No idea how I forgot to mention last time, but while we were in Washington DC, we saw Barack Obama. It was through a funny series
of ‘if that hadn’t happened-s’ that we ended up inside an Obamarama gift shop, and when a load of police lights flooded into the shop we knew something was happening.. The shop assistants ran outside, and we quickly followed. Standing outside by the road, there were very few people around. After a slew of police cars, two limousines passed, one of which held our friend Barry (who we later learned was off to dinner) waving at our small crowd of about 6 hilariously screaming women, now crying with a life-changing happiness that only seeing the president could bring. It really was a moment of pure Americana. Needless to say, they then returned inside the shop to buy a hoard of presidential merchandise to remember the occasion. I don’t know how I forgot about this event, but there you go! Not something I expected to see while in DC, but something that made it very special!
One of the big events in Boston is the annual Marathon, which takes place every April on a holiday known as ‘Marathon Monday’. Boston College get the day off that day as the marathon route goes right through the Chestnut Hill campus, and it is seen by students as a bonus day of partying, naturally.
Unaware that Marathon Monday was on this day, I had put my name down to help out with my theatre lab classes, which were still going ahead in the lead up to one of the big mainstage shows by the Theatre department, Avenue Q, which was fast approaching. I remember after passing by a morning party (drinking began around 10am), and picking up some freebies, I went to the theatre to help build some set for the show. I was working away until I got a missed call from my sister at home. Confused, I also checked my UK phone, to see a list of texts from some Glasgow friends asking if I was ok and that they heard the news… I went on to check the BBC News page and heard of the bombings in town. After assuring everyone I was ok, I spoke to other people about what was going on.
The rest of the day had a really solemn tone. For a day that had started as one of celebration, the Lower campus dining hall was quiet and there was a prominent police presence on campus. As we had roughly a week to the show and lots to do, our rehearsal went ahead. For a comedy musical, our rehearsal had a really different tone and no one really knew what to say. I don’t really need to tell you about what happened at the finish line that day, as I’m sure you’ve heard all about it. But I can tell you about my experience of the events that took place soon after Marathon Monday.
Later that week, we had a ‘cast bonding session’ which basically consists of a social gathering at someone’s apartment/dorm room for socialising and hanging out with the cast of the show. I think it was a Thursday evening, and I remember I had some deadlines for the next day which I was going to go home and finish off after cast bonding. It was pretty late, and just before I left, we got news of an incident in Cambridge at MIT, where a police officer was shot. I remember wondering if it was linked to the bombings earlier in the week, but quickly dismissed that thought and assumed it was separate. I walked home alone late that night, and remember hearing police sirens in the distance.
The next morning I did the usual thing of turning of my alarm and seeing emails that had come through on my phone. One was from one of the Theatre staff telling us to stay safe, and the other was from BC telling us that as per order from the police to not leave home and stay locked inside for the rest of the day. I turned on the news and saw that the events the previous night in fact were linked to the Boston Marathon bombing. The fight in Cambridge involved the suspected bombers whose images were now released to the public so that the city now under lockdown would be able to help the police in locating and capturing the surviving suspect. The lockdown lasted most of the day, and we followed the news the whole time. Nothing happened for ages, so the lockdown was lifted.. and then maybe half an hour just after, it was placed again due to events going on in a town over from Brighton, where we were – the police were in Watertown and it felt like the end was near. It was such a surreal day, and it really did feel like we were part of a dramatic movie.
Now, I have to say that it is so impressive that they managed to effectively close the city, locate and capture one man. But it also seemed insane that these measures were taken – it paints a very ruthless and determined picture of the police, and with memories of 9/11 still very much in everyone’s minds, no chances were taken and the problem was to be quickly nipped in the bud while they still had the chance. I’m not saying that it was the wrong thing to do, but the images and stories we heard about the capture of the suspect, and the sheer size of the police force is scary when considering it was to capture one man. But capture him they did, and perhaps even more unnervingly, the celebrations began. I love the American spirit and all, but I have to say I feel uneasy when people are celebrating the capture and death of suspected bombers, relating to events which resulted in the deaths of a police officer, three innocent people at the marathon and hundreds of serious injuries. A lot of my American friends agree. Hearing from a Scottish friend who also studied abroad at BC a few years ago, this reminded her of the parties that began upon the news of bin Laden’s death. It definitely brought an unnerving tone to the end of a surreal week.
It felt wrong then going back to the final rehearsals for a show about puppets singing and dancing about racism, porn, etc in a fun, bouncy way – but I have to say that it was nice and maybe needed for a place recovering from such an event. We had a very full on schedule, with an entire weekend of tech rehearsals, followed by two tech/dress rehearsals ahead of the opening night the following Wednesday. I had an absolute ball doing the show, and our cast was a great group of people. I made some of my best friends from Boston through doing Avenue Q – some of whom were cast members, some helping with tech/creatively, and one in charge of managing the whole production.
I’m so glad I went ahead and auditioned for the show, as I learnt to work with some really talented people, and the process was different in some ways to what I was used to at home. I also got to learn puppetry which was such a unique experience. I would definitely recommend getting involved at the theatre department at BC because it is such a close knit, caring community. And they are very, very good at what they do – you will learn so many lessons and skills as part of it.
Thanks for reading! Next time I’ll share stories of finals and more trips on holiday! So much travel and fun. This time last year I was starting at BC, and I’m so jealous to see people starting at orientation once again. Studying abroad really was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
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