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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Real Life Heroes

I don't usually write blog posts more than a couple of days ahead of time, but because I was going to be in MN for three weeks--and because I don't have any internet access while I'm up there unless I go to the library--I wrote a bunch of posts ahead of time. I also wrote posts while I was in MN as a topic occurred to me. This was written on April 19th, the night the younger of the two Boston Marathon bombers was captured.

As a news junkie, I've been glued to the television set since late last night. I was just about to go to bed on Thursday night when I saw a Breaking News alert come on CNN. I stayed up watching events unfold until 4:30 in the morning. I know that was pretty stupid, but every time I thought about going to bed, something new would happen.
I heard about the firefight between the suspects and the officers and special agents working the case. The last estimate I heard said some 200 rounds were fired and explosive devices such as pipe bombs were lobbed at law enforcement. And they were in my thoughts—one officer slain in his police car and another critically wounded and in the hospital fighting to survive and the situation wasn't resolved yet. I couldn't help but wonder how many others would be hurt or killed in the line of duty?
Then on Friday evening, more rounds of gunfire were heard. This time things felt different and I had this sense that this was it, that they'd finally get this last guy. They did. Captured!!! the Boston PD's Twitter feed said.
Something pretty cool happened that evening. As the police withdrew from the scene, the people of Watertown, MA gathered on the sidewalk and cheered the officers and special agents as they left.
They cheered!
They cheered and chanted and said thank you to law enforcement for what they'd done, the risks they'd taken to keep them safe. I teared up, I admit it. This was that awesome. Our society calls overpriced professional athletes (some of whom have arrest records) heroes and cheer them on for winning a championship, but you don't see cheers for the men and women who work every day to keep us safe.
But Bostonians did. They cheered for their police, for the FBI, and for all the other people who put their lives on the line to arrest a man who'd already killed 4 people and injured hundreds of others. (I'm supposed to put allegedly in there or something, right? Pretend I did.)
The people of Boston had already impressed me during the week. The way they rushed to help after the bombings, the way they refused to let the event on Monday cow them, the crowd at the Bruins game singing The Star-Spangled Banner so loud and proud, drowning out the man who was officially singing it, and the way they helped each other in the days afterward. But of all the things I saw, cheering for the people who actually deserve it and are too often taken for granted was the best.
Part of being a writer is being able to imagine things really well; it's why I'm a borderline hypochondriac among other things. And I could imagine being a police officer. I could imagine pursuing two men who'd carjacked someone at gunpoint. I could imagine them throwing explosives at me. I could imagine being involved in the gunfight that followed, knowing that the men shooting at me had just savagely killed an officer at MIT a short while earlier. I could imagine thinking of my family—spouse, kids, parents—and being scared that I wouldn't be able to go home to them at the end. That I'd take a bullet, too, despite the tactical gear. I can imagine trying to control the adrenaline, to do my job and keep the people in the houses around me safe.
And because I can imagine all of this, it makes me appreciate what these people do all the more.
I can't help but wonder if these events will alter the relationship between the citizens of Boston and the surrounding environs and their police officers. I wonder if they'll remember six months from now what these men and women did for them and still be grateful. Time has a way of dulling memories, but I hope this does change things and that maybe people will remember who the real heroes are and say thank you whenever they see one.