For potentially saving the lives of thousands of innocent people, two Times Square businessmen, Vietnam veterans and Legionnaires, were given The American Legion's prestigious Patriot Award today during the opening session of the organization's 92nd National Convention here today.
Duane Jackson, an Army veteran and Lance Orton, Sr., a Navy veteran, almost simultaneously, spotted a dark-colored SUV Nissan Pathfinder in a No Standing zone on May 1.
"Smoke started coming out of it, then the pops began - five or six of them," Jackson said. "They sounded like firecrackers - that's when everyone started running."
Thanks to their alerting authorities, the NYPD bomb squad, with the help of a remote-control robot, later confirmed the worst: The car contained a massive bomb.
"We dodged a bullet," Jackson said. "We're a family out here. We have to look out for each other."
"I'm not a celebrity. I'm just an average Joe," Orton said.
Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistan-born American and son of a retired two-star Pakistan Air Force officer, tried to detonate the car-bomb May 1, but the device failed. Shahzad admitted to building the homemade bomb--consisting of fireworks, propane tanks and non-explosive fertilizer--and taking it in his SUV into Times Square and parking it there to explode. He pleaded guilty, and admitted to having been trained in Pakistan to make explosives.
"There is no telling how many innocent men, women and children would have died had it not been for the brave actions of these Patriot Award winners," said National Commander Clarence E. Hill.
"They chose to ‘get involved,' and a major terrorist attack was thwarted as a result. They served our nation honorably during the Vietnam War, and they have made a significant contribution to protecting the homeland during the current war."
Their awards read, in part, "For your life-saving assistance and public vigilance. By alerting authorities, a barbaric terrorist attack upon Times Square was thwarted and a major blow to America's confidence was averted in the Global War on Terrorism."
Jackson is a member of American Legion Post 758; Orton belongs to Post 1, both in the Department (state) of New York.
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