The plan on Friday, April 19, was to travel with my wife, 2½-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son to the New England Aquarium in Boston.

We hit the road early even as lockdowns were reported in Watertown and Waltham, Mass., the latter my childhood home.

Perhaps we should’ve just stayed in Maine, but as we departed, Boston remained open for business and we weren’t especially interested in letting “perverted, cowardly, knockoff jihadis” (in the words of Vice President Joe Biden) dictate our plans.

As we drove, the calamitous events of the night before were reported in increasingly grisly detail: the murder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer Sean Collier, the shooting of MBTA Officer Richard Donahue, a carjacking, a wild firefight, the death of Suspect No. 1 and the escape of Suspect No. 2.

I followed developments on my iPhone’s Twitter feed as my wife steered us closer to Boston. Soon the cascading events in Boston’s usually quiet suburbs consumed the city as well, closing all public transit amid orders for Bostonians to “shelter in place.”

The aquarium would have to wait.

Rather than drive all the way home, we diverted to my parents’ home in Waltham to join them in a day of locked doors and a cautious eye on the news.

I had followed developments in Boston all week. Innumerable friends, families and colleagues live and work in the city, and many were marathon runners, spectators or volunteers.

The second bomb detonated yards from my company’s Boylston Street office.

Accustomed to the area’s trademark attitude and grit, I watched with admiration as the city and surrounding communities responded to the attacks with unanimity and overwhelming compassion. Slogans like “One Boston” and “Boston Strong” quickly captured the collective temperament.

And even before April 19’s dramatic events unfolded, one couldn’t help but feel empowered and inspired by the city’s common resolve and shared purpose. Boston was united and moving forward. Good was unmistakably rising from the evil.

Yet I couldn’t help but notice how the intensity and perceptibility of that unanimity were evidence of its characteristic absence. It stood in sharp contrast to our common, everyday expectation of callousness and conflict.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, during his “maiden” speech from the Senate floor last week, observed that “part of human nature is conflict, and often, this conflict is resolved by violence.” He quoted the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, noting that life is often “nasty, brutish and short.”

Yet King’s speech was ultimately a hopeful call to lawmakers to transcend our baser natures and constructively meet the challenges of our day in a common effort to create a more perfect union.

King quoted President Lincoln, saying, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and therefore we must rise with the occasion.”

King could just as easily have exhorted his Senate colleagues not with the words of Lincoln but with the example of the citizens of Boston, who rose to meet fear and difficulty with courage and common purpose.

Presumably not by accident, King’s speech followed only a week after the Senate’s own stunning display of political cowardice.

By a vote of 54-46, the Senate rejected a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks to cover all firearms sales at gun shows and over the Internet.

The measure was supported by more than 90 percent of the American public. Yet while 90 percent of Senate Democrats voted for the measure, 90 percent of Senate Republicans voted against it, the latter fearing political retribution from the National Rifle Association.

To their great credit, Maine’s Sens. King, an independent, and Susan Collins, a Republican, both voted to support the measure, recognizing, in Collins’ words, “a reasonable, common-sense, thoughtful proposal.”

So while Boston showed steely resolve and rallied in the face of real terror, nearly half of the U.S. Senate cravenly surrendered to the mere threat of NRA-sponsored political comeuppance days later, denying Americans even a modicum of relief from the scourge of gun violence.

In his Senate speech, King quoted journalist and commentator Bill Moyers as saying that “civilization is an unnatural act.”

When it comes to guns, the corollary for a majority of Senate Republicans is “political courage is an unnatural act.”

Michael Cuzzi is a former campaign aide to President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and former U.S. Rep. Tom Allen. He manages the Portland office of VOX Global, a strategic communications and public affairs firm. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @CuzziMJ