How NYC Responds to a Terrorist Attack: 'We Win'

USA Today - November 02, 2017

by Alia E. Dastagir

Madeleine Dale frequently walks along the West Side bike path near the World Trade Center. Yesterday, in a fortuitous move that may have saved her life, she did not.

"It's one of my favorite walks in the city," she said of the scenic path, pocketed with trees and at points offering breathtaking views of the Hudson River. Dale, 68, who lives a block from the city's Halloween parade route, skipped that walk yesterday thinking barriers erected for the spectacle may close her off from her Greenwich Village block.

She later learned in a call from her husband — who was a first responder with the NYC fire department during 9/11 — that a man driving a truck had plowed into people for more than a dozen blocks along her treasured route. One of her first thoughts was of the kids. There would be more of them ambling about for Halloween, and there are a number of schools nearby. Many of the students were exiting schools as the rampage began.

What Dale would later learn was that an immigrant from Uzbekistan with ties to the Islamic State, 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, ran down cyclists and pedestrians before crashing into a school bus, killing 8 people and injuring 12 others, with children among the injured. It was the city's worst terrorist attack since 9/11, and occurred just a few blocks away from where the iconic twin towers crumbled.

Dale said while she didn't feel "celebratory" enough to watch the parade as she's done in years past, there is nothing Saipov or any terrorist could do to make her change how she lives.

"We're New Yorkers," she said. "We win."

For a city that endured 9/11, and which has already reckoned with the new world formed in its wake, the attack did not cast as dark a shadow as one might think. Saipov's killings occurred mere hours before the city's annual Halloween parade and festivities were to kick off, and revelers were undeterred. Amid heavier police presence, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio joined a million people who marched and danced down 6th Avenue in defiance of terror.

On Wednesday morning, throngs of commuters heaved through Penn Station as if it were a normal day. And in many ways, in New York City, it was.

“This was an attack on the United States of America, an attack on New York City, an attack on our people and it was the definition of terrorism, an effort to take away people’s hope and spirit and to make them change," De Blasio said Wednesday. "What New Yorkers showed already is we will not change, we will not be cowed, we will not be thrown off by anything."

DeBlasio's comments embody the feelings of many New Yorkers.

Some media events for the NYC marathon — which expects 50,000 participants and more than one million spectators on Sunday — were postponed Wednesday, and de Blasio said runners and spectators should expect enhanced security along the marathon route, but organizers said in a statement that all "race day activities will continue as planned."

Anthony Vargas, 30, from Brooklyn, New York, said on Wednesday, it was "back to business as usual," though he does worry what some refer to as resilience may be better characterized as an inevitable hardening.

"We're getting desensitized to these things," he said. "You know, you kind of just see it and it's like, 'oh, there's another one,' and then on to the next thing."