BOSTON (CBS) – One of the most gripping scenes in the new film about the Boston Marathon bombings and the following manhunt, is Danny Meng’s harrowing story of being carjacked by the Tsarnaev brothers. His courage to escape turned him from victim, to unlikely hero in the search for the bombers.
Meng said he had no idea he was in danger when he pulled over to answer a friend’s text four days after the deadly 2013 attack at the Boston Marathon finish line.
The Cambridge resident says his life changed forever when he saw a car pull up behind him, and then he heard a knock on his window.
“The older brother jumped into my car and put a gun to me, and told me they did the marathon bombing,” he recalled. Meng says the Tsarnaev brothers also confessed to killing officer Sean Collier earlier that night. The mobile app developer says he followed the brothers’ instructions and started driving.
“I was really scared at that moment. I was shaking; my body was shaking for the first ten minutes. I can’t manage to drive,” he said. But like so many people that week, Meng had his Boston Strong moment when the bombers pulled into a Cambridge gas station and Dzhokhar got out of the car.
“So I think, it’s my last chance, and the best chance I have for me to run. I have to do it at that moment,” he said, recalling how he went through his escape plan in his head. “Unbuckle the seat belt. Open the door. And jump out. I never run that fast in my life.”
Meng says he spent a lot of time with Patriots Day director Peter Berg and Jimmy Yang, the actor who plays him in the movie, to make sure they both understood exactly what he went through, and what it was like to make that terrifying decision to run.
“It was the most horrifying moment in my life,” he said.
The movie, which opens in Boston on Wednesday, also captures the moment when Meng shared a critical piece of information with police. He happened to remember the login and tracking information for the GPS system in his Mercedes stolen by the bombers. Police were able to use that information to track the brothers down in Watertown.
A lot of people have called a Meng a hero for his role in the hunt for the Tsarnaevs. But Meng says the real heroes are the police, and the survivors who taught him an important lesson.
“It somehow changed how I think of my life. Every day now is a gift.”
Patriots Day is produced by our sister company CBS Films.