You’re Invited to a Manhunt
After Chelsea bombing, New York reacts to its first ever WANTED alert
Just before 8 a.m. Monday millions of cellphones buzzed, pinged, wailed, and vibrated with a wanted poster: Ahmad Khan Rahami. Wanted for the bombings in Chelsea and New Jersey. Considered “armed and dangerous.”
Were you surprised? Were you scared? Did you did ignore it?
Did you join the manhunt?
In the hours after Rahami’s arrest, we fanned out across the city and asked people how they felt when saw that name and that face?
Be advised: Some of what we heard was surprising and some of it was troubling. All of it was revealing.
Here’s what we heard
“I was not surprised. I’m a Jew, I was not surprised.” — Marc Edery (Upper West Side)
“It was a shame because he fit into the stereotype of what the person would be…” — Raquel Maimon (Upper West Side)
“[The suspect] looked like he was from around here. And I was like yo, what the hell is this, man?” — Carlos Peña (Upper West Side)
“People were freaked out and said don’t go out…My parents (in China) were freaking out, and messaging me on WeChat to see if I was OK.” — Haoran Luan (Upper West Side)
“When I got the alert this morning I knew he was going to be caught right away. I mean, how do you escape so many people?” — Carlos Brito (Morningside Heights)
Eric O. (Inwood) and Adam F. (Long Island)
ADAM: “I think this country’s on the brink of a revolution, really, I mean, all this crazy shit going on. I think it’s unfortunate that it’s a Muslim person, because now anybody wearing a turban will be looked at even more judgmental (sic). Because it doesn’t reflect just on them. You can’t say every black person’s a gangbanger, you know, or a thug. You can’t say every white person’s a racist.”
ERIC: “My assumption’s always…it’s fundamentalists on either side. It’s either radical Islamist fundamentalists or white extremist fundamentalists. I thought it was gonna be a white guy, honestly. I was surprised…Chelsea, anti-gay something.”
Ethan Schwartz (Riverdale), Chris Uribe (Upper West Side), Aidan Obstler (Upper West Side)
ETHAN: I saw it on Snapchat! The, like, Snapchat news things?
AIDAN: Yeah, so that was kind of scary, but, I don’t know, in general, I just think I was less interested because there were no deaths or anything. And only one of the bombs went off, so yeah.
Jake Guag and Yena Jo (Gaithersburg, MD)
JAKE: That day was our wedding…so we told my friends we gotta go to New York and all of a sudden they just text me like, “Hey, you know that there’s a bombing in Chelsea?” And we were like, “Oh, fuck” So we tried to cancel our trip, but technically the hotel said they cannot do it, so we just, like, whatever.”
YENA: Yeah, we were all afraid.
JAKE: I thought that was the first time I’ve see the, like, alert where I saw ‘Red Alert’, and then, like, Oh — there’s a manhunt here, okay. But, like, whatever…. I don’t know about my state, but if some kind of bombing thing’s happening, we gotta talk about it.
Tom French and Anna Tomita (Brooklyn, NY)
TOM: I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I’m starting to believe that this is something to do with the Right Wing government, and that they’re trying to potentially make the Democratic government look like it’s a mess to people. He could have killed someone if he wanted to, could have killed more people with a pistol than 29 people injured…I don’t really believe it. It’s a scapegoat, maybe.
ANNA: I was kind of surprised. Like he [Tom] said, I didn’t think it was a terrorist attack because it was just too messy, I guess. Like, one didn’t go off, one went off but it didn’t kill anyone. And, like, why in Chelsea?
“Nah, I’ll take the train. If it has to happen, it’s gonna happen anywhere, so I’m not gonna stop myself just because it can happen anywhere.”— Jussie Xavier (Manhattan)
"I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a U.S. Marine, and I’m a cop…I feel like there’s multiple things that can be done to prevent people like that. I’m Infantry, so I’m willing to bust up. I’m a cop as well — bring ’em to justice. You know, like, at the end of the day, innocent people are getting killed because of them. Why? Because they want us to live under Sharia Law. We don’t live by that…We did it with Japan, we can do it with them. The problem is, the war is not there, the war is here." — Anonymous (Manhattan)
“Last week there was the 15th anniversary for 9/11…But what is also crazy that I have an issue there was also a situation back in July in Central Park and that got little coverage, so it is kind of odd that they swept that underneath the fence and you know situation like this happen…. If that happened in July why wasn’t security beefed up… so this won’t happen again. So is it lacking? whats going on… so that is the situation.” — Rahim Hamilton (Chelsea)
“What happened is unacceptable…everybody feels bad because that’s not supposed to happen in this country…They feel bad because as I said that touched the Muslims. What the people will understand about religion is that Islam is terrorism so that hurts us.” — Salah Loualid (Chelsea)
“When I saw him, I didn’t see him as human…he is a creature.” — Kamilla Shishishova (Moscow)
“I didn’t want to judge because I have many Middle Eastern friends who are very nice…He is a young man just at my age. And he is supposed to play Pokémon Go.” — Xavier Folk (Union Square)
“I was amazed at how quickly law enforcement had done its job. And law enforcement and homeland security had done exactly what they were supposed to do.” — Kathleen Chalfant (Brooklyn)
“I saw one of my friends on Facebook post about me, saying ‘Oh I’m so glad my friend Gerald and someone else are ok!’ and I’m like, ‘how do you know that? You didn’t ask me.’” — Gerald Hansen (Williamsburg)
“Kind of funny it said ‘people look out for this person!’ and it just had a name…Part of a thing that is annoying and feels so commonplace and everyday. This is the state of things right now.” — Lindsay Dekter (Park Slope)
“A while ago a woman was set on fire in Chelsea wearing a hijab. I heard about it on social media but not on the news. But these attacks were all over the news. It’s frustrating that the story was not covered in the same way when Muslim women are being attacked. One gets all over the news, and one does not. Trump and Clinton have certainly not been asked to talk about the hijab attacks.” — Clay E. (Brooklyn)
“A lot of the Middle East family, a lot of them are born into this kind of stuff. They are trained…A lot of the terrorism, some of them are trained. It could be something spiritual for them, things that we don’t understand.” — Peter Romero (Union Square)
“I want things to get better about racism, but it sucks he was Muslim. And I wish he wasn’t. I wish he was someone else.” — Michelle Santiago (Union Square)