The bus wasn't coming.
It was a Monday morning in January, and I had a directing class to get to. I lived about a mile and a half from campus, but it was cold, so I had planned to take the Silver Line bus into downtown Boston. Even back in 2007, the Silver Line stops already displayed the time until the next bus would arrive. That day, however, the numbers kept changing — 7 minutes away, then 35, then 17, then "Delayed." So I hoofed it to school on foot. I ended up being a few minutes late, but when I walked into the classroom … there was only one other person there. A friend of mine arrived shortly after I did, and said there had been a swarm of police at the T stop near his house. A few other folks trickled in, and we deliberated over that un-official rule that we'd all heard that class was automatically cancelled if the professor wasn't there in 15 minutes.
Then the professor walked in the room, and informed us what had happened: there had been an attack. By Lite Brite knockoffs featuring the Mooninites, pixelated 8-bit alien invaders from Aqua Teen Hunger Force who relished in giving people the middle finger.
Over at Input Magazine, my college friend Ilana Gordon has a comprehensive 3000-word retrospective on the viral-marketing-campaign-turned-bomb-scare that shut down the city of Boston, at a time that was about halfway between 9/11 and what would become the Boston Marathon Bombing. Gordon catches up with the players involved — the marketers behind the stunt, the gig workers who got arrested about it and infamously held a press conference about haircuts from the 70s — and learns the story of the day from their perspectives, as well as what's happened to their lives ever since.
The situation escalated quicker than you could repeat the title of the film the campaign was promoting, Aqua Teen Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters. The War on Terror, launched in the wake of 9/11, dominated the headlines, and levels of paranoia remained high. So when Boston authorities were presented with a mysterious electronic object, they reacted decisively. Police closed the Longfellow and Boston University bridges, and the U.S. Coast Guard halted boat traffic on the Charles River. The Orange line shut down for more than an hour, as did the northbound side of I-93 and several main roads.
The devices that temporarily paralyzed Boston were black panels measuring around 14 inches tall by 11 inches wide. There were two versions: one was hot pink and blue, the other bright green and blue. Both featured 47 LED bulbs depicting cartoon figures with raised middle fingers: They were Aqua Teen characters named Err and Ignignokt, extraterrestrials known as Mooninites. Each device featured a full metal circuit board; with batteries, the whole thing weighed around two and a half pounds.
Remembering the 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force' bomb scare that shut down Boston [Ilana Gordon / Input Mag]