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Its streets deserted, an uneasy Boston perseveres during bombing manhunt
First Published Apr 19 2013 02:07 pm • Last Updated Apr 19 2013 02:46 pm

BOSTON • The Red Sox and the Bruins both scrapped their games. The famous Bull Market at Faneuil Hall was closed, and there were more pigeons than tourists on 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 in large swaths of the notoriously gridlocked Beantown to a screeching halt, leaving residents and tourists alike frustrated and angry.

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"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.

Filming for director David O. Russell’s movie "American Hustle" was halted because of the manhunt and lockdown. 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 healthcare company analyst, said as they passed the normally raucous Big Apple Circle 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 definitely easier to find a table than during your typical lunchtime.


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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.’"

Miller understands that this kind of event is still relatively rare in the United States, and unheard of in Boston. But he said this is the kind of mayhem terrorists want, and Boston is giving it to them.

"Hopefully, Americans will realize what Israelis have to go through and have more solidarity for them and understand when they fight back and retaliate," he said. "Because that’s exactly what Boston’s doing today. They’re going and doing everything possible in order to get this one person. The city has come to a halt in order to get this one person."

Scott Lapworth drove in from Thompson, Ct., to do a wallpapering job near the waterfront Friday morning and noticed that the commute was not nearly as hairy as usual.

"I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so deserted down here," he said as he chewed a ham and cheese sandwich on the steps beside Faneuil Hall.

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