NEW YORK, N.Y. — Five local women enjoyed dinner at a New York City deli Saturday night as two vendors reported smoke coming from a suspicious car several blocks away. It wasn’t until the group worked its way down Broadway from 7th Avenue that it realized it was no longer a typical night on Times Square.
“We were going to meet our bus,” said Vicky Lambert of Mount Vernon. “There were sections cordoned off with metal fences. We just thought that was normal but noticed other areas being cordoned off too.”
Lambert said she heard someone moving the fencing say, “Guys, what do you think this means? This is serious.”
“We were ready to cross Times Square when we were stopped,” said Angie Clippinger of Centerburg. “We really weren’t sure what was going on but were told to ‘put two and two together and evacuate quickly.’ Somebody mentioned a bomb but we didn’t know for sure.”
“They put the gates up right in front of us at Times Square,” said Eileen Fawcett of Mount Vernon. “If we had been with the group ahead of us, we would have been right in the middle of everything.”
After realizing they needed a new route to return to their group, the five women moved through the thick crowd to a quiet area to review their map.
“I made them hold my hands because there were so many people. I didn’t want to lose them,” said Stacey Baker of Mount Vernon.
Baker said when they started to circle around the closed streets and side streets, everyone they passed was questioning what areas were open and what were closed.
Mount Vernon resident Fawcett sent a text message to her boyfriend asking him to go online and see what he could find out. It was through his text the women realized there was a suspected car bomb in the area.
“There were tons of people because they closed the theaters,” Clippinger said. “They were all dressed really fancy and had no where to go since they were closing the theater, businesses and the streets.”
Despite the urgency stressed by police officers to clear the area, and an infiltration of police cars and ambulances, local residents described a reasonably calm scene.
“We all stayed pretty calm. We wanted to make sure we all stuck together,” Clippinger said.
“It was more congested because of all the areas blocked off but no one was panicking or running,” Lambert said.
“People were pretty calm but I think that was because no one really knew what was going on,” said Baker.
Once back on the bus, the women discovered they were the only group caught up in the congestion and confusion.
“This is one trip for the memory books, that’s for sure,” said Fawcett.