I live on a mostly residential block on the neighborhood’s main commercial street. My building is nearly at the end of the street that runs into the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which overlooks lower Manhattan.
A couple of years ago, a bomb went off in the building two doors down. It was built and set off by a former building superintendent who had a romantic thing for one of the residents, who had that day graduated from the Police Academy (and whose husband was and is now the super).
At 10:30am, my babysitter called, saying she couldn’t get past the barricade at the corner. Say what? I told her to grab a cup of coffee at the Starbucks on the next blook, put on some shoes, grabbed my keys, and stepped out the front door. I saw barricades at both ends of the block. A cop across the street yelled at me to get back inside; they thought there was a bomb in a car parked in front of the building two doors down.
After a half hour or so, she called again asking if I knew anything else. I went outside the apartment door and ran into some neighbors and their kids. They said a plainclothes cop had come to their door and told them to evacuate. I collared a cop on the street and asked what the deal was; he said the suspected bomb wasn’t in front of the neighboring building but was more or less across the street and maybe five car lengths to the left in a Fire Zone at the corner. Someone saw a gun and some PVC pipes with wires sticking out of them, and he said it’d be a good idea to scram.
I called my wife, called the babysitter to tell her I’d be out shortly, and started packing. Woke the kids, changed and dressed them. Grabbed some food for them, tossed them in the stroller, and scrammed. During all this, I heard a large-ish crash out in the street, but I didn’t see anything odd out the window.
The street was pretty empty; I’d been counting on there being a cop to direct me. I headed away from where I’d been told the suspected bomb was (a good idea, it seemed to me). At the next corner, behind the barricade I saw some guys in uniform gesturing, but it was really too far to see what the gesture was. One uniform started toward me, and we met up two doors down — in front of the apartment building where I’d first been told the device was.
The cop — wearing an Inspector’s badge (Inspector is a *very* high rank in the NYPD; they command precincts and higher) suggested that I get into that building before something untoward happened. I said a task force sergeant had told me to leave my building, and he said he thought that had not been an excellent suggestion. So there I was, in the lobby of a building not my own with my twins. Indeed, I should have stayed put.
The suspected explosive was in a car owned by the super of the building I’d taken refuge in, the one where the bomb went off two years ago. The car was parked in a fire zone roughly 50 feet from my front window.
Over the next hour or so, several other strays came by, unaware of what was happening and similarly brought off the street by Inspector O’Brien. Turns out that O’Brien is the Brooklyn commander of the Counter Terrorism Task Force. Nice guy. The radiation detector on his belt kept going off, but he says all kinds of things do that, including the bricks in a lot of buildings.
The loud crash I heard was the bomb squad busting into the car. A similar explosion a little later was the same. I’d hate to have to explain it to the car insurance people.
Eventually, the Bomb Squad got the thing out of the car — it was five 18-inch lengths of PVC pipe filled with gasoline and drywall nails, with wires running in (no detonator, no means for detonation) — and they let people who were on the block either get off the block or go home. Pedestrians were allowed back at about 3p, but the block wasn’t opened for cars until after sundown.
Here’s how the NYDailyNews, the NYPost, and the NYTimes covered it. Read carefully, and you’ll see some provocative details. One thing not brought out especially well: the 911 calls came from pay phones roughly a half-mile from the car; there’s a working phone literally across the street from where the car was parked.
So how was your Monday?