Boston bombing hits home for students

This story was written by Devin Gilmore, Georgia Panagiotidis, Victoria Pratt, Joseph Rizzotto, Molly Garrity of the Veritas Staff. Also contributing were Dawn Bille, Leah O’Bryan, Meghan Lee and Conley Sharland.

On April 15, 2013, people in and around Boston were waking up to a typical Patriots Day.  Little did they know the city’s famous Boston Marathon would be marred by two explosions that would leave a physical impact on some and an emotional impact on all.

While everyone shared in the shock, everyone experienced the events differently.

Rockland High School junior, Bobby Gasdia’s father works at Mass Financial Services (MFS) on Boylston Street and witnessed the bombing and its aftermath first hand. He shared his experiences with Bobby.  “My father told me that people were running around screaming, crying and even throwing up.” Bobby said his father was really shaken up when he talked to him about 20 minutes after the bombs went off. “He watched balloons from a child float up past his window moments after the explosion, which gave good reason behind the shaky tone in his voice.”

Caitlin Bille, 21, of Rockland was only a couple of blocks away when the bombs went off at 2:50 p.m. She is a massage therapist for Massage Works in Quincy, MA. She was stationed at the L Street Running Club. Her job was to wait for runners to return from the marathon and stretch them as necessary.

When Bille heard about the bombings, she was in utter disbelief. She knew of people who had run the marathon before and she knew of people running it that day. As Bille waited for news about the marathon, she had seen no signs of L Street runners. With no news broadcasts to watch, Bille went on the search for articles online.  Sooner rather than later, L Street runners slowly started to appear at their destination.

Bille was able to leave around 5:30 p.m. because her area was cleared for release. Ultimately Bille was shocked by this tragic incident. However, with  all the disbelief and the shock, Bille said, “It feels great knowing that  we Bostonians can come together in a time of tragedy.”

Rockland resident, Kelly Scanlon, works at Tuft’s Medical Center in Boston.  She has been working at Tuft’s for 7 1/2 years but when the day of the bombing happened she had taken the day off. The day after the bombing, Scanlon was making her way into work when she was greeted by the SWAT team at the entrance of her work.

“I was surprised with the amount of law enforcement in Boston,” Scanlon said. “I saw the SWAT team, Boston Police Department, MBTA Police, and the National Guard all around the streets.” She says she had known that there was going to be a lot of law enforcement but not that much. Out of the many injured, 20 people were taken to Tufts Medical Center.

Another nurse who works in the Emergency Department (ED) at Mass General Hospital explained what it was like when patients were brought into MGH after the bombing. Beth Edgar, who works with senior Leah O’Bryan’s older sister, said,  “I was certainly scared when the first patients started coming in. It all happened incredibly fast. I actually didn’t even know that there was a bombing when the first patient came in on a stretcher. I was afraid for the patients as well as my fiance at our home only a few blocks from the bombing. There were so many emotions at that time that I just went into auto pilot trying to help however I could.”

While she was able to keep her emotions in check, she said that it was difficult.  “I have never witnessed anything like this before. Some of the most senior nurses also stated that they have never seen anything like it in their career. The volume of patients was overwhelming.”

Edgar says she has a profound pride in the care and the teamwork that her colleagues at MGH showed. “I kept thinking, ‘wow this is an amazing hospital.’ There were so many nurses that came in from home to help and so many doctors and other staff working as quickly and efficiently as possible. I was truly impressed and proud to be a nurse in the ED at MGH.”

Michael McLoud, cousin of RHS junior Joe Rizzotto  works at the State House and said, “It’s scary to think that it would happen in our own backyard.”

This is a feeling shared by many people who bore witness to the tragic events.  “I would never have expected it to happen at the marathon either; I would have expected it to be at Fenway,” said Michael. Surely, no one would have thought that the marathon would be the target of an attack or anywhere in Boston.

“It was an awesome sight to see all the people of Boston unite like that,” said McCloud. The whole country banded together through the Boston Strong movement in support for the victims.

RHS students spending their April vacation in Spain felt the emotional impact of the catastrophe in Boston, worrying about their friends and family back home. After just having had their second day in Spain, exhausted and ready for bed, the students learned of the bombings in Boston, only twenty minutes north of hometown, Rockland.

Jackie Carlson, a junior who went on the trip, recounts the startling news.  “I heard about it in the lobby of a hotel we stayed at when we all were sitting waiting to go to our rooms for bed. People were using the wifi and had seen things on twitter and were trying to search about it. We didn’t know exactly what was going on,” Carlson recalls.

“Some people were extremely concerned because we were not sure to what extent our families and friends would be affected,” Carlson explained. “People’s parents had been telling them that they were safer in Spain than Boston, which was obviously alarming to most. A situation like this is stressful no matter where you are really. Ms. Walsh assured us that we could all contact our parents.”

All over the world people had heard about the tragedy and the natives of Spain knew about the incident.  “While we were getting ice cream the lady working there asked where we were from and we told her Boston and she asked us how we were and brought up the incident.”

Coming home was another thing that was worrisome for the students but  assurances were many that they would get home safely.  Jackie says, “There had been a little bit of talk about concern for flying, but our guide Liz and the chaperones helped to reassure us that we would get home.”

Although concerned about home, the students in Spain continued on with their trip, with caring teachers who did the best they could in the face of tragedy.

In the aftermath of the bombings, the only thing anyone could do to calm their nerves was wish for fast recoveries for the injured and hope that Boston’s finest would find those responsible for the acts of terror. Comfort was found in knowing the danger had at least ceased, but sadly the worrying was not over yet.

Ms. Wozniak, a physics teacher at RHS, had friends at the finish line during the bombings, but thankfully they were uninjured. It was her two other friends — a state trooper with whom she went to high school and a neighbor of her mother working with the FBI — she would need to worry about eventually.

Her two friends were called into Watertown, Massachusetts in the days following the bombings to search for suspect number two. “He told me it was the scariest thing he has ever experienced as a state trooper,” said Ms. Wozniak, relaying her friend’s account of his time in Watertown.

She was  very concerned about her friends’ safety but, luckily, her friend from high school could update loved ones on his well being through Facebook updates. Ms. Wozniak still watched her television all day Friday, from 5 am until she fell asleep. When the suspect was finally captured, she was able to breathe easier knowing her friends were safe again.

“My respect for policemen and my friends at Watertown increased tenfold,” she said.

Bostonians everywhere have expressed gratitude for the way our forces handled the bombings and brought our city back to safety.

Whitman, Police Officer Steven Dearth, step-brother to RHS junior, Georgia Panagiotidis,  was focused deeply into his papers  when his phone started buzzing. It was his wife, Diane. The next few words that he had heard were not what he had expected.

Her voice full of emotion, quickly blurted out the words, “The marathon was bombed!”  The only thoughts racing through Officer Dearth’s mind, were if his co-workers and their families were hurt or even worse killed.  Right after the incomplete conversation, he quickly turned on the radio and along with other’s, he closely paid attention the news.Today in our society, social media has become a main source of information. Officer Dearth was able to understand more about the bombings through sites such as twitter.

“I asked, if the explosions were accidental. Maybe a gas main break that blew up,” says Officer Dearth. As he kept a close eye on the news his beliefs changed. As the newscaster  said theses bombs were not accidental, he knew this was a terrorist attack.

Many people questioned how these kinds of bombs could have been constructed. Surprisingly, the bombs were made of items that are easily accessible to anyone.  “I was not surprised. These materials and instructions are easily learned from sources such as web.” , says Officer Dearth.

Just as many other officers around the Boston area, Officer Dearth attended the memorial service for MIT officer, Sean Collier.  Officer Dearth believes that the Boston Marathon next year will be the most popular race ever.

The bombings especially shook up the campus of UMass Dartmouth, which is where the second suspect was attending school.  After the second suspect was detained, the campus of UMD was suddenly flooded with all types of media, and reporters. Reporters interviewed those who had something to say, as well as investigate, to find the boy Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends. When interviewing his friends they found out that Dzhokhar was just a normal kid, who played soccer and enjoyed partying with his college buddies. Many of the students were scared, and started second guessing their new college acquaintances.

“I’ve never hung out with him, but I have friends who have before. He seemed normal to them,” said UMD student Matt Kinlin, who graduated from Rockland High in 2010. Kinlin, who lived a single floor above Dzhokhar was stunned to find out he was living above a possible terrorist. “It’s crazy to think about. I’m thankful he never acted out against the school,” said Matt. As the trial began the reporters left the campus to follow the breaking news and UMD returned to its peaceful ways.

Bridget Garrity, a 2010 graduate of RHS and sister of junior Molly Garrity, is a marathon runner.  Her reaction to the bombing is personal:

“Life really can change in a matter of minutes. From the instant we felt the bombs in our chest, thought that in the next 10 seconds an explosion would tear us from each other, smelled the smoke that filled Boylston, and heard the cries of children it was only a matter of 2 minutes before we were off the street and racing to our car.”

She continued, “I have a new respect for the people of Boston: the the first responders, common people who became helpers, the B.A.A. volunteers, and the police force all who ran fearlessly towards the madness. I am now in awe of the love, compassion, and ever-present support for all the victims. Although I can not fathom the events that took place on monday, I can understand how the community so naturally comes together as one. I know that I am grateful to feel safety again. I am thankful to be able to walk away from the madness and I am praying for those who could not.”

Not only was the city of Boston affected by this tragedy but our community and those communities around the area were as well. The lasting effect, however, is shown in the phrase, Boston Strong.


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