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Witnesses Describe NYC Bike Path Attack


Ramon Cruz (ph) was working in lower Manhattan near the West Side Highway yesterday when the terror unfolded.


RAMON CRUZ: I heard a loud bang. The front of the car was totaled at that point, and the guy coming out of the truck was injured.

MARTIN: That driver had deliberately steered a truck into a bike path, hitting cyclists and pedestrians. He drove for blocks, killing eight people and injuring at least 11. The mayor called it an act of terror, the deadliest there since 9/11. Jim O'Grady of member station WNYC has been following this story, and he is with us now. Jim, you were on the scene yesterday. You talked with several witnesses, I understand. How did they describe what happened?

JIM O'GRADY, BYLINE: At first, a lot of confusion, strange sounds, loud sounds, gunshots. They talked about the commotion in the area at the sound of a vehicle mowing down bikes and bodies. They talked about high school kids just fleeing and the sound of gunshots, not knowing where they came from. Simranjeet Kalra is a 21-year-old freshman at Borough of Manhattan Community College. That's a school that's right near the scene. When he heard all those things, he went up to a pedestrian bridge to get a better view, and he told me he was crying as he looked down on two of the victims next to a pair of wrecked city bikes.

SIMRANJEET KALRA: There was no movement in their bodies, and you could clearly see their face were completely red. The body was fully covered with blood. I'm assuming, like, they were dead because the ambulance came over there, and they put the cloth on their face and everything, so I think, like, they were dead.

MARTIN: That's a horrifying scene. There are a lot of schools around there, so it would have been hard for a lot of young people to absorb that. The man who police say is responsible for this attack has been identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov. He was shot and wounded by police and then taken into custody. What can you tell us about him?

O'GRADY: Well, officials believe Saipov was living in New Jersey, and that's where he rented the Home Depot truck that was used in the attack and ended up being totaled at the end of it. They say he's originally from Uzbekistan, a post-Soviet Republic that borders Afghanistan and that he came to the U.S. legally in 2010. The Associated Press is reporting this morning that the president of Uzbekistan has offered his country's assistance in investigating this man. And as you say, he's in custody at a hospital in New York, although the police are not saying which one.

MARTIN: This unfolded, as you know, just blocks from the World Trade Center, lower Manhattan, which was totally rebuilt after 9/11. How is the city coping? It was Halloween. Did people go about their Halloween business?

O'GRADY: They did. You can imagine at the scene nearby people were grim. They were stunned. They were trying to figure it out, especially parents who came down to pick up their children at Stuyvesant High School. But at the same time, there was this sort of surreal aspect to it because it's a busy city neighborhood. People still had to go about their business. The subway was running. People were coming home from work. And yesterday was the annual Greenwich Village Halloween Day Parade, which attracts thousands of these costume marchers every year. It's a big deal in the city. So as - you know, police lights were revolving in the glare of this emergency. I saw Smurfs and Little Bo Peeps and witches, and they were all headed toward this parade. And a man dressed as a werewolf - a werewolf told me that he was not going to, quote, "let this ruin my day." So, you know, as you know, officials after an attack like this, they often urge, you know, go about your business, return to things as normal...


O'GRADY: ...It's safe now, and it seems like New York City started to do that in the moment right away.

MARTIN: Jim O'Grady of member station WNYC. Thanks, Jim.

O'GRADY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim O'Grady
Jim O'Grady is a contributor to NPR's Planet Money podcast.