A subway station cleaner who was there when a would-be suicide bomber detonated his pipe bomb in a passageway full of people described the moment the explosion happened.
Sean Monroe, 32, was on his way – broom and dust pan in hand – to clean up a spill in an MTA hallway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and had just turned a corner when he suddenly saw a man explode.
“I looked that way, and the next thing I know I saw the explosion. The guy just went boom,” Monroe, 32, who has worked for the agency since Oct. of last year, recalled. “The people around [the bomber] fell to the floor. As soon as they fell, they got back up and started running.”
The cleaner said the noise was terrifying and very loud. His ears started ringing immediately.
“It was extremely scary,” he said. “You start to panic for a second, but when you see all those people you know getting up and rushing, your first instinct, especially with your training from MTA, your first instinct is to let me direct these people out of here as far away from the situation as possible.”
That’s when Monroe kicked into gear, directed those fleeing to the nearest exit.
“I pointed my arm out to the right and directed them to the right because that was the nearest exit from the station. I knew they were all about to scatter, so I directed them one way,” Monroe said.
Alleged bomber Akayed Ullah, 27, detonated the explosive device during the morning rush inside the subway passageway linking the Times Square and Port Authority subway stations.
“The guy was walking normal and he just exploded,” said Monroe. “He didn’t look suspicious. He was bundled up because it was cold outside. It just happened out of nowhere.”
Following the blast, commuters in the walkway “were frantic. They were running. They didn’t’ know where to go. They were just scared and shocked,” Monroe said.
As Ullah laid injured in the passageway after the blast, a woman who had lost her wallet and shoe tried to walk over to where the bomber was laying, but Monroe stopped her.
“I told her, ‘miss, you can’t walk over there.’ She said ‘but my shoe and my wallet.’ So I went to get her shoe and I went it back and brought it to her because I knew she only had one shoe,” said Monroe. “I know it’s hard to run with just one shoe.”
Surveillance footage caught Monroe picking up items off the ground as the bomber was lying in the empty corridor before the scene was locked down.
“I was about six steps from him. I didn’t take a minute to look at him. I just wanted to grab her belongings so that way she would be able to exit better and hightail it away from him,” said Monroe.
Monroe expressed relief saying: “I’m just glad there were no casualties… It wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”