We were lucky. A potential suicide bomber failed to cause major casualties inside a corridor of Manhattan’s Times Square subway station during rush hour Monday. With the station’s average daily ridership at around 200,000, what could have been a catastrophic event has become yet another reminder of the dangers we face every day in the metropolitan area.
The alleged bomber, Akaidullah, 27, was born in Bangladesh and lives in Brooklyn. It is unclear if he was directly linked to ISIS or other terrorist organizations or if he was a lone wolf. Authorities said he was wearing a “low-tech improvised explosive device.” Raw video of the explosion shows a cloud of smoke and occupants immediately running for safety.
Three passers-by were injured, in addition to the most dangerous one, who was taken to Bellevue Hospital.
The Times Square subway station is a huge maze with connections to subway lines 1, 2, 3, 7, A, C, E, N, R, Q, W, shuttle service to Grand Central Terminal, and the Port Authority bus stop. . Depending on where the traveler is at the Times Square station, it may take some time to find the exit. Yes, we were lucky this time.
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We were unlucky six weeks ago, when a rental truck driver deliberately rammed a bike path into lower Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring many more. However, the death toll could have been much higher. When Ahmad Khan Rahimi detonated explosives in New Jersey and Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood in 2016, there were injuries, but no fatalities. So there was reason to be thankful. And we were really lucky in 2010, when the police responded quickly to a smoking car in Times Square. A bomb inside the car did not explode.
New Jersey and New York residents are flexible. We should be, because we haven’t always been relatively lucky. In the years following the first World Trade Center bombing and then the horror of 9/11, we have come to realize that random acts of terrorism have become commonplace around the world. We can learn to be more secure, but we can never be completely safe.
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The planning and design of the new World Trade Center took into account the fact that the new center would always be a terrorist target. Port Authority officials of New York and New Jersey are urged to keep this in mind when deciding on a plan and design for a new downtown bus terminal. Much of the previous discussion of the bus station has focused on real estate imprinting and political dealmaking. Everything that is being built must be designed for rapid evacuation in the event of an emergency. This was one of our objections to the ARC rail project, which would have been farther underground than the Statue of Liberty was tall from her feet to her crown.
With hundreds of thousands of commuters feeding on subway lines below, and thousands on buses above, everything that is built must be a modern 21st century transportation hub designed with the safety of the public first.
In the coming days, we will learn more about God, his motives, and the source material for making the bombs. But it would be naïve to think that we can prevent all potential terrorists from achieving their sordid goals. We must be smart in how we plan and react.
We were lucky this time.