A man and his boat

David Henneberry, the Watertown resident who found Dzhokar Tsarnaev hiding in his boat Friday evening, effectively ending a horrific chapter in Boston’s history, may not have been thinking any of the following. However I find his story fascinating and can’t stop imagining what must have been going through his mind as the sun set on Watertown. The following is therefore just that, my thoughts on his mind.

You can read David’s account, courtesy of CNN, here.

When authorities lifted the shelter-in-place order at 6:00 pm Friday evening, who could have imagined that giving citizens the ability to smoke cigarettes outside again would end up being so crucial to the city’s safety?

David Henneberry probably couldn’t remember the last time he needed a cigarette as badly as he did that moment. He described it as a “craving,” brought on by being cooped up in his Watertown colonial while the town hunkered under martial law. All day he could only watch his television as the nation’s news channels showed different views of his neighborhood; variations of “terrorist still on the loose” plastered under Breaking News sections. There were videos of the gun battles he had personally heard only hours before and a few blocks away, where “Terrorist #2” ran over “Terrorist #1’s” dying body on the way to evading legions of police officers that had descended upon his town in the middle of the night.

Now, as blackhawks hovered overhead and tanks roamed the streets, Terrorist #2, responsible for the deaths of three civilians and one police officer as part of the first successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, was still a fugitive. Due to injuries sustained from the previous night, Terrorist #2 was rumored to still be in the vicinity of David’s property, armed and dangerous, with nothing to lose.

I assume David considered a second cigarette.

He glanced at the boat nestled in the back corner of his driveway. He probably wished he was drifting atop some peaceful body of water far away as the sun glared down on him, instead of helicopters. It was as he daydreamed in a nicotine haze that he first noticed something was wrong. The tarp covering his prized possession, the tarp he had tied down without error a countless number times, the tarp that had not loosened once throughout the recent blizzard-laden winter, was flapping in the wind.

In a week when everything that went horribly wrong somehow ended up being connected to everything else going horribly wrong, David must have tried to convince himself that the flapping tarp was a simple coincidence. As he walked down his driveway and got close enough to notice blood splattered on the tarp’s side, he assumed a wounded animal had forced its way into shelter. David had enough experience with both tarps and desperate animals to determine when they came in contact with one another. 

There was no way something malicious and evil had been hiding in his backyard for an unknown amount of time, he must have thought. The man for whom the entire city hunted, the kid in the white hat, Terrorist #2, could not have spent the day withering in the boat while David lounged in his house, only yards away. The week’s horrific story was a story about his country, his city, his neighborhood even. It was not a story about him. 

David climbed the ladder perched against the boat and pulled back the tarp, revealing the body of Dzhokar Tsarnaev crumpled into a ball, lying in a pool of blood.

As he ran back to his house to call 911, he must have realized that he, too, would be forever connected to everything else going horribly wrong.

An hour later David was the owner of the most famous boat in America. A boat that, as other people have noted, was stranded on land in a city named Watertown. Authorities opened fire in the waning hours of the evening, tearing it to shreds to reveal the terrorist, barely alive.

Tsarnaev was pried from David’s property a little after 8:00 pm Friday night, and the country erupted in cheers. It was from David’s destroyed boat that the celebration for the city and those who serve it began.

As he watched the crowd dissipate from his Watertown colonial and into the night, I wonder if David thought about his place in his city’s recent story- his boat’s loosened tarp being the final chain in a sequence of events gone horribly wrong.

(His insurance policy better get him a new boat.)

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