Battle Road

April 19th is a date that has always stuck in my mind.  It's one of those dates that became forever imprinted in some deep fold of my brain sophomore's American history class. It's the day the first shots of the Revolutionary War were shot. This was the Battles of Lexington and Concord. This was the battle that sparked Emerson's quote "the shot heard 'round the world." This was the battle that begun with Paul Revere's famous ride. And this was the battle that essentially was the start of the United States of America.

The small local holiday of Patriot's Day is to commemorate that battle.  It was a little known holiday outside our region, little known that is, until April 15th, 2013. Patriot's Day is always celebrated on the third Monday in April, and the third Monday in April always falls on the day of the Boston Marathon. The fact that the Boston Marathon bombing took place on the day that we celebrate the start of our nation did not escape me. It was the first thing I thought of, actually. The two man band of terrorists chose a day that we celebrate our freedom, bought for in blood.

We live only a short drive from Concord and I like to be down in the Concord and Lexington area on April 19th, though not the official Patriot's Day holiday, it is the actual anniversary. This April 19th was like no other, well except perhaps a little like the one in 1775. This April 19th was the day of the manhunt. As we all know, one suspect had died the night before and the other was on the loose, hiding. Boston and the surrounding towns of Cambridge and Watertown were in lockdown. People feared he could enter their homes or their cars by force. A true terrorist threat was on the loose.

Our first hint that this manhunt was like nothing we've seen before was when we drove through the border of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. State troopers and all sorts of police vehicles lined the road. This guy could be anywhere, and that's when the first small wave of alarm went through me.

All throughout the Boston area were police and military people. It was a comfort, a protection, but it also made the significant danger of the day glaringly obvious, causing no small discomfort. When we went into a restaurant, less than fifteen miles outside of Boston, men in uniforms looked us over, as they did every one who walked through the doors. An enemy, who meant to do us harm, was loose and his whereabouts unknown. Any place where a group of people were gathered, even in small numbers, was a possible target. No one knew if this guy had more bombs or more guns. Everyone around us were scrolling their smartphones, hoping for news of his capture. We were too.

After lunch, we headed to the Minuteman National Park. The MNP is one of my favorite places to spend time. You can walk Battle Road, through the woods on wide, dirt paths. Along the route you will see significant places that were at the frontline of the battles, various taverns and homes and places of burial. The same stone fences line the dirt roads that did back then. Being there takes you out of our time. You can imagine the Minutemen chasing the Redcoats all the way down Battle Road til they finally reach Boston. You can almost see the frightened wives and families, watch as their husbands and fathers leave, just hoping the Redcoats wouldn't come in and take over their homes for makeshift hospitals or headquarters. Though you can imagine the fear of that day, the feeling there is tranquil because the outcome is already known to us. Our side won.

Hartwell Tavern on Battle Road

Old stone wall along path

The fourteen mile marker to Boston Harbor

The day was warm and pleasant, one of those perfect spring days we all dream about on the harsh and windy days of winter. We passed by many joggers and dog walkers. We said our hellos, pretending this was like any other day in the greater Boston area. But of course it wasn't.

Just as I was taking in the beautiful day, listening to the birds, breathing in the fragrant air, snapping pictures of everything around me, I suddenly heard an almost deafening loud noise. My heart began to beat hard, even before I spotted the source of the sound. I looked up and right above me were two black hawk helicopters. They were so low to the ground that I could easily make out the faces of those inside. I looked around and saw all the others around me had stopped what they were doing as well, and were looking, slack-jawed, up into the sky. We all knew, and the reality of the day came crashing in on all of us. The pretending was over. There was someone who sought to take away our ease, comfort, and freedom, and instill fear in his wake, and he could be anywhere. I saw a couple of people head off the path and back to their cars.

My husband and I continued our way down the path. I thought of those who had died at the marathon and the young officer, shot down in cold blood only a few hours prior. I thought about those who had been injured, whose lives were forever changed. And I thought about how much I love this place where I live, how much I love New England, how much I love Boston.

Though it was warm, the sky was overcast and brought an ominous, foreboding sense to the day.

At one point, I remember asking Russ, "what would you do if you saw that guy here, that suspect?" I don't even remember what he said in response. I was just had images flash through my mind of the the cowering suspect coming out from behind a tree, or bush, or old tavern.

Home of Captain William Smith, captain of the Lincoln minutemen, and brother to Abigail Adams.

If these old nails could talk

My own fear of the current events of the day, morphed in this historical place, and I felt for a moment that I could somehow relate to the fear of those who lived along this battle road two hundred and thirty-eight years ago. They didn't know what the outcome would be of their day, and neither did we.  It was one of those indescribable moments, when things clicked. History came alive for me in a strange, wonderful, and scary way.

Often our fear turns into anger, which then becomes determination. And I couldn't help but think, as I wandered on this path, just showing signs of new growth, that winter is always followed by spring.


  1. That was really nice, thank you. I've always loved Revolutionary history and it's nice when someone shares that with me:)

    I just hope we can get to the point where, as a country, we don't have to experience a tragedy to join together and prove our determination to be great.

  2. Awesome post, wonderfully written, Alyson. You captured your day and your feelings just perfectly here. It is surreal when you become so hyper aware of your surroundings, when you have to choose if you're going to let your world become a frightening place or not.
    As an Oklahoman, I'm reminded a little about the OKC Bombing which happened, ironically, on April 19, 1995. I can remember standing in the library working on research for a terrifying speech project (it was about cults, who knew?) and feeling so shocked and scared and confused. When these things happen, particularly close to home, you can feel helpless and scared, but eventually, like you said-- angry and determined. And then healing comes.
    Thanks for taking us on your walk with you!~

  3. Alyson,

    I felt the start of a healing thread as I joined you on your walk.

    A beautifully written post.

    Leanne xx

  4. Powerful words, wonderfully written. I don't recall a day since 9/11 that had such raw emotion as this last Patriots Day. I had streaming video and CNN going all day long. Thanks for sharing your perspective - what better place than Lexington/Concord? It was perfect.

  5. Alyson, you have such a wonderful talent for story-telling because I felt all your fear and anxiety as if it were my own. Very powerful words that gave me goosebumps. Thank goodness that horrible ordeal is over and America can start healing again.

  6. Good to hear that you did not let terrorists ruin your appreciation of Patriot's Day. I love the old tavern and your photo including both stone wall and tavern especially. This was a healing post. Thank you.

  7. One of the things I love the most about it you is how you always choose to be in the most perfect place on the perfect day. Plymouth in Thanksgiving? Strawberry Bank at Christams? This post made me so excited for your book. The day you were writing about I remember looking out my window all day and telling Jordan that maybe the surviving terrorist hijacked another car and drove the short 2 hours 0n the 95down the coast to CT...I imagined him in our yard, on our street....our minds are amazing, but at the same time, he could really have been there. I so don't want terrorist to win by making us too afraid to live.

    I love how the present and past merged into one moment in time on your walk. Thank you for putting that into words! It happens often to me as I walk through my village on special days. The British attacked Essex on April 8th, 1814, burning all the ships in the wealthy shipyard here. They walked up our Main Street and overtook the still popular Griswold Inn, firing shots into the dark! Across the street in the steps of what now is a toystore, they were repainting one day and found a bullet from a British musket lodged in the step behind a few layers of paint....everytime I walk past the toy store I think about that...when I eat at "the Gris" I think about how the British soldiers sat there drinking all the rum they stole from our ships. I can almost feel them standing behind me! I love being somewhere and knowing what happened right there where I am standing. Was it really so long ago? Time slips by. :)

  8. What an awesome post. I I like how you linked the events of the bombing with U.S. history in that area. You're a really good writer!
    I haven't been to Minuteman National Park, but I really want to go. I can tell from your pictures and descriptions that I'd love it there.

  9. Great post, Alyson. My stepson is about to move there (Cambridge) I think. I have always wanted to visit your area, so I am finally going to get to. I can't wait!!!