According to the New York Times, A Nissan Pathfinder illegally parked, unattended, engine running and hazard lights flashing Saturday evening seemed out of the ordinary to two Vietnam War Veterans who regularly operate as sidewalk vendors selling inexpensive t-shirts, watches and handbags. Lance Orton and Duane Jackson alerted police when they noticed a suspicious vehicle in New York’s Times Square, which turned out to be a car bomb.
“There are a bunch of us disabled vets selling here, and we’re used to being vigilant because we all know that freedom isn’t free,” said Jackson told the New York Times.
The two hailed an NYPD officer mounted on horseback, who following the tip was investigating when the vehicle began smoking and making popping sounds.
Police evacuated Times Square and local businesses. They utilized a robot device to see safely inside the SUV, finding three propane tanks, two five-gallon gas cans, fireworks, more than 100 pounds of fertilizer, clocks and wiring.
Officials held a press conference from Times Square at 2:15 a.m. Sunday morning. “We are very lucky,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “We avoided what could have been a very deadly event.”
On a warm Saturday evening, thousands of tourists and people attending Broadway theaters fill Times Square. Had the car bomb not malfunctioned, it could have caused a “sizable” number of deaths and injuries, reports The Washington Post.
“There is a high likelihood it would have been lethal. We just don’t know to what degree how catastrophic it would have been,” New York Police spokesperson Paul Browne told reporters.
Police are treating this event as a potential terrorist attack and are reviewing area security videos looking for the perpetrator.
“If you see something, say something,” Orton told the NY Daily News.
Orton and Jackson are heroes. They are reminders that we should all be observant of our surroundings, question anything that seems out of place and report suspicious activity to authorities. We should also be thankful for the quick actions and training of the New York Police Department and Fire Department, who placed their lives on the line responding to the threat to ensure the safety of the public.