Cambridge is filled this week with newcomers adjusting to Harvard life, but few have had a ruder introduction to the University than a Kennedy School visiting fellow named David Roe.
Completing a cross-country drive from San Francisco. Roe pulled into Trowbridge St. in the early hours of September 3 and parked his Volkswagen Rabbit and U-Haul trailer. When he looked at the parking space three hours later, both Rabbit and U-Haul were gone.
The loss was more serious than the average auto-theft, for inside the van was virtually everything Roe owned, including eight or nine cartons of books, notes and other papers, notably half of a manuscript in progress on Roe's specialty: public interest law.
"I had packed my whole life into that van." Roe recalled yesterday, "There were five years of my professional life inside--it was just unthinkable to lose that."
But Roe's story soon took a turn for the better. Following a Channel 7 evening news item the day after, the theft, a viewer, whose anonymity Roe is protecting. telephoned the police and reported seeing an abandoned trailer that matched Roe's description in a Medford field. By 9 p.m., Roe had arrived at the site and confirmed the viewer's suspicion.
The thieves had gone through the U-Haul and taken everything of salable value. "It was a very professional job," Roe said. "There were a few scraps that they disdained to steal--some old worn-out pants, things like that. But it was very carefully gone through."
But the unthinkable did not come to pass: Roe's papers were unharmed in the van. "I wouldn't say I'm back to even," Roe said, "but getting the papers back was a happy ending. I guess I've gone from negative infinity to negative 15,000."
Roe is now able to go about the business he came to Cambridge for: a year-long senior research fellowship at the K-School's Energy and Environmental Policy Center and a possible visiting professorship at the Law School in the spring. (The appointment will come up for final consideration shortly.)
But the after-effects of his unusual welcome to Cambridge have not altogether worn off. "A lot of people have gone way out of their way to be helpful and generous," Roe said. "But I'm not leaving a lot of windows open."