A lot of my relatives and friends (not from Boston) reached out to me today, asking “What is going on over there?” Because the internet is so jumbled with crazy and conflicting information, I’m writing a play-by-play of last night (April 18th-April 19th) from my perspective. For some background, I am a Harvard student and that plays into how I got my information throughout the night.
It started when a MIT campus policeman was shot. Harvard students got an emergency text and e-mail at 11:35 PM that read: “At 10:48 PM today gunshots were reported at MIT. The area is cordoned off. Please stay clear of area until further notice.” Three minutes later, there was another text, this time from the Harvard University Police Department that read, “Shooting with injuries near MIT campus at 10:45. Suspects at large. Police searching area. No impact on Harvard. Stay out of area.”
At first, it just appeared to be a random (school) shooting. It didn’t seem related to the bombing. I heard sirens outside my window as police rushed to the area. While chatting with my boyfriend, I began feeling nervous about Harvard because if it were related to the bombers and they had been headed for MIT, it’s not a far stretch for them to head to Harvard after (considering we are only about 2 miles away from MIT).
At around midnight, I found out with great sadness that the MIT policeman passed away. If not for him, who knows what the suspects would have attempted at MIT or the rest of Boston…
Harvard Network and Police Scanner
There were various emails being sent over Harvard lists. One reported to stay away from Central square (close of MIT), where there had been an armed 7-Eleven robbery that might be related to the shooting. News sources have now confirmed that the suspects had, in fact, first robbed the 7-Eleven before heading to MIT. Another email reported that police were concerned that the shooter was on the red line (and possibly headed toward Harvard Square). This information was received by students listening to the police scanner because both the university and news sources were not reporting on everything that was happening (presumably because the university didn’t want students to panic and because news sources needed to get everything straight).
Then there were shots heard at 109 Garden Street, which is close to Harvard’s quad, near 12:40 AM. I could hear and see countless police cars zipping past my window, all headed in the direction of the quad. There were reports of more robberies along the river. My boyfriend guessed that this might be an elaborate robbery scheme, having the shooting distract police as others robbed stores. However, his guess quickly altered when we learned that the suspects had what seemed like hand-made grenade. Around this point, an MBTA police officer was shot. At 12:58 AM, I received a text from a friend reporting that the police scanner says there are two middle-Eastern armed men in a black SUV moving toward Harvard Square via Memorial Drive. They are armed and have possible grenades. (Later we learned that they hijacked the SUV.)
Upon hearing about the grenades, I began thinking this was related to the Boston marathon bomb suspects. After all, yesterday afternoon the photos and footage of them were reported. This, I realized, must have been their Hail Mary – to go down in flames before getting caught. Moreover, it sounds like they were headed to MIT to wreck havoc before heading to Harvard — only to have the police chase them further out to Watertown.
Shooting at Watertown
There were reports of a shoot-down in Watertown along with the potential of bombs. At some point during the shooting, police captured the first suspect. Some people report that he was run over and shot. Later it was confirmed that the suspect (now identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev) had died. The second suspect (now identified as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev) got away.
Throughout the night, there were more potential bomb reports. Around 2 A.M., the police suspected a bomb at Massachusetts General Hospital. At 4:50 A.M., Harvard sent out another warning: “Harvard Alert: MIT reports a suspicious package being investigated near 500 Memorial Drive. Avoid the area.”
I woke up to texts telling me to stay indoors and that all classes were cancelled. Currently Boston is in a lock-down as the police are on the manhunt for Dzhokhar. He has been identified and his home and his relatives’ house in Watertown have been surrounded in case he’s trying to hide.
My friends ask me if I feel safe. In all honesty, I didn’t sleep super well. I have sensitive ears, so every time a door slammed in the morning, I started imagining bombs. However, there are so many cops around – there is the Harvard University police, the Boston/Cambridge/Watertown police, SWAT teams, FBI… There continues to be cops whizzing past my window. And with hardly anyone outside and Dzhokhar identified, I believe it’s only a matter of time before he is caught. The police force has been incredibly impressive over the last 24 hours, reacting instantly to the robbery, shooting, bomb threats, and securing the safety of civilians.
Feel free to ask me any questions. Also, here is a helpful map provided by Quartz: