A Mangled School Bus, Bodies Everywhere; ‘It Was Surreal’ – New York Times
The screams seemed too vivid from the start, too visceral to belong to crowds celebrating a crisp and sunny Halloween in Lower Manhattan. The tragedy had unfolded in just minutes, and for hours and hours it remained too senseless to believe.
Sirens and police tape surrounded the white pickup truck that a 29-year-old assailant transformed into an instrument of terror when he began hitting cyclists and joggers along the West Side Highway bike path. A mangled school bus sat next to it.
Bodies lay strewn along the way. For those who encountered the scene on Tuesday, the aftermath was as confusing as it was gruesome.
Tom Kendrick, 36, a lawyer from the West Village, said he was jogging uptown just north of Chambers Street when he began noticing the mayhem on the bike path. He saw a battered body and bicycle in the bushes alongside the path. Farther along he found three bodies close together, also battered cyclists.
“I approached to see if I could help and they did not need help — they appeared to be dead,” Mr. Kendrick said. “They were bloody and unconscious, with some limbs hanging,” he added. “It was gruesome. It was grisly. It was surreal.”
“These people were gone,” he said. “I’m in shock. I’m looking at dead bodies.”
At least eight people lost their lives in what was the deadliest terrorist attack to strike New York City since Sept. 11, and about a dozen more were injured.
Hiro Kimura, 15, a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School, said that he and his friends first heard “a big car crash.” Then they heard shooting.
“We saw flocks of children running” from the scene, Hiro said.
The New York City police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, detailed a preliminary timeline of the violence, which he called an “act of terror,” in a news conference Tuesday evening that shed light on the scene.
The white truck entered the bicycle path alongside West Street by Houston Street at 3:05 p.m. and drove south, hitting pedestrians and cyclists along the way. The runaway truck, labeled with Home Depot logos, drove 20 blocks before ramming into a school bus at Chambers Street. Two adults and two children who were on the bus were reportedly injured in the crash.
The 29-year-old man driving the truck exited the vehicle with what appeared to be two handguns, Mr. O’Neill said, at which point a uniformed police officer approached the man and shot him in the abdomen. Early reports suggested that the assailant may have yelled “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” at some point after exiting his vehicle. A paintball gun and a pellet gun were recovered from the scene later.
Many of the children attending schools in the area were horror-struck.
The mother of a 13-year-old girl who came face to face with the suspect said her daughter was “too traumatized” to talk. The woman, her daughter and two other children were being escorted from the scene by a police officer. She did not want to give her name or her child’s name for security reasons, she said. The girl’s face was red and tear-streaked, and she had curled her hands into the sleeves of her blue hooded sweatshirt. Her mother said she was a student at Intermediate School 289 on Warren Street, yards from where the truck came to a rest after crashing into the school bus.
“She was right in front of the shooter. He had two guns,” the woman said of her daughter. She said she did not remember much else.
Olivia Raykhman, 14, glimpsed the wrecked school bus in the immediate aftermath of the episode. “They were sawing through a school bus window. They broke all of the windows and were trying to pull kids out. There was a man covering a child with a blanket. There was one kid who was stuck,” she said.
“We ran into the building and they told us to hide,” said Ms. Raykhman, a freshman.
She took shelter in what she called a “cellar” with a group that was at first just 15 people. Around 50 more soon joined.
As Ms. Raykhman and her friends ran inside, students on the upper floors of Stuyvesant had been shooting video of what happened in the street. Videos posted on Facebook and then circulated over Snapchat showed what appeared to be the suspect, a bearded man in dark clothing heading down the street with his weapons in his hands, next to a white pickup truck.
Adria Menezes, 45, said she saw the suspect firing one of his weapons at cars on West Street.
Ms. Menezes had just arrived at Public School 89, which shares space with I.S. 289 on Warren Street, at 3:03 p.m. to pick up the two children she babysits for, when she suddenly heard cars crashing on West Street and saw a yellow school bus “drive like crazy.”
Then roughly 15 feet away, she saw a tall man with dark hair and wearing a hat. He was walking quickly, screaming something indiscernible, and shooting at the cars, causing further mayhem.
“When I saw the man shooting at all the cars, we threw ourselves to the ground,” she said in Spanish by phone from inside the school, which remained locked down.
Marie Hui was visiting New York City with several friends from Vancouver, and had been in SoHo shopping before the attack. Several of her friends were at the 9/11 Memorial at the time, where they sheltered in place.
“We’re from Vancouver,” she said. “This doesn’t happen over there.”
Annie Correal and Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed reporting.
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