"Do you limbo?" An NYPD officer interrogated me in the middle of an active crime scene in New York City late last night. Why? How? What? Read.
I walked through the site of the "intentional" explosion, as I made my way from the West Village to the Upper East Side on foot. Long walks through Manhattan have long been my saving grace. And I was safe, but shaken; I was on edge, yet reassured by the response and energy of the city.
What a night, what a place, what a world. I am feeling particularly grateful right now – for my physical safety, for the safety of friends and strangers here in this city, and for the bravery and action of our first responders. I process through the written word – and started clicking away (on my phone keyboard, so excuse any typos) upon reaching home and when I rose this morning. Please remember that I was not a witness and privy to no more facts than what I hear via news or social media outlets. But many have asked how I am and what on earth happened.
The night began beautifully, celebrating the love of dear friends on a rooftop with bubbly and barbecue. We heard about the explosion from NY Times headlines and CNN alerts popping up on lockscreens, from phonecalls, texts and emails pouring in from people both in and out of the city to see if we were alright, from the Twitter and Facebook feeds some began to check, from two friends covering the breaking story live from the late night newsdesk. Then the Emergency Alerts on our phones sounded to warn people in our area that there was a "suspicious package" and to "stay away from windows." But our festivities went on.
When I finally left the apartment, less than one mile from the site of the explosion, I began to make my way to the subway, a route I walk frequently. But it was closed. I walked further up 7th Avenue to the next stop: 23rd Street. I did not then know that the blast occurred in a now-terribly-warped dumpster on that very block of 23rd Street between 6th and 7th Avenue. There were lights, sirens, cops, detectives, bomb squads, ambulances (29 people injured, 1 in critical condition as of now), barricades, police tape, cameras, gawkers, media, more.
I struck up a conversation with the man next to me. He was trying to get to his car, which he had parked on 23rd Street, just west of 6th Avenue, only a few hours early. There was zero chance of reaching it, according to the cops. That precise location was an active crime scene in which every shard of glass or debris needed to be catalogued and tested for DNA, including the thousands which were now covering this man's car. His 6 and 8-year-old daughters would not be getting a ride to school in the red sedan in the morning. He would not be driving that vehicle home to Westchester for at least a day, likely far longer.
I needed to go east to hop a train – and was told to double back and walk down to 14th Street or up to 42nd Street in order to cross town; all streets in between were shut to the public and cross traffic. But the officers at 20th said they would allow me to pass on foot, IF I could limbo beneath the "Do Not Cross" police line… which I did with a hearty laugh and repeated gratitude for their service.
I crossed paths with dozens of determined New Yorkers at various intersections, most trying to simply get home – or reach another Saturday night destination, car, train or bus. People had out IDs to prove that they lived within the cordoned off areas, others tried to prove residency with odd pieces of mail in their backpacks. I walked ten or so blocks with six Newarkers who were attempting to make their way to a nightclub, having left their car behind without much hope of being able to drive back to Jersey that night. We Snapchatted our newfound friendship and marveled at such a bizarre meeting.
There was a loud bang, as we came around one corner. We all jumped, winced, shuddered. One man hugged me protectively. Everyone looked around frantically, realized all was calm, then exhaled and continued onwards, locking eyes with strangers in mutual understanding with great frequency.
It's important to state that there is no known motive, no suspect has been identified, no one knows what was in the pressure cooker, no ideas as to why the two Chelsea locations were chosen, no connections have been made to terror organizations or plots. I make no claims or assumptions, just tell the story of a late night-turned early morning, as I walked eightysome blocks of unexpected events and ample solo time with thoughts in this treasured city.
We are strong, we are fiery, we are powerful, but it is safe to say that New Yorkers were on edge (but days after the fifteenth anniversary of September 11 no less). And no people come together in times of need with the heart, sincerity, and urgency of New Yorkers.
Whatever the circumstances, we cannot and will not live in fear. We must LIVE – and raise a glass on a rooftop to celebrate love from time to time or stroll arm in arm with a stranger on a long walk home.