The screams seemed too vivid from the start, too visceral to belong to crowds celebrating a crisp and sunny Halloween in Lower Manhattan. The tragedy had unfolded in just minutes, and for hours and hours it remained too senseless to believe.
Sirens and police tape surrounded the white pickup truck that a 29-year-old assailant transformed into an instrument of terror when he began hitting cyclists and joggers along the West Side Highway bike path. A mangled school bus sat next to it.
Bodies lay strewn along the way. For those who encountered the scene on Tuesday, the aftermath was as confusing as it was gruesome.
Tom Kendrick, 36, a lawyer from the West Village, said he was jogging uptown just north of Chambers Street when he began noticing the mayhem on the bike path. He saw a battered body and bicycle in the bushes alongside the path. Farther along he found three bodies close together, also battered cyclists.
“I approached to see if I could help and they did not need help — they appeared to be dead,” Mr. Kendrick said. “They were bloody and unconscious, with some limbs hanging,” he added. “It was gruesome. It was grisly. It was surreal.”
“These people were gone,” he said. “I’m in shock. I’m looking at dead bodies.”
At least eight people lost their lives in what was the deadliest terrorist attack to strike New York City since Sept. 11, and about a dozen more were injured.