BOSTON — The manhunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev closed much of the city on April 19 as it zeroed in on a small part of Watertown. If you were listening to WBUR during that ordeal, you may remember the on-the-scene reporting by our colleague Jonathan Peck who lives in the neighborhood.
“It sounded like a gun fight and several explosions outside my house,” he reported from his home on Cypress Street in Watertown that day. “We had what seemed like a large special forces team sweep through this whole area, search my lawn top to bottom.”
On Saturday, Cypress Street was once again closed to traffic but for a very different reason — the neighborhood came together for an end-of-summer block party.
Peck joined WBUR’s Weekend Edition to discuss how the community has changed and recovered since the manhunt.
Sharon Brody: What was the mood like Saturday, five months after that night when police and military teams locked down the neighborhood looking for the bombing suspects?
Jonathan Peck: It was very upbeat. Everyone was sharing their touching, personal stories about what’s happened since the bombing and since the lockdown. And it was an excellent opportunity to get to know people.
That being said, I had some interesting conversations with my neighbors who shared some of my concerns about the search and why Franklin Street where the boat was found wasn’t searched, for example.
That being said, it’s a little bit of a strange feeling because you want to express nothing but gratitude and appreciation for the people who risked their lives to protect us, the people who ran towards the bomb blasts. At the same time, we still have some questions about how the search was conducted or where the search wasn’t conducted that linger. And we’d like to ask those without any disrespect to the front line people.
You were a witness to history. Did that day change you? Did it change Watertown?
Well, on a personal level I definitely believe that it has changed my perspective on things. I definitely have a little bit more difficulty around fireworks and loud, random noises that I hear.
In terms of how it’s changed Watertown, I think it’s made this more of a community. I feel over the course of the time I’ve been here a dramatic increase in the sense of community and the sense of camaraderie in the neighborhood since the incident.
Did it affect your perception of risk or safety?
Absolutely. It’s really changed my whole perception on what is possible in a quiet neighborhood. You have a real violent, shocking situation that just kind of places itself in your backyard and you never know what can happen next.
I’m not trying to say I’m living in fear constantly, but for example, I had no real understanding that law enforcement could move in such force as I saw that day. It was really kind of military-grade levels of force moving through my backyard, where the grass is already kind of trampled and I have a little hammock. So that was surely a reality shock.
At the block party, did you see evidence of ways in which the neighborhood is moving beyond that day?
Yes, just the fact that we’re able to have a block party. I’m not sure that before this time people were really ready. I think some of the children in the neighborhood have had a chance to seek treatment. It was definitely a shocking event and I think that this block party happened at just the right moment, just when everyone was ready. Even though I had no hand in organizing it, I know exactly my neighbor who did, and she had incredible timing.