After being alerted by street vendors, the police in the square recognized the danger and cleared the area -- a move that would have saved scores, possibly hundreds of innocents if the improvised bomb exploded.
A mounted cop, Officer Wayne Rhatigan, was told by street merchants that smoke was pouring from a Nissan SUV parked on 45th Street.
"I did a lap around the vehicle," Rhatigan told a News reporter: "The inside was smoking. I smelled gunpowder and knew it might blow. I thought it might blow any second."
He enlisted two rookie female cops. They pushed the crowd back from the scene as they called for backup. The cops went toward the danger while they kept the rest of the New York out of harm's way.
Under the guiding hand of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a generation of police officers has been trained to respond to any kind of emergency. Kelly, a former colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, has inspired his cops to live by the Marine motto "Semper Fidelis" -- "always faithful." And the motto of the NYPD is "fidelis ad mortem" [faithful unto death].
There are noble traditions embedded in the very soul of the department.
Rhatigan was hailed as a hero by the people who counted most, his wife and three children. Then, after catching a few hours of sleep, he went off to coach his daughter Haley’s lacrosse team. Later, he would dine with the Mayor at a Times Square restaurant. And President Obama sent his congratulations. But he shrugged it all off.
He said of his family: "They’re tripping."
"They can’t believe it," Rhatigan told the News . "They think I’m a hero. I guess this is my 15 minutes."
The NYPD’s fine work should not detract from the part two vendors, both Vietnam veterans, played in the Times Square drama. Lane Orton sells t-shirts. Duane Jackson peddles handbags. They told Rhatigan of the danger.
One vacationing police sergeant from Jacksonville, Florida, happened to be in Times Square.
He was impressed by the NYPD. "It was exhilarating," Wilkerson told The New York Times. I just sat back and learned a lot."
For Rhatigan--and his brothers and sisters in blue--it was all in a day’s work. As the officer’s wife told the News: "He loves the NYPD. He always gives them his 100 percent. This is another way of him showing it. He made sure everyone was safe."
Semper fi. Fidelis ad mortem.
We’re lucky to have people like Wayne Rhatigan protecting us.