National News

Normal NYC commute turns to chaos with explosion

Posted December 11, 2017 1:18 p.m. EST
Updated December 11, 2017 4:41 p.m. EST

New York commuters trudged beneath Times Square on 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. 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 Correra, 27, tried to get on an A train five different times but couldn’t fit. He finally squeezed on, and switched at 59th Street to a D train that would stop a few blocks from Times Square. Today was tough, but not terribly different from other days, Correra said.

“It’s always like this,” he said. “It’s always a headache, it’s always a hassle.”