The young woman looked reasonably calm. You wouldn't say 'terrified.' She seemed in control, and needed a new way to get where she was going. This was very sudden and surprising, totally unexpected. It was a lovely Sunday morning in late October, quiet and peaceful as these streets ever get, the post-Katrina darkness and rains over, The 3-day city-wide alert for mass transit ended weeks earlier and without incident except for the usual politicking, the usual back-biting, the usual squabbling.
She came out of Grand Central Terminal on the 42nd Street side. She wasn't running. No hysterics. She stopped at the curb, near the overpass and looked around her in a very sobered kind of way. She seemed relieved that everything looked normal outside, even though Midtown was not her destination. She was heading downtown. She hadn't expected to get off at this stop.
When she mentioned the subway you knew that something must have happened. She was not overtly nervous, but there was a slight tension in her voice.
"Somebody threw a small backpack into our subway car."
"I didn't see him. Somebody else saw him. He tossed the bag in and ran off."
It happened just like that, in seconds, at the Grand Central Terminal stop. That's when everybody got out of that subway car, and very fast. Nobody needed to order them out.
There were no cops around. She didn't know if any were called. Most people would not know if anything had happened at all. We heard no sirens. Best of all, no explosions.There was no ambulance in sight, or police vans or fire engines.
Still, she decided not to go back into the great caverns of Grand Central Terminal and down to the subway platform for a downtown line. There were buses. There were taxis. She would get to Union Square without the subway this time.
There was no public alarm. The sirens never sounded. Uniformed men with automatic weapons did not appear.
It was still Sunday morning, bright enough for a song.[Terror on 42nd Street]