The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 20, 2013

Jefferson police chief impressed by response at Boston Marathon bombing

Star Beacon

— Two loud blasts didn’t immediately register with Jefferson Police Chief David Wassie as he began walking to a mass transit station after greeting his son Chris who had just completed the Boston Marathon.

“We were two blocks away from the explosion,” Wassie said. He said he and the cheering section for his son assumed they were canon blasts following the Boston Red Sox game.

He quickly found that wasn’t the case as two bombs exploded killing three people and wounding more than 160 people at 2:50 p.m. on Monday.

As a police officer Wassie said he was impressed with the security at the event and the response time by emergency officials.

Wassie and his party, which included his wife, Mary Joan; Chris Ruggieri, former Conneaut resident now living in Washington D.C.; Kevin Wassie, another son living in Maryland; Kevin’s fiancé Jennifer Osborne, a former Conneaut resident living in Maryland and Tony Bernato, a former Ashtabula resident living in Massillon, only realized there was an attack when the sirens of emergency responders pierced the air.

“As soon as I saw the black SUV’s and the Homeland Security (vehicles) I knew something was up,” he said.

“I am thoroughly impressed with the way they handled the situation,” he said of the quick response and the decision to shut down bridges for inspection.

There was a period where cell phones were not working. “I made one call back to the (Jefferson police) office to see what was happening,” he said.

Wassie said it took several hours before the bridges opened and they were able to walk to a Cambridge transit stop and get a train to their suburban hotel.

Wassie said they had spent much of the race near the finish line where he said there was a police officer every 20 feet. He said there was also a firefighter every 50 feet in full gear.

“I felt safe,” he said.

Wassie said he felt some commentators stepped over the line when questioning why people with backpacks weren’t challenged.

He said those people probably never attended a marathon. “This is the first race I haven’t had two backpacks,” he said explaining that he carries one for himself and one for his son to use at the end of the race.

Chris Wassie had to walk three miles to his hotel and stay inside until the next morning, Wassie said. Chris Wassie told his father that all along the walk Boston residents responded with kindness.

Wassie said churches and synagogues opened their doors to runners and their families. “They put out beverages and food along the walk. He couldn’t go 20 feet without people offering help,” he said.

Chris Wassie had qualified for the race with a time of 3:03 and completed the marathon with a time of 3:38 because he wanted to soak in the atmosphere.

“He stopped and took pictures (with volunteers) along the course,” Wassie said of his son.

Wassie said it was said that the bombers didn’t appreciate all the freedom we have in this country.

“I’m somewhat disappointed in the fact that they (the suspects) didn’t acclimate to our society,” he said.

He also said this type of terror plot may be more difficult than the 911 attacks because the suicide attacks ended, but these kind of internal attacks can be more debilitating.

“You don’t know when it (the event) is over,” Wassie said.