New York

A normal New York commute, a boom and then chaos

Explosion reverberated through maze of tunnels, passageways
New York City police near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan following an explosion Monday morning.
New York City police near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan following an explosion Monday morning.

NEW YORK — New York commuters trudged along beneath Times Square: Monday morning, off to work. Walking among them was a man in a hooded sweatshirt.

Then a deafening boom came from him, and then smoke. And then the commuters ran.

The explosion, which police said was from a pipe bomb strapped to the man, in the long corridor connecting the subway stations at Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, reverberated through the maze of tunnels and passageways of the city’s busiest transit hub. People scurried like mice, in any direction, unable to figure out where the boom came from. Some stood paralyzed.

Upstairs in the bus terminal, Alicja Wlodkowski was sitting in a restaurant when she saw people run by. “A woman fell, and nobody even stopped to help her because it was so crazy,” said Wlodkowski, 51, of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. “I was standing and watching and scared. I didn’t want to go after the people. I didn’t want to go anywhere.”

It was about 7:30 a.m. Eastern time. On a northbound R train pulling into Times Square, a transit officer shouted an order to evacuate. “Everybody was pretty orderly at first,” said Steve Hawkins, 55, a passenger on the train. “Once we got upstairs, everybody started running.”

Law enforcement personnel swarmed the area, herding people, shouting orders. The subway station and the bus terminal were evacuated. No trains, no buses. Traffic stacked up at the Lincoln Tunnel.

On the corner of Eighth Avenue and 40th Street, Shantell Baines, 34, was sobbing, her black carry-on bag beside her.

“I’m from Virginia and my family is worried sick,” said Baines, a nurse from Exmore, Virginia, who had come to the city to visit a friend. She was rushing to the Port Authority to catch a bus when she saw that no one was going anywhere. “I’m still a little shaken up,” she said after hanging up with her boyfriend to tell him she was OK.

Far from Times Square, the commute crawled. At 125th Street in Harlem, Carlos Correa, 27, tried five times to get on a train but could not fit. He finally squeezed on to an A train and got off at 59th Street, hoping to switch to a train that would allow him to continue his journey to Queens, where he works as a package deliveryman.

But the trains were stalled. Correa turned around and headed back to Harlem, where the second half of his workday is based. “I had no choice,” he said.

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