Ghost town: eerie silence and anaemic traffic flow mark Boston in lockdown

A sign in Starbucks window told would-be customers to ‘please stay safe’

Starbucks windown in the financial district in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

Starbucks windown in the financial district in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

Sat, Apr 20, 2013, 05:00

The sign on the the Starbucks cafe on Dartmouth Street, about one block from the scene of Monday’s bomb blasts in Boston, summed up the mood in the city yesterday.

“We are closed for business today, 4/19. Please stay safe. Love Sbux [Starbucks].”

While the hunt for the second bomber took place, central Boston was in lockdown yesterday.

Just yards from the busy Back Bay South train station, this Starbucks coffee shop is normally bustling. Yesterday morning, along with virtually all businesses in the area, it was shuttered as the city came to a standstill following the dramatic shoot-out the previous night between police and the two alleged bombers.

It was like a ghost town with the streets eerily empty and traffic flows best described as anaemic. Bus and rail services were suspended and only a small number of taxis were working the streets. The usual Friday morning rush hour traffic never materialised.

Blast sites
Boylston street and Copley Square, where the bombs exploded remained sealed off with a large police presence. A number of white marquees covered part of the site while a number of of local and foreign TV news crews remained camped out, seeking to make sense of the events of the previous 12 hours.

Hundreds of paper cups blew around the streets, debris from Monday’s tragic marathon. An unopened slab of water bottles for thirsty runners remained orphaned on a patch of grass near the finish line. At the end of the street, Police in white boiler suits continued to examine the site.

“Scary,” is how John, a man in his early 60s who lives nearby, described what has happened. “This is always such a lovely event for the city.”

We spoke on the pavement outside Dunkin’ Donuts on Stuart Street, practically the only business in the area, other than hotels, that was open.

U2’s hit Where The Streets Have No Name was playing inside. “How come you’re open?” I asked Toni, the young assistant.

“We’re Dunkin’,” he replied matter-of-factly and with a sombre look.

Irish visitors
Express depot, a small newsagent beside the Back Bay train station on Dartmouth Street, was also trading. “There’s just no people around,” the shop assistant said.

Out by the harbour, 40 Irish entrepreneurs were gathered at the World Trade Centre for the final leg of a week-long, four-city trade mission to the US. The lockdown forced the organisers to scale back their event yesterday.

A delegate from the Irish consulate sent his apologies and speakers from Hubspot and EMC, American IT companies with operations in Ireland, pulled out given the Governor’s advice for everyone to stay at home.

“Forty-eight hours ago we had more than 100 registrations but its now a case that with the advice given and with the city in shutdown, the event has been reformatted,” said Matt Mohan, managing director of the FKM Group and co-founder of Ireland, Gateway to Europe, which organised the trip.

The Irish delegation paid their own tribute, with Jim Gillespie, chief executive of Cork-based business process services company SouthWestern, placing flowers and a note of sympathy close to the site of the bombings.

Jin, a taxi driver from Haiti who has been living in the US for 26 years, summed up the mood of residents. “What were they doing trying to do blow up my city? This is a great city. It ain’t right.”