How many times have we all heard the admonition: if you see something, say something? Fortunately for us, it was that simple admonition that nagged at our neighbor Jane Shreibman when she spotted an oddly wired device in a trashcan outside her West 27th Street apartment one September Saturday night. It was two hours after West 23rd Street was rocked by a huge explosion that ended up injuring 31 people. Her initial reaction was to keep on walking, but not for long. She called 911—and as you probably know, that phone call saved lives. The device turned out to be an explosive as well.
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to honor Ms. Shreibman recently at a lovely event here on the FIT campus co-hosted by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Many local officials, including New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Brad Holyman, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, as well as members of the FIT community and the public, were there. Also present were Deputy Inspector and Commanding Officer Brendan Timoney and Community Affairs Officer Detective Ray Dorrian—both with the 13th precinct of the NYPD and both eager to show their appreciation.
Ms. Shreibman, who lives just a half-block from campus, is more than a nearby neighbor. She is also a Center for Professional Studies and Continuing Education student who has been taking courses with us for many years. I was struck by some of the things she said regarding her decision to call 911. Like so many of us—I suspect—she had her doubts about whether to call. After all, she said, she was used to seeing lots of “crazy objects” tossed away on the city’s streets. Still, she thought it would be irresponsible not to call. And when she did, still uncertain of her instinct, she apologized to the 911 dispatcher “in case I was wasting their time,” she said.
I think we can all agree that Ms. Shreibman performed an exemplary act of citizenship, compassion and community service, one that we all can learn from. As I said at the event, I believe that this one phone call puts to rest whatever cynicism we may harbor about the capacity of one person to make a difference.