Many were shocked by the bombings that took place in New York City and New Jersey on the weekend of Sept. 16, but Emily Padilla, a resident of Elizabeth, N.J., and a student at Montclair State University, was especially rattled by the events.
Padilla lives only a few blocks from the Elizabeth train station, where pipe bombs were found near Sunday night. Five were discovered inside of a backpack on top of a garbage can, according to The New York Times. The FBI deployed robots to disarm them, accidentally setting one bomb off at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 19.
“Around midnight, I heard a big pop sound but I didn’t think much of it. Elizabeth is a very urban city, so you never know the difference between gunshots and firecrackers,” Padilla said.
The suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, was apprehended on Monday and has since been charged with five counts of attempted murder, according to CNN, which also reported that Rahami may have ties to all three bombings. Rahami lived with his family above a chicken restaurant they owned in Elizabeth.
Padilla lives in close proximity to the restaurant and said, “Some of my friends and coworkers would often buy food from there, so it’s a little weird knowing a terrorist lived there and made your food.”
Despite the traumatic events that occurred Sunday night, Elizabeth’s mayor, Chris Bollwage, did not call for any emergency closures.
As an employee at Jersey Gardens Mall, which is often highly populated, Padilla was anxious about going to work, fearing her safety, and the safety of others, was compromised.
“At one point, I was mad about how the mayor handled things. He didn’t shut down schools or at least [have] delayed openings. He just acted like it was a regular day even though there was traffic everywhere around the city,” Padilla said.
Bollwage explained in an interview with NPR: “The train stations are open in our city. The schools are open. People are going about their normal business. And I’m just hopeful that everybody does what they normally do on a Monday in September.”
Though businesses and schools were doing their best to carry on, Padilla assumed that the community would have a much more difficult time moving past the bombing incidents.
“I personally feel bad for the Muslim community because I have met amazing and nice people who are Muslim and unfortunately they have to get discriminated [against] for an act that other people are responsible for.”
With the attacks in France and at the Brussels airport earlier this year, the bombings in New York City and New Jersey are sobering.
“Thank God no one was killed,” Padilla said. “In the end, I’m thankful no one in my city got hurt and that we were all safe thanks to the Elizabeth Police Department.”