By Leslie Criss and Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
Several former Northeast Mississippians were among the Boston area residents who were confined to their homes or workplaces during Friday’s manhunt for a suspected terrorist bomber.
Kami Smith, a 2003 graduate of Tupelo High School, moved to Boston in 2007 to attend graduate school and now lives in Dorchester, the same suburb as 8-year-old Martin Richard, one of the three fatalities of Monday’s marathon bombings in Boston.
She’s about 20 to 25 minutes from Watertown, which had a huge police presence for most of the day Friday.
“I’m an actress in town, and I’ve done a lot of work at the site where all the police are parked,” she said in a Friday interview. “I also have many, many friends currently under siege in the Watertown area.”
In fact, Smith has friends who live on Norfolk Street, very near the house law enforcement officials had surrounded most of Friday morning. She said she had been keeping in constant touch with them, even though all public transit is shut down and “we’ve been ordered to stay in our homes.”
Smith’s mother, Janice Williams, lives in Tupelo and “she is a nervous wreck, understandably” worrying about her daughter.
Smith also works for a ticketing software company based in San Francisco, so she said she did not have the day off Monday like most Bostonians.
“My office is right downtown, about two miles from the finish line,” she said. “My roommate ran in the marathon and I knew her family was all there at the finish line waiting for her.
“I was out having coffee on the common when I started getting rapid-fire text messages from friends and family inquiring about my safety and the safety of my roommate.”
Smith said she then saw a huge onslaught of “solemn-faced people” converging quickly on the common. She looked online to see what had happened.
“My first instinct was to try and find my roommate,” she said. “I’d been tracking her progress online, so I checked there and figured out she was fine.
“It was a terrifying, surreal day,” Smith said. “You see things like this on TV all the time, but it feels so different when it’s in your own backyard. You feel very helpless and vulnerable and constantly unsafe.
“I have never felt fear living in Boston, so it’s a very new experience. But we are resilient and we lean on each other like no where else.”
Amory natives Jamie Randle and Sarah Trautman both attended Mississippi State University before moving to Boston to pursue studies in music and nutrition, respectively.
Despite receiving instructions to stay indoors at around 6 a.m., Randle walked to his 8 a.m. shift at Starbucks, just around the corner from his apartment. The Boston streets – empty for once – were disconcerting.
“Even if you had never been here, you would know something was going on,” Randle said Friday morning from the Starbucks, where he and another employee were confined. “Police and patrol cars are everywhere, so I didn’t feel in danger,” he said.
With no television in the cafe, Randle said he received updates on his cellphone.
“The police send information to the news channels, and they send them to us through apps and text messages,” he said.
Trautman was working her internship in the nutritional clinic of Tufts University Medical Center in Boston on Monday when the hospital went on lockdown.
A resident of the city since September, Trautman described Boston as a big but safe city, easy to navigate, and friendly. Though she is not a native, Monday’s terrorist bombing struck home.
“We’ve seen so many tragedies since 9/11, but I’ve never been affected so closely. It really gives you some perspective, especially for someone like my roommate, who is from here. For a lot of people, it’s their hometown where they feel safe,” she said. “But we have also seen so many heroic actions.”
Trautman said she also received word of the lockdown around 6 a.m. Friday, through an automated message sent from her university. The message instructed her to stay indoors, and notified her that all public transportation had been suspended.
“People are very nervous, this all happened very fast, practically overnight,” she said. “But the police have kept the public very well-informed. The news, police, and public services have cooperated very well, and those things have kept people more at ease.”
READY FOR AN END
Erica Crawford moved to Boston about five months ago to work as a clinical placement specialist for Boston College. From New Albany, she now lives in the suburb of Andover and has not experienced the lockdown as those living closer to the city of Boston. However, Boston College was closed, so she remained home from work on Friday.
A former recruiter for North Mississippi Health Services, said she attended Monday’s marathon, but even then was in Newton, at mile marker 20 or 21.
“Like everyone else here, I am ready for this to be over,” she said Friday. “I’m ready for those behind it to be caught. It’s horrible it happened. And frightening, but even more, I have been blown away by the amazing acts of kindness to come out of it.”
Crawford said she has kept in close contact with friends and her parents from New Albany who have been worried about her.
“I’ve gotten many texts, calls and Facebook messages,” she said. “I have been well concerned over.”