In an interview with The Boston Globe, the 26-year-old from China – who shares only his American nickname, “Danny” – talks about the time he spent in his Mercedes with the two brothers from Chechnya.
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev held Danny up at around 11pm on April 19, shortly after the shooting of MIT officer Sean Collier. The pair were attempting to flee the huge manhunt that was already underway.
Danny spent 90 minutes with the Tsarnaevs in his car, at first driving himself before being ordered into the passenger seat. When the car’s fuel ran low and 19-year-old Dzhokhar had to pay for gas at a Shell Food Mart, Danny made a dramatic escape, describing how a swearing Tamerlan first attempted to pull him back into the car before leaving him to flee.
Danny’s account is frighteningly tense, and mostly just downright frightening, but there are curious moments of what almost feels like normality in the story. Amongst other things, the Tsarnaev brothers and their victim all discussed girls, student credit limits, the merits of the Mercedes ML 350 and the iPhone 5, and whether anyone still listens to CDs.
Yet the fear of death was, unsurprisingly, always in Danny’s mind. He recalls thinking how, “Death is so close to me,” and how he realized he had “a lot of dreams that haven’t come true yet.” He says he thought of a girl in New York he secretly liked: “I think, ‘Oh my god, I have no chance to meet you again.’ “
Danny also describes how Tamerlan Tsarnaev was happy to discuss his role in the Boston Marathon bombings. After asking Danny if he’d seen coverage of the attack, Tsarnaev’s confession was as frank as they come: “I did that.” He also confessed to shooting “a policeman” on the MIT campus.
Yet the Tsarnaevs were also keen not to be identified. Danny reveals how Tamerlan shouted: “Don’t look at me! Do you remember my face?” When Danny said he didn’t, Tamerlan’s laughing reply was: “It’s like white guys, they look at black guys and think all black guys look the same. And maybe you think all white guys look the same.”
The Globe piece is a horribly riveting read, yet Danny is keen not to be identified as a hero, or even identified at all. He provided the interview on condition of anonymity, and says, “I don’t want to be a famous person talking on the TV.”
When asked what he thinks about being called a hero, he tells the newspaper: “I don’t feel like a hero. I was trying to save myself.”