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The Scene In Boston: ‘Today Is So Much Scarier’

Emi Larsen was just starting to calm down. She's a nurse at Boston's Floating Hospital for Children and was a volunteer at the marathon's medical tent on Monday.

She's been "feeling overwhelmed and emotional" from that experience, but she had found it calming to attend Thursday's interfaith memorial service and to shake President Obama's hand.

"It was really an emotional day and it felt very healing," Larsen says.

But things have since gotten more upsetting, due to the massive manhunt happening in her area.

"Today, it's so much scarier," she says.

Larsen lives in Belmont, right next to Watertown, where police are engaged in the search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, "Suspect Two" in the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent crimes, including the shooting death of a police officer at MIT.

"Overnight, we heard a lot of sirens," Larsen says during a phone interview. "Just a second ago, there were all these helicopters."

People in Boston -- and Watertown and Belmont, Cambridge, Waltham and Newton -- are being urged to stay indoors, to "shelter in place." Most businesses have shut down and public transit has been suspended.

Residents of the area, who had prided themselves on their resilience in the face of tragedy, are now coping with the anxiety of not knowing what will happen next.

"I can't say we feel unsafe, maybe because we know the area and know it's really not that close," says Tim MacArthur, who works at Emerson College in Boston but was home in Waltham Friday morning, about five miles from the center of the manhunt in Watertown.

"But you do wonder -- he's been on the run for hours," MacArthur says. "Certainly, on foot, he could in theory be beyond us. You wonder if these guys for the last three days have been dropping explosives in various places."

Getting Word Through Text

For people in the area, what has been a painful week has turned surreal, with personal landmarks turned into crime scenes.

"The news is so odd to us this morning," says Andy Neely, manager of the technical services group for MIT's Physics Department and a former Watertown resident. "Every time they show a SWAT team going down the street, those are all spots that we're in every day or where we lived."

He's used to getting text messages about campus security. In February, MIT briefly had a campus-wide lockdown because of a false report of a gunman.

This time, the multiple texts he received overnight were about something real.

Neely interacts frequently with campus police officers and was saddened when they released the photograph of 26-year-old Sean Collier, the officer who was killed Thursday night.

"That's just the most upsetting part," Neely says.

Collier was shot outside MIT's Building 32, where Neely used to have his office and where he met his wife.

Now, at home in Lowell, some 25 miles away, Neely feels safe, but unnerved.

"To look online and see the shooting was outside Building 32 -- my office used to be in that building for three years," Neely says. "I saw a photograph from a kid that I follow on Twitter -- there's a bloodstain where I walk every day."

Not Everything's Shut Down

Despite all the warnings, some people are going about their business. The lockdown is working unevenly in downtown Boston, reports NPR's Julie Rovner. Some business are closed, others are not. A Starbucks is closed, but a Dunkin Donuts is open near the symphony hall.

"The streets are eerily empty because of the safe shelter policy and no mass transit," says Tom Fiedler, dean of the communication school at Boston University, who lives on the edge of the campus. "None of the businesses that I can see on Kenmore Square have opened."

His students have been covering the story of the bombings all week, but now they're honoring the university's policy and staying where they are.

He started to go for his usual morning run on Friday, but then thought better of it. "I decided it probably wasn't a good idea to go out running very far," Fiedler says, "with so many people running around with heavy weapons."

Not Upsetting The Kids

With the city shut down, it's hard to know what to do. People are checking the news, but wary after a week of false reports.

Friends and family are checking in with each other constantly. Larsen says she woke up to 53 text messages.

She's worried about her coworkers. A fellow nurse at Floating is the mother of Richard Donohue, the transit officer who was shot early Friday by the bombing suspects.

"My brother has friends who knew the boy they're looking for," Larsen says.

For now, Larsen is just trying to get through the day, to keep her kids entertained while they're trapped inside the house.

"My husband and I are trying not to be emotional, trying to keep them distracted," she says. "Everything is so heightened, then you have to try to paint with your kids so they're not stir crazy in the house."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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