More than 1,000 miles away, New College students sat glued to television sets, computer screens and text updates. They listened as “breaking news” was revealed. They watched as social networking sites shamelessly speculated. Some even peeked at smartphones in class for the latest reports. But what if you weren’t 1,000 miles away, looking through a screen? What if you were there?
On April 15, 2013, two bombs shook Boston, Mass. Boston Marathon runners and spectators on Boylston Street were hit with the shock of two explosions, about 13 seconds apart. Killing three and injuring just over 280 people, New College students watched tragedy unfold from afar. But for alumnus Tristan Zucker (’08), things were a little different.
“I was sitting at my desk and heard an explosion,” Zucker said. “I didn’t know it was an explosion at the time … I was thinking okay, it could be an earthquake, or they are celebrating something in the marathon, who knows.”
Zucker graduated last spring and moved to Boston for a job with Cornerstone Research. His office is located in One Exeter Plaza, a building just yards away from the site of the first explosion.
“I get up to get close to the window, and I hear another blast,” he said. “Now I’m thinking okay, no, that was a bomb. So then we all start running … because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
In a building framed almost entirely by windows, Zucker and his coworkers struggled with where to turn next.
“If anything else goes off, you are going to get hit with sharp glass,” he said. “So we went to the stairs and we are trying to decide if we should go out to the street, or stay in the back of the building in the stairs. Eventually we decide to leave.”
After exiting into a public alleyway, Zucker began to realize the extent of what had happened outside.
“Two men were carrying a woman who was bleeding back into the alleyway,” Zucker said. “And then a mother with a child screaming, ‘Somebody help my child!’ She was very calm; I think I would have been freaking out, but she just really wanted help.”
In the confusion, Zucker and some fellow office members decide to head north, opposite of the direction of the attacks.
“We start jogging the other direction because we don’t know where exactly to go,” he said. “We get to Commonwealth Avenue, which is a few streets over from Boylston. We all check in, and make sure everyone is all there, and then people start to disperse.”
After escorting some of his coworkers, Zucker eventually found himself back at home. That is, without his wallet or cell phone, which he had left behind during the evacuation.
“I actually didn’t get those things back until over a week later because the office was closed until then,” he said.
The building did incur some damage, mostly due to broken glass. Fortunately, nobody in the office was hurt. However, that did not change how the event affected some of Zucker’s coworkers.
“One of our officers was in her office when the bomb went off,” he said. “It broke the glass, and she looked over and saw all the carnage outside on the street. I think for her … that was really hard.”
After some time had passed and confusion has settled, Zucker reflected on some of his emotions. At first, he felt anger.
“How did this all happen, how could this happen to us?” he remembered thinking. “It all comes from a place of not feeling safe anymore. So at first, we get angry.”
Though after speaking with a friend from Colombia who was also living in Boston during the attack, he gained a new perspective. “She really put everything in a new light,” he said. “She reacted a lot differently than everyone else, because where she is from, this is a daily reality. This type of thing is just not as big of a deal.
“By [American] standards, this is very traumatic. But for many people in the world, this is just another day,” Zucker concluded. “I can be angry … but, really, we are just so safe that this seems out of the ordinary.”