BOSTON - On Monday afternoon, we were sitting in an airplane about to leave the gate at Boston's Logan airport when my cellphone buzzed.
News bulletin: Explosions reported near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Minutes earlier, our taxi to the airport passed along the Charles River, near the city center, and from an elevated roadway, we could see a parade of runners streaming toward the finish line.
And now this. It's difficult to recapture all the thoughts that go through your mind at such a moment. There is disbelief and shock, hope for the best and fear for the worst. Are family members safe? How many people are harmed? Those runners we just saw — are they OK? Who would do this and why? And what does this mean for people sitting in an airplane at this very moment?
Then the phone rang. It was my son, who lives in Boston, wanting to know if we were OK. There were two bombs, he said. There are reports that they may close the airport.
Moments before, we were busy revisiting memories of three happy days with our son and his family. On Saturday, along with countless other families, we explored the Boston Children's Museum in the company of our 2-year-old granddaughter.
On Sunday, we strolled Newbury and Boylston streets, the heart of what Bostonians call the Back Bay. The neighborhood was alive with locals and track-suited visitors, all celebrating Patriots Day weekend and counting down the hours until the 117th Boston Marathon on Monday.
After lunch at a sidewalk table, we passed near the finish line, steps from the Boston Public Library and our favorite Boston hotel, the Lenox. It was a fine day in Boston.
Back on the airplane, we could hear other passengers sharing reports of explosions, only six miles away.
Then the captain came on the public address system. We don't know much about what has happened, he announced, but if anyone concerned for the well-being of a friend or a loved one wants to return to Boston, we'll hold the doors open for a few minutes. If you want to leave, people will understand.
For more than 200 passengers, concern for the people caught in the bombs' blasts could morph into thoughts about their own safety. Was an airplane the best place to be if the explosions were part of a larger plot? What would we do and where would we go if we did get off?
From my vantage point, it appeared that no one got off that plane, but the usual airplane chatter disappeared. The first hour of that San Francisco-bound flight was the quietest I ever experienced. Six hours later in California, we began catching up to the horrific news — and returning text messages from family and friends worried about our well-being.
Forty-eight hours later, we know that at least three people were killed and more than 170 injured. We're learning about the composition of the bombs — which hopefully will lead to the identity of the people who built and placed the bombs. And we're learning some things about ourselves as well.
; In the rush of instant news, early news reports and other popular forms of hearsay can be wrong. We are wise not to leap to conclusions.