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World & Nation

Photographer who found bomb: ‘You see a lot of junk on the street in New York’

Bomb scene
Police investigate at the site of an explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.
(Justin Lane / AFP-Getty Images)

Jane Schreibman got a telephone call about 10 p.m. Saturday asking whether she was all right.

Until then, the photographer hadn’t realized that a bomb had exploded on 23rd Street, just four blocks from her apartment, so she bolted downstairs to take a look at what was going on. That’s when she saw a strange object a few paces from her building’s front door.

“I thought it was a child’s science experiment,’’ said Schreibman, 66, in a telephone interview. It was a shiny metal pressure cooker with wires coming out and a rectangular object attached that was wrapped in duct tape. There was a white plastic bag next to it, but she couldn’t tell whether it was just garbage that had blown nearby.

Jane Schreibman
Jane Schreibman
(Courtesy of Jane Schreibman via Facebook )
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“It was a funny-looking object. I thought, ‘Why would somebody have thrown this out here?’ But then again, you see a lot of junk on the street in New York,” she said.

Schreibman walked to see what was happening on 23rd Street, getting as far as the police barricade, where she ran into some neighbors. They chatted for a few minutes and then she headed home. The mysterious object was still there. She stared at it a few moments and reached for her telephone.

“I know they are always saying that if you see something suspicious, call 911,” she said.

“We will make this a high priority,” the dispatcher told her.

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The police came within minutes. A man who Schreibman believes was a detective had only one word of advice. “Run!”

Schreibman spent the rest of the evening at a neighbor’s playing Scrabble. Having worked in India and Pakistan, photographing refugees and covering riots, she is not exactly fainthearted, so by 3 a.m. she insisted on returning home. By then, a police robot had removed the object, which was soon determined to be a bomb. She said she heard later that the police had not been able to disarm it and had to blow it up.

Like other New Yorkers, Schreibman is stumped about the motivation of the bomber. West 27th Street, where she has lived for more than three decades, is a nondescript street a few blocks south of Penn Station, not as fashionable as Chelsea a few blocks to the south.

Her street has a new hotel, but is mostly home to distributors of garments and cheap manufactured goods. Most of the storefronts are emblazoned with ads, in Chinese and Korean, for wholesale underwear and socks, pocketbooks and watches. Schreibman said the bomb had been placed in front of an office building, in a dark location under scaffolding.

“This is the weirdest block,” she said. “I am still wondering: Why here?”


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