New York City knew it was a matter of time before another attack

NYC residents resilient after truck attack
NYC residents resilient after truck attack

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    NYC residents resilient after truck attack

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NYC residents resilient after truck attack 01:34

Story highlights

  • With four major attacks in the last 24 years, the shadow of terrorism hangs over lower Manhattan
  • Resident: "I know people in the neighborhood who still panic when they hear a loud noise"

New York (CNN)Jung Min Lee stood in the shadow of the rebuilt World Trade Center Wednesday, describing how she must now impart the lessons of 9/11 to her two children, ages 9 and 13.

"This is their experience now," said Lee, 49, who witnessed the Twin Towers collapse 16 years ago. "They don't know much about 9/11. They weren't even born."
A day earlier, Lee had watched the aftermath of the deadliest terror attack on New York City since 9/11 from the window of her 18th-floor apartment at Chambers and West streets.
    A man in a rental truck plowed into bicyclists and pedestrians just blocks from the soaring peak of the Freedom Tower. Mangled bicycles littered the street. Medics wheeled away victims. Lee used her phone to snap photos from the window.
    Six people were killed instantly. Two others died later. More than a dozen others were wounded.
    For residents of lower Manhattan, it seems the shadow of terrorism is never far away.
    An investigator takes pictures near the truck used in a terror attack in New York on Tuesday.

    'Everyone was kind of expecting something'

    In February 1993, a bombing at the World Trade Center killed six people and injured more than 1,000. The September 11, 2001, attacks killed 2,752 people, including 343 firefighters and 60 law enforcement officers.
    For 15 years, the city was relatively peaceful. Then came the September 2016 bombing in Manhattan's Chelsea section, about two miles north, which left at least 30 injured in what authorities believe was New York's first jihadist attack since the towers collapsed. It occurred days after the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
    "It almost was a miracle that since 9/11 nothing major happened," said Marta Szoke, who lives a block from the latest terror attack.
    "Everyone was kind of expecting something. These kinds of attacks are very difficult to prevent."
    Szoke and her husband moved to the Manhattan neighborhood from upstate New York two years ago.
    "We love the proximity to the World Trade Center," she said. "It's just the right distance. It's still residential around here.
    "I don't want to move but I'm very worried."
    Police secure an area following the attack Tuesday in lower Manhattan.
    Szoke had just arrived home from the hairdresser when the attack happened Tuesday.
    "It's so disturbing," she said. "I had just walked through there."

    People in the neighborhood still panic

    Abdula Nezaj, 65, tends to a fruit stand on the corner of Chambers and Greenwich streets, one block from where the rental truck crashed after Tuesday's attack.
    He said he heard the 1993 blast at the World Trade Center from his shower. In 2001, Nezaj said, he was walking home from a hospital visit when the planes struck the towers.
    "I grabbed my niece, then five or six years old, and we started walking north," he said. "You saw people jump from the towers. My niece asked me, 'Are we going to be OK?'"
    They were. His niece has since graduated from NYU, he said.
    A boy places flowers at a makeshift memorial in the bike path that was the scene of Tuesday's attack.
    "I know people in the neighborhood who still panic when they hear a loud noise," Nezaj said.
    "You can't worry. You have to move on."

    'I've been thinking a lot about 9/11 today'

    On September 11, 2001, Lee said, she watched the towers come down from a spot near Chelsea Piers. She was training for the New York marathon.
    "It's starting to hit me," Lee said Wednesday. "I've been thinking a lot about 9/11 today. I think about how far we've come. I think about my children. What kind of world are we bringing them into?"
    Tuesday afternoon, shortly before the bloodshed, Lee picked up her son from school across the street from their home. He was anxious to go trick-or-treating. The nine-year-old started to put on his Luke Skywalker costume. And his mother went to walk the dog.
    The doorman asked Lee to stay inside. There were reports of six or seven gunshots, she recalled him saying. Emergency vehicles descended on the neighborhood.
    "I thought, 'I'm glad my son is upstairs,'" she said. "But I needed to understand the situation."
    With her dog, she walked north along the West Side Highway. Crowds had gathered.
    "My purpose was to make sure it was safe for my kid to go trick-or-treating," she said.
    Jung Min Lee lives nearby and also witnessed the towers come down on 9/11.
    A stranger told her the rental truck had crashed after running over a woman with a dog. The woman who was struck was out cold. The man looked at Lee's dog, she said. He started weeping.
    Lee then saw a young woman with bloodshot eyes. A man was comforting her.
    "What did you see?" Lee asked her.
    The young woman said a school bus struck a rental truck. She said she ran up to help the truck driver but then saw he had two guns. He ran toward the woman but she got away, according to Lee.
    "Nobody could make sense of what was going on," Lee said.
    "Was it a car crash, as my doorman said? Did he mistake the car crash for gunshots? I thought maybe it was a case of road rage."

    Life goes on

    Lee returned home, where her son was ready to go trick or treating.
    "This area was packed with kids Tuesday night," she said. "My son needed to see that life goes on and we're not going to be holed up in our apartment."
    On the street, Lee said she stopped and hugged a neighbor who recently moved to New York from California. "I said, 'Welcome to New York.'"
    The Home Depot truck used in the bike path attack is removed from the crime scene on Wednesday.
    On Wednesday morning, Lee said she prepared her 13-year-old daughter for the subway ride to school. She made sure her daughter had an ID to get through the police checkpoints near their home.
    "Don't worry about being late," she told her daughter. "I wrote her a note. 'Take your time,' I told her. 'Everything is going to be different now.'"
    By late Wednesday afternoon, after the smashed rental truck used in the attack was finally hauled away, Chambers Street bustled with life again.