Harvard Student: “I Worked With Jahar”

Harvard junior recalls lifeguarding with Boston bombing suspect, says he loved playing jokes on the swimmers.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — One of the alleged marathon bomber’s former Harvard co-workers spoke to BuzzFeed Friday afternoon about lifeguarding with Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev at Harvard, describing him as witty and fun-loving. “I actually liked him so much that I asked if we could work together regularly,” said the student, a Harvard junior and lifeguard who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

She identified Jahar’s sense of humor as being one of his defining characteristics. He “really liked playing jokes on the people who were swimming,” she said.

Sometimes this meant closing off a random lane so he could dip his feet in the water. Other times Jahar would announce to swimmers that they were required to swim with a certain piece of pool equipment like, say, a foam noodle. This was all “just to be funny,” she recalled, adding that swimmers “would listen to him just because he was a lifeguard.”

The student first met Jahar in August 2010 as she began working at Harvard’s Malkin Athletic Center. At the time, Jahar was preparing to go off to college at UMASS Dartmouth to study either math or engineering.

“He was very much gung ho about it and seeming very on top of his life,” she said. “He was very funny and happy and healthy-seeming.”

When the student saw the FBI’s photos of the suspect yesterday, she initially made no connection. The blurry image was not enough to prompt any recollection. However, she began to piece together that the suspect might have been the Jahar she knew from lifeguarding once friends began texting Friday morning. Seeing a clear photograph of him on the BBC confirmed her suspicions. “I was just in shock,” she said.

“I had felt removed from the situation before, but once I realized I knew the person responsible for it, I was just in shock and felt much more connected,” she said. “And with that, much more horrified.”

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