This vibrant, sometimes cranky, region was paralyzed again -- for the second time this week.
An intense, emotional week for the residents of Greater Boston turned into shut-in anxiety Friday as a massive manhunt for a suspect in Monday's marathon bombings shut down entire communities and brought throngs of heavily armed law enforcement officials who spent the day combing through neighborhoods.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the Boston area spent the day in patient disbelief and under lockdown, ordered by authorities to stay home and keep doors locked while law enforcement officers searched for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a bushy-haired 19-year-old man suspected of being one of the people who detonated two bombs near the finish line of Monday's Boston Marathon.
Monday's shock over the explosions at the finish line in Copley Square had been replaced by midweek with grief, comforting and an outpouring of support and community spirit that residents here quickly dubbed, "Boston Strong." It was a reflection of the stoic, resilient spirit that pervades this city.
But then came the dizzying news during the early morning hours on Friday: the armed robbery of a convenience store in Cambridge; the fatal shooting of an MIT police officer; a carjacking near neighboring Somerville; a police chase and a lengthy, open-air gun battle with police in Watertown that injured another officer -- all of these events allegedly involving the two suspects of the marathon bombing, whose pictures had been publicly released by the FBI only hours earlier on Thursday afternoon.
The two suspects, Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan, 26, managed to further terrorize a metropolitan area that had already experienced so much of their fright. Tamerlan was shot dead by authorities during the gunfire in Watertown. Dzhokhar was said to be still at large and the reason more than a million residents were suddenly thrust into a nervous day off at home.
"Boston Strong" is hard to feel when you're in lockdown.
The communities that were locked down included Boston, Cambridge, Watertown, Brookline, Newton, Belmont, Waltham and Somerville, some of this area's most densely populated, diverse and energetic communities and home to some of our most respected institutions. Indeed, some of the very communities and roads which carried the strides and dreams of millions of marathoners and spectators grew eerily silent Friday, except for the wail of sirens or the flapping of Black Hawk helicopters overhead.
Museums and other cultural institutions that had offered free admission to visitors earlier this week as a way to help restore our souls were closed Friday, as were dozens of universities and all 777 miles of the MBTA public transit system. Both the Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox postponed their scheduled games Friday. There was no "Sweet Caroline" or "The Star-Spangled Banner" for Bostonians to sing together in consolation.
Instead, our communities were turned into anxious ghost towns while police vehicles streaked across empty neighborhood streets, desperately looking into every lead and cautioning residents to take shelter for fear of more explosives and more bloodshed.
During a week in which we have seen an extraordinary display of public safety coordination and cooperation, we were introduced to Sean Collier, the 26-year-old MIT police officer who was killed on duty; and Richard Donohue, 33, a transit police officer who was shot but appeared to be in stable condition Friday night.
Much of Friday's manhunt focused on Cambridge, where the suspects apparently lived and where police conducted controlled detonations on items found in the suspects' home.
The hunt also converged on neighboring Watertown, an area of four square miles and a population of 32,000, known for its mix of Irish and Armenian immigrant families and businesses. An old military armory known as the Arsenal, a national historic site where the United States Army once stored bombs, became a staging area for media and police and the base in the search for an alleged bomber. No one could have predicted such a painful irony.
Little by little we learned about the suspects. They were brothers.
They were refugees. They enjoyed wrestling and boxing. They studied at local colleges. They looked and sounded like many of the rest of us who live in this area.
And that's what's so bothersome.
Greater Boston, like so many of our great metropolitan areas, has become richer by the presence of so many people of so many different backgrounds and interests. It is our cities where people flock to share their ideas and create new ones.
We still don't know why these suspects -- if they did carry out Monday's bombings -- would have wanted to bring so much shock, pain and blood to their adopted city. We don't know what we could have done to prevent this from happening.
This is a city all too familiar with struggle -- and sometimes strangely proud of that. The American Revolution, the Boston Strangler, the Red Sox, school busing and now, the Boston Marathon are all struggles that are part of Boston's big, bruised heart. Even under lockdown Friday, that heart still beat strongly -- and a little nervously.
Richard Chacon is a former Boston Globe writer and editor.