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Students in disbelief as city is on lockdown: 'It feels like the world around you is going into anarchy'

Posted by Your Town  April 19, 2013 01:38 PM

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Thousands of local college students are huddling in their dorms and apartments today, listening to scanners, texting parents, and swapping stories, as police and FBI agents are on an all-out manhunt for the marathon bomber.

Ritchie Chen, a Phd student at MIT, said that he was in the library at the time of the campus shooting last night, feet away from where the police officer was shot and killed.

He did not hear the shots being fired. Minutes after the shootout, someone pulled the fire alarm. Chen said he didn’t think much of it. But when he was back inside, his friend learned of the shooting through social media.

“My friend said someone was shot, a police officer was shot,” Chen said. “I told him, it’s not April 1st anymore. You’ve got to be joking.”

Chen said he was sequestered in the library until 2 a.m. Students were mostly silent, and listening to the police scanners.

“Social media was the easiest way to keep updated,” he said. “Twitter or Facebook – that was how we found out an officer was shot, that he was hurt in the hand and belly. It was right there, like a couple feet from the library.”

Chen said he biked home, right past the crime scene. He didn’t stop to look.

Universities including MIT, Harvard, Brandeis, BU, BC, Boston Conservatory, Bentley, Suffolk, Northeastern, Simmons, Berklee, Wheelock, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Tufts, Emmanuel, and Emerson have canceled classes today.

Roger Brown, president of Berklee College of Music, issued a statement urging students to stay in their dorm rooms or apartment and said that college personnel are “doing everything in our power to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe.”

“I am very proud of and confident in our security team, and we have been in continued contact through the night and morning,” he said in the statement. “I know we all look forward to being able to put this behind us, but for now, the key is to allow law enforcement personnel to do their jobs.”

At Northeastern University, final exams that were scheduled for today have been pushed back.

"We are working closely with the deans and the faculty to develop alternative arrangements so students can complete all of their work in the coming days," the university said in an e-mail to students. "We will continue to provide updates as new schedules are being developed."

At Emerson College, officials are coming up with creative ways to help students finish the semester after the unexpected shortened work week. Dean of Students Ron Ludman wrote in a message to the community that "as soon as it is reasonably possible, each faculty member will communicate with the students in his or her class a flexible plan to complete successfully spring semester course work."

In the message, a few solutions were proposed, including, "Allow each student to receive a grade for the term based on evaluations done to date; Allow students to complete the semester by sending completed projects to one’s faculty at a later date certain, providing an Incomplete for this semester with a grade registered after evaluation of the paper or project; and Allow students to develop individual agreements for academic situations that do not fall into the above categories."

Mary Kate Hennelly, a sophomore at Boston College said that she has been awake with eight of her friends since 10 p.m. thursday night, following the man-hunt as its unfolding.

"We’ve been on a combination of police scanners, t.v., and twitter," she said.

Hennelly said the group is exhausted and very concerned.

"I think right now we are just all pretty tired," she said. "Tiredness punctuated with tension."

Although Hennelly said the week has felt tumulteous, she and her friends have been touched by the outpouring support from friends and family.

"That's the beautiful thing," she said.

Molly Flynn, a junior Simmons College, said she stayed awake all night listening to the police chase and shootout on the scanners.

“I’ve been awake since 9:30 a.m. yesterday,” Flynn said. “Once [the shootout] happened, it’s just adrenaline.”

Flynn, who is at her apartment in the Back Bay, said she always has considered Boston to be a very safe city. After witnessing the bombings on Monday, she has cried every day.

“I’ve been crying a little bit in the morning, and I never cry,” she said. “It’s really an uncontrollable thing.”

Sarah Campbell, a student at Boston University, said she and her dorm mates feel that although staying indoors is tiring, it's an important safety measure.

"It's not getting any worse for [the suspect] the longer he stays out there," she said. "It could get worse for us" if we were outside.

Campbell, 19, said she was at the finish line at the time of the explosions. She was hit with a large piece of debris, but was left uninjured.

"It instantly turned to total chaos," she said of Monday's bombings.

As the week went on, Campbell said she started to process what had happened. But today has set her back.

"Waking up, hearing that the two guys are the same ones that carried out the bombings, it just sent me into another whirlwind."

She said that when she learned one suspect had died, she felt very conflicted.

"My emotions were haywire, because I definitely think he deserved [to die] but there should have been some justice," Campbell said.

Chen said this week has left him shaken, he said, particularly since he saw Monday’s bombings.

“It’s extremely traumatizing because I was on the Harvard Bridge running,” he said. You see this smoke and your skin is crawling.”

Chen said he is trying to follow his normal routine, but it has been difficult.

“It feels like the world around you is going into anarchy,” he said.

Katherine Landergan can be reached at For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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