Two disabled Vietnam veteran street vendors and one mounted police officer have emerged as the media darlings in the wake of Saturday's "amateurish" attempt to set off a car bomb in Times Square. Last night Mayor Bloomberg hosted a congratulatory dinner at Blue Fin in Times Square, personally thanking Officer Wayne Rhatigan, a 19-year NYPD veteran, and Duane Jackson, one of the street vendors who first noticed the Nissan Pathfinder parked on Broadway by 45th Street with its emergency flashers on, its motor running, and a small amount of smoke was coming out of it. A third vendor, Lance Orton, declined the dinner invitation, but he did chat with The Today Show this morning.
In an exclusive interview, Orton said, "I’ve had a few situations where I’ve told people about things; they say, ‘That’s nothing.’ But you can’t take that attitude." After noticing the smoking SUV, Orton rejected a suggestion to call 911, instead telling "one of my guys, 'Go over there and grab that officer.' He came over on horseback. He saw what I did. It was steadily getting worse." Later, employees from Junior’s restaurant stood outside applauding Orton as he left the scene at 7 a.m. Sunday. When asked by a reporter if he was proud of his actions, Orton replied, "Of course, man. I’m a veteran. What do you think?"
Officer Rhatigan tells CBS2, "I looked back and I saw the ignition running, hazard lights on, and it was parked haphazardly. I thought, 'uh-oh.' It was emitting smoke from the quarter panels and reeked of gunpowder." Rhatigan called for back-up and immediately began ordering everyone to move back. "There's not time to be scared—you say, 'time to get people out of here, and time to start a perimeter,'" observes Rhatigan. But his wife Tinamarie tells the Daily News, "In the beginning, he was definitely scared himself."
At last night's dinner, Mayor Bloomberg described the incident in terms so simplistic even George W. Bush could understand, telling the press, "There are some people around the world that find our freedom so threatening that they are willing to kill themselves and others to prevent us from enjoying it. But we're not going to let them win." Notably absent from last night's dinner was Officer Rhatigan's horse Miggs, who reportedly enjoyed a dinner of hay back at the stables. The F6A robot used by the bomb squad did not attend the dinner either, but the Post gives it a close-up.