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letters | Who is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?

For Cambridge school’s students, a struggle with the complexities

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after graduating from Cambridge Rindge and Latin in 2011. Robin Young/ AP

I was approached last semester by three graduate students who challenged me after class about my lecture. One said, as if proffering an explanation for their critique, “We are ‘Rindge kids’ ” — code for the students, past and present, of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

I am a parent of two Rindge kids myself. Of course they were challenging their professor. Of course they did it in a disarming and passionate way, and of course it was a perspective that was well worth listening to. Rindge kids are taught by teachers who model curiosity; they are from all over the world and from all walks of life. In short, Rindge kids create a community that is tolerant, vibrant, and emphasizes active engagement with the world.

Among the many surreal aspects of the past week was the discovery that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the suspected perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing, was a graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. This is yet one more piece of information that seems like a bad dream.


Students who have spoken in the media and to each other are unable to accept the simplistic notion of Tsarnaev as the symbol of evil. They have struggled with the complexities of who this person was: “He wasn’t one of them; he was one of us”; “He’s only 19; he must be so scared”; “What does this mean for Rindge?” As we all struggle to come to terms with losses of life and innocence in the carnage of the past week, Rindge kids remind us that even this alleged perpetrator’s journey is part of the tragedy.

McAlister Groves