There were the homeless men who alerted New Jersey police about a backpack of pipe bombs. There were the random New Yorkers who brought food and coffee to law enforcement staked out at the scene of the New York explosion. There’s the bar owner who realized that the man asleep in his entranceway was the suspected attacker.
These are some of the heroes whose stories have emerged since makeshift bombs went off Saturday in the popular Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan and in Seaside Park, N.J., during a race for wounded veterans.
On Sunday night, a full day after the dual attacks, two homeless men found a backpack and took it. But when they opened it, they saw wires connected to what turned out to be five pipe bombs. They dropped the backpack and immediately went to the police. Mayor Christian Bollwage told NJ Advance Media that they “probably saved hundreds of people.”
Meanwhile, in New York, with police still patrolling the crime scene where 29 people were injured in a bomb blast, random people brought them tokens of appreciation. One act was caught on camera by Knight News, an independent news organization out of the University of Central Florida, and has since been viewed on Facebook more than 17 million times. In the video, a man comes by with bags of pastries and coffee from Starbucks, and hands them over the guardrail to NYPD officers.
Then there was Harinder “Harry” Bains, the Sikh owner of Merdie’s Tavern in Linden, N.J., who found a man sleeping in the doorway of his restaurant Monday morning. When he tried to rouse him, he thought he may have recognized his face from the news. He told the man he could stay because the establishment wasn’t opening for another hour, according to the New York Post. Then he called the police, resulting in the capture of Ahmad Khan Rahami.
But Bains denies that his actions were heroic.
“When I heard about the attacks and realized the suspect was sleeping in a doorway across the street, I did what any American would do. I called the police. I’m not a hero,” he said in a statement released on Tuesday by the Sikh Coalition. The police are heroes; the EMTs are heroes; everyone who is working to bring New York and New Jersey together today is a hero.”
Bains added that as a Sikh American he “could have been mistaken for the perpetrator,” as many Sikhs have been targets of hate crimes when mistaken for Muslims.
“I want to remind Americans that after an attack, we should target people based on evidence, not their faith or their country of origin or their accent,” he said. “I came to this country from India 20 years ago to create a better life for my family. I am a father of four and a proud American citizen. I am also what America looks like.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Colby Itkowitz