Remembering fallen MIT officer Sean Collier 1 year later

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April 7, 2014, 10:51 pm
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(NECN: Josh Brogadir) - As the city of Boston approaches the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, the memories of what unfolded that week are still fresh.

The tragedy spread from the finish line across the Charles River to MIT, where the suspects allegedly ambushed a campus police officer.

I was there that night when we knew something so horrible had happened at MIT, but before we knew the extent of what it was, before we knew it was Officer Sean Collier who was killed.

His co-workers, comrades and friends remember that night as if it were yesterday.

"A sound you'll never forget. Sergeant Henniger yelling over the radio, 'I have an officer down. Get me everybody over here,'" said Patrolman David Carrasco.

“My heart sank to my stomach, and I said 'Why, what's going on?' And they said, 'You need to turn around and come back, there's been a shooting,'" said Patrolman Ken Spooner.

“They tried to radio Sean, we got no response,” said Sergeant Peter McTague, choking back his emotions.

The days pass, the calls come in, the heartfelt notes still arrive, the patrols of the MIT campus continue.

“Sean and I had been texting earlier in the day, and he was trying to get a day off,” said Patrolman Andy Turco.

“He was a pleasure. You always knew Sean had your back and you had Sean's back,” said Patrolman Bill Smith.

But the pain of losing a brother officer is still raw. It aches almost as if this were the night they lost Sean.

"I told her what had happened. We lost him, he was just a baby, we lost him, he's gone," Carrasco said.

“Honestly I never thought anything like this would ever happen here. You go through your training, firearms training, you go through the academy," McTague added.

Only a few years removed from the academy, 27-year-old MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was gunned down Thursday night after the marathon, ambushed in his police cruiser while he was on patrol at the corner of Vassar and Main.

And on that April night in Cambridge, officers David Carrasco, Ken Spooner and Supervisor, Sgt. Peter McTague were all on duty.

Their friend was dead, but they had no idea who killed him or that this might be connected to the bombs on Boylston.

“(We) formed a defensive perimeter because we didn't know if we were being set up. Call came in, it was a second floor call. Window overlooking where Sean was hit," Carrasco said.

"We had no idea who it was, where they were, we thought they could have been into a building by now," McTague said.

“There was a lot of anger in me but there was a lump in my throat at the same time, walking in, I didn't know what I was going to be walking into," Spooner said.

Ken Spooner walked into the middle of a firefight in Watertown. He was not hurt. None of these men was injured that night.

But this tragedy has changed them, forever changed this department, made them stronger.

“It became a lot more like a family after what happened last year. How they take care of each other in times of tragedy, I've never seen anything like it," Turco said.

It has also taken its emotional toll on their mindset as they put on the uniform to protect and serve.

"I'm definitely looking over my shoulder a little bit more, and looking out for my guys a little bit more when they don't respond to the radio. I get that gut feeling, in my stomach, could this be something bad?” Spooner said.

Something bad could always happen in police work, and each of these men knows that.

But do they still want to wear the badge?

All four we asked said yes, and they don’t waver.

Across campus, a temporary memorial with badge number 179 made from a piece of the MIT Great Dome rests below unfurling American flags.

And inside the room where they call roll rests an empty chair, hand carved in memory of Sean Collier.

“That's where Sean sat at roll call. And we have colleagues down at San Antonio Police department. They made that chair. And they drove up here to present that chair to the department,” Smith added.

A few months after officers from San Antonio presented it, they too lost of one of their own, killed in the line of duty, so a group of MIT policemen went to Texas to be with their fellow officers.

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Tags: Boston Marathon, MIT, Josh Brodagir, Boston Marathon bombings, Sean Collier
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