Chaos erupted Tuesday afternoon in the shadow of the World Trade Center.
On a beautiful fall afternoon, people enjoying a stroll or bike ride on a popular path in lower Manhattan suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs of a pickup truck barreling toward them.
Hundreds of people were forced to run for cover, including women pushing baby strollers. Moments later, the path was littered with bodies and crumpled bicycles.
The panic continued minutes later, when the 29-year-old man behind the wheel crashed the rented truck and jumped out, brandishing fake guns. A swarm of police and other first responders quickly flooded the area beside the Hudson River.
“He has a gun! He has a gun!” people shouted as the suspect tried to flee, witnesses said.
When gunshots rang out, many people immediately suspected it was the pickup driver instead of police ending the attack.
Students from nearby Stuyvesant High School, which was letting out for the day, suddenly found themselves in a danger zone.
Giselle Rivera, 20, of the Bronx, a student at nearby Borough of Manhattan Community College, was getting out of class when she heard gunfire.
“I was getting . . . something to eat and then I heard it,” she said. “It was like five or six shots.”
Rivera said some students from the high school were running away in fear, while others, more curious, had to be shooed away by a teacher.
Three elementary schools were forced into lockdown as heavily armored NYPD police arrived, toting semi-automatic weapons.
Patema Rahman, 18, of Kensington, Brooklyn, was about to enter her math class on the 6th floor of BMCC when she heard gun shots, looked outside and saw bodies under sheets.
“We thought because it’s Halloween people were playing a prank,” she said. “I just kept praying. I kept asking God to help us because I don’t know what’s going on.”
The teacher told the class not to look out window, Rahman said. Everyone did anyway.
Shakeema Carter, 23, a BMCC student from Bushwick, Brooklyn, said she saw two lifeless bodies near the bike path on West Street surrounded by first responders.
“There was a body laying by the bike lane and another body by a tree. . . . We knew for a fact they were dead,” she said.
Despite the carnage in their neighborhood, residents of TriBeCa refused to be cowed by the act of terrorism.
As investigators continued to work the crime scene, families took their kids out trick-or-treating.
“There are more police down here then anywhere else. Life goes on despite the tragedy,” said one resident, John Wilmot, who snapped pictures of his son dressed as Sean Spicer, President Donald Trump’s former White House press secretary.
“This is a long-standing TriBeCa tradition,” said Tracy Waller, who took her kids out Tuesday night “to make sure [they] feel that they live in a safe community . . . and that they are protected.”
With Maria Alvarez, Vin Barone, Matthew Chayes, Laura Figueroa and Bart Jones