ELIZABETH, N.J. – Two men who found a backpack full of explosives near a New Jersey train station and reported the bag to police were rewarded Thursday with $10,000 each.
Checks for $10,360 were presented to Lee Parker and Ivan White, whose lives are undoubtedly changing. The proceeds came from a GoFundMe campaign that started after they found the bombs that prevented a potentially deadly terror attack.
Parker, who is homeless, said he’ll use the money to make a down payment on an apartment, the next big step after recently landing a job.
“It means a new beginning for me, as well. In terms of homeless, I’m no longer homeless. I’m also employed, so I appreciate the people that reached out and continue to reach out.”
He had a job interview the morning after he found the bomb. He stayed up all night talking to authorities but made the interview and was offered the position.
White, who is retired and lives on a fixed income, said he’ll use the money to buy himself something nice and save the rest for a rainy day.
The pair found the bomb the night of Sept. 18 sitting atop a trash can at the Elizabeth Train Station, during a tense weekend marred with multiple explosions in New Jersey and New York.
“I looked at it, I said okay lets put this down. We have to go to the police station. He said, police station? I said yes, this is a bomb,” White recalled to PIX11 News.
The day before, a bomb went off in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, injuring dozens of people. And the day before that, an explosion was detonated at a Marine run in Seaside Park, N.J.
Federal agents sent in robots to investigate. While the robots were clipping a wire to disarm the explosive, they accidentally detonated it. No was hurt.
The next day, Ahamad Rahimi was arrested in connection with all three incidents.
In September, the duo was presented with keys to the city for their role in flagging the device and preventing what could've been a harmful or even deadly blast.
“You know, without you guys a lot of other lives could’ve been impacted in a real, negative way and we thank you for your help,” Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said at the ceremony.
The Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless received $10,360, as well. The organization plans to use the money for outreach to homeless individuals who hang around the New Jersey Transit train station in Elizabeth.
“You know, a week before, the day before Lee found that bomb, he was anonymous. No one cared, no one would have given him a dollar,” said Linda Flores-Tober, executive director of the Coalition.
“There’s many other guys there like him, living there who need attention and time. And that’s what we are going to do, is do that outreach."