Locals view marathon manhunt from the inside
Police officers guard the entrance to Franklin street where there is an active crime scene search for the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, Friday, April 19, 2013, in Watertown, Mass. Gunfire erupted Friday night amid the manhunt for the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, and police in armored vehicles and tactical gear rushed into the Watertown neighborhood in a possible break in the case. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
This photo released Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows a suspect that officials identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, being sought by police in the Boston Marathon bombings Monday. (AP Photo/Federal Bureau of Investigation)
Two women applaud after the arrest of a suspect of the Boston Marathon bombings in Watertown, Mass., Friday, April 19, 2013. Two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing killed an MIT police officer, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during their getaway attempt. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
CORRECTS DATE TO APRIL 19, NOT 18 - The usually busy Kenmore Square in Boston is virtually deserted at lunchtime Friday, April 19, 2013, during a call for "shelter-in-place" for Boston and some area communities. Two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing killed an MIT police officer, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during their getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left one of them dead and another still at large Friday, authorities said as the manhunt intensified for a young man described as a dangerous terrorist. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Just before Corrina Steward went to bed midnight on Friday, the Greenfield Community College professor heard gunshots and explosions ringing throughout her Watertown neighborhood.
Through the window of her third-floor apartment, Steward, formerly of Bernardston, saw an uncountable line of police vehicles speed down Auburn Street where she lives. A block away on Dexter Street, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology police had just shot down one of two suspects in the Monday Boston Marathon bombings, and law enforcement officials embarked on an hours-long manhunt of the second suspect, ordering a lockdown of Watertown and other Boston suburbs.
“It’s upsetting to me to think that this could happen here. I felt safe in the Boston area,” said Steward.
It was a sleepless night for Steward. Sirens screamed throughout the night. Helicopters circled her neighborhood and the SWAT Team barricaded the area. At 2 a.m., a police perimeter cordoned off streets throughout Steward’s neighborhood. At 8 a.m., police knocked on her back door to check on her and her husband, Tony Horta, also from Franklin County. Police swept the hallways and checked common areas in search of the suspect.
Early this morning, Steward emailed her students in her environmental justice class to tell them class was canceled.
This isn’t the first time Steward has been caught in the middle of a city seized by terrorists. On Sept. 11, 2001, Steward and her husband lived in Washington, D.C. This time around it felt different to Steward.
“It’s surreal. I’ve never experienced anything like this. Here we can’t get out,” said Steward in an interview at 5 p.m. “On Sept. 11, we did actually leave for Maryland.”
Nearby, Kelly Doton awoke Friday to a 6:30 a.m. phone call from her father, Terry Doton in Greenfield, to ask if she was watching TV, and said, ‘I guess you’re not going to work today” at Boston College, where the 2000 Greenfield High School graduate is assistant field hockey coach.
“Then I saw what was going on,” including a 6 a.m. text message and email to all students and faculty telling them the campus — like much of the Boston area — was in lockdown mode.
Doton lives in Waltham, about 4 miles from the Watertown mall area where much of Friday morning’s manhunt was taking place.
“It’s an eerie quiet that obviously I’ve never been a part of,” said Doton, who’s used to seeing people jogging and walking their dogs. “Not one person have I seen outside, and in the past four hours seen four or five cars go by.”
It was eerie, too, as she watched the Watertown landmarks she drives by every day on WBZ television — making her think about all the times she’s heard “There’s no way it could happen here.” But, she added, “It’s happening almost in my backyard.”
Early Friday morning, “It was so quiet, it was almost like a war zone. Waltham’s a city, but I feel like I’m in the country right now. All I can hear are the birds chirping.”
Unable to get out to the Newton campus, where a recruitment meeting had been planned, she said, “I’ve cleaned my entire place, done my laundry. It’s when they say ‘Don’t go’ that you really do want to go outside. But I wouldn’t. They’ll let us know when it’s safe again.”
She reflected on the use of the texting by the college — first put in place after the Virginia Technical College shootings six years ago — as important in saving lives.
“That communication wasn’t there 10 or 15 years ago,” she said. “The fact they can get all the texts to kids, and messages out to the public through the social media, I think it’s helping them in this investigation. The fact that the FBI could find the suspects in four days … I have all the faith in our law enforcement.”
Even closer to Friday’s manhunt, Watertown resident Sherry Mayrent said she and her wife were awakened at 2 a.m. by an automated police phone call telling them to stay inside with doors and windows locked because of an “active incident” outside.
Later, after they’d been able to get back to sleep through the wail of sirens, they turned the television on and found the manhunt was much closer than they’d thought.
“There was a whole parade of police vehicles with an ambulance, all with their sirens going heading down the street, I assume towards the staging center at the Watertown Mall, which is less than half a mile from here. So we’re very close to the middle of things without being involved in it.”
That was driven home, she said, when they watched a live TV shot of the Arsenal Street police staging area with state police stopping a truck to get out of the way, “and a couple of minutes later, I saw it go by the street here. It was seriously live.”
As the manhunt continued, centered around Watertown, Mayrent watched as state troopers stopped and searched a car at the end of their street, followed by another parade of cruisers speeding by.
Mayrent, a klezmer clarinetist who has performed around Franklin County many times, said “There’s very little traffic in what’s usually a pretty well traveled area,” but was amused to see a lone jogger along the Charles River, as well as a bicyclist. “I guess they’re not paying attention. It reminds me of tsunami warnings in Hawaii, where we saw a webcam with people on bicycles being shooed away, and then half an hour later that area was inundated. Those people are nuts!”
Mayrent said she’d been talking to her daughter-in-law, who was stuck at home on the other side of Watertown with their young children. “They just told them, ‘One of the bad guys got caught, but they’re still looking for the other bad guy.’ That’s as much of concern to us as our safety. We feel pretty safe here, but what’s this doing to all the kids? What a world!”
Even closer to the activity, Joshua Lawton said he and his wife awoke to the sound of explosions, at about 12:45 or 1 a.m. Friday, which he believes from news reports had been hand grenades, and then heard “what must have been gunshots” near their Mount Auburn Street apartment, followed by the sound of cars going by — about 20 in the span of a few seconds. We stepped away from the windows and hunkered down.”
With the sound of helicopters overhead every 15 minutes or so, “a parking lot of police cars outside and officers moving around, approaching our side of the street” weapons in hand, Lawton said, “It’s been very scary,” with only the distractions of the developing story on their computers and taking turns napping providing their only relief during the long day indoors.
A photographer’s view
At 6 a.m. Matt Cavanaugh, a freelance photographer from Greenfield covering the Boston lockdown for The Washington Post, watched as residents on Norfolk Street in Cambridge were woken by police orders to evacuate.
“It is pretty crazy,” Cavanaugh said. “Neighbors were pulled out of their apartments early. A lot of people were hustling away from their homes.”
An hour later, Cavanaugh posted himself on a rooftop to take photos above Norfolk Street, where the two bombing suspects lived. He watched as law enforcement officials combed the suspects’ home and smashed the windows of a Honda CRV, a vehicle believed to be connected with the manhunt.
Later, he heard the controlled explosion of the Cambridge home set up by bomb experts to make it safer for police to search the home.
Cavanaugh has been covering the Boston area since Monday’s marathon bombings for several media outlets.
“This is unusual. I’ve never covered an active manhunt of this size,” Cavanaugh said. “I’ve covered a lot of crime scenes. I covered the Virginia Tech shooting, Hurricane Katrina, but this is strange to have it here so close to home.”
Meanwhile, Christina O’Connor, who lives in Jamaica Plain, on the other side of Boston, said she and a friend had returned home Thursday night from a brief vacation in Arizona — where they’d been watching the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings that had started the week’s turmoil — only to be awakened Friday to a text message and phone call from her mother in New Salem saying, ‘Don’t leave the house!”
O’Connor, a 1995 graduate of Mahar Regional School said, she’s been checking in with friends on Facebook and Twitter. “I feel the general stress, nervousness and anxiety everybody is feeling in Boston and the larger area.”
Even watching the events while in Arizona, she’s been “glued to the television. But at a certain point, you have to turn it off. It’s all consuming.”
A high school teacher on the South Shore, O’Connor said, “It’s a weird feeling to know it’s all going on right here. The Watertown focus is not close enough to be immediate. This morning, when it wasn’t very clear where the focus was, it was a little more nerve-wracking. It’s school vacation; I wanted to come home last night and enjoy the weather, it’s finally spring-feeling. It’s a weird feeling to know this is going on here.”
Knowing that some of those injured in Monday’s bombing attack had graduated from her school a few years ago, she said, “I imagine some of my students will be connected to it in that way.”
The situation in Boston directly affected Frontier Regional School, whose scheduled nonleague baseball game at Maynard High School on Friday at noon was postponed due to Maynard’s closeness to Boston, according to an email from Athletic Director Marty Sanderson.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Kathleen McKiernan also contributed reporting to this story.)
You can reach Richie Davis at
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269