Heroes of N.Y. Times Square bomb attempt show why vigilance matters.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

ON MOST DAYS, Lance Horton and Duane M. Jackson blend into the cacophony of New York's Times Square, hawking T-shirts and cheap watches to tourists from Buffalo to Buenos Aires. Last weekend, the men stood out for their alert reaction to a sight that seemed odd even in this most unusual of American playgrounds.

Mr. Horton and Mr. Jackson are the vendors and disabled Vietnam veterans who tipped off Police Officer Wayne Rhatigan Saturday evening to a smoldering Nissan Pathfinder that had been left parked and running on a side street just off Broadway. The vehicle contained propane, gasoline, firecrackers and homemade detonating devices. The materials miraculously did not fully ignite, averting an explosion that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said would have caused death, injuries and significant property damage.

It is not yet known who made the makeshift bomb, although local and federal law enforcement agencies are investigating possible ties to an international terrorist organization.

The intervention by the Times Square vendors brings to mind the passengers on the Northwest flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day who tackled Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as he tried to light explosives sewn into his underwear. Since the attacks of 2001, Americans have been urged, in the words of Mr. Horton, to "see something, say something." Many false tips have no doubt been reported, but the events of this past weekend -- more precisely, the thwarting of a potentially disastrous event this weekend -- show why apathy can be deadly and vigilance is still necessary. Mr. Horton and Mr. Jackson could have gone about their business on a busy Saturday evening and ignored the SUV. Officer Rhatigan could have shrugged off their concerns and not followed through. All three men deserve our thanks for not looking the other way.

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