Meadville Tribune

Local News

April 20, 2013

Former local recalls Boston lockdown

MEADVILLE — Boston resident Ian Higham and his friends were living in the moment. Literally.

“Everyone is making their plans minute-by-minute now,” the Meadville native said Friday morning as the killing of one suspected bomber and the manhunt for another in relation to the Boston Marathon bombings brought transportation, commerce and life in general in the Boston area to a dramatic halt.

Higham, other Boston residents and the nation as a whole can hopefully breathe a little easier.

Late Friday night, Boston Police announced via Twitter that 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was in custody. Tsarnaev’s brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan and the only other person police believe to be a suspect in the bombings, was killed Friday in an attempt to escape police.

It put an end to a whilwind week for many, including 24-year-old Higham, who is a 2007 graduate of Meadville Area Senior High School.

When the corporate party Higham had attended early Monday afternoon ended, the street outside was so crowded that he and two friends opted to remain at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood and have a drink at the bar.

They’d no sooner taken their seats when they heard a loud noise. Through the bar’s street-level windows, they saw everyone outside looking in the same direction — toward the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

“Before we could figure out what happened, we saw the second bomb go off,” Higham told the Tribune on Friday. The second explosion had taken place on the opposite side of the street a short distance from where they sat.

Speaking from his home about three blocks north of the scene of the devastation, “You can’t imagine what it’s like to see a bomb go off until you’re there,” he said.

Higham is no stranger to metropolitan life. In fact, he spent four years earning his undergraduate degree in Washington, D.C., before moving to London for his master’s degree and then settling in Boston, where he does research for the London-based Ethical Investment Research Service, a global provider of independent investment research into the environmental, social, governance and ethical performance of companies.

“None of the glass in the building I was in shattered, so we were very lucky,” Higham said, “but we didn’t know that at the time. We didn’t know at the time that there weren’t bombs all the way down the street — or falling from the sky.”

Having no idea what was happening, he and his friends ran upstairs and into an outdoor courtyard before eventually being evacuated from the hotel through a back entrance of the nearby Prudential Center. “I stayed with my friends for two nights,” he said. “I live so close to the action; I didn’t want to be at home.”

Even at that, Monday was still a sleepless night for someone who had seen a bomb go off and had friends running in the marathon he still hadn’t been able to get in touch with.

By Friday, he’d long since confirmed that friends were all fine and Higham was back at home on a residential street he describes as “very big and very busy.”

Looking down on the street from his window Friday morning, he saw one person walking a dog. That was it. Friends in other neighborhoods were reporting similarly-deserted sidewalks, he added, although vehicular traffic was still moving.

As the search for the second suspect continued through Friday, “It feels very surreal being on lockdown,” Higham said. Although he’d been planning to work from home that day anyway, he was finding it a bit nerve-wracking to know that he couldn’t leave if he wanted to.

“Like you, I’m watching it on TV today,” he said. “It’s a very odd feeling — you know you’re supposed to be nervous but it’s difficult to be nervous when nothing is happening right in front of you.”

With the memories still fresh, he’s already looking at the experience from a somewhat philosophical perspective.

“We’ve all realized how much difference a few moments can make,” Higham said. “If we had left that hotel, who knows where we would have been standing. I’ve learned not to take things for granted.”

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at

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