Charlie Greenwald: One Wild Week In Boston

On Monday — just a few minutes after the Boston Marathon bombing — Staples 2012 grad and current Emerson College communications student Charlie Greenwald reported for “06880” on the mayhem outside his window.

Nearly a week later, he’s had time to reflect. He just posted a long story on his father Tommy’s blog about the craziest week of his life.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, he said:

Charlie Greenwald

Charlie Greenwald

Everything I did was difficult. It was difficult connecting with friends and confirming that they were okay. It was difficult watching the pictures of so many legless people being rushed to the hospital. It was difficult knowing that there were 2 bombers on the loose in Boston, with no idea who they were, why they did this and what they could do next. It was difficult falling asleep.

But that wasn’t nearly the end.

After a horrible, seemingly endless Monday, the administration made the appropriate decision to cancel school in order to mourn and rest. Tuesday was a day to grieve and remember. Many students went down to the memorial sites to pray and leave flowers.

I went as far down Boylston Street as I could, before the police blocked it off. There was leftover paper, jackets, meals abandoned at tables. It was heartbreaking, and I cried at the scene. An 8-year-old and 2 young women were killed, with hundreds injured and many limbless. I could only imagine the psychological damage.

I felt like screaming. I went home that night and sent an email to several hospital employees asking to volunteer, but they all asked for patience and said they would get back to me in a few days.

A makeshift memorial on Boylston Street.

A makeshift memorial on Boylston Street.

On Wednesday:

Emerson president Lee Pelton spoke to the student body about how impressed he was with our courage and how honored he was to represent our college. It was a cathartic day and a step forward in the healing process.

On Thursday, Charlie tried to get back to his schoolwork. That night, he heard the news about the shootout and manhunt in nearby Watertown. The next day after lunch, he said:

Emerson students petting comfort dogs.

Emerson students petting comfort dogs.

I went with a large group of students to the First Lutheran Church to pet some of the comfort dogs that were brought in. It was organized on Facebook.

Some of us at Emerson were so stressed out and frustrated by this horrible week that we wanted to go spend some time with these amazingly beautiful creatures that were trained to make us feel calm and loved. The dogs were brought in to multiple hospitals but they made camp at the church and kindly let us visit, since several Emerson students were at the Marathon when the explosions went off.

The MBTA was shut down and taxis were nowhere to be found. Walking to and from the church was like walking through a ghost town; a huge city with nobody on it. It was eerie and disturbing. I hated it. It reminded me of what it was like Monday morning and Tuesday— a city paralyzed by stress.

On Friday afternoon, Boston Common was deserted.

On Friday afternoon, Boston Common was deserted…

For several incredible hours, authorities closed in on the 19-year-old suspect. Suddenly, he was captured.

I high-fived my friends so hard my palm throbbed. I hugged this random hot girl next to me but didn’t catch her name. We screamed “America!” at the top of our lungs….

In what seemed like a flash, people were storming Boston Commons to celebrate. Kids were pouring down beers and ripping off their t-shirts screaming. Car horns were honking in every direction. People of all shapes and sizes — college students, entire families, scores of police officers, even senior citizens — all were in the heart of Boston screaming for joy.

The American flag was raised and flown with ferocity and pride. People were drinking American beer and singing signature Boston songs like “Sweet Caroline” and “Shipping Up to Boston.” An entire city was out on the streets, releasing all their stress and grief from the past week into the air. Kids were hugging and crying, stripping and dancing, taking pictures with police officers and howling in the rain. There was an unparalleled hometown pride, and I have never felt more patriotic.

I screamed too. I ran up and down the streets. I embraced my friends. We were safe, and we love this city to death….

...but on Friday evening, it was filled with joyful, relieved people.

…but on Friday evening, it was filled with joyful, relieved people.

This week had some of the biggest lows and biggest highs the city of Boston has ever seen. It had an entire city mourning for days, and on edge all week. But most of all, it had an incredibly strong, brave and powerful response to the people who tried to hurt our innocent civilians on a beautiful Monday afternoon. It showed us who the real heroes out there are.

On a more personal level, it was the closest I have ever been to terror. It was the closest I had ever been to the center of the news universe. It was the furthest I had ever felt from my family. And then, when it ended, it was the most patriotic I had ever felt in my life.

That’s what, I suppose, an event like this does. It shows us the darkest depths of the human soul, and the unpredictability of our universe. And then, in response, it shows us how many heroes walk our streets every day.

Boston is the birthplace of this nation. It is also, as everyone saw this past week, an incredible American city emblematic of this country’s values: pride, resiliency, and the power of good.

17 responses to “Charlie Greenwald: One Wild Week In Boston

  1. cristina negrin

    Beautifully written. Amen!

  2. Charlie–I think you have a future as a general essayist/columnist if you decide to branch out from a possible career in sports journalism. Very well written!

  3. ME Gallagher

    Charlie- Glad you are safe. Thank you for sharing your beautifully written, first hand experience of this past week. Enjoy all your days in Beantown.

  4. Charlie-I am so proud of you and so grateful that I had the opportunity to watch you grow up while in high school.

  5. Charlie- What a great piece of first hand reporting, with so much heart! I’m sure your mom and dad were relieved that you were safe. You are lucky to live in such an incredible place…and Boston is lucky to have you.

  6. Jim Honeycutt

    It is great to hear from you Charlie. Good too to hear that you got through this with your feet still on the ground. Your piece gives us a great insight into a college student’s perspective on these tragic days. Keep up the good work!
    Jim Honeycutt

  7. maureen lahiff

    Charlie – So proud of you – God Bless – love you- Maureen

  8. Ginny McGovern

    You are a dynamic, talented young man and an old soul… James is still your biggest fan! Thanks for sharing your story with all of us.

  9. Charlie, I hope that you can submit this article as course work for one of your classes because it deserves an A!

  10. Missy Ketley

    Charlie – thank you for your insight – it all makes us stop and think – America is beautiful and we are lucky to live in a place like this. We couldn’t be more proud of this great nation and you.

  11. Susan Fugitt

    Charlie – Thank you for your first-hand account of this past week. You told your story beautifully. Please keep sharing with us!

  12. Elaine Schwartz

    Charlie – you are an amazing writer. You captured the feelings of many and you gave me an insight into what was going on beyond what I was hearing in the news. Thank you for being the incredible person you are.

    Elaine Schwartz

  13. Charlie-Glad to know you are safe and well. I too was there with my family, my son having finished the marathon at 3:10. I knew we had a lot of Staples kids at Emerson but couldn’t remember who. I echo your emotions of the week. Still shaking. Well written. You make us proud! Take good care of yourself. Come visit us in school when you are home.
    Robin Stiles

  14. Chris Scholz

    Charlie – Good to hear you are ok, and great to read the account as you saw it. Having taught you, coached you, and employed you, I was already proud of you, but prouder now than ever! Keep up the good work and stay safe!

    Chris Scholz

  15. Estelle T. Margolis

    Charlie, I can only imagine what your parents were going thru until they heard from you that you were safe!
    Since 9/11 we have had that terrible anxiety that many other societies have been living with. We are not SAFE any more! It is no longer a world of fair fighting, like in a war. It is random acts of terror which we cannot anticipate or stop.
    Thank you for the excellent reporting. Keep writing!

    Much love, Estelle

  16. Jo Shields Dickison

    Nicely done!

  17. Britt E Anderson

    Charlie – wonderful account of all that happened. You put us all right there with you.
    Cathy & Tom – you must be so proud!