(Courtesy of Stephen and Emily McAlpin)
Shortly after midnight on Friday, April 19, Stephen and Emily McAlpin were in their bedroom about to fall asleep when they heard a loud "pop, pop, pop." The young couple looked out their window and saw orange flashing in the dark night sky. Stephen called 911 and learned that there was a car chase, and the noise they heard was gunfire outside their home in Watertown, Mass., a quiet suburb outside of Boston.
Little did they or their neighbors know that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were speeding down their street in a hijacked Mercedes SUV with several police cars in pursuit. After a six-mile chase, the suspects halted the SUV in front of the McAlpins' house. Then the Tsarnaevs, in a gun battle with the police, exchanged nearly 200 rounds of ammunition in addition to throwing makeshift bombs.
The McAlpins are from St. Louis, Mo. Stephen moved to the Boston area to attend Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Emily followed, they got married, and after seminary they became involved with Hope Fellowship Church, located in Cambridge. The McAlpins are in the process of planting Adorn Church in West Los Angeles, seeking to advance the Gospel and reach the un-churched in that neighborhood.
At one point in the gunfight, the Tsarnaevs got out of the SUV and started firing on six police officers. Tamerlan wore explosives strapped to his chest when rushing at the police. When he ran out of ammunition, one of the police officers tackled him and attempted to handcuff him. In the midst of this, Dzhokhar got back into the car and drove directly toward the police officers. They jumped out of the way and Dzhokhar ran over his brother, dragging him a short distance down the street. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Dzhokar drove off amidst more gunfire, with police officers in pursuit, and got out of the car a few streets away. He was eventually taken into custody alive after a harrowing 22-hour chase, identified by a thermal image photograph that confirmed that he was lying in a boat in a man's backyard.
It was this gunfight that caused glass to break – but not their spirit – in the McAlpins' house. As soon as they got off the phone with 911, the McAlpins dropped to the floor, crawled to the kitchen with their dog, and hid under the kitchen table. As they crawled they saw shell casings drop on their floor.
"I was terrified," Stephen told The Christian Post. "I held Emily and said 'Emily I love you and I'm so glad to be married to you.' I realized we could die. 'Jesus' I prayed, 'please save us. God through your grace protect us and our neighbors.'" Then they prayed for those in law enforcement and for peace to return to their neighborhood. The McAlpins later crawled to the bathroom, taking shelter in the bathtub. Shock set in as they continued to hold each other and pray. Even though they were terrified, Stephen later repeatedly explained to national news outlets that they both felt the peace of the Holy Spirit when they were praying.
"As I led my wife in prayer there was like a bright light that calmed my thoughts and helped me to feel that life is a gift and that it's all about Jesus," Stephen said. "In our hearts we felt calmness and even joy at the idea of us finally being with God together. And physically, it was like God's arms were being wrapped around us to cover us. Altogether, the peace we experienced led us into worship and gave us real hope."
Later on Friday, after the gunfire ceased, the police came to check on the McAlpins, disarming explosives around them. After the lockdown the police had imposed on the neighborhood, the McAlpins discovered that seven bullets had come through their walls into their home; one bullet went into their TV and another into their car.
They shared on their Facebook pages and with national news that they sought to share their hope in Jesus by committing to love their neighbors: "We think God answered our prayers so that others might know how he can enter into and redeem anyone's story through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
"God is teaching us to remember that you can die at any moment, and life is exceedingly precious. We have life in this world only because of Jesus and only for Jesus. He's our only hope for true life. We've been challenged to cultivate a living hope in Jesus all the time – not just during crises – and to share our hope with others still lost in the darkness and unsure of how to overcome it."
To those who find themselves afraid, the McAlpins want to share with others that they found comfort, peace, and hope through prayer. Stephen admonishes others in situations of fear to worship God.
He says, "Express your faith in Jesus. Enjoy him – who he is and what he does – in that moment. Ask Jesus to do what only he can do, like gracefully save sinners for his glory. He is faithful to answer.
"If he rescues you in that moment, that's an amazing thing that will change you and others forever. If he doesn't rescue you in that moment, at least you'll have had one of the best, sweetest moments of your entire life as you worshiped him in the threat of evil and death. God can do incredible things through worshipful, Christ-centered prayer."
Twin explosives killed three and injured 183 victims at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 2:50 pm. Only a few days later, at 8:45 pm on Friday, April 19, the chase for the suspects appeared to be over. Dzhokhar remains under guard at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in serious but stable condition. The U.S. Attorney's office announced today that he will be tried in federal court, charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.