News & Events

For Iowans in Boston, Relief Follows Uncertainty

(Editor's Note: Tippie alum Aaron Schaechterle, BBA06, was among those sharing their reactions in this Des Moines Register story about the arrest of the Boston bombing suspect.)

A surreal day of empty streets except for police officers at every turn gave way to relief and cheers for Iowans in Boston after the arrest of the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect.

University of Iowa graduate student Duncan Mackie, 30, was in the lobby of the Park Plaza hotel, less than a block from the marathon finish line, when news came across the TV Friday night of the arrest.

“A large cheer went out in our hotel lobby. People were clapping and hugging and giving high-fives,” he said. “I think a lot of people were breathing a sigh of relief that at least the worst part was over—the waiting and the worrying was over.”

Mackie is part of a delegation of graduate students from the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy who arrived for a conference in Boston on Friday morning to a city that was locked down.

Traveling in a group of five, his flight was delayed in Chicago while reports circulated that Boston’s Logan airport was closed. When they finally arrived, the students found an empty city.

“I’m used to big cities,” Mackie said, “and I’ve never seen a city so quiet.”

During a brief period when officials lifted the lockdown before catching the suspect, Mackie walked half a block to the makeshift memorial site at the finish line, where he saw people lighting candles and laying wreaths.

“When you get closer to that area,” he said, “you can tell the disbelief in facial and body expressions.”

When officials gave the all-clear and lifted the lockdown, Mackie and a group of other graduate students hopped a train and found a pizzeria that had reopened following the manhunt. Outside, people who had been shut in all day gathered in the streets to celebrate

“This is something I never thought I would have experienced,” Mackie said. “It’s one of those things I’ll be telling my grandkids for sure.”

Aaron Schaechterle, U of I alum

Aaron Schaechterle, a University of Iowa alum who lives in Cambridge, a few blocks from where the bombing suspects stole an SUV, was glued to the TV when police closed in on the backyard where the second suspect was hiding.

After the arrest, Schaechterle and his wife invited over four other couples to celebrate.

“It feels good to just take a sigh of relief finally,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Schaechterle found himself using his “protective instinct” for his 12-week-old daughter to overcome his own fears.

“Rather than fear for myself, I walk around checking the windows” in their apartment, he said.

On Monday, Schaechterle, his wife, Lorin, and his newborn were at the marathon. They were walking toward the finish line, and were only about a half mile away when the explosions occurred. They didn’t see or hear them, but “everyone on the sidewalk just locked together and stopped.”

When they heard rumors of explosions, Schaechterle and his family quickly ducked out of the crowd and walked back home.

“It effectively happened in our neighborhood, which is kind of freaky,” he said.

Stephanie Manivanh, student from Des Moines

Students at Harvard University stayed indoors Friday and armed guards were stationed throughout the campus, said freshman Stephanie Manivanh of Des Moines.

All classes were canceled as police searched for the second bombing suspect.

“The only thing open is Annenberg, the freshman dining hall,” said Manivanh, a 2012 Roosevelt High School graduate. “Other than that, they’ve been telling us to stay inside.”

Manivanh’s dormitory window overlooks the famous Harvard Yard, a 25-acre grassy area surrounded by some of the school’s oldest buildings.

The yard usually hums with activity, she said.

“This is the first time I’ve seen something so completely empty,” Manivanh said.

Meaghan Dowdle, Dowling graduate

Meaghan Dowdle had an exhausting day Friday as she tried to make her way home to Boston following an overseas trip.

Dowdle, 26, and a 2005 graduate of Dowling Catholic High School, missed a train from New York City to Boston on Thursday. When she arrived at Penn Station on Friday morning, she was told no trains were running to Boston as the massive manhunt for one of the bombing suspects got under way.

Dowdle and others made it as far as New Haven, Conn., where they were met by a throng of journalists hoping to talk about what was unfolding 140 miles to the northeast.

“All of our neighborhoods are still in lockdown right now so it’s just a matter of deciding when it’s safe,” she said Friday afternoon.

Dowdle lives in Porter Square between Somerville and Cambridge. She was in the Dominican Republic on spring break with a friend when the bombings took place.

“We were wearing Boston baseball caps when somebody came up and asked if we were from there,” she said. “They told us there’d been a bombing at the finish line.”

Dowdle’s father, Jim Dowdle, principal of Dowling Catholic High School, said his family is lucky. Meaghan and her older sister Bridget, who also lives in Boston, were out of town all week. “In a normal week, the youngest would have been there every day, and she would have been coming home close to where this guy is,” Jim Dowdle said. “Neither of them live very far away.”

Beth Bachman, Carroll native

Beth Bachman woke up Friday to an early morning phone call from her father in Carroll, wanting to check in after seeing the shootout and events that unfolded nearby overnight.

Bachman, 25, and a native of Carroll, lives in the Boston neighborhood of Brighton, about three miles southeast of Watertown, where the dramatic overnight shootout between police and the bombing suspects took place.

Brighton was one of the first areas placed on lockdown Friday morning.

“They told us don’t leave your apartment. Don’t leave your home,” Bachman said.

Bachman conducts clinical research at the neurology department at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where the older suspect was taken following the shootout.

“It was a little crazy to hear that. The emergency room is right across the street from my office,” she said.

Samantha Kooiker, Osceola native

Samantha Kooiker got dressed for work at Hanscom Air Force Base on Friday morning, sat and waited for the notice saying that she could leave her Boston home.

“We’ve been watching the news and really thought this was going to be a quick, short-term kind of thing,” Kooiker, an Osceola native said. “We’re still watching and waiting, and now we’re hearing helicopters over our house.”

Kooiker, 25, lives in the neighborhood of Waltham, just west of Watertown, with her fiance, Mark Mogil. She said she was startled when authorities told residents in her neighborhood and others to stay inside and lock their doors.

“I was afraid even to look out the windows,” she said. “This guy, he’s about five miles away. If he’s trying to get away from the police he could be going in any direction, but he could be walking across my front yard.”

“It’s hard to grasp,” Kooiker said. “This is national news and these are places near me.”

This story includes reporting by staff writers Joel Aschbrenner, Sharyn Jackson, Emily Schettler and Mary Stegmeir.

Return to top of page