Metropolitan Boston remains under siege as police continue manhunt for Marathon bomber
Almost 1 million people in metropolitan Boston remained under siege Friday as police conducted a massive manhunt for one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.
The region felt as if it had been gripped by martial law: Police armed with rifles patrolled deserted streets in Boston, Watertown, Cambridge, Waltham, Newton, Belmont, and Brookline, and residents hunkered inside, under authorities’ unprecedented order.
“It is important that folks remain indoors,” Governor Deval Patrick said this afternoon at a press conference. “Keep the doors locked and [do not] open the door unless there is a uniformed, identified law enforcement officer on the other side of it requesting to come inside.”
Authorities shut down all MBTA service, halting subways, trains, and buses. City and town halls were closed. Public works canceled trash pickup, keeping garbage trucks off streets. Courthouses kept their doors closed.
From Dudley Square to the Seaport, Cambridge to Kenmore Square, businesses shuttered. Streets remained empty, sidewalks abandoned, entire office blocks uninhabited.
The quiet overwhelmed Kendall Square, where mayhem reignited Thursday night when an MIT police officer was shot and killed, apparently in a confrontation with the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. By this morning, there were few cars, no honking horns, and no clatter of construction trucks. The sprawling Massachusetts Institute of Technology remained closed.
“It’s a ghost town,” cab driver Jimmy Carbone said. “It’s kind of scary.”
Along Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, armed law enforcement officers in neon vests guarded almost every intersection from Back Bay to Roxbury. The eerie stillness hung over Kenmore Square, where normally clogged streets were clear and parking lots were virtually empty. Tourists walked aimlessly, unable to board trains or buses.
“What is this world coming to? ’’asked Guy Dixon, a maintenance and security worker at a rooming house for women on Charlesgate Avenue. “This is too close to home.”
The uncomfortable silence blanketed the region. In Boston’s Seaport district, gleaming office towers sat almost empty as the manhunt continued.
“It’s like Planet of the Apes down here,” said Michael Vaughan, who runs a public relations firm. “The town is just dead.”
At South Station, clusters of people stood on sidewalks, some with luggage, presumably stranded travelers. Heavily armed law-enforcement officers surrounded the transit hub and the nearby Federal Reserve building. The lobby of high-rise officer towers remained deserted.
“Buildings’ are all shut down,” a security guard in a black suit and glasses yelled as a financial analyst in blue pants tried to push his way through the locked revolving doors of 75-101 Federal Street.
The financial analyst, Harris Bradley, 25, had biked to work from the Fenway despite the manhunt.
“Financial markets don’t close just because there’s a crazy guy out there,” Bradley said, gesturing at the building before adding, “I would have been sheltered in there.”
Nearby, Digitas had closed its doors.
“No employees,” said Steve Martell, who was helping staff the lobby desk. “We’re really keeping this place buttoned down.”
So was City Hall Plaza. Dunkin’ Donuts there opened, but there were few customers. Neighborhoods remain still and almost frozen, like an emergency snow day with snow.
“It’s been almost eerily quiet the last couple of hours,” City Councilor Matt O’Malley said from his living room in Jamaica Plain. “I live on the Jamaicaway, which is usually crawling with traffic.
In Brookline, it was “Quiet. Very quiet,” said Betsy DeWitt, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. “People who have been asked to stay in are staying in.
Armed law enforcement officers guarded the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The digital marquee outside displayed the marathon symbol and the words “Boston, You’re My Home,” a song lyric President Obama quoted Thursday at an interfaith prayer service for victims of the bombings.
“Be patient,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said at the afternoon press conference. “But I want to say as mayor of the city of Boston, we are one city . . . a city we will not let the terrorists win over.”
Equity Office Properties, the region’s largest commercial landlord with millions of square feet of office space, shuttered most of its properties. Across from City Hall at Center Plaza, tenants already inside the curved building on Cambridge Street were not permitted to leave, according to a posting on Equity Office Properties’ website. The local FBI office is in Center Plaza.
Other buildings normally teeming with thousands of employees also closed.
Steve Steinberg, a spokesman for the real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, said he received an e-mail about 8 a.m. saying his building at One Post Office Square was shut.
“I was on my way in to the office, and I just turned around when I got the e-mail,” said Steinberg, who was commuting into the city on Route 1. “It was eerie. The highway was virtually empty.”
New Balance chief executive Rob DeMartini said a few people made it into the Brighton headquarters of the sneaker-maker before security sent out a robocall telling workers to stay home.
“It’s been a trying week and today is going to make it even more trying because the better part of the city on lockdown,” DeMartini said.
The company, which had employees and runners spread across the Boston Marathon, offered counseling and held town hall meetings “to acknowledge and process as people realized the city was impacted in a significant way,” DeMartini said.
He said most employees have the ability to work from home until further notice.
Matthew Kiefer, an attorney with the Boston law firm Goulston & Storrs, said his 150-attorney firm on Atlantic Avenue was shut down at 8:14 a.m. A couple of hours earlier, he said, he got an automated call from a state-operated emergency line warning him of the manhunt.
“There’s almost nobody out on the street,” Kiefer said of his Jamaica Plain neighborhood. He said he spoke to a client this morning who was at a Starbucks on Newbury Street. “I guess he was in line and they closed the door behind him and said, ‘Please get your coffee and leave.’ ”Andrew Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.