NEWARK, N.J. — The suspect in the attempted terror attack on the subway last Monday, Akayed Ullah, 27, was quickly seized by hero Port Authority Police Department Officers Jack Collins, Anthony Manfredini, Sean Gallagher and Drew Preston. They've been hailed as heroes by everyone from daily commuters to the President of the United States, but they've not been able to publicly respond to the kudos, until now.
"We did the same job that every cop does every day when they get up to go to work," said Collins, 45. "We just happened to be there, honestly. We did our job."
On Saturday, the four were showing that they enrich lives, as well as save them. They were volunteers at a toy giveaway here. Last Monday, in a pedestrian passageway between the Port Authority transit center and the Times Square subway hub, they certainly saved lives.
A split second after the explosion, Officer Anthony Manfredini, 28, a former U-S Marine bomb technician, ran toward the location from which everyone else was running away.
It was "pretty much training, to recognize stuff," Manfredi said, humbly. His and his fellow officers' quick actions ensured that the partial explosion of Ullah's pipe bomb didn't have a repeat blast, which could have sent potentially lethal shrapnel flying.
Manfredini called for backup, and right away, his three fellow officers swooped in. They handcuffed the suspect so he couldn't reach his phone. They knew that in many terror attacks, mobile phones are used as detonators.
It's bravery that President Donald Trump singled out in a statement on Monday. The men are thankful for it, but for so much more as well.
"I come from a law enforcement family, so I'm blessed for that," said Officer Sean Gallagher, 26, whose parents were first responders on September 11th. "We're just lucky. We're just cops who got very lucky."
PIX11 News encountered the officers at the toy giveaway, which was hosted by the National Action Network, and organized by the Port Authority Police Dept. Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, a law enforcement union, in conjunction with another uniformed officers' union, the New Jersey State Troopers NCO Association.
"To them, this is more special today to make a child happy than to do that heroic action," said Paul Nunziato, PAPD P.B.A. president. "I couldn't be more proud. My guys train in some of the highest counterterrorism training in the country, and the other day they showed that."
"We're just happy to be out here just giving back to the community," said Officer Drew Preston, 36. "We're all happy to be alive."
Preston is a former U.S. Army soldier who'd served in the 82nd Airborne Division; Officers Gallagher and Manfredini are retired U.S. Marines. Collins is a former lawyer, who joined the Port Authority Police Dept. about a year-and-a-half before the 9/11 terror attack.
"I lost friends that I waited my whole life to make," Collins told PIX11 News. "I lost neighbors and finds of friends. Like I said, I'm glad nobody died Monday."