Makeshift Memorials Grow At Site Of Lower Manhattan Terror Attack As Investigators Seek Answers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Makeshift memorials are growing at the scene of the Lower Manhattan terror attack as investigators continue to seek answers.

Early Friday morning, wooden cross tributes were placed along the bike path for each of the eight victims killed in the attack, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.

Cyclists and runners paused to reflect at the new tribute that was installed before dawn by Greg Zanis of Chicago.

“I could have been one of those people,” one man said.

“It kind of hit home hard,” another added.

“They’re all kind of handmade, custom carved crosses,” Zanis explained.

Zanis, a carpenter who made them and drove them New York, says he’s made more than 20,000 crosses over the years, delivering them to scenes of mass tragedy across the country.

“It’s gonna make the families feel that they’re not forgotten,” he said.

Further down the bike path, a white bicycle bearing flowers is a focus of another display. It’s at the spot where the bike path rampage ended, when the vehicle veered off the bike path and into the street at the corner of West and Chambers streets.

Later Friday, four of the Argentinian tourists who survived the attack that killed five of their friends spoke publicly for the first time. They said their dream trip became their worst nightmare.

New Yorkers paused to honor and remember the victims Thursday night.

“It hurts us this had to happen here,” said Bronx resident Jennifer Sosa. “It shouldn’t happen anywhere.”

Some of the marchers carried candles, lighting up the West Side bike path. Others pushed bicycles in solitary with the victims.

“As a group, we kind of heal together,” one man said.

The march began near the spot where authorities say 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, steered a rented truck onto the bike path Tuesday and sped south toward the World Trade Center, striking cyclists and pedestrians.

He was shot by a police officer after crashing the truck into a school bus. He was arraigned Wednesday on terrorism charges. 

New York officials on Thursday began to put up temporary concrete barriers at 57 locations where it is possible for vehicles to turn onto the bike bath where the attack took place.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday the entire city will be reviewed to see what new precautions may be made.

“We have to come up with a set of priorities as a city of what we feel needs additional reinforcement,” he said.

Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis praised the addition of the barriers.

“I think it’s a very smart move,” she said. “You know, I think we have to utilize the resources that are available and understand that terrorism is always changing and what they are utilizing to commit these horrific acts of terrorism is changing.”

She went on to say, “I wish it was done before.”

When asked whether, if convicted, Saipov should get life in prison or the death penalty, she replied, “death.”

For many, the added barriers are reassurance.

“We are not going to be afraid of what’s going on,” said Upper East Side resident Nancy Tongue.

Ted Hampton rides the route daily and was a colleague of Darren Drake, one of the men killed.

“It makes me wonder why they didn’t put up barrier earlier. Seems like they put them up pretty quickly,” he said. “A lot of these barriers are overkill and they’re gonna make it very difficult for people to use the bike path and if that’s the way they leave it, the terrorists will have won.” 

Newly released cell phone video shows the moments after Saipov was captured and where investigators recovered two cell phones.

A law enforcement source tells CBS News that they tracked numbers on one the phones, linking them to sympathizers of a radical cause who were already in the radar of police in New York. They say Saipov called some of the those same numbers the day of the attack.

A propaganda arm of the Islamic State group called Saipov “a soldier of the caliphate.” A message in an Islamic State weekly newspaper used the term in an item published late Thursday. That item then was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Investigators are now working to determine the extent of ISIS’ influence.

“Is this inspired, he just got all this off the Internet? Was it enabled? Was he actually communicating with ISIS officials over encrypted channels? Or was it directed, was it part of the plan?” said the NYPD’s top counterterrorism official, John Miller.

Miller said investigators still hadn’t uncovered evidence that Saipov had any accomplices in the attack, but said information was still being gathered.

“It’s still in a very early stage. We have lots of leads to go through, a lot of due diligence to do going backwards through friends, associates, phone records, internet contacts,” Miller said Friday.

In their search for clues, FBI investigators have questioned Saipov’s wife and some of his acquaintances, including a fellow immigrant from Uzbekistan, Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, who said he had gotten to know him when they were both Uber drivers.

On Thursday, Kadirov released a statement to The Associated Press through a person in touch with his family condemning the plot.

“It is so sad and unbelievable. This not from our religion. It is not acceptable. We as Muslims completely reject this kind of actions. No human being who has a heart can do this,” the statement said.

Two mosques in Paterson, New Jersey where Saipov lived said they have been receiving threats since the attack.

The Islamic Center of Passaic County said it has gotten eight telephone threats to burn the center down and kill its occupants, prompting extra police patrols.

Meanwhile, more security is expected at Sunday’s marathon with 50,000 runners and more than 2.5 million spectators set to attend.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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