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Hunkered down in Boston

Published April 19. 2013 05:03PM

As an intense manhunt continued Friday morning for the surviving suspect of the Boston Marathon bombing, one local resident found himself hunkered down in a hotel in the paralyzed city.

Mahoning Township resident Eric Waksmunski was staying at the Doubletree Hotel in Cambridge last night, approximately a half-mile from the MIT campus where an MIT Police Officer was shot and killed Thursday night by the suspected bombers. Authorities have identified the suspects as brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, from a Russian region near Chechnya. Family members reported that the brothers lived near Boston and had been in the U.S. for about a decade.

"It's quite an intense place to be. There were hundreds of police cars driving back and forth all night long," said Waksmunski, a regional manager at Urban Outfitters who was in the area to visit company stores. He spent much of the night listening to area police through a scanner app on his cell phone and watching the news on television.

"It was crazy. You hear the police yelling on the scanner. Police were screaming 'shots fired, shots fired.' When you're listening and you know that you're not far from where this is happening, it's not something that you experience every day.

"Right now, I'm just watching outside and listening to the police on my phone. They're still driving by (on Friday morning). I would suspect that every police officer in Massachusetts is in the Boston area right now," he added.

As of press time, authorities have encouraged all resides in nearby suburbs of Boston to remain indoors. They have also shut down all forms of public transportation, and businesses were asked not to open today.

"The streets are dead. The whole area, even the city of Boston, is on lockdown. They're telling people to shelter in. They don't want anyone out," said Waksmunski.

Tamaqua Area High School 2007 graduate Lauren Davis lives just a short walk from the MIT campus, where she works as an administrative assistant in the technology licensing office.

"Last night at 10:45, I received a text message that there was an active shooter on campus," she said, noting that all students and employees can receive emergency alerts from campus police. "I tuned into the news, and the Boston police scanner online. I've been following that all night. It's just crazy."

She noted that the Central Square gas station, where the suspects allegedly carjacked a vehicle, is within a 10-minute walk from their apartment.

"We frequent that area often," she said. "It's scary. It's where I work, where we live, and where we go out with our friends. It's frightening, but this could happen anywhere. I don't plan on going anywhere today until this is settled, just staying down and watching the news is good. I'd rather watch the news and be updated, rather than be complexly oblivious to it."

Davis was also within a mile of the blasts that shook the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing three and injuring more than 180 people.

"All week we've been hearing helicopters fly over, and constant sirens. I follow a couple different Cambridge (police) feeds on Twitter, and they're amazing about posting threats online. There have been a lot of unattended bags, suspicious bags. It's just scary because you don't know where you'll be walking. Last night I walked home from meeting friends, and an hour later there was a text that there was a shooting on campus. It's scary, but the police are out there doing what they need to do."

She noted that the city and neighbors have rallied around the tragedy, taking the time to check if friends are OK and being "a little more friendly" to each other.

"Boston is a very resilient city. I've never seen a whole community be so upbeat about being safe. We know that the Boston police will find these guys," she said. "I think everyone knows that these people will be found, and Boston will get back to its normal self. It's just going to take some time."

The events in Boston continue to be on the minds of Americans throughout the area and country. Sen. David Argall this week expressed his sympathy for Boston residents:

"Evil knows no bounds. My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected in this week's tragic events in Boston," said Argall. "In times of darkness, our nation rises to the occasion to bring those to justice who seek to do us harm."

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