In the chaos following the explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line, businesses across the Back Bay sought to ensure the safety of workers and customers. And thousands of people around the city, including runners’ relatives, tried to connect by phone all at once, crippling mobile networks for hours.
“There’s no way the network can handle that kind of traffic,” said Mark Elliott, a Sprint spokesman. AT&T set up a mobile calling center and phone charging station at the nearby Sheraton Hotel, and opened wireless access to customers of other phone services.
The long corridor of Boylston Street is now a crime scene and is cordoned off by law enforcement officials. Governor Deval Patrick said employees who work in the area should expect access to that part of the Back Bay to be difficult.
A part of the city known for its upscale offices and hotels was suddenly at the center of fear, chaos, and a mass exodus. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, located on Boylston Street, was evacuated following the explosions and remained closed Monday night. Guests and workers at Top of the Hub restaurant on the 52d floor of the Prudential Tower were escorted out of the building, while a few dozen floors below, executives of Partners HealthCare remained inside, in “shelter” mode until about 5:30 p.m.
And hundreds of customers and employees were ushered out the back door of Abe & Louie’s, a Boylston Street steakhouse located close to where the blasts took place, streaming out into an alley. “For this to happen is just awful,” said Aaron Michlewitz, a state representative who was having lunch at the restaurant Monday and whose district covers much of downtown Boston. “This day is supposed to be such a great celebration of our city.”
The Boston Common garage was immediately closed following the blasts so police could sweep the building with bomb-sniffing dogs to check for additional explosives. The Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center was closed and evacuated. Both facilities remained closed Monday night, according to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.
At the gleaming Hancock Tower, home to hedge funds and investment firms, many employees had gone home by late afternoon. One tenant, Bain Capital, said its Hancock offices would be closed Tuesday and employees would work from home.
Similarly, tenants at the Prudential Tower such as Partners HealthCare did not yet know whether their offices would be open Tuesday. In a statement, John Tello, assistant director of security at the Prudential, told tenants, “At this time we are awaiting direction from government agencies regarding whether the public will be allowed to resume normal business operations in the City of Boston on Tuesday.”
Adidas, Reebok, and Nike said they were still trying to determine whether all their employees were safe and were hampered by the spotty cellphone reception. At the New Balance store on Boylston Street, workers felt the blast, but more than 100 workers, guests, and runners were all accounted for, chief executive Rob DeMartini said.
Many companies were fortunate to have fewer workers in town than usual, because of the holiday and to avoid the Marathon crowds. At MFS Investment Management, with headquarters on Boylston Street just blocks from the Marathon finish line, most employees worked from home Monday, spokesman John Reilly said in an e-mail. On Tuesday, employees will have the option to work from home again or at a backup facility in Marlborough, he said.