I live in the Chelsea area of New York City, just south of where the explosion occurred. There has been much speculation about the incident, mostly coming from those who don’t live here.
Here are some of the facts; dispute them if you wish.
The New York City emergency response teams are incredible. Within minutes, police, and fire fighters were on the scene, and in the surrounding areas. As the sirens grew louder and more insistent, it became apparent that something major was going on. Emergency vehicles sped north up Seventh Avenue, a southbound street, to get to the scene more quickly. Several blocks away, Union Square Park was closed and police searched trashcans and foliage for explosives. Subway stations across 23rd Street were shut down, and eventually an area from 14th Street to 32nd Street was also cordoned off.
After contacting a friend who lives right at the scene, I was informed that they were told to stay inside until further notice, but to be ready to evacuate if necessary. The gas company checked for possible leaks that could have triggered an explosion, while the counterterrorism units and bomb squad descended on the area as well.
Most injuries were treated at the scene, and all 29 people injured have been released from the hospital. Yes, that is 29 too many injuries, but compared to similar incidents, to have had so few injured, most of them minor, and no fatalities is not nearly as bad as it could have been. I ‘d almost call it lucky, given the circumstances.
When the second device was found, a police robot took it away. Yo! We have POLICE ROBOTS!!
Sadly, New York City’s emergency services have the most experience in matters of potential terrorism, and it was comforting to see how quickly and bravely our teams responded.
Social media is the quickest, most unfiltered way to get information. When the explosion hit and the sirens began, it was impossible to find out what was going on at first. While frantically Google-ing breaking news outlets and finding nothing, Twitter was a wealth of on the spot reports and videos. Partially because it is easy to type 140 characters from the scene, and partially because they didn’t need to confirm anything before posting, as the regular news outlets needed to.
Facebook activated its emergency system, and I received a message from them asking me to check off a box stating that I was either OK, or not in the area. Kudos to them for using the personal info they have access to for good when it is necessary.
The emergency alert system was activated. It was a little late, but activated just the same. At 12:37, a loud alarm went off on my phone and a push notification asked people in the area to stay away from their windows due to a suspicious package on 27th Street. At 2:35 a.m.it scared the living daylights out of me when sent out an alert that the bomb squad had removed the device safely. (BY A ROBOT YOU GUYS!!!!) If you don’t have emergency alerts activated on your phone, do it now. You never know when something could happen that you will want emergency information.
We don’t see and feel tragedy the same when we are not actually there. We cluck our tongues, we send “thoughts and prayers,” and we sometimes even text some money to the Red Cross, but unless you are living it, it’s just not the same.
We all experienced 9/11, but unless you lived in NYC, and more specifically lower Manhattan, you didn’t see the smoke, smell the burning debris, see the walking wounded, and the grief ravaged loved ones wandering around, looking for traces of those they lost. When Hurricane Sandy hit, we were without power for almost a week. Yet walk a little way uptown, and it was like nothing happened. When a woman at the gym referred the “refugees” from lower Manhattan clubs with disdain, it was truly offensive. We were grateful to have a place to charge phones and shower, but for her, it was an situation of which she had no concept. And yet those of us lucky enough to only be inconvenienced by a power outage had no real sense of what it was like for those who lost everything.
Lots of tragedy has occurred in other places, from terrorist attacks to natural disasters, and I have to admit that although I feel fear and sadness, it dissipates more quickly when the “out of sight out of mind “philosophy starts to kick in.
New Yorkers are strong and resilient. Ironically, most of us are going about their business today as if nothing out of the norm has happened.
The bulk of the public conversation, and accusations are coming from those who aren’t here to experience it firsthand.
We seem to be hesitant to call it what it is: terrorism. By definition, terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” This is clearly a case of intentional violence and intimidation. Just because no Islamic group has taken responsibility, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a terrorist act. A lone, white, American, Christian with a gun, intentionally intimidating through violence fits this definition, just as well as if another race or ethnicity was involved. We don’t need to know who did it to know what to call it.
The conservative right wants to use this incident to promote Donald Trump’s agendas. Donald Trump wants this to be an act of Islamic terror so badly he can’t stand it, and he is already gloating about it. This has nothing to do with the election. As much as I relied on Twitter last night, today’s tweets on the subject are full of negative anti-Hilary rhetoric and hate. In my humble opinion, if you didn’t set the bombs yourself, or instruct your teams to do it, then it isn’t about you. Whichever candidate you are. Our misfortune, not felt in the golden tower on Fifth Avenue, should not be a coup for a candidate, or a black mark for another.
What happened last night is a tragedy. The way the media has handled it is also tragic. Some suspect it may have been a test for bigger things to come. Some think it may have been a disgruntled voter, trying to help their candidate win some votes. Others attribute it to a homophobic incident. The reality is that it may have been anyone with any hate filled agenda. Please don’t make it worse by shifting the focus to someone or something else, just to sensationalize the story.
UPDATE: Alerts went out this morning regarding suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28 year old male, who is a naturalized American citizen.