The Port Authority Bus Terminal shut down and streets were blocked. Crowds of people watched from behind police tape. One man was still visibly shaken as he described witnessing people running from the building.
“People were screaming. A lot of people were coming out of the building. It started early in the morning, like 7:20. That was so crazy, that was so crazy,” said one commuter.
In a subway walkway underground, between the Port Authority and Times Square, police responded to reports of an explosion. Police found a 27-year-old terror suspect with burns and wounds to his body.
“Preliminary investigation at the scene indicates that this male was wearing an improvised low tech explosive device attached to his body. He intentionally detonated that device,” said NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
At a press conference, officials said the device was based on a pipe bomb.
“It was a fixed to his person with a combination of Velcro and zip ties,” said John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism for the NYPD.
Sources say the suspect lives in Brooklyn and came from Bangladesh in 2011. According to law enforcement who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the suspect was inspired by the Islamic State, but did not have any direct contact with the group.
“Let’s be clear, as New Yorkers, our lives revolve around the subways. When we hear of an attack on the subway, it’s incredibly unsettling. Let’s be also clear, this was an attempted terrorist attack. Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Three people who were in the area at the time of the explosion suffered minor injuries. The symptoms were described as ringing in ears and headaches.
“The question is, was it intentional the spot where he detonated the explosive device? We don’t know that yet,” said O’Neill.
About 260,000 people travel through the Port Authority bus terminal daily. About 6 million people ride the subway system. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says a bomb in a subway station is one of our worst nightmares.
“This is New York. The reality is that we are a target by many who would like to make a statement against democracy, against freedom,” Cuomo said. “The counter reality is that this is New York, and we all pitch together, and we are a savvy people, and we keep our eyes open and that’s what ‘See Something, Say Something’ is all about.”
It was a similar message from Gov. Chris Christie who issued a statement asking everyone to be alert, adding that he ordered more security around mass transit hubs.
At Newark Penn Station, commuters struggled to get to work.
“Well, once we got on the bus, the driver said that they weren’t going to Port Authority because it was closed down,” said Fabian Montalvan, a Woodbridge commuter.
In less than two hours, transit system officials say they were getting passengers moving again.
“A month or so ago, we had an exercise with the NYPD to coordinate our efforts in the event that something like this ever happened and the result of that was today,” said MTA Chairman Joe Lhota.
Since 9/11, officials say they have prevented a significant number of plots and attacks.
“As you’re aware, there have also been approximately 26 plots that we can talk about that have been prevented through intelligence, investigation and interdiction,” said Miller.
But both the governor and the mayor stressed terrorists will not win. And at this point, they urged everyone to move forward, saying there are no credible threats against the city at this time.
“Let’s go back to work. We’re not going to allow them to disrupt us. That’s exactly what we want and that’s exactly what they’re not going to get,” said Cuomo.
Mishkin: The suspect was taken to the hospital in serious condition and that’s where he remains. We’re told by sources that he is communicating with investigators at this point. Mary Alice?
Williams: Leah, what happens next?
Mishkin: It’s essentially like putting together a puzzle. Investigators are going to be speaking to family, friends. They’re going to be speaking to witnesses that were here on the scene. In addition, the Joint Terrorism Task Force is going to be reviewing the surveillance video because we were told during the news conference that there is video from inside from when he detonated the bomb. So, all those clues, hopefully, will put together this big picture and ultimately figure out why it led him to do make this decision.