Until about 6 p.m. Friday, Boston – a hive of commercial consequence, intellectual heft and sporting dynasties – was in lockdown. The city's transit system and schools were shuttered. Iconic areas such as Boston's Kendall Square and Cambridge's Harvard Square – normally packed with shoppers, students and tourists – were all but deserted in the middle of the day. Fenway Park, home to baseball's Red Sox, and TD Gardens, home to the NHL's Bruins, postponed their games. Business was all but paralyzed.
Outside of the metro area, residents of Watertown, Newton, Waltham and Alston-Brighton were told to stay inside their homes and keep their businesses closed. Bucolic Cambridge, a iconic braintrust that includes Harvard University and the Massuchusetts Institute of Technology, was looking like it was under martial law. It's where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his now-dead brother, Tamerlan, had lived.
Residents of the Boston suburb of Watertown were jolted awake in the early hours of Friday by the sounds of explosions and gunfire, suddenly finding their sleepy neighbourhood the scene of a tense police standoff. And as morning arrived and tensions continued to rise, the news got even more harrowing. Residents suddenly found themselves confined to their homes, watching as thousands of heavily armed officers combed the streets looking for suspects.
Heavy economic damage
Boston businessman Tom Stemberg spent Friday locked down in his home with his wife and a couple of dogs in Brookline, Mass. He found out about the chaos at 1:30 a.m. when one of his sons, a student at Harvard University, e-mailed him from his dormitory to tell him the campus was locked down "and there was a shooting at MIT."
"It's amazing how much damage two crazy guys can do – how much economic damage," Mr. Stemberg said in a telephone interview from his home.
Mr. Stemberg has Canadian connections – he sits on the board of directors of yogawear retailer Lululemon. As well, he's a founder and former chief executive of office supplies retailer Staples. His firm, Highland Capital Partners, invests in a number of retailers with stores in the Boston area, but the shops have been forced to close for some or most of the past week, at a cost of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. One of his City Sports shops, near the Boston Marathon's finish line, normally counts on generating $150,000 of sales in the two days after the marathon, he said. "Instead, it did zero. It's a meaningful economic impact."
Chao Vu, who works for John Hancock, the insurer owned by Manulife of Canada, said his company sent out a firm-wide e-mail declaring Friday "Boston Day," encouraging staff to wear their favourite city-themed shirts as a show of pride and support.
"I was all ready for that," he said, pointing to his Boston Red Sox t-shirt. Instead, the office told everyone to stay home and Mr. Vu had to evacuate his apartment near Cambridge's Norfolk Street. He planned to hunt for something to eat, then wait to see when he could return.
'Not a good way to wake up'
For Ben Scott and Kimberly Curmanskie, who just purchased their condominium in a quiet Cambridge neighbourhood last fall, the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack arrived on their doorstop – literally. Early Friday, a police officer knocked on their door and told them to leave everything behind and lock their door behind them. It turned out the suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, lived just a few houses down the street. "It's not a good way to wake up, with the police at your door," Mr. Scott said.
Suddenly, a dark SUV pulled up very nearby in the street and disgorged three men in bulletproof vests carrying large machine guns. "There are a lot of automatic weapons around, it makes one jumpy," Mr. Scott said.
Considering Toronto respite
Sunand Banerji, who is originally from Toronto, was supposed to attend a funeral for a friend Friday but couldn't because it was in one of the cities under lockdown. And though the lockdown didn't extend as far north as the suburb of Stoneham where he lives, he said the tension has touched everyone in the greater Boston area. "It's 24 hours on the news, so we're getting inundated with it," he said. "We're all kind of on edge, waiting to see what happens."
Editor's note: Boston is not the fourth-largest city in the United States. Incorrect information in an earlier version of this story has been removed.