Students from Maui relate ‘scary’ moments as events unfolded

Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Michael Flynn heard a loud noise that sounded out of place while working on his term paper in the school’s dorm early Friday morning.

“I wouldn’t describe it as a gunshot. It sounded loud. I wasn’t sure what it was,” the 20-year-old from Kihei said.

The 2011 Maui High School graduate then quickly turned to his computer, where he was able to listen to the police radio. What he heard scared him.

An ambulance was being called for an MIT campus officer that had been shot in an area that is about a two-minute walk away from Flynn’s dorm. He later recalled hearing that a 7-Eleven had been robbed, a car stolen and then police chasing a car from which the occupants were throwing grenades.

“It was very scary for a while,” Flynn said via cellphone Friday morning.

The physics major said he wondered what all the mayhem was about. At the time, he didn’t know the incidents would later be linked to the suspects wanted for the Boston Marathon bombings that claimed three lives and injured more than 170 on Monday.

It “was pretty shocking; no one saw it coming,” Flynn said of Friday’s events while Boston remained under a lockdown.

Like Flynn, Boston residents and other Maui college students were holed up for most of Friday in their homes, dorms and workplaces while police and government authorities searched for the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing.

The first suspect, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police early Friday in Watertown, Mass. After an intensive manhunt that shutdown Boston, Tsarnaev’s brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was taken into custody nearly 20 hours later when he was found bleeding and hiding in a boat at a Watertown residence.

It probably was a welcome sight to Maui students in Boston. Commenting in phone interviews before the second suspect was caught, the students said they were stuck in their dorms and apartments while looking out to an eerily quiet and desolate city that usually is bustling with activity.

“It’s pretty scary, especially this morning. Just when everything was shut down. You look out the window, it’s a ghost town,” said Rachel Lum Ho of Makawao, a graduate student at Boston University who lives off campus near Fenway Park.

The 2006 Kamehameha Schools Maui graduate said she could hear many sirens outside Friday, and she noted that some people who went to work early were trapped there after the lockdown was imposed and until it was lifted Friday evening.

Amy Singleton, a Boston University sophomore, was with friends in the school dorms.

The 2011 Seabury Hall graduate of Kula said that in the early-morning hours on Friday she kept getting emails from the school, giving students updates on the unfolding crisis.

Later, she could hear helicopters hovering overhead and police sirens.

The last few days have “been kind of hard for us,” she said, because her dorm is near Kenmore Square, not far from where two pressure-cooker bombs went off near the finish line of Monday’s marathon.

Authorities told people to stay away from Kenmore, but she couldn’t comply because she lives nearby.

Zach Ferguson, a 2011 Maui Preparatory graduate and sophomore at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., which is near Watertown, stayed in his dorm room all day and watched the drama unfold on television.

At first, there was anger among students about marathon bombings, but as the suspects were being hunted down, there was a feeling that justice had been done, he said.

Although Ferguson said he wasn’t afraid, some students were fearful that the second suspect could make his way to the campus.

Ferguson’s mother, Diane Boyd, said her son was supposed to be a spectator at the Boston Marathon on Monday, but fortunately he didn’t follow through with his plans.

“There were a few tense moments for us,” Boyd said. “It was good to hear he was safe.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at