Legislators describe tension at State House after bombings
This Monday April 15, 2013 photo provided by Ben Thorndike shows the scene following an explosion at the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston. Two explosions shattered the euphoria of the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday, sending authorities out on the course to carry off the injured while the stragglers were rerouted away from the smoking site of the blasts. (AP Photo/Ben Thorndike) Purchase photo reprints »
Rep. Ellen Story, right, addresses the second graduating class of the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact during an event Thursday at the Log Cabin in Holyoke at which she and retired Judge Gail Perlam, left, were honored by the Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — When he returned to the Statehouse less than 24 hours after a pair of bombs killed three and wounded more than 170 Monday, state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg said it was a “noticeably different Boston.”
Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic senator from Amherst, said there was a military presence surrounding the Statehouse, with state troopers and National Guard troops carrying automatic weapons — some wearing camouflage — providing extra security. And there was, he said, a visceral sense of unease.
“The tension is palpable,” Rosenberg said in a Gazette interview Wednesday morning.
Legislators and staff who returned to work after the Patriots Day holiday were profoundly shaken by the bombings, Rosenberg said.
“We’re all clearly in a grieving mode,” he said.
The initial sorrow felt in the aftermath of the explosion as news came in of those who had been killed and injured began to be transformed into a “great deal of patriotism and resolve,” he said.
Detonation of two bombs on a public street during “an otherwise joyous public gathering” puts a focus back on how to provide safety during large-scale events without unnecessarily cracking down on liberties, Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg said the legislative and executive branches of the state government are in constant communication about how to improve the security of people throughout the state, while also protecting people’s civil rights.
“In general, we live in a more insecure world than we did when we were growing up,” Rosenberg said. “We don’t want to create a police state, but we want people to be secure.”
State Rep. Ellen Story said she, too, was not in Boston on Monday due to the holiday.
She heard the news from an aide who called her Monday afternoon.
On Tuesday morning, Story said, her 7-year-old granddaughter was staying with her for school vacation week and she was doing her best to shield her from the graphic images of the devastation that were ubiquitous throughout the day and into the evening.
Story said she couldn’t find a way to explain to the child, “Why would someone do that?”
She said the Statehouse was open for regular business by Tuesday morning, but with heightened security.
Even people with badges and who have come to know security personnel by name were subjected to extra screenings and searches, she said.
Story said she did not know how long the heightened security would last.
She said people at the Statehouse had just “gotten relaxed” from the last major security upgrade following the 9/11 attacks.
Immediately following those attacks, the Statehouse, which Story said has many entrances and exits, started funneling all traffic through three. That led to some confusion about how to get out of the building, according to Story, which made assisting tourists and visitors a commonplace occurrence.
Story said, for her, Boston has always seemed like a safe city, but admits to being “a little breezy” about how she feels in situations where others might be apprehensive.
She said in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many people, including herself, felt “Boston wasn’t big enough or significant enough to be a target.”
Story said one of her aides was disturbed enough by Monday’s bombings to work from her Jamaica Plain home Tuesday rather than leave her children behind and commute into the city.
“She didn’t want to come into Boston, she didn’t want to be away from her kids,” Story said. “She was freaked out by this.”
More concerning to the aide, Story said, was almost making the decision to take those children, ages 6 and 4, to Copley Square on Monday afternoon for a trip out.
“Everybody is so appalled by this,” Story said. “It’s so appalling to think someone would willfully do this.”
As many leaders have stated over the past few days, Story said she believes Boston is a resilient city and will recover and move on.
In general, she said, Bostonians tend to be nice, approachable people who hold a special place in their hearts for the Marathon and the events surrounding it.
“There is tremendous warmth and support for the Boston Marathon,” she said.
Evidence of that, she said, is clear in the throngs who turn out every year to line the route, handing out water or snacks to weary runners and helping runners who stumble get back on their feet.
“It’s a generous, giving city,” Story said, citing the people who offered their homes for runners displaced after Monday’s bombings.
In a statement issued Monday to fellow representatives, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo referred to that spirit.
“Today is a day of tragedy for our capital city and our commonwealth. On behalf of the House of Representatives, I have extended our thoughts and prayers to all those touched by these events,” the statement read. “The spirit of the Boston Marathon has long defined our region. No matter what sorrow may befall us, that spirit can never be extinguished. People are resolved that this great city is not going to be taken down by this incident.”
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.