One minute we were sitting having lunch at a café on one of NewYork’s broad avenues, watching the traffic flow past us like some torrent. Five lanes going one way. Five lanes coloured mostly yellow - the colour of the city’s famous Yellow Cabs.
The next minute the traffic had vanished. That’s a hard act in a city as busy as this. We’d heard a police siren - nothing new, then heard more and more until we saw a clutter of police cars in the otherwise deserted avenue.
We’d finished our lunch – even if we hadn’t we would have abandoned it to go rubberneck outside.
“What’s happening?” I asked a bystander and he told me a truck had been left parked in the middle of 43rd street, two blocks down.
After 9/11 and the London bombings that must have set alarm bells ringing, though New Yorkers hardly need reminding about making their city secure. On subway trains and elsewhere ads tell them that if they see something suspicious, they should report it.
Somebody had, and after about a dozen police cars filled the avenue, another vehicle arrived and out of it stepped formidably armed Men In Black - what looked like a SWOT squad. Somehow I expected more urgency from them, more action, but then that was just Hollywood talking.
Instead they more or less ambled Downtown adding to the confusing contrasts: part of the city was in complete lockdown, but its police, SWOT squad personnel and even bystanders were acting so casually that one could be forgiven for thinking that this was an everyday incident.
Perhaps it was. When we came back that evening to see the lustre of Broadway at night, the Yellow Cabs were back on their start marks at the Avenue’s intersections. It was, it seemed, just another day, another incident in the Big Apple.