Students from Duluth on lockdown in BostonUPDATE: Vinnie Surges, who grew up in Duluth and graduated from St. Scholastica in 2011, is enrolled in the aeronautics and astronautics doctoral program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
By: John Myers and Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Vinnie Surges said he doesn’t get scared very often, but in the chaos of Thursday night in Cambridge, Mass., on the edge of his college campus, he was scared.
Surges, who grew up in Duluth and graduated from St. Scholastica in 2011, is enrolled in the aeronautics and astronautics doctoral program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
This morning, he was still confined to his housing unit in the Kendall Square area until the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing is apprehended.
“It was more just not knowing what exactly was going on or where he was,” Surges said.
Thursday’s night’s dramatic shootout happened about one-third mile from his home “at a place on campus, the Stata Center, that I walk by every day on my way to the office,” Surges told the News Tribune this morning.
“The bombing on Monday was about three-quarters of a mile one way from my house. The shootout last night was about one-third mile from my home the other direction. Everything out here is pretty close together,” Surges said.
Surges said MIT police have been good at keeping students informed about what is going on. Minutes after he heard ambulances and police vehicles heading toward the shootout scene, and then ambulances speeding away from the site, Surges and all other students received an automated phone call from MIT police that there was an active shooter on the loose and an officer down.
The campus, and much of the Boston area, has been on lockdown ever since.
“It’s like a ghost town out there. I can see maybe one or two cars, and normally at this time on a Friday morning it should be jammed with people and cars coming into campus,” Surges said. “They just told us to stay home and stay inside until this is over.”
Surges said the action now appears to have moved to the Watertown area of the Boston metropolitan area, which is a bit farther away.
“Everyone is still on edge. It doesn’t seem like there’s immediate danger here right now,” he said. “But we really don’t know.”
It was still unclear this morning if the second suspect was holed up where police thought he was or whether he had slipped away undetected.
Surges, a runner who often runs by the bombing site, said the tragedy has brought his campus closer together even as they grieve for the victims and wonder where the second suspect is.
“The students really have come together to help each other. Last night I was on Facebook and calling people just to make sure they heard there was a shootout going on, in case they were out for a walk or something,” he said. “It’s been a very intense week.”
ALSO AT MIT
Gus Downs is another Duluth native attending MIT. The senior was practicing with an a capella singing group Thursday night when he received a text from the university.
“They said there was an active shooter on campus near the Stata Center,” Downs, 21, said in a telephone interview today. “That’s about a two- or three-minute walk from where we were. We saw that (text) and said, ‘OK, we’re not going to sing anymore.’”
The text had come at 10:48 p.m., said Downs, a 2009 Duluth East graduate. He and his fellow choir members remained in the room with curtains drawn and doors shut for an hour and a half.
“We could hear helicopters and tons of police car sirens coming from all over the place,” Downs said. “It sounded like it was a pretty big deal.”
Sometime after midnight, Downs poked out of the room and checked with a janitor, who told him police had said the building was not in jeopardy. At about 12:20 a.m. today, Downs rode his bicycle from the MIT campus in Cambridge to his home in Boston, about a six-minute ride.
He and friends monitored news feeds until about 3 a.m., he said. At that time, they were not aware that the shooting incident was connected with the Boston Marathon bombings, Downs said.
Today, Downs has remained in his house. MIT, like all of Boston and its suburbs, is in lockdown. Downs said Black Hawk helicopters are flying over the city. “I feel safe in my house,” he said. “I wouldn’t necessarily feel safe in Watertown (the suburb where one bombing suspect was killed by law enforcement authorities). I’m not somebody who gets really worked up over things like this, when things are out of my control. But it does seem bizarre that you or anybody you know could be a target. The (MIT) police officer who was shot is a friend of a friend.”
OTHER TWIN PORTS STUDENTS AT HARVARD, BOSTON UNIVERSITY
At Harvard University, Duluth East 2012 grads Garrett Maron and Annie Harvieux were in lockdown, limited to short walks on campus.
“They’ve told us it’s safe to make quick trips to the dining hall but all things considered, we should just stay in our dorms all day,” Maron told the News Tribune just after 10 a.m. Central time from Harvieux’s dorm room in Harvard Yard.
Harvieux, 18, said she was returning from a play on campus a little after 11 p.m. Thursday when she witnessed activity.
“We heard sirens and saw a helicopter overhead,” she said.
“Harvard would send texts. It was a little confusing. They’d send an update and some news sites would Twitter it was a false alarm.”
Maron said he was in a different friend’s dorm when he got the messages from the university at about the same time.
“There were rumors that (the police and shooter) were in Harvard Square. That turned out not to be true,” said Maron, who returned to his dorm — a first floor unit on major thoroughfare Massachusetts Avenue — at about 2 a.m. He said he woke up at 6:30.
“All this morning we’ve just been hearing sirens going past,” he said.
“My mom called me this morning (from Duluth) and said, ‘Maybe it would be a good idea if you didn’t go out today.’ I went out and had breakfast with Annie and I came back here.”
Added Harvieux: “I woke up this morning to this huge slew of e-mails that we should stay inside not leave the building. It was very scary. A couple of hours later they opened up the dining hall for us.”
There, she said she found comfort from the staff.
“The people who work here really care about our safety. They were saying of one guy, ‘He’s got a black belt. He’ll take care of anyone.’ ”
Back in Boston a few miles removed from the manhunt in the near northwestern suburbs, Boston University was also in lockdown.
“We are allowed to go outside to the dining hall, but everyone is told that they should probably be inside their dorms until further notice,” student Bauer LeSavage of Duluth messaged the News Tribune.
“I heard last night at around 11:30 about the police officer that was shot at MIT, but I remember not thinking that it was related to the two suspects that the police were looking for. I woke up this morning at 7 a.m. with many text messages and emails from the University telling us that the school is closed and we are advised to stay inside.”
Harvard student Caitlin Pendleton of Superior compared the incidents of the past two days to the immediate aftermath of Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line.
“Today is calmer, in a way. Monday afternoon and last night had all the classic characteristics of a crisis. People were panicking and misinformation was being spread,” she said.
“No one is supposed to go outside right now, obviously, so the situation is still serious. But no one is jumping to absurd conclusions anymore or hyperventilating in the dining hall.”
News Tribune Editor Robin Washington contributed to this report.