A sign on the door of a Panera Bread restaurant at a strip mall in Waltham
A sign on the door of a Panera Bread restaurant at a strip mall in Waltham (Howard Herman / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

WATERTOWN — A black, military-style helicopter hovered over this town at midday as police and FBI personnel were hunting for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Elsewhere, there was silence.

“I was just talking to one of the [Watertown police] officers on the other side of the roadblock,” said town resident Tom Vogdes. “I said I've never seen it this way. He said it's even quieter than a Sunday morning at 2 o'clock.”

The streets of this town 20 minutes west of Boston were virtually empty because Watertown was one of several Boston-area communities on virtual lockdown because of the manhunt for Tsarnaev, 19.

His brother Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a getaway attempt overnight. Tamerlan was the second suspect in the bombings.

As I drove from my starting point at Lexington through Waltham, you could count the cars with ease. The roads were empty.

It is a part of the Boston area I'm familiar with, as my son went to The New Jewish High School of Greater Boston, not more than 15 miles from Watertown.

The sign on the door of the Panera restaurant said it was closed by request of the Waltham Police. It's a restaurant my family frequented after watching numerous high school sports events.

It's always packed — but not today.

Except for the occasional TV truck, most of the vehicles driving through Watertown belonged to various police departments.

Police with assault weapons were everywhere. It feels like a war zone — and light years different from my Thursday night watching Fleetwood Mac at the Garden.

Arthur Whittemore was standing on the front porch of his house on the corner of Main and Evans streets. Whittemore said he received a reverse 911 call at 2 a.m. and had trouble getting back to sleep.

The silence on Main Street was eerie.

“This street picks up at 5 o'clock in the morning,” Whittemore said. You're always hearing traffic in the morning. That's what wakes me up.”