Analysis: Boston lockdown

Millions of residents were ordered to stay in a “lockdown” on Friday as police hunted down the second Boston Marathon bomber.

Boston Lockdown 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Boston Lockdown 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BOSTON – Millions of residents of the Boston metropolitan area were ordered to stay on “lockdown” on Friday as police and the FBI hunted down the second of the Boston Marathon bombers.
I was among them and for most of the day, my family and I stayed inside our home behind locked doors, watching the news and following the Twitter feed. On Friday night, Boston synagogues even cancelled Shabbat services and one local Orthodox rabbi permitted his members to leave a radio on over the weekend for updates.
When I eventually ventured outside, the eerie silence on Boston and Cambridge’s empty streets was something strange. It was midday and all of the stores were closed, including supermarkets, the neighborhood Starbucks and even gas stations.
With time on my hands as I walked the empty streets, I had the opportunity to think back to the aftermath of terrorist attacks I had covered in Israel before leaving for a sabbatical at Harvard University.
I might be wrong, but my feeling is that in the aftermath of those attacks the opposite always happened.
There was no lockdown in Israel and there was no order by the mayor to seek shelter.
Instead, people were out in the streets, filling up coffee shops right next to the one that had been bombed or standing at bus stops waiting for the next bus from the same line that had just exploded. This has always impressed me as a sign of true resilience, of a refusal to allow terrorism to change our way of life.
I am not judging the people of Boston and their leaders and yes, there is something to be said about being safe rather than sorry. But, I wonder about the long-term strategic ramifications and if this won’t be viewed as a near-surrender to terrorism.
Yes, on Friday there was a 19-year-old terrorist on the loose, but did that mean that nearly 5 million people needed to stay locked inside their homes? Did it warrant the complete suspension of public transportation, of taxis, of Amtrak trains between Boston and the rest of the East Coast? The postponement of the Red Sox-Royals game, the Bruins-Penguins game? I’m not sure.
Also, it was strange when considering that from Monday – when the bombings took place – until Friday, there were two terrorists on the loose and there was no consideration of a lockdown.
Now, with one terrorist still free there is a lockdown? Shouldn’t the opposite have happened? But even ignoring the operational considerations, there is symbolism when one of the US’s largest cities paralyzes itself in face of terrorism.
Is this the message the US wants to send around the world: That a single terrorist can disrupt so many lives and possibly more important – the American way of life? I’m also not sure.
The writer is The Jerusalem Post’s military affairs reporter and currently on sabbatical in Boston.