After her son was killed during a night of Super Bowl celebrations that turned to bedlam, the mother of 21-year-old James Grabowski received sympathetic phone calls from Governor Mitt Romney, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Northeastern University President Richard M. Freeland saying they were horrified that a night of victory had turned tragic. But she has heard nothing from Boston officials, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino, whom she blames for failing to prepare the city for inevitable post-game chaos.
In her first interview since her son was struck and killed by a Toyota Land Cruiser that had been driven into a crowd of revelers on Symphony Road, Patricia Grabowski said she is filled with anger toward the mayor and Acting Police Commissioner James Hussey, who police officials have said watched the Super Bowl with "family or friends" and didn't come to work until early the next morning.
"I probably heard from everybody else in the state," she said, sitting in the kitchen of her West Newbury home near collages of photos of her son and a folded American flag from his funeral. "Not the mayor or the police commissioner. Law enforcement in Boston did not do their jobs in the hours leading up to and following the Super Bowl. The image of Acting Police Commissioner Hussey directing security operations from a phone at his party, while my 18-year-old son cradled his brother's head, told Jamie he loved him, and watched him take his last breath, is sickening to me."
Looking drawn but composed in a two-hour interview, Grabowski, 52, compared the city's response to that of parents who invite hordes of teenagers into their home and then leave. Knowing the potential for trouble, she said, police should have been deployed in large enough numbers to stop trouble before it started.
"How many parents would have told them not to drink, behave yourself, and then left them unsupervised while they went to watch the game elsewhere? That's exactly what the city of Boston did that night."
Menino, who flew back to Boston early Monday from the Super Bowl after hearing of the riots, had initially blamed Sunday liquor sales and university administrators for the unruly crowds. He has continued to defend Hussey and the city's police department amid questions about its readiness for post-game crowds, though he has also said the city could have done better. Yesterday, after naming a new police commissioner, he said an investigation will be launched.
"Mayor Menino will say today what he has said on numerous occasions in the past week, which is that he is deeply saddened by this tragic and sudden death of an individual who everyone speaks so highly of," Menino's spokesman Seth Gittell said, responding to Grabowski's remarks to the Globe. "I would note that a large Boston police contingent attended his funeral. Mayor Menino has said there is blame that can be shared all around. Obviously, that doesn't change the terrible fact of this tragedy. There have been questions raised about Sunday night's events, and he and the commissioner will look into them."
Grabowski -- some of whose comments were taken from a statement she wrote before the interview -- said city officials only made her more angry when they defended their police staffing plan after her son's death.
"Mayor Menino had the audacity to stand behind Hussey and say that he did a good job," Grabowski said. "What constitutes a good job? One dead, one critically injured, two treated and released, and thousands of lives that will never be the same? I would like them to stop backpedaling and admit they were wrong and made a huge mistake."
As she spoke, Grabowski was interrupted repeatedly by friends and neighbors dropping in to offer sympathy and food. The family is well known in this small Merrimack Valley town, and 2,500 mourners attended James Grabowski's funeral. A 2001 graduate of St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, James Grabowski attended the Coast Guard Academy for two years. He was a champion wrestler.
His mother said he was also attending classes at North Shore Community College, had set up a small business delivering wood in town, and was planning to start work as a security guard at the FleetCenter. He had recently decided to follow in his father's footsteps and study criminal justice.
His mother also criticized Northeastern for failing to protect its students Sunday night. The university had set up small parties with pizza and warned that it would discipline students for bad behavior.
"Did they think if they offered pizza, everything would be hunky dory?" she asked. "Instead of sending resident advisers into the streets to take pictures, they needed a show of force."
She said she replays the horror of Sunday night every day. Each night since her son died, she said, she wakes at 12:14 a.m. precisely -- the time her son's friend Louie called the house with the news.
"Jamie's been hit by a car," she recalled he'd said.
She and her husband dressed quickly, taking more calls from the friend, and drove to the hospital.
"We flew into Boston as quickly as we could," said Grabowski, a physical therapist. "I was saying my prayers. When we got to the hospital, they took us to a private room. The nurse had tears in her eyes, and I knew it wasn't good. Everybody started crying. But I couldn't cry. I was in disbelief."
It is ironic, she said, that her husband, Captain Daniel Grabowski, oversees tactical operations for the Massachusetts State Police.
"Oh, how I wish he were the one in charge of operations for Boston on Super Bowl night," she said.