On Monday, someone set off some bombs at the Boston Marathon.
Now it is Friday, and thanks to the wonders of modern telecommunications, I and 300 million of my best friends are all watching together as the Boston PD, the Massachusetts State Police, the FBI, SWAT, and various other agencies are on the verge of arresting who we hope is the second suspect in that bombing.
A man is hiding in a boat in a backyard. He’s in there and he’s alive. Scott Pelley just asked (more or less), “We’ve been watching this for about an hour now. Is it safe to say if this were nothing, we wouldn’t still be here?”
The first time I remember this happening – this overwhelming feeling of we are all in this together apart – was back in 1990, during the Persian Gulf War, which we all called Desert Storm.
I remember that I was sitting on the floor in my closet, sorting my shoes, talking on the phone with my friend Michael, and we both had televisions on and heard, simultaneously, George Bush proclaim, “The liberation of Kuwait has begun.”
And just like that, everything was different. He came over and we sat and watched the war on television like it was a baseball game. Everybody did, every day.
Of course, we didn’t have the internet then, so we didn’t know what our friends across town were thinking, let alone people around the world.
Now we do know, and it’s overwhelming, coming at me all day, every day. The grief is unspeakable, the horror unimaginable.
Things move so quickly now that as soon as suspects were named, there was a statement from their father, in Chechnya.
Boston was shut down in a matter of seconds because social media allows that.
And then the old-fashioned door-to-door search began.
I and people all over the place are watching on television and computers and iPads and phones what’s going on.
Earlier today, police asked that people stop tweeting their locations, because the remaining suspect might be using the information to elude them. We take in information faster than we can regurgitate it, it seems.
Now we are all transfixed on a Google Maps image of a boat with a cover on it in Watertown, me and all my friends.
We are all in this together apart.