On Tuesday, it occurred to one parent a few blocks from the pick-up truck terror attack how many schools are nearby.
The attacker’s deadly rampage struck the bike path along the West Side Highway to Chambers Street, where the truck crashed into a bus and stopped. Within a few block-radius: PS 89, IS 289, Stuyvesant High School, Pace University, the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
The parent had been waiting in her car to pick up her young daughter, saw the man emerge from the Home Depot truck that had done the gruesome damage, stagger out of the pick-up, start to run. She called 911 and stayed in the car to hear gunshots as an officer from the 1st Precinct took down the man.
“It’s unfortunate that the world has come to this,” she said about the attack that killed 8 and injured more, just wanting to be identified as a parent: Mrs. Lin.
A frantic afternoon
A phalanx of TV cameras, cellphone videographers and onlookers gathered on the West Side Highway trying to catch a glimpse of the killing zone Tuesday afternoon. A newscaster practiced his line over and over again in a British accent, “We are just yards from Ground Zero.”
But on Warren Street and North End Avenue a similar-sized crowd just wanted to cross the police barriers to the elementary and middle school. These were parents whose children were still inside.
“I guarantee that your daughter is good,” a police officer said softly to a nervous mother. Minutes later, cops were telling the parents they had to move back, quickly. A woman in the middle of the street wondered whether there was a bomb. (There wasn’t).
But it was a little chaotic in the time before Mayor Bill de Blasio called the incident “an act of terror” and Police Commissioner James O’Neill declared “this incident is over.” The 29-year-old suspect had been shot and taken into custody and the questions were already starting about New York’s enduring vulnerability to cars and people who would do harm in public spaces even by themselves — what Gov. Andrew Cuomo called “the new terrorist tactic.” But the parents were just anxious about the kids still in school.
“I thought that it was a drill,” said Marina Levin, 40, waiting for her sixth grader and texting her periodically. “She’s sweating in the gym,” Levin said with a tight smile. “I could care less. Much better for her to be there and not here.”
Her daughter had Halloween plans for the evening, a Yoshi costume ready to go. Would she wear it, wander as usual the family’s Chelsea neighborhood streets?
“I think it’s gonna need to happen,” Levin said, “so that’s the memory of the day and not this.”
New Yorkers go back to normal
Later, Cuomo and de Blasio would echo this sentiment: Urging New Yorkers not to be deterred.
New York wasn’t. The Village Halloween Parade went off as usual, just blocks from the rented pick-up truck’s path. So thousands of Halloween revellers marched through city streets.
But in a way, the exodus to the defiant NYC trick-or-treating started on the corner of Warren Street and North End Avenue: around 5 p.m. when a security guard said the parents could head into the school. The parents rushed in. Soon they were coming out with their children in hand, or carried in their arms, or clutched to their sides. One man paused half a block south and bent down on one knee to talk solemnly to the young girl he was with. The kids seemed unconcerned, eager to get the Halloween night started. So they did.