From the bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to the capture of a suspect, last week’s events were almost unbelievable.
For Pryor native Ron Hilton, Jr., the events were downright surreal.
Hilton spent a year at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. and knew the neighborhood where the eventual capture took place.
“I lived in that area,” Hilton said. “That whole thing happened in my former neighborhood.”
The beginning of the end for the bombing suspects began at a 7-11 convenience store which Hilton used to frequent.
“I walked to that 7-11 pretty much every day,” he said.
Bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly robbed the store Thursday night, April 18, just hours after the Federal Bureau of Investigation released their images to the public.
“From what I understand, they robbed the 7-11, then took off down Massachusetts Avenue,” Hilton said, explaining they left the Harvard campus area and went straight to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where University Police Officer Sean Collier was shot and killed.
“There’s a gas station on the corner of Mass. Ave. and Memorial Drive at MIT,” Hilton said. “I lived just around the corner on Memorial Drive. That’s the gas station where they carjacked the Mercedes and held the driver hostage for a bit.”
The two brothers eventually let the driver out of the car, but were spotted by police. A gun battled followed.
Hilton said he saw a post on Facebook from a former professor asking about the many, many sirens and the gunfire.
“I logged onto Harvard’s police scanner and was relaying information to my friends there,” he said. “They knew something major was happening, but didn’t know what was going on. Everyone was really worried.”
The gun battle left one suspect dead, but the other escaped in the stolen Mercedes.
He was later found hiding in a boat behind a home in Watertown, a nearby suburb.
“Geographically speaking, Cambridge is about the same size as Pryor, but you have 100,000 people living there,” Hilton said, explaining the distance from the boat where the second suspect was caught to the 7-11 was less than two miles.
“I used to walk from my apartment to Fenway Park to watch a ballgame,” Hilton said. “It wasn’t very far at all.”
Hilton said that none of his remaining contacts in Boston are familiar with either suspect.
“That doesn’t really surprise me,” he said. “There are so many people there.”
Cambridge is home to several universities and colleges. Hilton said Cambridge is truly a world city.
“There are people from all over the world who choose to continue their education there,” he said. “Every color, every nation, every idea, every religion.”
Hilton, who was in Pryor during all the excitement, said his friends are fine despite frayed nerves throughout the week.
“During that whole thing on Thursday and Friday, I was monitoring it closely and talking to everyone, letting them know what was going on,” Hilton said. “It was really crazy. I had more resources here 1,700 miles away than they did just down the street.”