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New York City, symbol of freedom, mourns again

A damaged bicycle on a bike path on

A damaged bicycle on a bike path on West Street after multiple people were injured in a fatal terrorist incident in lower Manhattan, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. Credit: Charles Eckert

It was another bright beautiful Tuesday in New York City.

And terror struck again. This time the assassin picked a perfect fall day and targeted for his rampage a crowded path along Manhattan’s Hudson River. Walkers and bikers were enjoying the brisk afternoon and getting a little fresh air, a little respite from busy streets.

But the driver of a rented Home Depot truck viciously plowed through many of them. He eventually came to a halt, crashing into a school bus just blocks from the World Trade Center — making it the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11, and immediately spreading a chill through the metro area.

At least eight people were killed and nearly 12 were injured. And as was true 16 autumns ago, FDNY and NYPD personnel moved quickly to contain the carnage — including Officer Ryan Nash, 28, of Suffolk County, who confronted and shot the attacker.

But Tuesday was shattered, replaced unexpectedly by a disturbing reality that other cities across the world have experienced in recent years. Islamist terrorists are using simpler weapons, guns, knives and now trucks to spread their carnage. Scenes of recent truck attacks including in Nice, Stockholm and London were watched anxiously in New York. There have been threats, but for 16 years, thanks to vigilance and good luck, New Yorkers usually felt safe, spared.

In the back of New Yorkers’ consciousness, perhaps most knew it couldn’t last forever. And on Tuesday, that sense of safety morphed as anxious parents waited to pick up schoolchildren eager to wander the streets for Halloween trick-or-treating.

Crowds gathered to see the crime scene, phones recording a recreation space turned killing zone. We all began the process of mourning the victims, and reconsidering anew life’s vulnerabilities in a city like New York, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo correctly called “an international symbol of freedom and democracy.”

It is a city where cars and trucks and those who wish to do people harm will continue to have open access. It is a city where people walk, run, bike and share freely, and will not look over their shoulders.

It’s also a city where residents carry on in the face of adversity, as was true hours later when the Village Halloween Parade — just blocks from the bloody scene — continued as planned. Where children still trick-or-treated and people hopped on and off the subway and continued with their lives. It’s a resilient city, and that will never change.