For New Yorkers, life goes on as normal

A police blockade at West 23rd Street in Chelsea, New York City, where a bomb blast last Saturday injured 29 people.
A police blockade at West 23rd Street in Chelsea, New York City, where a bomb blast last Saturday injured 29 people. ST PHOTO: JEREMY AU YONG

It's Monday afternoon and building superintendent Ralph Andrasse, 62, is at his neighbourhood convenience store checking to see if any of his lottery tickets has hit the jackpot.

Across the street, barber Ralph Wilburn, in his 40s, is taking a break outside after a busy shift. A few doors down, 70-year-old Dolores Weisel pops into the supermarket looking for a misplaced umbrella.

Just two days after West 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan was thrown into chaos by a bomb, life appears to have quickly returned to normal.

New Yorkers, it seems, have learnt not to let the threat of further attacks disrupt their routine.

People stream in and out of the four entrances to the subway station on West 23rd Street. While some stop to take photos and selfies near the blast site, many do not give police activity there a second look.

Four blocks north, where an unexploded device was found, there are no signs that this is anything but an ordinary Monday. Traffic inches along as usual and residents are out walking their dogs. Panhandlers are in their regular spots.

"This city has already been through a lot," says finance executive Peter Feketie, 57, gesturing towards the gleaming tower erected at the site of the 9/11 attacks 15 years ago that can be seen clearly from Chelsea. "You can't let stuff like that defeat you. You've just got to have faith and keep moving on."

Indeed, of the dozen people The Straits Times spoke to in Chelsea, only two said they were particularly worried about another attack.

One of them is actress Melanie Crim, who is in her 20s.

"I may not have been physically affected by the attack, but I'm definitely emotionally affected," she says. "Even just being near this site is giving me goosebumps."

Singaporeans like Mr Chen Jingwen, 25, say it is back to work as usual after the tense weekend. Mr Chen, who works at the Google office in Chelsea, says he detects no difference in the mood.

"It's very different from the atmosphere online. It's just like any normal day. You can see the police everywhere, but the NYPD is everywhere every day anyway," he says, referring to the New York City police department.

New York police say they have stepped up their presence across town, especially near the United Nations building where world leaders are gathered for this week's UN General Assembly meetings.

Mrs Weisel, who lives near the blast site, expects her neighbourhood will be back to normal soon.

"We'll be fine," she says. "Where are we going to go anyway? This is our neighbourhood."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'For New Yorkers, life goes on as normal'. Print Edition | Subscribe