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With Boston streets deserted, 'it's pretty scary quiet'

Pigeons hover as no traffic passes on House Street in Boston on Friday. Mass transit was suspended during the hunt for the bombers, and residents were told to shelter in place.

Associated Press

Pigeons hover as no traffic passes on House Street in Boston on Friday. Mass transit was suspended during the hunt for the bombers, and residents were told to shelter in place.

BOSTON — The Red Sox and the Bruins both scrapped their games. The famous Quincy Market at Faneuil Hall was closed, and there were more pigeons than tourists in City Hall Plaza. Even the Starbucks at Government Center was shuttered.

The killing of one suspected Boston Marathon bomber and the manhunt for another brought life to a screeching halt in large swaths of the notoriously gridlocked Beantown, leaving residents and tourists alike frustrated and angry.

"It took me an hour and a half to find a coffee this morning," Daniel Miller, a financier from New York, said as he wandered the desolate plaza beside a statue of patriot Samuel Adams. "I was joking with a person that I guess the strategy is we'll make this person not be able to get a coffee in the morning, and maybe they'll give up."

For Steve Parlin, who is staying at a veteran's shelter on Court Street, in the shadow of City Hall, the scene was nothing to joke about.

"Helicopters are flying over," the Gulf War-era Coast Guard veteran said as he strolled across the plaza, a bottle of water in his hand. "Everything's closed. It's creepy. Machine guns. Creepy."

Gov. Deval Patrick, Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis ordered all people in the city of Boston to shelter in place. Several area colleges and universities were locked down. Commuter rail, bus and subway service were suspended, and thousands of workers were told to stay home.

The potential impact on businesses and the local economy was not immediately clear. Jon Hurst, president of the Massachusetts Retailers Association, said he had no estimate yet.

"Certainly it is in the tens of millions for retail and restaurants, and in hundreds of millions in lost productivity when adding in offices, etc.," he wrote in an email to the Associated Press.

Filming for director David O. Russell's movie American Hustle was halted. The mayhem also interrupted Dallas couple Tom and Vy Nguyen's fifth wedding anniversary trip to the city.

The couple was hoping to visit the Museum of Fine Art, Fenway Park and several other landmarks. Instead, they were having a hard time just finding a restaurant that was open.

"I just want to eat," Tom Nguyen, 32, a health-care company analyst, said as they passed the normally raucous Big Apple Circus big top at Government Center. "I've never seen a city shut down like this for one person. This is very bizarre for us."

One place that did not shut down was the Union Oyster House, which bills itself as "America's oldest restaurant." But it was easier to find a table than during a typical lunchtime.

Several people hunched over seafood and beers around the semicircular bar, and only a few tables upstairs were occupied. Manager Troy Thissell said that didn't matter.

"The city of Boston said do the best you can do. Our choice. So we chose to open," said Thissell, who was sporting a "Boston Strong" button on his shirt. "We've always in the past. During blizzards and other things, we do open. And we're going to continue to do so.

For people accustomed to the bustle of this "big small town," the quiet was unsettling.

"We just went to get a cup of coffee, and there's no line at Dunkin' Donuts," said electrician Joe Gore, who was sipping his java on a picnic table bear Rowes Wharf, where he was helping wire a new Starbucks. "So it's pretty scary quiet."

Many people seemed to understand the drastic measures. But others considered it ridiculous.

Miller recently moved to New York after spending the past five years in Israel. As the 29-year-old in the black yarmulke strolled through the city's Holocaust memorial, he couldn't help feeling that officials here were overreacting.

"You know, when Israel gets one rocket attack, let's say it injures three people," he said. "It's terrible. This event, thank God it only killed three people. And it injured a lot of people. If a rocket attack injures five people, 10 people in Israel and kills one person, we think, 'Oh, thank God it only killed one person. it didn't kill 50 people.' "

With Boston streets deserted, 'it's pretty scary quiet' 04/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 11:36pm]
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