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Bombings deeply affect Boston's Chinese community

By Zhang Yuwei | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-29 11:23

As the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings heads into a third week, authorities are assembling pieces with the public's help - both those directly and indirectly affected by the attacks.

Details continue to emerge, such as a plan by the two suspects to head to New York after the April 15 blasts and that one of the brothers admitted involvement in the crime. That claim was made to a 26-year-old entrepreneur from China whom the suspects carjacked.

Danny - he used only his American nickname in his sole media interview, with the Boston Globe - is a graduate of the engineering program at Boston's Northeastern University. He provided to investigators what have turned out to be crucial clues in identifying Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev as suspects.

He gave the Globe his account of being accosted at gunpoint while parked in his Mercedes SUV in Boston on the night of April 18, three days after the bombings. What followed was a jarring, 90-minute ride: Danny was ordered by 26-year-old Tamerlan to drive to suburban Watertown, Massachusetts, to pick up his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. Danny finally managed to escape when one of the brothers was distracted and the other was inside a gas station.'

Danny insists that he not be called a "hero", said James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern who was approached by the Chinese man's former engineering adviser for guidance on dealing with media inquiries about the encounter. Fox, who also writes a column for the Globe, sat in on Danny's exclusive interview last week with a reporter from the newspaper.

"He wanted to get the story out, but he didn't want any media attention," Fox said.

He said the young man was composed and prudent in handling the dangerous situation, making it possible for him to escape later.

"He is quite smart, which allowed him to survive," Fox said. "His composure was critical in handling that and his ability to get away and to call the police."

At one point, according to Fox, Danny told the two suspects that "Chinese are friendly to Muslims", in an attempt to gain a measure of control in dealing with two men who claimed to be the culprits in the deadly marathon bombings and the subsequent killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer.

"During the 90 minutes in the car, they got to know him a little bit, and certainly that personal connection may have been critical in saving his life," the criminology professor said, adding that the Tsarnaev brothers talked about "girls, cellphones and GPS systems" among other things.

Danny, who owns a startup business in Cambridge, is a native of a province in central China who came to the United States to study in 2009. He graduated last year.

Fox said the young businessman won't change his plan of pursuing a career in the US. "He likes Boston and he doesn't intend to leave and he is pursuing his career."

Data from the Institution of International Education show that Northeastern University and Boston University have the largest number of international students in Massachusetts. The state, which is also home to Harvard, ranks No 4 in the US in hosting students from abroad, and China is the top country of origin, accounting for 24 percent.

The impact on Chinese was deeply felt even before Danny's ordeal. A graduate student from Boston University, 23-year-old Lu Lingzi, was among the three people killed in the bombings. Lu's friend Zhou Danling, also a BU student, was injured and is recovering in Boston Medical Center.

The tragedy has made the Chinese student body at BU grow closer and stronger, said Guo Shuang, a member of the university's Chinese Scholars and Students Association. Guo said she felt relieved and safe after news that the only surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, had been caught.

"Finally, the tragedy is over. That's what we've been waiting for," said Guo.

Eric Kolaczyk, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at BU and director of its statistics program, who taught Lu, said Chinese students have been bonding as they mourn the death of their friend and classmate.

"That's a very strong part of trying to heal," he said.

After the release the of the two suspects' identities, Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, which both brothers attended, conducted counseling sessions for its students.

"There is just so much hurt that's propagated by this one action," Kolaczyk said.

Contact the writer at yuweizhang@chinadailyusa.com

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