Months Before Marathon Bombing, Suspect Worked as Harvard Lifeguard

Nine Former Classmates and Coworkers Remember Suspected Terrorist’s High School Years

Still, Castile took note of some of Tsarnaev’s more strident traits.

“He came off to me as a normal kid, but he definitely had a sharp sort of attitude,” said Castile. “He had strong opinions.”


Acquaintances struggled to reconcile their positive perceptions of Tsarnaev with the news that he is the suspected perpetrator of a terrorist attack.

Paterson, who played basketball with Tsarnaev just months ago, said he thought nothing about Tsarnaev’s conduct or demeanor in that game hinted that he might be capable of violent acts.


“I had never even seen him be rude to someone else,” he said.

Even Tsarnaev’s apparent commitment to religious and political causes came as a shock to many of his peers. According to multiple news outlets, Tsarnaev articulated his views about Islam and Chechnyan independence on several English and Russian social media sites.

Hannah S. Firestone ’16, who attended both elementary and high school with Tsaernaev, said the two were briefly members of the same gymnastics program at Cambridge Rindge and Latin. She remembered him as a “really nice, quiet guy,” and noted that he had seemed anything but dogmatic.

“I was never under the impression that he was particularly religious,” she said.

Paterson said that to his knowledge Tsarnaev identified as Muslim, but was not traditionally observant.

“He had always been Muslim, but he drank and smoked,” Paterson said.

Even Finlay, the lifeguard whom Tsarnaev spoke to about his hatred of Russia, said that the news that Tsarnaev was a suspect in the bombing came as a complete surprise.

“I really wouldn’t have called this one,” Finlay added.

Classmates less well-acquainted with Tsarnaev agreed that he seemed like a typical, non-descript high school student in a graduating class of around 400. Becca J. Mazur ‘15 remembered him from the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition class they both took as a “friendly, quiet” sort of student.

“He didn’t seem culturally at odds with anything,” said Mazur, who is also a Crimson arts editor.


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