Cooking In Crisis, Boston Residents Gather Together

When Boston was virtually shut down so police could search for Dzokhar Tsarnaev Friday, a group of neighbors in West Cambridge knew just what to do: make pancakes. As Michael May reports, some residents of Aberdeen Street come together in a kitchen every time there's a crisis, whether it's a hurricane or a manhunt.

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

Yesterday, when Boston was virtually shut down so police could search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a group of neighbors in West Cambridge knew just what to do. They got together to comfort each other, just like they do every time there's a crisis, whether it's a hurricane, a snowstorm or a manhunt. Michael May reports.

MICHAEL MAY, BYLINE: Nancy Ortega woke up Friday morning not to her normally busy Aberdeen Street. It was silent, except for the sound of helicopters. The suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings was on the run in the suburb of Watertown just a few blocks from here. She felt frightened, but instinct took over. She walked across the street and settled into her neighbor's spacious kitchen.

NANCY ORTEGA: Aberdeen's such a close community. And we're neighbors, and so our first reaction, we're going to say, let's stay with each other and talk and, you know? And pancakes. Pancakes are very important.

JOHN LODGE: No matter what, make pancakes. That's right.

MAY: That's John Lodge, the host of this somber pancake breakfast. The neighbors stand around the kitchen sharing information and parenting strategies. Lodge's approach is to put it in perspective.

LODGE: So my 9-year-old came down this morning. Hi, Dad. So the first thing I said to him was: The Red Sox won last night, because he's a big Red Sox fan. And we spent the first minute of the day talking about the Red Sox and who pitched and what the score was and all that. And then I told him that they'd caught one of the bad guys.

MAY: For this group, one of the most disturbing facts is a connection to the local high school. Here are Jeff Howe(ph) and Steven Ortega(ph).

JEFF HOWE: Because they just went to Rindge and Latin. And that's crazy.

MAY: Will it be treated as two incredibly alienated souls, or is it sort of jihadist? I mean, I don't...

STEVEN ORTEGA: True.

HOWE: Or is it a combination? Like, do you get disaffected kids? Maybe 15 years ago, it would've been like Devil Rock or something.

MAY: West Cambridge is a quiet neighborhood full of stately old homes, baby strollers and dogs. Nancy Ortega's overwhelming question is how could this happen here?

ORTEGA: Just to think that someone was part of your community, and then something happened to them that they would want to lash out. And I think that's a very frightening feeling. Makes you feel a little hopeless.

MAY: The guests wander outside as a siren goes by. They want to see what's going on. Then the sounds of birds return introducing spring, like nothing is out of the ordinary. For NPR News, I'm Michael May in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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