Central Park looked much like it did in the movies – sunny, and populated with laughing people. It was our last afternoon in New York. T, who has become the person who plans our vacations, insisted we go to the zoo. I resisted. I always think I’m going to hate the zoo. But he was firm. He wanted to see penguins. Who am I to argue against penguins?
The penguins were adorable. The exotic birds were inspiring. The cat things were suspicious. The polar bear was hiding. And the bathrooms were pretty clean. While we stood watching the seals a man ran up and gasped, “Phew,” as he reached for a dirty piece of cloth lying on the stone steps. “Would’ve been a really long night,” he explained. The dirty cloth was someone’s lovey. My mom and I cheered for him. I loved the zoo and how I didn’t panic when I lost sight of my kids for the first time in three days.
It wasn’t until the bus ride back to New Jersey that I learned about Boston. Bombs set at the finish line, three people dead, scores of others badly injured. My first clue was a facebook message from b’s T: “Are Anne and Steve okay?” I didn’t understand until I scanned the rest of my email. My parents live nearish Boston, but they were nowhere near the events. My mom was with me in New York City. My dad was at home watching a hockey game.
Back at the hotel room the boys fell exhausted in front of cartoons and my mom and I watched a few minutes of the news in the other room. We don’t have news like this at home. We have radio news and internet news. Television news is different – it’s more belligerent than informative. We turned it off and ordered a bottle of wine from the bar downstairs and pizza from someplace outside our room, which was delivered to our door, which was charming for me.
My mom, L, and B fell asleep first. T drifted off a little while later. I stayed up late, reading and scanning the news on my phone once in a while. It wasn’t fear keeping me awake, it was the acute awareness that I was nowhere near my home.
As an antidote, I looked at the photos I’d taken earlier in the day, pre-crisis, of my boys looking at the animals in the zoo. They looked like they were characters in a movie – colorful, shiny, laughing.