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Life edges back to normal in Boston -- with lives changed

Story highlights

  • Watertown residents say after dodging bullets, life won't be the same
  • "It makes you wonder how safe we all are," Watertown resident says
  • Says another: "We're all still in shock"

The closed shops and empty streets that once gave Boston the feel of a ghost town teemed with life again Saturday as a cold morning rain stirred residents to grumble about a more familiar New England grievance: The weather.

Yet for many across the region, Monday's marathon attacks and a terrorist manhunt spurred changes more subtle and difficult to quantify than those wrought by the deadly force of two bombs that detonated near the finish line.

The manhunt spanned Boston and its surrounding suburbs, riveting the nation and deepening concerns about the origins of the attack and the likelihood of another.

"I think I understand a little better how people feel in other countries that go through this," said Debby Singh, 39, who had huddled in her Watertown apartment as authorities combed the area in search of the suspected bomber.

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"We were just so paranoid."

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    Others said the experience offered a rare front-row seat to a phenomenon unfamiliar to most American cities, tested their faith or simply reminded them of life's fragility.

    "Never have I seen anything like this," said Watertown resident Tony Paulino, as businesses shuttered and streets closed, leaving many to wonder how long the manhunt would drag on.

    "It makes you wonder how safe we all are."

    Sara Pradziak also seemed cautious, even after police made an arrest, despite hundreds of college-aged revelers who poured out of their homes Friday evening when the lockdown expired.

    "There's always this thing in the back of my head that wonders if all of this is a little premature," she said.

    For Stephen McAlpin, the experience of crouching in his bathtub with his wife, Emily, as bullets whizzed through his Watertown home left him tired and still shaken a day later.

    "There's no real going back to normal after something like this," he said. "It feels today like we're waking up from a nightmare."

    As Boston reeled, younger suspect partied

    As the overnight shoot-out unfolded between police and suspected terrorists, the couple had been directly in the line of fire.

    "I knew that I couldn't protect her," he said. "There was nothing I could do."

    When it was all over, shell casings littered his front yard and seven bullet holes were scattered across his home, including one in his living room that left his television shattered.

    At least one other round pierced the walls of his neighbor's home and blasted harmlessly into their children's bedroom.

    "It's terrifying to hear about something like that," McAlpin added, saying the shootings had forced things into perspective.

    "In the midst of feeling really safe, there was this reality yesterday that we could die from bullets and explosions in our American home," he said. "That's not something you'd expect."

    On Saturday, as life returned to normal, local bars and coffee shops in Boston were abuzz with talk more reflective of the nature of the attacks than the specific ways in which the teenager had initially evaded authorities.

    Manhunt began with intense firefight in dark street

    "We're all still in shock," said Ester Maxman, a local resident who had watched Friday as traffic trickled through Boston's normally bustling downtown streets. "This type of thing just doesn't happen here."

    The violence has left many grappling without answers, which President Barack Obama echoed in a hastily arranged address to the nation on Friday night.

    "Why did these young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country resort to such violence?" the president said. "How did they plan and carry out these attacks? And did they receive any help? The families of those killed so senselessly deserve answers."

    By Saturday afternoon, security across Boston remained tight.

    Checkpoints were still visible in parts of the city, as were flower memorials set up near the marathon finish line, where three people suffered fatal wounds and more than 170 were injured.

    But at Fenway Park, in an attempt to regain a sense of normalcy, more than 35,000 Red Sox fans bellowed out the lyrics to their eighth-inning signature tune, "Sweet Caroline," led personally in a surprise appearance by Neil Diamond.

    "I bring love from the whole country," the 72-year-old singer told the crowd, drawing raucous cheers.

    The Sox then rallied to beat the Kansas City Royals after trailing 2-1 in the top of the eighth.

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