By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
With the nation riveted by television accounts of a massive manhunt for suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, Kentuckian Trey Grayson kept track of events through social media from his home just four miles away.
Grayson, the former Kentucky Secretary of State and now the director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, told CNHI News in a telephone interview that he and his family felt reasonably safe in their Belmont, Mass., home despite its proximity to a massive police presence so close by, presumably searching for a surviving suspect.
One suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was reported dead after an overnight shootout with police, while his younger brother, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, escaped.
Earlier, the pair allegedly shot and killed a campus policeman from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Massachusetts state police said reports the suspects had robbed a convenience story were untrue.
Friday, police and military helicopters descended upon a 20-block section of Watertown, Mass., a community of 32,000 whose residents were ordered to stay at home and indoors and where it was believed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might be hiding. There were also unconfirmed reports authorities might be looking for suspected accomplices.
In some neighborhoods, police were going door to door, apparently searching houses and interviewing those inside.
The two brothers were apparently born in or near Russian Chechnya but have lived in the United States with family for 10 years.
Both apparently were naturalized U.S. citizens. On Thursday, the FBI released photos and video clips of the two men taken by security cameras on Monday near the scene of the explosions.
They are suspected of planting the homemade bombs which exploded Monday near the finish line of the marathon, and police said they found an explosive device on the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, prompting them to suspect his younger brother might also be wearing explosives.
“I feel good, at least intellectually,” Grayson said. “We’re far enough away (from the scene where police gathered) that we feel pretty safe.
“From what we know, they had pressure cooker and homemade bombs and grenades, not the kind of plastic explosives which might affect us here.”
Grayson, originally from Walton, Ky., said he and his wife, Nancy who is from Lexington, had communicated with their parents, letting them know they’re alright. But Grayson said his sister was scheduled to fly today to Boston to visit.
“Logan Airport of course is closed, so we’ve had to push that back,” he said.
Grayson said his two daughters — Alex, 12, and Kate, 9 — are dealing with the situation without too much anxiety.
“We’ve answered their questions and talked to them about it, but we haven’t let them see the video on television,” Grayson said. “But we’ve told them key pieces of what’s going on.”
Without television — turned off to shield his daughters from the constant news reports — Grayson said he’s kept up with events via Twitter and phone calls from friends from church and Harvard.
The area where police gathered Friday is behind a shopping center and Target Store where the Graysons regularly shop, he said, about four miles from his house.
Grayson said he learned the community was on lockdown from a message from Belmont Police he found upon awakening Friday morning. He said his home is too far away to have heard any of the gunfire from the scene, but he has heard the Blackhawk helicopters flying over his residential area on their way to the scene.
Judging by the telephone conversations he’s had with friends and students at Harvard, people so far understand the need to stay home.
Grayson said it’s spring break in Boston and most of the area’s universities and public schools are already closed, children are at home and many families are on vacation.
But that’s not to say Grayson and the Harvard community aren’t affected. One of the people killed in Monday’s explosions used to work at Harvard and Grayson said many of his colleagues have run in past marathons or have often been in the vicinity where the bombs exploded. He’s been told one of the brothers may have once worked as lifeguard at a Harvard swimming pool.
Grayson said he has exchanged texts and calls with colleagues and neighbors, even with some students still on campus at Harvard.
He also has thought about the possibility that the fugitive brother may have traveled by the Grayson home in his flight from the previous night’s shootout with police to the area where police were congregating Friday.
Given descriptions of their movements last night, Grayson said the two men likely would have had to cross at least part of the Harvard campus earlier after they carjacked a man in a Mercedes SUV
The brothers apparently were captured on video at a convenience store and later shot the MIT campus policeman before the carjacking.
The driver of the SUV apparently told police he was held hostage by the suspects for a half-hour. He said they told him they were the marathon bombers and that they had killed a police officer that very night. He was let go unharmed at a gas station after they had withdrawn $800 from an ATM with his bank card.
Also Friday, Ruslan Tsarni, who said he is the two men’s uncle, spoke with reporters and condemned the bombings.
Tsarni said the family moved to Cambridge in 2003 from Kyrgyzstan where Tamerlan Tsarnaev was born. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was born in Dagestan, he said.
The manhunt and investigation continued as of early Friday evening.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/