SIERRA SCHWARTZ: The man I knew is astronomically different than the man that is hiding from the cops today. The Jahar that I knew at the time was friendly, quiet but not in a alarming way. He was just, you know, soft-spoken but very, you know, funny, very sweet, wouldn’t harm a fly, someone that you would want to talk to.
BLOCK: You know, I was talking with one of your classmates on the phone today and she mentioned that she also had a class with Jahar. And he typically would wear a baseball cap backwards.
SCHWARTZ: Yes, yes. That was his thing.
BLOCK: Which is, as we know now, what the suspect of the marathon bombings was doing.
SCHWARTZ: Exactly. He’d wear it backwards and, you know, a pair of gray sweatpants. It’s weird. I can almost think of what he would wear. It’s very bizarre to see his face all over the news, wanted by the FBI. He was just, you know, just a normal, everyday person. And it’s just crazy how people can change so quickly.
BLOCK: What kinds of kids did he hang out with mostly in high school?
SCHWARTZ: He hung out with, you know, the well-liked kids. He - I saw him as a floater. He - you know, he had friends in different friendship circles. He was never an outcast, never ever made fun of. He was always a friend to many, I guess, at the time he was.
BLOCK: What was the class that you had together?
SCHWARTZ: I had introduction to acting with him. So that’s how I got to know him. I’m sure if it had been a bigger class I would not have been able to have as good of a description. But since I had a small class, it’s much easier.
BLOCK: When you saw the images that were released by the FBI last night…
BLOCK: …did you know right away? Did you recognize Jahar?
SCHWARTZ: At the time, when I first saw the FBI images, there was rumor that the man - a wrong rumor, incorrect - that the man in the white cap, who is Jahar, was the missing student from Brown University.
BLOCK: We should explain, there’s a student who’s been missing for, I think, a little over a month…
BLOCK: …or part of a month.
SCHWARTZ: Yes, ma’am.
BLOCK: And there was some speculation that this might have been that student.
SCHWARTZ: Yes. So we had all assumed that it was him. We didn’t put two and two together. But last night when I saw his picture I was like, oh - I was thinking in the back of my head - oh, he looks just like Jahar. That’s so weird. Like, what a coincidence.
BLOCK: And when did you put it together that actually this was your classmate?
SCHWARTZ: This morning when I woke up. I woke up around 7:30 a.m., 8 a.m. and I had a bunch of texts from my friends saying, Sierra, it’s Jahar. It was actually Jahar. I didn’t think it was him but it is. And we just all cried together. We mourned - for the people whose lives were lost; for someone that we thought was such an, you know, innocent, kind person that had - could have possibly done something so horrendous and unspeakable. It’s heartbreaking. It really is. It’s hard to imagine or even comprehend.
BLOCK: You were saying you were all mourning the people who died. And I suppose also mourning the memory of this kid you knew.
SCHWARTZ: Of course. We were in absolute shock and mourning that the person that exists now is - it’s not the person that we grew up with. It seems like he just changed in such a rapid, crazy way.
BLOCK: And you said you were part of a large group that went to prom together.
SCHWARTZ: Yes. It was a group of maybe 30, 40 people. We all had individual dates but we took our photos together. We took, you know, ate snacks and went on the party bus together.
BLOCK: So part of your brain has an image of him, I suppose, in a tuxedo.
SCHWARTZ: Yes, exactly. Part of my brain sees him as, you know, the kid in the backwards baseball cap with the gray sweatpants or, you know, in a tuxedo laughing. And another part of me sees him as, you know, a murderer, someone who committed these just horrendous acts. And slowly I’m able to put these two together and, you know, accept that it’s one person.
BLOCK: How do you come to terms with that, do you think? How do you try to explain that to yourself?
SCHWARTZ: I’ve been trying to, you know, think: people change. There’s just some things that are out of our control. I was feeling very guilty. I know a lot of us are feeling guilty, you know. Could we have known? Could we have done something? Is there any way? But I think the truth of the matter is that we just didn’t know and that something had happened and something had sparked this. But none of us knew.
BLOCK: Sierra Schwartz, thank you for coming in.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you very much.
A light beam from a helicopter, top right, aims in the direction of Watertown, where officials searched for Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev on Friday, April 19, 2013. ©AP
Organizing old files. I always found this photo to be spooky.
i often wonder how the ppl that knew him feel, like they must be torn b/t the person they knew and the person he is being accused of.
Sometimes I wonder whether the irony in this tweet was deliberate or not
“Jesus Christ, I simply do not believe what is going on. Last night I posted that something was going down near Boston, specifically in my neighborhood. I stayed up for an hour or two longer listening to the radio and looking out my window. I went to sleep knowing that one suspect was “down” and the other was being chased. This morning I woke up to find that the 19 year old “suspect”, no, kid who is running from the police right now in my very neighborhood, was a friend of mine. He went to my high school. I played sports with him after school, even drove around in his car with him once. This is utterly insane, police helicopters everywhere. You think you know someone, he was such a nice kid, I still can’t believe that he planted those bombs and shot an MIT police officer to death. This is not the Jahar I know.”