Penguins insider: Checking on and checking in to check out from Boston madness

Photo by Getty Images
Rob Rossi
| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 11:03 p.m.


The calls never stopped. From Mom to sources, questions and answers, only the answers provided little comfort and no certainty: Friday was beyond words for anybody in or around Boston.

That held true for members of the Penguins on lockdown at their hotel near Boston Common; for a Boston-based businessman who advised his client to return to Pittsburgh; for a Kittanning-born college intern, still shocked by the Boston Marathon bombings and increasingly rattled by a manhunt for one of the alleged suspects, who only wanted to hug her parents.

Downtown Boston is about five miles from Watertown, which over the course of 12 or so hours Friday became the second-most famous town in Massachusetts.

An alleged terrorist, a 19-year-old with reported intentions of killing innocent people, was on the loose. Under mostly sunny skies, he was successfully avoiding capture despite being chased by federal, state and local authorities.

Still, at the team hotel across the street from Boston's connected public parks (The Common) and another hotel in Chelsea (about 10 miles from Watertown), there was no sense of imminent danger.

Penguins forward Craig Adams said he felt “safe.” Root Sports Pittsburgh broadcaster Bob Errey said he left the team hotel at least once to take a short walk.

Out-of-town sports reporters considered gathering Friday night somewhere in the city even if the lockdown had not been lifted around 5 p.m. They, like the locals, wanted to let off some steam, knock back a few, get lost in the distraction of catching a game on TV.

Fear turned to restlessness faster than it should have Friday.

That made sense to an employee at the hotel in Chelsea. She lives near Cambridge, where the alleged terrorist spent most of his youth.

Local TV had been almost nonstop with the marathon bombings fallout since Monday. Coverage was unavoidable, the Chelsea hotel employee said.

She tried to avoid it, but her phone constantly was receiving texts from family or friends — always with a similar message: Did you see what they're saying now?

The texts never stopped, she said.

She smiled and added it would be nice to catch a breath.

That was just after noon, when the lockdown felt like it might last forever.

There was not much to do at the hotel in Chelsea, where it was tough to tell if local businesses had closed for the day or for good.

Chelsea is not among the best parts of Boston, I learned through Twitter followers, some of whom offered to put me up if the lockdown extended for several days.

I had expected texts and calls from family and friends, but strangers on social media offering to open their homes — that was most unexpected.

Not unexpected was my sense of frustration.

For most of Friday, there was no way into or around Boston — transit was shut down, taxi service halted, rental vehicles unavailable.

Something was happening somewhere, and I just wanted to know what it was.

So calls were placed, texts were sent, in an effort to try to find out anything.

A distraction was needed.

Friday in and around Boston was beyond words.

That is why the calls had to never stop.

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