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Hints of Normalcy Return to Chelsea Ahead of NYC Mayor's Visit

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    Mayor de Blasio and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson walked on 23rd Street in Chelsea Tuesday morning and surveyed the building damage caused by the blast Saturday night. Andrew Siff reports. (Published Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016)

    Mayor de Blasio and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson walked on 23rd Street in Chelsea Tuesday morning and surveyed the building damage caused by the blast Saturday night.  

    Johnson made brief remarks, thanking police officers and reasserting public vigilance. And he made it clear with the United Nations in town, Homeland vigilance will continue.

    "There are literally thousands of personnel from DHS, led by Secret Service in partnership with the NYPD," he said. 

    The visit comes after crime scene tape came down on West 23rd Street on Monday, just two days after a blast erupted along the stretch between Seventh and Sixth avenues, injuring 29 people and setting off a massive hunt for the person responsible.

    As the barricades and blockades disappeared along Chelsea streets Monday night, something else moved in: a spirit of reflection.

    De Blasio met with residents inside Malibu Diner, sitting down for coffee with Steve Rosenthal and Jennifer Gilson and bonding with them about family. The mayor said his own kids grew up in the shadow of 9/11 and tried to reassure the couple their young ones will be OK. 

    "It's been stressful for a family with three kids," Rosenthal said. "But we are trying to move on and the kids are back to school." 

    On Monday night, Reggie Jackson was on 23rd Street. He was dealing with his windshield, which was smashed by shrapnel during the blast. Jackson and his wife were upstairs Saturday night when an explosive device went off in what authorities now call a terror attack. Another bomb nearby never detonated.

    Jackson said he and his wife normally sit in their SUV for a while before they go up to their apartment.

    “We decided not to be in the car that night and it was a good thing,” Jackson said.

    Ahmad Khan Rahami, the 28-year-old man authorities believe planted the two Chelsea bombs and three pipe bombs in Seaside Park, New Jersey, was apprehended by police shortly after 10:30 a.m. Monday.

    Claire Richter stood under a shredded overhang on West 23rd Street Monday night. The thirty-year Chelsea resident said the bombing “was just too close” and that the damaged street represents the state of security for an entire country these days, which has faced a new threat in soft target attacks. 

    Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton called the bombing in Chelsea “probably the first significant successful terror attack [in New York City] since 9/11.”

    “This is individual, little people with a lot of hate and a lot of resentment and they’re blowing up whatever they can,” Richter said.

    As the Tuesday morning rush begins and the city continues on with its ceaseless grind, a few cops and a number of boarded-up windows will be the main indication that an act of terror was committed here just days ago. 

    Several shop owners on the block said the blast blew out most windows and FDNY smashed out the rest. Daniel Peretz, the owner of King David Gallery, a frame shop, was in Israel when he learned he lost stacks of merchandise and every window on his shop. Across the street, the owner of OrangeTheory Fitness said "it's been a little bit surreal, just trying to get back to normal."

    Each of the business owners that had surveillance footage of the blast say they've turned the video over to FBI. 

    Councilman Corey Johnson, who was visiting the block Tuesday, said "it's going to take a little while to reacclimate, to get back on our feet and to ensure it sill feels safe."  

    But some Chelsea residents were still out of their homes and neighbors here and elsewhere will undoubtedly be talking about the shock of this weekend for quite some time.