Mother of two remembered by defiant New Yorkers


New York: One was a young mother whose two sons are still in nappies, aged just three months and three years. Another was a 23-year-old New Yorker who biked all over Manhattan.

There was a man from New Jersey who lived with his parents and rode the path in his work breaks listening to audio books, and there were five jubilant Argentinian friends who filmed themselves moments before their deaths, unaware they were pedalling on a path that would take them to their deaths. Inside their backpacks were souvenirs they had brought for their children back home in the Argentinian city of Rosario.

"This loss is unbearable and unthinkable," said the husband of Belgian mother Anne-Laure Decadt, 31, who was killed.

"Anne-Laure ... was a fantastic wife and she was the most beautiful mum to our two sons." Alexander Naessens told The New York Daily News.

Ms Decadt, 31, was visiting New York with her mother and two sisters, having given birth to her youngest in August. The group was riding along the path when terror struck.

"It's hard to imagine that someone who goes on a holiday can be taken out of life so brutally," Francesco Vanderjeugd, the mayor of Staden, Ms Decadt's hometown in the West Flanders province of Belgium, said on Flemish radio.

On Thursday , the bike path that had brought so much bloodshed on Tuesday reopened as the man who deliberately ploughed into them, Sayfullo Saipov, remained under police guard in hospital.

Among those using it was Jo Black, an Australian who cycles from her home in the West Village to her coffee shop near the World Trade Centre every day.

"I think it's important to do what we always do and not let this [attack] deter us because that's exactly what the terrorists want you to do," said Mrs Black, who has lived in Manhattan's West Village for almost two years.

"I ride my Citi bike from my home to the my coffee shop every day - I'll keep doing it."

Mrs Black, who has two children, aged 11 months and two, admits she was shocked when she first heard of the attack because - if not for Halloween - she would have likely come into the direct path of the terrorist.

"I took the afternoon off because it was Halloween and my kids are young and I wanted to take them trick or treating, but usually I leave work at 2.30pm and so would have been on the path in this spot as it was all happening."

But she refuses to live in fear.

"I was just thinking as I rode along how lucky I am to ride these streets every day. It gives me a lot of joy and is so much more fun than the subway which is not that safe."

Her defiance would likely have been shared by Nicholas Cleves, the only New Yorker to die in the attack.

Mr Cleves, who lived two blocks from the path where his life ended, grew up biking around Manhattan. In Washington Square Park, a vigil was held to celebrate his life.

"Nicholas Cleves was a fine young man starting out a successful career, struck down way earlier than he should have been," Jim Burnham, a family friend, told old reporters outside the family's building.

He was a software engineer, and his boss, Alex Silverstein, the owner of Unified Digital, said he was fascinated by the ever-changing technology and often spoke enthusiastically about the Tesla stock he had bought.

"He is like the future of programming and software, and now he's gone," said Mr Silverstein.

"I feel like I've been robbed."

The other American victim Darren Drake, 32, of New Milford, would routinely cycle along the Hudson River during his work breaks, listening to audiobooks about ancient history.

"He loved reading. He loved exercising on a bike; he loved his job," his father, Jimmy Drake, told The New York Times.

Mr Drake said his son would return to his parents' home where he lived every night, entertaining them with facts from his audiobooks.

The others killed were five Argentinians who travelled to New York from Rosario, a city northwest of Buenos Aires, to celebrate their reunion.

A video emerged on Wednesday showing the five men smiling and jubilant as they rode along the bike path on a sunny Autumn day under blue skies.

On Thursday, flowers were left at the site in Chambers St, a sombre reminder of the eight lives lost and the risk of terrorism.

Hannah Lynch, who lives nearby, said the attack was simply "too close to home" and she wants to move from the city.

"When it's on your doorstep like this, it makes you very anxious," she said. "I want to feel safe. My husband thinks it's the safest place in the world because we're right near the World Trade Centre but I feel very anxious."

She thinks of how lucky she and her two-year-old daughter came yesterday of being in the crossfire.

"I was taking my daughter to the doctor and crossed the highway only 10 minutes before it all happened," Mrs Lynch said.

"I wasn't going to leave the house today but you can't stay inside," Mrs Lynch told Fairfax Media as she walked back from the park through police and international media crews.

But businesswoman Soraya Hamdoun, who rides a Citibike to work along the bike path every day, said it was important the community stayed strong and continued on with their daily lives.

"Every day I cycle. It's how I get to work," Mrs Hamdoun, who owns a shoe store in the West Village, said.

Was she scared of the heightened risk? "You know when you stop living your life, they have won," the Paris-born woman who has lived in New York for six years says. "We have to fight."

Meanwhile, the FBI continues its probe and have questioned Saipov's wife, Nozima Odilova, who authorities said was cooperating.

This story Mother of two remembered by defiant New Yorkers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.