NEW YORK (AFP) - It was supposed to be a day of fun - trick-or-treating in fancy dress on the annual candy haul. But Halloween turned into a nightmare after a truck driver killed eight people in one of New York's trendiest neighbourhoods.
In the wake of what New York's mayor called a "cowardly act of terror," children were evacuated from one nearby elementary school with nervous parents after a 29-year-old man mowed down pedestrians and cyclists before smashing into a school bus.
"It was terrible. We're here every day. This is our route to school, where we walk the dog, go to the supermarket," said Yvonne Villiguer, 52, whose nine-year-old son is dressed as the Grim Reaper, clutching a scythe.
Oct 31 normally sees TriBeCa - one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Manhattan that is home to celebrities, wealthy families, gleaming glass condo buildings and luxury boutiques - revel in Halloween festivities.
But this year, children went door to door, sidestepping police and news crews a stone's throw away and hours after a 29-year-old terror suspect, identified by American television networks as an Uzbek citizen from Florida, wrought death.
Villiguer's initial plan was to take her son through the streets for the customary haul of candy. But in the aftermath of the attack, they restricted themselves to the nearby apartment building of some friends.
"This has ruined the holiday," said 41-year-old doorman Conce Dadd on Warren Street, just steps from the scene of the attack as he opens and closes the door to children dressed as Harry Potter and a sumo wrestler.
"That's life. It can happen any moment. There's nothing you can do," he sighed philosophically. "Only thing you can do is to punish the guy who did it."
Angelica Pinera, a 30-year-old mother in a caramel coat ran after girls aged 10 to 12 dressed up as Alice in Wonderland, Minnie the Mouse and Little Bo Beep. The street was dark save for the bright lights of police cars and fire trucks.
Many were afraid to go out asking for sweets when they heard about the attack, but children's excitement built up all year won over for others.
"I'm super nervous and sad," admitted Pinera, outside a primary school that closed its doors for safety. "It's the last straw when something like that happens. This day is so special and with the kids near the school, it's worrisome."
Ilke Mancov, who lives nearby, said he was very worried about his family when he heard about the attack while he was at work. Some hours later, he kept a watchful eye as he stepped with his children - one Little Red Riding Hood and one Wolf - past the police cordon so that they could fill their bags with chocolate and candy.
"We live a block away from where everything happened, so I was very worried," the father in his 30s told AFP. "There are a lot of kids because this happened in between two schools," Mancov said, pointing to an elementary school on one side and a high school on the other.
"It hits home. New York is not the type of place where you can do anything. In fact, it is surprising that it hasn't happened more often," he added.
"It's just how it is. It's the world we live in. If it had happened an hour later, all the kids would have been coming out of school and it would have been much much worse."