NEW YORK — It was the morning after a mass shooting rained horror down on Las Vegas from a 32nd-floor suite at Mandalay Bay, a month ago Wednesday and yet still so clear and heartbreaking in our thoughts, when a 27-year old woman from the Bronx told her mother that something similarly terrible would again strike her beloved home.
Deep inside, where a sort of frightening intuitiveness we’d prefer not acknowledge exists, Jessica Lopez knew.
“We haven’t been struck in a while, and it just seemed to me after Las Vegas, we’d be next,” Lopez said. “I felt it in my gut. But here’s the thing: We are New Yorkers. We are New York tough. We are built for this.”
In the shadows of where the 9/11 attacks occurred, about a block from those public places honoring the courage of those lost on that historically awful day, another act of terror hit Tuesday.
Eight are dead and 11 more are injured after a motorist in a rented pickup truck deliberately drove down a bike path in lower Manhattan and mowed down several people before crashing into a school bus.
It is the deadliest terror attack in New York City since two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center.
But it won’t break this place, much as the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting hasn’t shattered Las Vegas.
Many believe that, in the wake of such attacks, it’s best to look toward our leaders for comfort and resolve, but how Las Vegas responded and how New Yorkers spoke late Tuesday about acting in such a manner again underlines an obvious truth: We really have no idea our level of strength until we are forced to display it, that the human capacity within a community is measured most by the selfless acts of its members.
We know all about those who created and built #VegasStrong.
Friends, neighbors, strangers, first responders.
Ordinary folks doing extraordinary things.
New York knows such traits well.
“The truth is, New York is an international symbol of freedom and democracy,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “We’ve lived with this before. We’ve felt the pain before. We feel the pain today. But we go forward together and we go forward stronger than ever. We’re not going to let them win.”
The surreal nature of the moment Tuesday wasn’t lost on those standing behind police barricades. On one side was a view of the mangled truck driven by a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant named Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, his weapon of choice sitting silent in the middle of the street, his murderous intentions having played out hours earlier.
On the other side, just steps away, walking toward an annual Halloween parade that traveled through Greenwich Village, holding the hands of their parents and dressed in costumes with wide and excited smiles, were innocent little children off to trick-or-treat.
Peggy Casatta was at the parade with her 9-year old son, John, the two visiting from Paris. She and her family live near where, in November 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in the city’s northern suburb of Saint-Denis.
She has seen terror up close, and yet she never second-guessed her decision to celebrate Tuesday.
“There is no fear,” she said. “It’s very sad, yes, but it can’t control you.”
On one side of the street, a 17-year old senior from Stuyvesant High School talked about being part of a lockdown following the attack, about sitting at a window for three hours and looking at two of the dead in body bags with their bikes lying beside them.
“I had no idea bicycles could look like that,” said Elizabeth Chearnobelsky. “Twisted and bent in half, ways I could have never imagined.”
As you traveled across to the other side, north of the terror, you eventually heard the music and revelry begin to swell, as the 44th annual Village Halloween Parade offered marching bands and dancers and puppets and tens of thousands dressed in costume.
The theme this year was “Cabinet of Curiosities: An Imaginary Menagerie.”
There was nothing fictional about the savagery one man inflicted Tuesday, just as there is no doubt how New York will respond.
Jessica Lopez, a lifer from the Bronx dressed as the Angel of Death, left no doubt.
“My heart goes out to the dead and injured,” she said. “I look at all these little kids in costume and can’t imagine any of them being hurt like that …
“But we are going to go on. That’s what we do. That’s what Las Vegas did.
“There is no way a few (expletives) are going to stop us from living our lives.”
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.