Attack 'won't ruin Halloween fun', say New Yorkers
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New York was rocked by the first major terror attack to hit the city since 9/11 on Tuesday as the city was gearing up for the evening's traditional Halloween festivities. But with typical resilience, many said the celebrations would go on.
A stream of high school students poured into the streets of downtown Manhattan, New York, early Tuesday evening just steps from where, a few hours earlier, a pickup truck had ploughed into cyclists and pedestrians on a bike path, killing at least eight and injuring 11. As helicopters flew overhead, the students were met by the sight of firefighters waiting with stretchers in case of further casualties, police officers manning cordons and no shortage of journalists.
For three long hours, the youngsters and their teachers had been barricaded inside the Stuyvesant High School under police orders as the drama unfolded outside. After tearing along the bike path for some 14 blocks, the pickup driver crashed into a school bus before exiting his vehicle waving what would later turn out to be fake firearms. He was shot by police and taken into custody.
Some of the students were met by relieved parents who had been waiting across the street. Others were told by their teachers to go straight to the nearest subway station and make their way home. Many, however, had other plans for the evening, seemingly unfazed by the day's events.
"It was terrifying (in the school)," said 17-year-old Aren, wearing an elephant costume. "We didn't know what was happening and neither did the teachers. But I don't want this to ruin the Halloween spirit. It would be the first time I haven't celebrated it."
Locals are determined not to let their day-to-day lives be disrupted. Families dressed in elaborate Halloween costumes filed past the rows of television news trucks. Children dressed as witches, superheroes and monsters all wore the same look of excitement.
M and V, two teenage girls from the neighbourhood who only wanted to give their first initials, were looking forward to the evening's celebrations. They moved quickly past the scene of the tragedy. For them, the attack was a source of frustration more than fear.
"I'm angry," says M. "I want to go home but I can't. The neighbourhood has been shut down. We want to go trick or treating."
"We're not scared at all!" adds V. "My grandmother likes to say that lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place."
Yet the city, and this neighbourhood in particular, is all too familiar with terrorism. Just a few blocks away are the two giant pools that mark the former location of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, destroyed on September 11, 2001.
"I'm too young to remember 9/11," says the 17-year-old V, "but my grandmother told me that today has brought back some of the same emotions."
Donna Wiederkehr, who lives near the scene of the attack, is old enough to remember the day the twin towers came down, though she does not want to give her exact age. "I feel broken for the city, for the people, for the country," she says. "What's going on is real."
However, she is determined that this latest attack will not affect her daily life. "I travel by bike, I often ride in the bike lane where the truck hit, and I will continue," she says.
"We are New Yorkers," says another woman who wishes to remain anonymous. "For us, life goes on no matter what." Her 23-year-old daughter Simone added: "It's tragic, but people get shot every day. It's been described as a terrorist act but what does it mean in the end?"
The mother and daughter also joined in the Halloween spirit, sporting a pair of devil horns and bunny ears respectively.
"We're too old for trick or treating but you can eat at Chipotle for just $3 tonight if you're wearing a costume," says Simone with a smile.
This article was adapted from the original in French