Okay, here goes.
Paul and April and I were at the kids’ section. We weren’t going to march, it was pretty cold and April’s nap time coincided with most of the big media-worthy events. But we showed our support by showing up, buying a pin, eating a hot dog (at 10:30 in the morning… ick), and just generally being there. Paul was taking a smallish risk, after that insane memo from the White House but the Bushies aren’t really popular with the EPA rank and file and we bumped into Paul’s boss at the rally, so we figured we were okay.
I bumped into one of April’s playground friends, we’ll call him B. I knew B from our local park but had never met his mom or his older sister, just his nanny. So, while April and B played, Paul and I did a little Cambridge-parent shmoozing. We were in easy viewing distance of the Frog Pond, where B’s 7 year old sister was trying out her skates.
There was some noise from over the hill, but there had been noise for a while. Then I heard whump whump whump and felt my gut twist but I couldn’t figure out why I was suddenly nervous. Still, mom instincts kicked in and I picked up April. Then the crying started. Normally you don’t notice a few kids crying but this was four and then ten and then fifteen. Kids over on the fringe of the designated kids’ area were all screaming and crying and the smaller ones were vomiting and parents were coughing.
The noise form over the hill suddenly resolved, for me at least, from general hollering and crowd noise into a frantic, urgent, angry mob noise. I could hear bullhorns and shouting and screams. And the news helicopters seemed really low. That’s when I realized what that noise, that whump whump had been before. Tear gas cannons. (I was a reporter in my youth and covered some riots.) And a faint whiff of that smell.
“Tear gas–” I started.
“Something’s wrong,” Paul said almost at the same time and he looked at me and at April and then at B and B’s mom, who was much slower on the uptake. “Go, go, up the hill.” He picked up B and handed him to his mother.
“Where are you going?” I grabbed at him, selfishly terrified. Just about then, B’s mother tweaked into the fact that something was wrong. She screamed her daughter’s name and started to run towards the bad stuff, with her toddler in her hands. Paul grabbed her and hauled her back, pushing her up hill, towards me. I was walking up backwards, to scared to stay but not wanting to lose sight of Paul.
“I’ll get her, go!” he shouted at B’s mom (whose name I still don’t know, isn’t that awful?).
B’s mom and I headed up the hill towards Joy Street, if you know the area, slowly moving away, though I guess we were actually running but it seemed slow. Two squirming upset toddlers certainly slowed us down. B’s mom was crying and kept stopping to turn back. So did I, frankly.
I got to see Paul get to the Frog Pond where the kids — older than the toddlers but still pretty young — were all coming to a stop on their skates and standing, staring. I couldn’t hear, but I know Paul and he’s got a big deep voice, a good courtroom voice, and good lungs. He started shouting and waving and the kids looked at him with sort of wide eyes and then started running.
Running in ice skates is hard. Running in ice skates over broken frozen snow pack is impossible. But at about that moment a bunch of the Thugs broke over the hill. These guys were in full all-black riot gear, smoked glass face masks,
So Paul grabbed B’s sister and another kid and started hollering at the parents, many of whom were still standing around. They started running, too, grabbing their kids off the ice and helping them. Paul shouted at some of them and they helped the parents who had too many kids to haul. There were still some younger toddlers and parents gagging and coughing where the first plume of tear gas came around the hill, so Paul handed B’s sister off to some college student, pointed her at B’s mom and me, and ran to help the toddlers. Right towards the advancing line of Back Water Thugs.
I’m wholly ashamed to admit I screamed in anger.
Some male college students had the same thought as Paul and I guess the Thugs looked across the hill and didn’t see a bunch of men trying to help weeping, crying, vomiting parents and children. They just saw a bunch of big guys, several of them in long black coats. (It’s winter in Boston. We all wear long black coats!) Because they charged right at Paul and the toddlers.
Paul shouted something at them, the Thugs, and stood up, and I screamed again, from way up on the hill because one them fired a fucking GUN AT MY HUSBAND! AND PAUL FELL TO THE FUCKING GROUND!
I was clutching April against my shoulder and my voice is still hoarse I screamed so loudly. My world spun around me and I’ve never been that close to blacking out. Only April’s little hands and her voice saying, “Mama! Mama! Mama!” over and over in my ear kept me from running towards Paul.
Something in my brain was still rational enough to notice that Paul was not bleeding, he was moving and still yelling, probably some very bad words. And then a Thug pulled his boot back to kick Paul.
At this point, from my perspective, out of no where, came a white knight. One of the Park Rangers, riding one of those giant black horses, came thundering into the skirmish line, putting herself and her horse between the Thugs and the kids and more importantly, between the off-balance Thug who was about to kick Paul and my husband’s downed body. The horse body checked the Thug and he went down like a tree.
I looked her up later, she was a little bitty thing with a long brown braid, but she was like Joan of Arc and Boadicea and Ripley from Aliens all rolled into one in my opinion.
Suddenly, Paul scrambled up, and grabbed some toddler under his left arm and sprinted across the hill, away from where suddenly the Thugs were coming up against some Staties and that fucking awesome Ranger. Don’t mess with a lady on a horse, I can tell you. I didn’t know where the Staties came from, I was pretty well focused on Paul, but once I saw him moving I noticed that there were cops directing the parents and kids into the open gates of the State House, Patrick himself was helping some poor woman with her four kids, and I stopped just standing there, clutching April and took off for safety myself.
I found Paul in the crowd — thank god he’s a tall man — and he was fine. It had been a beanbag shot and apparently fired from much further away than it seemed to me at the time. He had a nasty bruise but insisted he’d be okay. I insisted we go to the hospital and thank god we did, because both April and I had apparently inhaled some of the tear gas. (I’ve got a mild case of asthma that doesn’t bother me unless, say, it’s really cold, or I’ve been running, or I breathe in something nasty. You can imagine how well I felt after all three.)
Okay, I’m shaking and exhausted and can’t write anymore.