May First by Duane Jackson | Books in Review

VVA’s Duane Jackson at Times Square

On May 1, 2010, Duane Jackson was going about his business working at his vendors stand near Times Square in New York City. At around 6:30 that evening, Jackson, a Vietnam veteran who is the president of VVA’s Joseph Kaswan Chapter 817 in Buchanan, New York, noticed something fishy about an SUV that had parked nearby.

“The car was running and the flashers were on, ” Jackson writes in May First: The Day Times Square Stood Still (92 pp., $21.23, paper), a short, photo-heavy book he co-wrote with Sheila Banks that tells what happened that fateful day after he realized the SUV was packed with explosive materials.

“My first inclination was to open the door, reach inside, turn the car off and grab the keys, ” Jackson writes. “But something stopped me . First, I saw that there weren’t just a couple of keys on the ring in the ignition. There were maybe 15—like a janitor’s key ring. Who the hell carries that many damn keys around?  Plus, the back widow and the back side windows were painted black. Not tinted black like you see on a lot of vehicles. Black paint .”

Jackson alerted a New York City police officer. Firefighters, police, and the NYPD Bomb Squad arrived on the scene. The responders broke into the vehicle and rendered the explosives inoperable. If they had gone off in always-busy Times Square, thousands would have been killed and maimed.

Among the accolades that poured in after the story went public the next day was a phone call from President Obama, who called Jackson “an American hero.”

To order, go to the author’s website is

  —Marc Leepson

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