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A moment with Mary Ann

By Staff | May 11, 2010

This is our country where freedom and safety once went hand in hand.

But not anymore. Terrorism strikes when we least expect it.

Think back and recall domestic news of the last few weeks, the gigantic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and horrendous flooding in Tennessee teamed up with the see-sawing stock market to dominate national news.

That all changed on Saturday, May 1, when a vehicle equipped with a homemade bomb was discovered parked and unattended in Times Square. My finger stopped the flipping of channels to watch the chilling story unfold.

Little did I realize that my childhood friend and her daughter were front and center when the POP! POP! POP! sounds were heard.

Going on a high school choir trip with her daughter, my friend Rosalie Rigas Kovalyk was one of the chaperones. Talking to her on Mother’s Day, she said that day was set aside for the students to see the sights and a Broadway show or two. The students had sung on Liberty Island.

Three of the students got more than they bargained for on that frightful day.

I didn’t realize she and her daughter were on that trip. I found the story on The Times Leader website, a sister newspaper to The Daily News located in Martins Ferry, OH. The headline: Bellaire students witness New York car bombing plot. That’s when my heart stopped.

-Here are excerpts from the story written by staff writer Michael Schuler:

n Some members of Bellaire High School Choir were only feet away from a failed car bomb in New York City on Saturday and some of the students even helped police secure the scene moments later. The high school students, Ryan Marling, Claire Kovalyk and Megan Street, along with their chaperone, Rosalie Kovalyk, were only about 10 feet away when the improvised firing mechanism went off, but failed to detonate the explosive materials in the vehicle, a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder.

n “We were walking around and (Claire and Megan) wanted to get their pictures taken with a police horse,” Ryan said. “We walked down to the corner and saw police officers surrounding the car and after about 5 minutes, there was an explosion inside the car. The explosion was described by the students as a series of “pops.”

n Within two minutes, they said fire trucks and bomb squads were on the scene. The students decided they wanted to stay and watch. As the police were moving people away from the vehicle, Claire and Megan said they helped police to set up barricades.

n “They were just telling us to back up block by block and by 8 o’clock, Time Square was completely empty,” Ryan said.

n The students and their chaperone said at that time, they saw a group of people, wearing all black clothing, with silver head wear. They looked like “knights,” holding signs, some with pictures of bombs on them. “As soon the first bomb went off, they bowed and left,” Megan said. Claire said they said something in a different language, got into a line and walked back to their hotel.

n Learning about the potential destructive force the explosives could have caused, Claire, Ryan and Megan also said they feel lucky to be alive. “When I realize what could have happened and if the bomb had been connected the way it was supposed to have been, it makes me feel lucky to live through something like that,” Claire said, adding, “I liked the city, but I prefer a little, small town where you know what’s going on,” Claire said.

Knowing an arrest has been made in this case offers little comfort, even here in the Midwest. Will we ever know he was acting alone?

While living in a small city, village or town is very comforting and feels safe like Claire believes, it is a disconcerting thought there are individuals who only live to create terror in this country. Terrorists are willing to surrender their lives if need be to destroy lives of many Americans.

And that’s an alarming reality we are forced to face.