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New York Post


Healing in Cambridge

April 25, 2013

By Nicole Gelinas

Moving memorial for MIT cop

Yesterday’s campus memorial service for MIT Police Officer Sean Collier mourned a victim of the Boston bombers but it was also an answer to them, an overwhelming outpouring of support for what they sought to destroy.

The Collier murder was just as much an attack on society as were the Marathon bombings; yesterday’s service reminded survivors of the strength of a well-ordered society.

Public memorials are a public service and a gift to the public from a victim’s family even as the family mourns.

MIT Police Chief John DiFava, in a movingly honest speech to a packed outdoor crowd, paraphrased Thomas Paine: "These are the times that try men’s intellect, their hearts and their souls . . . It’s difficult to understand why such a senseless, brutal act was perpetrated . . . We feel almost betrayed by the society we are sworn to protect."

The Tsarnaev brothers knew Boston well enough to know how important the Marathon is. But, as alums of the prestigious Cambridge Rindge and Latin public high school and Cambridge residents, they also knew the city, with at least a passing familiarity with its marquee universities, MIT and Harvard.

And they would have known that Cambridge is a successful, functional, diverse city one where people want to live, work and go to school.

But diversity adds to the challenges of policing. As DiFava said, MIT "has its own unique set of challenges for law enforcement." Nearly 30 percent of the school’s 11,000 students are foreign; many "come from countries where the police are not really their friends. Oftentimes they are brutal, corrupt and oppressive." When they first arrive, the students "are seeing the police from their own country," he added.

Distrust is one of the things terrorists love to exploit. In a weaker society, the Collier murder might cause officers to look on foreign students with fresh distrust and students, in turn, to resent that distrust.

Not MIT and Cambridge, though. Yesterday’s service was already reaffirming basic bonds. MIT students came out in force to show their condolences to Collier’s family and also their respect.

MIT President L. Rafael Reif (himself from Venezuela) noted that hundreds of students had sent testimonial e-mails about their interactions with Officer Collier.

One graduate wrote, "What really struck me was how interested Sean was in so many things. He was alive in the world in a way that is too rare. It was a big deal to have someone coming by my lab with fresh eyes full of genuine enthusiasm and curiosity about what I was doing."

Collier "achieved a level of trust with people of all backgrounds," DiFava added.

That’s no small accomplishment but Collier was accomplished. At 27, an age when many young men are still figuring life out, he had earned a degree in criminal justice and paid his own way through the police academy with no guarantee of a job afterward.

In a fiscal environment of hiring freezes and delayed retirements, it’s probably just as hard to get on a good police force as it is to get into MIT. But Collier was moving up the civil-service list to join the police department of next-door Somerville in June.

As for his legacy: Collier’s death in the line of duty protecting innovative people who will go on to create wealth and strength for America is "to do it right. If we want to cherish his memory, remember that, we have to do it right," DiFava concluded.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two attackers, told his carjacking victim, "We just killed a cop. We blew up the marathon."

But at 26, about the same age as Collier, he’s dead and his parents can’t mourn him at a public service; the best they can do is feel privately ashamed.

Original Source:



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