DONOHUE’S QUILL: CTA Bravely Thinks of Riders First After Bombing

TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano thanks CTA Sean Monroe for his actions at the subway blast
TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano thanks CTA Sean Monroe for his actions at the subway blast

When a bomb exploded Monday morning in a subway passageway beneath Manhattan, police officers heard the blast and sprinted towards the scene. CTA Sean Monroe was already there. Police and firefighters are called first responders - but transit workers are first on there when something goes terribly wrong in the subway. This is a fact that should be raised whenever some academic, think-tank blowhard or conservative columnist suggests the MTA should save money by reducing the staffing of stations and trains. Remind them what happened on Monday, Dec. 13, 2017.

CTA Monroe was working the Port Authority station beneath 8th Ave. that morning. At about 7:20 a.m., he went to the western edge of the long corridor connecting the Port Authority station with the Times Square station to the east. “I looked to see if there was any trash there,” he said. “I see everybody walking. Everything was normal. Then ‘Boom!’ A guy in the middle exploded.” A cloud of white smoke filled the passageway. It was pandemonium. The blast knocked two or three people to the ground but they quickly got up and took off, as did everybody else. The riders “were frantic,” Monroe said. “They were running and didn’t know where to go. They were scared. Shocked.” 

Monroe knew where they should go. The nearest exit was a bank of turnstiles behind him and to his right. The exit led into the Port Authority Bus Terminal. “I started pointing them all that way,” Monroe said. “It was extremely scary. You panic for a second. But you see all those people getting up and rushing, and your first instinct, especially with your training from MTA, is ‘let me try and direct people out of here and far away from the situation.’ You have to evacuate everyone out as fast and as safely as possible.” One woman fled the corridor but then wanted to go back into it to retrieve one of her shoes. It fell off during her mad scramble. She had to retrieve it, she insisted. Monroe wouldn’t let her. Instead, he ran into the passageway and picked up the woman’s shoe. It was about six feet away from where the injured bomber was still sprawled on the floor, Monroe estimated. “It’s hard to run with just one shoe,” Monroe said. “I just wanted to grab her belongings so she would able to exit better and high-tail it away from him.” 

No one was seriously injured. Just the terrorist, a homegrown fanatic, and that’s quite all right. No one is under the illusion that his arrest ends the threat. Certainly, not CTA Monroe. “After what happened, you just have to be more alert,” Monroe said. “That’s the way I look at it. I have to be more alert of my surroundings, and it just makes me feel like I have more of a duty to fulfill. If it happened again, I would do same thing I did, try to direct people to get away from there.” Local 100 President Tony Utano had nothing but praise for Monroe. “Sean did an amazing job,” Utano said. “He kept cool and calm in the midst of chaos. Like all transit workers, he’s on the front line and his first thought was the safety of the riders.”