When a bomb exploded in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood Saturday evening, tenants of the nearby residence for the blind found themselves particularly vulnerable on an already frenzied night.
Selis Manor, the building directly behind the dumpster the bomb was placed in, houses hundreds of residents with various visual impairments. Unable to navigate the scene of the explosion, many of the residents opted to stay put while chaos erupted around them.
“Some of us thought it was thunder. I knew it wasn’t thunder,” resident Sharon Joyner told Business Insider on Tuesday.
Joyner, who has lived in Selis Manor for about 30 years, said she initially thought the blast was construction-related, and wasn’t corrected until bomb squad members entered the building and identified themselves.
She, like many of the tenants, had been playing bingo in the conference room when the blast rocked the manor, blowing out upper-story windows and bringing down some of the scaffolding outside.
The suspect in the bombing, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was arrested Monday. But for Selis Manor residents, some of the fear from Saturday night still lingers.
On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Selis Manor. He praised first responders, reassured Joyner and her fellow tenants that the city will stay in touch with them, and ignored questions shouted at him from reporters.
“You’ve got a strong-willed group of residents here,” de Blasio told the group, before heading to a nearby diner.
But Joyner pointed out that Saturday wasn’t the first time she’s felt fearful for her safety in Chelsea.
She said a recent slashing in the neighborhood put residents on edge, and she herself has been harassed by homeless people — Selis Manor is two blocks south of a shelter.
“We would like to have more officers,” she told reporters after de Blasio left. “Especially in the evenings — we have to walk our dogs … We have to come out, and we’re concerned.”