New Yorkers, always on edge, take Manhattan blast in stride

Onlookers stand behind a police cordon near the site of an explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, U.S. September 17, 2016. REUTERS/Rashid Umar Abbasi

New Yorkers who have endured the September 11 attacks and the devastating superstorm of 2012 were generally unperturbed by a Saturday night blast in Manhattan that injured 29 people.

“For people who live in New York City, there is always the sense that something terrible is going to happen,” Karen McWharter, 61, said on Sunday as she set up a booth to sell vintage clothing at a street fair on the Upper West Side. “You just always adopt a ‘que sera’ attitude.”

Authorities said the explosion in the busy Chelsea district, not far from the landmark Flatiron Building, was intentional but with no apparent links to international terrorism, although it was still early in the investigation. FBI investigators were searching the scene of the blast and examining remnants of the bomb, as well as an unexploded device found four blocks away and a third device that exploded in New Jersey on Saturday to see if they were connected, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Alan Merson, 68, a salesman heading from his home on the Upper West Side to work in New Jersey, said he was in the West Village on Saturday night when he heard about the explosion. His first thought was that it was an inconvenience. “Does it frighten me? No,” he said. “When you are in New York you just expect things like this to happen.”

Police immediately cordoned off large swaths of the area, traffic was cut off and the subway was disrupted. The blast, apparently in a dumpster, shook the crowded commercial area and sent pedestrians running. Many of those injured were treated for minor injuries including shrapnel wounds but police listed one injury as serious.

READ MORE: Deliberate New York blast injures 29 people

Visitors to the city interviewed appeared more rattled by the news and said they were surprised at how calmly New Yorkers were taking the blast. Jennifer Loya, 38, of Moreno Valley, California, was in Times Square when the explosion occurred 20 blocks south, near the hotel where she was staying. She said she felt nervous and unsettled and she avoided taking the subway.

But she found the police presence reassuring and was “kind of shocked” at how New Yorkers were taking the explosion in stride. For most New Yorkers interviewed, it could have been much worse.

Teddy Bennett, 34, a video producer who was waiting for his girlfriend to go to brunch in the Upper West Side, said he called friends in Chelsea to see if they were safe but refused to allow the blast to change his life. “What am I supposed to do? Live in fear? We’ve been through this on a much larger scale,” he said referring to Sept. 11, 2001, when hijackers flew two airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Eleven years after 9/11 came Sandy, a storm that brought severe flooding to the city and killed more than 40 people. “This (New York) is the primary target. It’s the capital of capitalism,” he said. “What do we do? Do we just stop working and being strong New Yorkers? You can’t.”