KENSINGTON – Today morning, a man was carrying a pipe bomb in Manhattan. The bomb went off and four people were injured. As of 5 p.m, the suspect is alive and in the hospital (in custody). The man’s name is Akayed Ullah. He is 27 years old. He is of Bangladeshi descent.
Beginning at around 10:15 a.m., helicopters were swarming above my Kensington-Midwood border apartment. I had just heard the news of the Manhattan bomber; so why were there helicopters in Brooklyn? I turned on the news again: the suspect lives in Brooklyn. OK. But he can’t possibly live in this neighborhood, my neighborhood, can he?
As of 5 p.m., it is not clear exactly where this man lived. Authorities are investigating three houses: two in Kensington and one in Flatlands, where he and his relatives are believed to live.
This suspect was also an ex-yellow cab driver; an occupation I ( and many others from Kensington) are far too familiar with, as my father has been one for over 25 years.
At around 11 a.m, yellow “Do not cross” tape was plastered from Ocean Parkway and Parkville Ave, all the way to Webster. I walked in the direction I saw the most cops. They were outside 679 Ocean Parkway– an old yellowish, white rustic building in a rather quiet area of Kensington.
It’s a building I have walked by far too often – an ordinary building. It looks like the one right next to it, has six floors, an elevator, and some stairs. It has flowers on the little lawn in the front. It’s certainly not a building one would stop and stare at while driving to the city – except maybe now.
I spoke to a woman who was out and about with her little dog. She was standing across the building speaking to other neighbors. She told me she lived on my street.
“It’s terrifying to know that someone literally around the corner from where you live is a terrorist who wants to take lives,” Michelle Hobgood said.
I couldn’t have said it any better.
I looked at the picture of the suspect and he looks like any other man. He’s not someone you would give a double take. Or someone you would think has a bomb in his vest. Or someone that might want to one day kill people. He looks ordinary. Just another ordinary man in my neighborhood. That’s the scary part.
How many times did we pass by each other on the street? Have I seen him on my daily commute to school? Was he at the Kensington press conference I covered last week? Maybe he drove by my street and I saw him while I was waiting to carry groceries. Maybe he was in line in Gyro King grabbing a plate of lamb chops, as my brother was waiting for ours. Does he get his haircut and beard faded at the barbershop I pass by daily? Does he sit on the benches on Ocean Parkway?
Did I ever see him on the bus? Maybe on my way to the Newkirk Ave Subway Station? Or what about the annual melas on Coney Island Ave? Did he ever dance with the other guys to the loud Pakistani music? Did he do his grocery shopping from Shoprite? Or go to the small 99 cents store in Mcdonald and 18th Ave? Does he prefer to eat at home? Did he ever try the new Bahar Masala restaurant on CIA? Does he even like Afghani food? Did I see him while grabbing some samosas and gulab jamuns from Gourmet Sweets? Does he have kids? If they’re big enough, do they go to PS 217? If they’re small, do they go to the school’s park over the weekend? Does he do his laundry in his own building? Or does he go to the small laundromat on Coney Island and Newkirk? The one with a cat.
Is he a Muslim?
As a Muslim, that is the first question that goes in my head after a terror attack occurs. I can’t help it. Let me explain the mental timeline from what happens the moment I (and other Muslims) find out about a terror attack, to the moment it’s confirmed exactly what religion the person was.
The moment of: Oh God, not another terror attack. Is anyone dead? Is everyone ok? Was he Muslim?
A few moments later: Please don’t let him be Muslim.
A few moments after that: Googling every possible news site for the latest news on what religion he was.
The moment you find out the religion: Oh no. IS HE SERIOUS? THAT IS NOT ISLAM, THAT IS NOT WHAT MUSLIMS DO. HOW CAN HE CALL HIMSELF A MUSLIM?
The end: Here we go again. *hate crimes, Muslim bans, and having to hear the word “terrorist” in conjunction with Islam*
I was standing on Ocean Parkway across from the building numbered 679. Me, along with other reporters and photographers. I, just like other reporters and photographers, was wearing my NYPD press pass around my neck. I had a moment of pause as I put it on before I left my house because I realized the hijab I was wearing today, was the same one in my press pass photo.
Anyway, there’s a clear distinction between the reporters and photographers, and the curious people from the neighborhood who had come to watch the cops. As I, in a hijab, am minding my own business, taking photos, a reporter (as she’s leaving), looks at me and asks if I know the Ullah’s.
I don’t remember if she asked that or if it were more along the lines of “are you related to the Ullah’s?” Either way, I paused. I said no, and looked down at my press pass to see if it was visible. It was. And then she asked if I’m just here to take photos. I said I’m a reporter. She said “Oh.” She apologized, laughed, and went. I was OK at the moment. I then realized, she didn’t ask anybody else if they “knew the Ullah’s.” I was the only one there with the hijab. I was the only visible Muslim.
She asked me.
Brooklyn, for me for the most part, is a relatively racist-less city. At least, I’d like to think so. As a college girl who walks out of her house wearing a black abaya and a hijab, I don’t get any comments. Well, unless you include those on Facebook or under stories BKLYNER publishes daily.
People like to say NYC is a melting pot. Well, NYC is large. I like to say, come to Brooklyn. My neighbor is a Russian Jew. We wave to each other on the street, say good morning when we leave, and wish each other on holidays and weddings.
If you go to Ocean Parkway, it’s the same scenario there; Muslims, Latinos, Jews, Italians, and every other race, ethnicity, and religion you could possibly imagine. We all live together. That is Kensington.
Unfortunately for Kensingtonians, this isn’t the first time the streets have been swarmed with cops, helicopters, and the FBI.
In January of 2014, 27-year-old Rasel Siddiquee murdered his landlord in McDonald Ave.
The thing is, neither of these crimes defines Kensington. It is the acts that follow that do. The candlelight vigils, the protests, and the voices coming from those who you passed by on your way to work were then louder than ever – neighbors standing with neighbors.