Fear gripped the city of Boston and its suburbs Friday, as up to 2 million people were told to hunker down during a manhunt for the fugitive in the Boston Marathon bombings.

The sheer show of force, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's directive that no one leave their homes or open their doors, cast a sense of dread over the region.

Boston became a ghost town. Only armored vehicles and police in body armor could be seen on the streets.

"It's so eerie and so sad," said Jennifer Hurwitz, 36, of Boston, after briefly venturing outdoors for some fresh air. "I felt like the last person in the world, like I'm in the 'Twilight Zone.' "

Public transit -- commuter trains, subways and buses -- was shut down for much of Friday, and even taxis stopped running for several hours. Much of the Amtrak service out of Boston was suspended.

Some state court buildings were closed. The Red Sox and Boston Bruins' home games were canceled.

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Patrick asked people who live in Boston and suburbs of Belmont, Newton, Watertown, Cambridge and Waltham to "shelter in place," which requires residents to stay at home and not open the door for anyone except uniformed police officers.

"There is a massive manhunt under way," the governor said at a news conference.

Anxiety was rising as SWAT teams and troops hunted door to door for the fugitive -- and for any more bombs. Across the area, police cars screamed down streets and helicopters hovered overhead.

"We're under siege," said Watertown resident John Timmons, who witnessed the shootout between the bombers and police that left one of the suspects dead. "Life's not going to be the same for a while."

Watertown resident Mary Rucker was struck by the military atmosphere that took over her sleepy town.

"It's like martial law," she said as a Blackhawk helicopter flew overhead and a Humvee rolled down the street. "Everywhere you look, someone has a machine gun. I think . . . the war's come home."

The second suspect was seen fleeing police following a shootout early Friday in Watertown, which became the focus of the search. Frightened residents were trapped inside their homes as convoys of heavily armed officers poured into the community.

The manhunt paralyzed almost every form of commerce and activity -- in the Boston area and beyond.

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Classes were canceled at almost every college in the area, which is home to dozens of institutions, including MIT, Boston University, Harvard and Boston College.

Some 65 students from Baldwin High School on Long Island had to cancel their trip to Boston, where they had been scheduled to participate in concert choir and women's choir at the JFK Library and Faneuil Hall.

The Baldwin group was scheduled to leave Friday and return Sunday, according to Cristina Schmohl, district spokeswoman and public information officer.

Travelers from the New York area had to scramble to find alternative ways to get to New England when authorities cut off train and bus service.

At Penn Station, an announcement was repeated over the public address system that rail service to Boston had been canceled "indefinitely."

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With Zachary R. Dowdy

and Joie Tyrrell