Duluth natives recount MIT, Boston Marathon attacksVinnie 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.
By: John Myers, 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.
Friday morning, he was confined to his housing unit in the Kendall Square area while a manhunt for the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing was underway.
“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.”
Thursday’s night’s dramatic shootout happened about a third of a 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 said Friday 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,” Surges said. “Everything out here is pretty close together.”
Surges, a runner who often runs past the bombing site, said the tragedy has brought his campus closer together as they grieve for the victims.
“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.”
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 Friday. “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.
“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 Garret 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 said 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.
“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.”
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 e-mails 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.