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‘It seems like it can be anything now’: Austinites react as bombings continue

Wednesday, March 21, 2018 by KUT News

Kyle and Joycelyn Olson keep a whiteboard on the refrigerator in their East Austin home. They used to use it for things like planning dinner, but these days it has another purpose.

“What we’ve done now is we start to write down what day packages are supposed to arrive and when, even possibly noting the size of the package,” said Kyle Olson, whose wife had a baby this week.

It was an idea they had after the first package bomb exploded March 2, killing a man not far from their home. Olson calls it a way to keep from worrying every time they get a delivery.

“Knowledge is power,” he said. “Let’s at least know where these things are coming from.”

A fifth bomb exploded early this morning at a FedEx facility in the San Antonio suburb of Schertz. Two people have died and four others have been injured in the bombings this month. The first three incidents involved packages left on people’s doorsteps; a bomb on Sunday was set off by a tripwire.

Police say the city is dealing with a “serial bomber” and are telling residents to be extra vigilant. Electronic signs on city buses advise riders that if they “see something” to “say something.”

Angel Torres lives just a few streets down from where one of the package bombs exploded in Southeast Austin.

“I was just really worried,” he said. “I messaged all of my friends that live in that area to make sure they are OK, and I thank God that they are OK, that none of them were hurt.”

Ever since that explosion, Torres said he has changed his behavior: He’s making sure he’s paying more attention to what’s going on around him.

“I get out of class late at night and I always have my music on – like blasting my headphones walking at night,” he said. “So, I am definitely going to put the volume really low and have one headphone on and always have my phone on me.”

Heightening the tension is the fact that police haven’t said much about what people should look out for aside from “suspicious” packages.

Jackie Rylander said she’s worried an explosion can happen at any place, at any time.

“It seems like it can be anything now,” she said. “And it’s just not worth changing your life for. You gotta still live.”

This is common sentiment. David Didonato, who works at the University of Texas, said what’s happening in Austin is definitely scary, but so are other things.

“How many people are killed by crossing the street or by this or by that?” he said. “I mean, it’s something to be worried about, but there’s a lot of things to be worried about.”

Brittany Taylor said the bombings are out of character for a city that’s known for being quirky and friendly.

“And it makes me sad, honestly,” she said. “It is just unfortunate, and it just puts a stain on our city – like how nice people are here, and then they are trying to bomb their neighbors.”

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. By Ashley Lopez and Mose Buchele. Photo by Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News.

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