Scores of people are paying tribute to the two men who discovered the explosives in New Jersey last weekend and helped thwart a potentially more dangerous attack.
When Lee Parker spotted a backpack lying on top of a trash can outside the Elizabeth train station last Sunday, he thought it was his lucky break. It just so happened that Parker, who was homeless, needed a bag for his job interview the next day, not wanting to have to show up with the blue plastic shopping bag he had been using as a hold-all.
“All of a sudden we look on the garbage can and on top of the can there was a pretty new backpack,” said Parker’s friend, Ivan White, a retired veteran. “Just sitting on top!”
The two picked up the bag and walked around for a while. But when they opened it up, they realized something was not right.
“I said we need to go to the police station right now because this is a bomb,” Parker told ABC7. “It wasn’t the cartoon bomb with a tick-tock tick-tock clock but it had wires. I had seen enough pictures of pipe bombs and different devices in books, magazines. I knew what I was looking at as soon as I saw it.”
Parker and White took their findings to the police, who discovered that the bag held as many as five pipe bombs. One exploded when authorities used a robot to dissemble it.
“They probably saved hundreds of people,” Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said of Parker and White.
Donald Goncalves, a lifelong resident of Elizabeth who works with local nonprofit At Heart’s Length, agreed. He set out to thank the men, setting up a GoFundMe page for anyone who wanted to pitch in with donations. By early Monday morning, the page had almost 1,000 donations totaling more than $30,000.
As for Parker, another nonprofit has already found him an apartment, Goncalves told The Washington Post. He wasn’t able to make it to his interview for a truck loader position last Monday, but another company in the area has already been in contact to offer him a job.
Asked about the public outpour of support, the two friends said they would have reacted the same way as anyone else.
“I’m just glad I was able to realize what the situation was and react in such a way that, thank goodness, no one got hurt,” said White.
“Hero? No. I wouldn’t go that far,” said Parker. “[I was] doing the right thing.”