MIT Chapter Responds to Boston Marathon Tragedy
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Posted by: Temple
Brothers Live Up to Fraternity Motto
By Stephen Lee
Lewis University, ‘10
It is impossible to know how people will react in the face of chaos. For those within earshot of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, a rational reaction would be to simply find shelter, lock all the doors and seal yourself from the situation that’s unfolding in the streets. Realistically, there’s no telling what may be happening out there, or who may be looking to cause additional harm.
Just two blocks away from the finish line, brothers of Phi Kappa Theta at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were enjoying a cookout. Just before 3pm, the neighborhood was rocked by a loud explosion.
They initially thought it was a construction accident. "After we heard the second explosion 10 seconds later, it became very clear”, said one fraternity member.
Fear quickly spread throughout the house and the city of Boston. The brothers were shocked. A few were on the roof and instantly saw smoke. Everyone rushed downstairs and huddled around the television, anxiously awaiting news reports.
Blake Chambers (MIT, ‘13), could only think of the safety of his girlfriend and younger brother. Attempts to make contact had failed. He initially thought of venturing out to locate them, but was quickly overwhelmed by the sight outside.
People flooded the neighborhood. "We saw people in the streets rushing away from the explosions and toward our area”, said Blake. "Many were confused, scared and frightened.” Instead of barricading themselves in their four-story home, the young men sprang into action.
Two families with small children were sitting on the steps, visibly shaken. The fraternity invited them in and provided refreshments. Then, brothers grabbed tables and chairs and set up camp on the sidewalk outside the fraternity house. Others jumped in and retrieved water, juice and granola bars to offer to those passing by. People soon were asking the price of the items.
The thought of making a profit never entered the brothers’ minds. They quickly made a large sign advertising free water, free juice and free phone-charging. The young men attributed this kindness to the fraternity’s motto, "Give, expecting nothing thereof.”
They welcomed people to come in and rest. Scores of people were relaxing inside, watching the news and sitting shoulder to shoulder with the brothers. Saif Hakim, a Phi Kap living in the house, brought a TV and N64 gaming system downstairs. This quick thinking afforded the children a reprieve from the heavy words softly spoken by the adults.
"It was a shining light that showed there was still a community that people could take comfort in”, Blake said proudly.
Still, the brothers were vigilant and acted with risk management in mind. "We were aware of the situation”, stated James Noraky, former chapter president. "We wanted to be good neighbors, but we also wanted to take precautions to keep our brothers safe.”
Information directly after the incident was shaky at best. Regardless, the Phi Kaps at MIT gave kudos to the first responders. "(They) did a good job keeping people calm and controlled, even in the midst of such a chaotic situation”, said brother Naren Tallapragada.
As first responders took care of the heavy-hitting work, many people found refuge and care in the fraternity house two blocks away. These college students and alumni played a role in alleviating the pressure on the already stretched first responders and marathon staff.
The fraternity’s selfless actions quickly gained attention. A story was posted on Buzzfeed.com, and brothers were interviewed by the BBC. In addition, the fraternity’s national office has recognized the commendable actions.
Robert Riggs, the Executive Vice President of Phi Kappa Theta, stated, "We couldn’t be more proud of the brothers of our MA Eta Chapter as they are truly living our Mission. Their actions in the face of such tragedy affirm our commitment to continuing to actively develop men who will be passionate servant leaders for their communities.”
Top Photo: Front: Rohun Kulkarni (MIT, '15), Blake Chambers (MIT, '13),
James Noraky (MIT, '13), Naren Tallapragada (MIT, '13), friend of the Fraternity. Rear: Kevin Singh (MIT, '13), Krishanu Sankar (MIT, '12), Matthew Fitzgerald (MIT, '10)
Bottom Photo: Outside the MIT Chapter House Phi Kappa Theta letters are set up next to a table with refreshments for those in the area.
Photos courtesy of Buzzfeed