NEW YORK CITY — As a terrorist struck New York City once again Monday morning, Yadkin Valley resident John Wiles was present to witness local reaction.
At about 7:25 a.m., Akayed Ullah reportedly exploded a pipe bomb type device at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in the region of legendary 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, injuring five people including himself.
“I had no clue it was going on and I’m literally right across the street from the bus terminal,” said Wiles, who was in the city for business.
“Once I got to the street and was in the herd, I took a pic and thought ‘this is surreal,’ because the crowd was all on their mutual mission,” said Wiles,” to get to work.
“To me it was surreal because you had hundreds if not thousands of people pouring out of the terminal just going to work. It wasn’t a tourist crowd,” said Wiles, “these people were on a mission and this incident was just an aberration to be dealt with like a flat tire or traffic.”
That foot traffic flow was averted for a short period and only for a small section.
“Movement around the city didn’t seem to be affected much at all outside this five or six block section,” said Wiles, who was on 40th Street, which was shut down for a few blocks along with 8th Avenue, which allowed people to bypass the tunnel between the terminal and the nearby subway station.
The terror incident had surprisingly small influence on the day for Wiles as well as the New Yorkers.
“It didn’t impact me at all,” said Wiles.
One of the reasons is because of the police presence that makes people feel safe in spite of the crowds of potential trouble.
The length of the island of Manhattan is about as long as Elkin to Traphill. A bird can fly across the island in about the same distance as a person can drive from Elkin Municipal Park to Lila Swaim Park in Jonesville.
“It has the equivalent of half the population of North Carolina squeezed into it every day and there are cops everywhere to keep all those people safe,” said Wiles. “It is safe. A little bit of common sense is all anybody needs.”
Simple things like keeping one’s wallet in the front pocket exhibits both the common sense required as well as the level of general mistrust New Yorkers have of others, however this population is also exceptionally accepting.
“In general people in New York City are exceptionally friendly despite the negative stereotypes. People aren’t suspicious up here,” said Wiles, “you can’t be. They’re not suspicious for nationalistic or racist reasons. I can walk down the street and go 20 minutes overhearing a dozen different conversations and not a one of them in English.”
It is this variety that often draws people to the city.
“Being from Elkin I appreciate the change in perspective up here,” said Wiles. “I love Elkin, I love the people, but I love New York and especially NYC. It’s vibrant. They accept diversity as a virtue.”
This may be part of why they are unfazed by what might be considered a comparatively minor terrorist incident that disturbed those in smaller towns who have only a remote connection to the city such as a friend or family member who is or will be traveling.
“One of the techs at work overheard me talking to my mother on the phone,” said Wiles, who related a conversation where the New Yorker observed that Wiles was staying near the incident and then asked what Wiles wanted to do for lunch.
“Most of the locals I talked to just treated it like any other day other than to say ‘well the subway’s gonna be messed up until lunch time,’” said Wiles.
“I didn’t feel any less safe at 7 p.m. than I did at 7 a.m. this morning.”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.