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Tsarnaev Trial Puts Cambridge Rindge & Latin High in National Spotlight

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Dzhokhar School Photo, CRL
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Phillipos and Tsarnaev in Class of 2011 HS photo

The Boston Marathon bombing trial has forced us to relive the events that led to the loss of limbs, lives and innocence over five days in April 2013.  The trial has also taken us on a tour of familiar area landmarks, which meanings have been altered by tragedy: The Forum Restaurant, Boston Marathon Sports, the Watertown neighborhood of Dexter and Laurel and Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School.    

Rindge and Latin has long celebrated famous alumni, notably actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.  There of course is also Pat Ewing of the New York Knicks.   And since 2013, CRL has also become known for its most infamous graduates: the Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  Lily Jane Stavis attended Cambridge Rindge with Dzhokhar. 

I had P.E. class with him.  He was reserved.  He was younger than me. But I think different grades were intertwined and electives together.  He stayed to himself.  He had friends.  I barely spoke to him but I would remember him walking down the hall. Saw him everyday.”   

The younger Tsarnaev graduated from CRL in 2011.  But the current student body—with the class  of 2015 arriving here in 2012—has no memory of the two brothers. 

“I been here for about three years now.” Outside CRL, Ivan—first name only— is among groups of students streaming in all directions.   They talk about the NCAA tournament, the latest movie, the opposite sex and the latest music.  Ivan says the Boston Marathon Bombing trial never comes up in conversation.   

“No I haven’t been following it”, says Ivan.  And he says it doesn’t connect that three former CRL students—Tsarnaev, Robel Phillipos and Stephen Silva—are involved in the trial. 

“Yeah, I knew that when all that news came out…at the time I was following it, when the Marathon actually happened, but I don’t follow it as much now.” 

Another student outside the school, Silverno, also finds the Tsarnaev trial of little interest.

“I mean I usually don’t follow news much, just in general….Some of my teachers have had them but I wasn’t at the school or even in Cambridge when they attended.”

Cambridge Rindge and Latin boasts a student population of 1800 comprised of many ethnicities and nationalities. The high school curriculum includes social studies and world history.   But those world and United States history lessons do not formally touch on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

Charlene Colgan is a parent who also works here at the school.

“I think historically you have to mention it but does it have to be kind of singled out, let’s go out of our way to say that this happened here?  I don’t think so cause those things unfortunately happen everywhere.  I don’t think we have to make the kids feel that this happened so closely to them.  I don’t think we have to point that out specifically.”

Charlene Colgan is a lunchroom cashier at CRL and both her son and daughter attend school here. Hannah is Colgan’s daughter. I asked her if Tsarnaev is a household name at Cambridge Rindge and Latin?

“No.” she said.   “It never really comes up between the teachers and when it does, it just really sort of shortly discussed.”

During and before the trial the world was introduced to former friends of Dzhokhar and fellow CRL graduates, Stephen Silva and Robel Phillipos

Silva confessed to supplying a gun to Dzhokhar that authorities believe was used to kill MIT police officer, Sean Collier, and was used by Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the shootout with police in Watertown. In return for leniency on a drug conviction that could bring him 40 years in prison,  Silva testified against his former friend.  

Phillipos, 21, was found guilty last year  of two counts of lying to federal investigators in a terrorism investigation and is expected to be sentenced this month. He is out on bail.

While Phillipos, Silva and the Tsarnaev brothers have created history, albeit tragically, their stories have not defined the school where they all met.  Silva, Tsarnaev and Phillipos hung out together and can all be seen in the same high school group photograph, staring into the camera, two years before the events of April 2013.  And in that innocuous shot there, of course, was no way of knowing that they would bring notoriety to this already well-known high school.

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