Fear Stalks Transit Hubs in Wake of Terror Attacks


Sunlight streamed through the skylights of Grand Central Station Thursday as hundreds of people scrambled to their destinations. But did the fear of terrorism darken their paths in the wake of the attacks in Paris and Brussels?

After the Paris attacks in November, ISIS released a video threatening New Yorkers as the next target.

The video, which has Muslim prayers playing the background, shows a man creating a bomb for a suicide belt. He then places it around his waist before zippering his jacket. The video shows scenes of New York’s Times Square and Herald Square. It includes storefront shots of TGI Fridays and the Gap along with footage of taxis driving past. The video closes with a closeup of the man’s hands holding a grenade. He then pulls the trigger as the camera cuts to black.

Although a few months have passed since the video was released, some people still worry that that New York City is the next target.

“I’m terrified that we’ll be next, its inevitable.” said Rhonda Jervez, 32. “New York is one of the largest cities in the country. We were a target on 9/11, and an easy one because we weren’t prepared for it. These people or should I say animals, feed off of our fear and it’s only a matter of time before they blow us all up.”

Jervez got off at the station to take her two little girls to the New York Public Library. Before exiting the terminal, she said, “It’s impossible to avoid big crowds because there are big crowds everywhere you walk in New York City, that’s why I think we’re an easy target. My key move is jetting away from them as fast as possible. Especially when I’m with my girls.”

On Tuesday two nearly simultaneous suicide attacks in Brussels killed at least 31 people and wounded 300. The two suicide bombers were named as brothers Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui. One blew up in Zaventem airport and the other one at Maelbeek metro.

“I was already afraid that something terrible was going to happen and now that it did (to Brussels), it makes me even more scared for us New Yorkers,” said Fashion Institute of Technology student Jessica Laurino. Laurino takes the A train and gets off at Penn Station every morning to get to FIT.

“Now there are soldiers placed everywhere inside the station with big guns,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s supposed to make me feel more safe or terrified. To me, it means that the threat is real.”

Her friend and classmate, Kimberly Taylor, added, “the fact that there are guns and soldiers here doesn’t make me feel any better. What are guns going to do for us if there is a suicide bomber? Whether they shoot him or not, the guy’s going to blow up.”

National Guard soldiers were stationed at both Penn Station and Grand Central Station. The soldiers at Penn Station are armed with heavy automatic weapons, and the soldiers at Grand Central Station had handguns on their belts.

The soldiers stood stone-faced in pairs of two. They’re spread out throughout each station.

As a result of the Brussels attacks, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Mayor Bill de Blasio and FBI agents outlined stepped up security measures. Bratton said in a statement on Tuesday, that although there were no credible threats against the city, he placed about 13,000 additional cops to the subway system and city landmarks.

“We are going to respond to their efforts to create chaos by showing them order, by showing our society functioning and our city functioning,” de Blasio said. “The NYPD is ensuring that the everybody can go about their business safely.”

In Grand Central, businessman Brian Kress said, “I really got to hand it to all those who are doing what they could to protect us from ISIS and their threats, whether they’re credible or not.”

Kress gets off at both Grand Central and Penn Station and said he feels much safer knowing that there is an increase in security measures.

“We can’t show these cowards that they rule our lives and that we live in fear. That’s what they want,” 40 year-old Kress said. “I refuse to stop living my life the way I normally would.”

Photo by Inez Sharaby: Armed soldiers at Penn Station

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