far away are you from the site of the original shootout?

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Rolyatkcinmai

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#16  Edited By Rolyatkcinmai

@mattyftm said:

Did the police not search your house whilst the town was in lockdown? Based on the news and police radio scanner at the time, it seemed they were pretty much going door to door everywhere they thought he could be. Seems weird that they wouldn't have done that so close to where he later turned up. How far away are you from the site of the original shootout?

The street he was found on was just outside the perimeter the police set up and thought they had secured. The house where he was discovered was not part of the search, nor would most of that street have been.

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MattyFTM

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#17  Edited By MattyFTM  Moderator

@mattyftm said:

Did the police not search your house whilst the town was in lockdown? Based on the news and police radio scanner at the time, it seemed they were pretty much going door to door everywhere they thought he could be. Seems weird that they wouldn't have done that so close to where he later turned up. How far away are you from the site of the original shootout?

The street he was found on was just outside the perimeter the police set up and thought they had secured. The house where he was discovered was not part of the search, nor would most of that street have been.

Huh, I hadn't heard that part. Seems crazy that an apparently injured man managed to get so far away whilst the police were after him.

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TheHT

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#18  Edited By TheHT

Amazing.

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Monkeyman04

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Wow, I can't even fathom what you and your family had to go through. I'm glad that nothing bad happened. Also I enjoyed reading the post. Thanks for sharing it. As someone else said I probably would be drinking bourbon the rest of the weekend if I was ever in that situation.

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Quarters

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Glad your family made it out okay. Can't imagine how frightening that would be, even if they were a bit away from you in comparison.

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Apocralyptic

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Yeah, we had barricades at the end of our street all day, but we were outside the main perimeter. A few times teams came through to sweep, but nothing quite as thorough as what they were doing in the main search area. Some guys in a humvee searched our yard, peeked in our garage, etc, but no one knocked on our door.

While it's pretty amazing that Suspect #2 got as far as he did, considering how chaotic the first shootout and prior events were, it's not totally crazy that he slipped through. It's totally bananas though to think back to yesterday and consider that he may have been hanging out bleeding in that boat at the end of my street all day.

@mattyftm said:

Did the police not search your house whilst the town was in lockdown? Based on the news and police radio scanner at the time, it seemed they were pretty much going door to door everywhere they thought he could be. Seems weird that they wouldn't have done that so close to where he later turned up. How far away are you from the site of the original shootout?

The street he was found on was just outside the perimeter the police set up and thought they had secured. The house where he was discovered was not part of the search, nor would most of that street have been.

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donfonzie

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#22  Edited By donfonzie

Sounds tough. Great that you and your family are okay.

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golguin

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That's pretty crazy. I live in Riverside, California so the Christopher Dorner cop shooting spree was pretty surreal. One of the shootings happened around the corner of Arlington and Magnolia (big intersection for major streets in the city). I literally drive on Magnolia most days of the week on the way to the gym. I drive on Arlington every week when I go to Taco Bell.

It's crazy how these types of things can literally happen in your back yard.

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Kierkegaard

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#24  Edited By Kierkegaard

Wow. Thank you so much for so eloquently sharing your experience. Thankfully you didn't have to be the video game protagonist running in guns blazing. Amazing that there exist people who are so willing.

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Claude

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#25  Edited By Claude

As everyone else has said, thanks for sharing. I could not imagine going through something like that. Plus, you have a family. My dogs would have gone mad with the sirens. So happy you're safe as is your family.

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Apocralyptic

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#26  Edited By Apocralyptic

Thanks for all the great comments, guys! Look forward to seeing those of you who are coming back to Boston for PAX East next year! Now my wife and I are going to dodge these reporters and head out to grab a drink :)

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TheManWithNoPlan

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#27  Edited By TheManWithNoPlan

That's quite the ordeal to go through. It's definitely easy to believe nothing will happen to you until it does. Glad you and your family are safe and I hope your kids aren't too shaken up by the event.

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supamon

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#28  Edited By supamon

Nice write up! I believe I would have acted the same way as you and acted as if it was none of my business. For all the criticisms and comments online, a lot of us are extremely jaded gamers, when actual bullets start flying it is a terrifying ordeal and the only thing you can think about is to protect your family and hoping it will end soon. Thankfully you and your family are safe and thank you for sharing with us.

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MordeaniisChaos

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#29  Edited By MordeaniisChaos

@dalai said:

If I lived in Watertown during this shootout, I'd be drinking bourbon out of a coffee cup the rest of the weekend. In front of Diane Sawyer.

I don't envy you, though.

I really like the image of someone sitting on a yard in Mass. with Diane Sawyer forced to watch them slowly and silently drink bourbon from a coffee mug.

Glad that you and your family are okay. If I had been in that situation I can't imagine how angry I'd probably be that something like that was happening, so I suppose good for you being able to be a little more able to process rather than react. And thank you for this unique perspective. I've been following this stuff very closely, and it's good to get more than just CNN fucking up reporting.

It's weird because living in a large city, we've had our fair share of bad things happen. I passed through an area maybe 30 minutes before a shootout occurred there. We've had the "Folks, bad people are in the area" warnings. But it's clear from your ordeal that it's still a completely different experience from the ones I had. Which makes sense, but still interesting. At least to me.

Hope you don't have to kick any reporters where it hurts.

Or I hope you get a chance to? I dunno.

Either way, glad to hear a fellow member of the community is safe!

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MethodMan008

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#30  Edited By MethodMan008

Thanks for sharing. Really interesting stuff.

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iam3green

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sounds crazy. thanks for sharing. good news that they caught the second guy.

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I_Stay_Puft

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Crazy stuff dude, was watching that stuff all through friday and felt eerie that they were able to do something like that just to find the guy. Thanks for the share.