Donald and Janet Knipe and their 16-year-old son David didn't know what was going on for awhile. Like tens of thousands of others, they were enjoying the night life New York City offers on a Saturday night and were sightseeing before walking a few blocks to see "Phantom of the Opera." Suddenly, David said, the crowd that surrounded them kept pressing back in their direction until, "We were looking out at a completely empty Times Square."
The Knipes were in town to hear older son, James, perform at Carnegie Hall with the Texas Tech choir. A second Midland family, Steve and Lana Henry, were also in town for the same performance -- son Drew also sings in the Tech choir -- but they were staying in another borough, away from the goings-on in Manhattan.
The performance last weekend of the Tech choir coincided with the failed car bomb attempt that captured the world's attention last weekend. David cringes when he thinks what could have been.
"I've been trying to wrap my mind around it; they said a car bomb like that could kill 300-500 people within an 800-foot radius. We were about 100-200 feet from it. I can't wrap my mind around it."
The Knipes say they walked right by the Lion King theater where the would-be bomber left his SUV filled with gasoline and propane. They had no reason to notice whether the vehicle was there when they walked by. James was in a McDonalds in Time Square and had left the restaurant moments before New York City police sealed it off, preventing people from leaving.
"As best I have been able to figure out," Janet Knipe said, "we were right at the car bomb site about 30 minutes before it was detected; it might not have even been parked there at that time. It was right in the middle of Times Square -- one block down from the half price theater ticket place (TKTS TKTS) and they have changed much of that area to a pedestrian walking mall. When TV news shows the bomb site, there is a Swatch store in the background and we were there at 6 p.m., when I told David it was time to head back to the hotel -- being in a watch store you knew what time it was for sure."
David said the family knew nothing of what was going on, so he called a friend in Midland and asked him to check the Internet to see what was happening. Of course, the news was online almost immediately, and that's how the Knipes learned of the car bomb.
"The more we heard that night and every day since, the more I realize just how God was with us every step of the way," Mrs. Knipe said. "I was concerned, but there was a calm and a peace, and police handled it very, very orderly. It could have been a real bad situation but the way NYPD handled it people were going to the theater and not even thinking about it."
The next morning, David said, the Knipes counted at least 30 NYPD squad cars parked in Times Square (photo above).
The Knipes ended up loving 'Phantom' and James' performance at Carnegie Hall -- "I cried," Mrs. Knipe said -- before returning home early this week.
As if being in proximity to one huge news story wasn't enough for one family in two day's time, on the Knipe's return flight home, they landed in Nashville to refuel and could clearly see the devastation caused by the flooding of the Cumberland River this week.
"We looked down and what we thought were car ports were entire houses under water," David said.
Top photo: The Lion King Theatre, where a would-be terrorist parked an SUV with a failed car bomb about 30 minutes after the Knipe family of Midland walked by. Photos courtesy The Knipe Family.