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Fox Valley native tells of experience in Watertown bomb hunt lockdown

Updated: May 22, 2013 6:36AM



“It’s eerily quiet, except that we can hear lots of helicopters overhead,” Elgin High School grad Karen Repetny said as she watched the tense search for Boston’s bombing fugitive from a mile or so away Friday.

The Hanover Park native now lives in Watertown, Mass., where the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing had fought a gun battle with police the night before. One continued to be a fugitive until Friday night, forcing Watertown residents to remain tensely shut up behind locked doors until he finally was found inside a boat in one family’s backyard.

In fact, the search set off an unprecedented near-shutdown not only of Watertown but of the entire Boston area, with mass transit halted, pro athletic games canceled and businesses asked to close.

“We were asleep when all this first happened” Thursday night, Repetny said in a phone interview. “When we woke up about 5 a.m., our phones were full of text messages from friends saying, ‘Turn on the news and stay where you are.’ ”

Repetny’s sister, Margaret Peebles, works at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin. Repetny said she works as an analyst for a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, the town just east of Watertown where Thursday’s running gun battle began. Soon after she awoke, she said, she got an email from her boss saying she shouldn’t come to work because the company would be closed all day.

Her husband Utsav Saxena, who works as a scientist for a biotech firm, received a similar message from his boss.

“Every company is closed,” she said Friday before the second suspect was captured. “This is marathon and Patriots Day week in Massachusetts anyway, so the schools are closed all week. But we have no traffic going by except for the helicopters.”

Repetny said she had heard that police were going door to door and that cellphone channels were jammed by authorities for awhile to prevent phones possibly being used to set off bombs, but her family had not yet been visited by officers and her cellphone seemed to be working fine.

She noted that the area where the gun battle took place, and the area where fugitive Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was finally captured, are on the other side of Watertown, so the search probably focused here. “But all of Watertown is only about four square miles,” she said. “We keep hearing places mentioned and saying, ‘That’s awfully close.’ ”

She said Watertown is a close-in suburb with “a lot of townhouses and three-flats and a lot of houses that have been split into condos. It began as a middle-class suburb; but now, if you’re middle-class, you probably can’t afford to live here.”

She said she and her husband watched the events via TV news for awhile but turned to another channel because they have a 2-year-old child.

She said Friday that she understood the need to close everything down to keep residents safe, but “I just wish we had gone to the grocery store last night.”



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