‘I was holding my breath for an hour, waiting for my husband to call.’: Woman details aftershocks of Brooklyn subway shooting

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Disclaimer: This piece includes descriptions of gun violence that may be triggering for some.

“On the morning of April 12, at 8:30 a.m., a man opened fire on a Manhattan-bound N train at 36th Street Subway Station, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn—also known as Brooklyn’s Chinatown. According to officials, a total of 23 people were injured. 10 people were shot—7 men and 3 women—and 13 others were injured from smoke inhalation, escape attempts, and panic attacks.

According to the New York Times, the gunman—who was wearing a construction vest, a construction hat, and a gray hoodie—potentially boarded the N train at some point between Kings Highway and 59th Street Subway Station (there are 8 stations between these two stations). As the N train pulled out from the 59th Street Subway Station on its way to the 36th Street Subway Station, the gunman pulled on his gas mask, tossed two smoke grenades onto the floor of his subway car, and as the car filled with smoke, he opened fire. He fired 33 shots and fled. There is one man who detectives were calling a ‘person of interest’—they found a key to a U-Haul van at the scene of the crime, and the U-Haul van associated with that key was parked on Kings Highway. This person of interest could potentially be tied to this mass shooting, but as of 11:00 p.m. on April 12, the shooter was still unknown and at large. (Since the writing of this piece, the shooter has been apprehended.)

A woman kneels on the floor in the aftermath of a shooting
Courtesy of Hannah Yoon

The Morning of the Shooting

That morning, at 8:30 a.m., my husband, Greg, left our apartment to take the B train to the city. He had an appointment with his therapist at Mount Sinai, and he was headed to Columbus Circle. The B train’s line overlaps with the two other trains that were involved in the shooting (the N and R trains). That means Greg was within the subway system when the mass shooting happened.

At 9:40 a.m., when Greg was already on the train heading to Manhattan, I got a text from my friend Mat Ha. He was checking in with me to make sure Greg and I were safe from a shooting in Brooklyn he had heard about through the New York Times. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I looked it up, and when I found out that the gunman was still on the loose, I became terrified for Greg and his physical safety. I was literally imagining Greg being on the train with the gunman, potentially in the same type of deadly situation that occurred down at 36th Street.

A woman and her husband stand on a bridge in New York City
Courtesy of Jieun Ko, 고지은

There was very little information an hour out from the shooting, so I had no idea what was going on. Thankfully, at 9:50 a.m., I was able to talk to Greg, and he told me he had made it safely to Columbus Circle. But he still had to take the train home, back to Brooklyn, at 11:00 a.m.

He decided to take a completely different train line home, further away from the B train—the B train ended up being shut down. As he was making his way back down to Brooklyn, I was just holding my breath for an hour, waiting for him to call me once he got here. At 11:40 a.m., he called me letting me know he had made it back to Brooklyn safely.

Feeling Safe at Home

According to novelist and civil rights litigator Qian Julie Wang, ‘Sunset Park is made up of mostly working-class people. Most of its residents are Chinese, Latinx, and Indian. Many Asian Americans moved from Manhattan’s Chinatown to Sunset Park, amidst the pandemic and the rising anti-Asian attacks. 29% of Sunset Park residents live below the poverty line, and most residents rely on the subway. Even just one hour of subway closure can be costly to this population. Most of all though, they—like all New Yorkers—deserve to feel safe.’

The night prior, I literally walked home by myself in the dark through Prospect Park, for the first time in a very long time, and I actually felt relatively safe. I was on the phone with Greg the whole time, and he met me with our dog halfway, but for the last three months, I have not felt safe being out in public, by myself, in the dark. A couple of days ago, I told Greg, ‘I’m finally starting to feel safe in the city again.’ And then this happens.

An Asian American woman walking alone through the streets of Brooklyn
Courtesy of Eloise Patterson

I feel like the Asian American community and the city of New York have not had a chance to catch our collective breath in the last two years. Since the beginning of 2022, there has been at least one massive tragedy every single month, one after another, that has rocked our community to its core.

We desperately just want to feel safe.

When I take the train by myself, I always stand on the stairs until the train pulls up. I do this because I don’t want to end up like Michelle Alyssa Go. If I’m out after dark, I always have Greg pick me up. I do this because I don’t want to end up like Christina Yuna Lee. My anxiety heightens when someone is walking too closely behind me. When I walk down the street, walk around the park, or even sit at my neighborhood cafe, I literally have visual images—like a movie playing in my mind—of a person pulling my hair from behind and beating the life out of me, or pointing a gun at my face and shooting me. This daily fear is the burden that women of color, men of color, and elders of color have to grapple with every single day, since the beginning of the pandemic. And it’s not like this type of hate didn’t exist before the pandemic, but it has reached unimaginable heights over the last two years.

A woman and her partner walking the streets of New York
Courtesy of Eloise Patterson

Like Something Out of a Horror Movie

The images and videos that are circulating of today’s mass shooting look like something out of a horror movie. It’s hard to believe that this actually happened today. Bloody bodies. Faces full of fear. The sounds of chaos. Asians and Latinos were at the center of this living nightmare. There are several photos of Asian men and women of all ages, pouring out of the smoke-filled subway car, and spilling out onto the subway platform.

Bloodstains were scattered across the cement. People were running for their lives off of that N train subway car. People’s personal belongings, like purses and backpacks, were splayed across the subway platform. The lights of people’s cell phones cut through the fog of the smoke—people were calling and texting their loved ones. People were lying on the ground, receiving medical care from fellow passengers who literally looked like they were on their way to work. It was this beautiful display of New Yorkers coming together. It was also a disturbing image of everyone’s actual worst nightmare. I felt propelled back to September 11, 2001. I felt propelled back to the Washington, DC sniper shootings.

A woman stands in the midst of a crowd in New York after a mass shooting
Courtesy of Jieun Ko, 고지은

Prayers and Hope

Please pray for Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s Chinatown, and all the people who live in this neighborhood. Pray for everyone who was at the 36th Street Subway Station at the time of the shooting. Pray for everyone who was on that subway car. Pray for everyone who was within the train system at the time of the shooting. Pray for all New Yorkers, who have been traumatized by yet another act of violence in our city today.

Please pray for the 7 men and 3 women who were shot today. Pray for the five people who are in critical but stable condition. Pray for their families and loved ones. Pray for miraculous healing for everyone—pray that not a single person would perish. Pray for the 13 people who suffered from injuries related to smoke inhalation, escape attempts, and panic attacks. Pray for the children who had to see disturbing, gruesome, and traumatic things today—things they never should have seen. Pray for the MTA workers. Pray for all the people who have to take the train tomorrow, and for the rest of the week. Pray that all of humanity would feel the presence of God, and His peace that surpasses all understanding.

I read in an article that the gunman’s glock got jammed, preventing him from shooting more people today. I am confident that this was a miracle from the Lord. I pray for more miracles like this in the coming days, weeks, and months.

During impossible times, when hope seems distant, and fear is threatening to overtake my spirit, I turn to these words that ground me in truth and peace. I hope they can do the same for you:

‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ — 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

Love will reign. Praying fiercely for you, for me, and for us today, for all the days to come.

With love,

Jieun Ko, 고지은

A woman stands in a crowd at a vigil after a mass shooting holding a bouquet of flowers
Courtesy of Ken

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jieun Ko, 고지은 from Brooklyn, New York. You can follow her journey on Instagram, her website, and you can support her on Patreon. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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