The two men who found the backpack full of explosives near a New Jersey Transit station in Elizabeth early Monday recall the terrifying moment they opened the bag and saw metal cylinders with wires sticking out.
Ivan White and his friend Lee Parker were walking to the store Saturday night on South Broad Street when they spotted the backpack on top of a garbage can, they told NBC 4 New York Tuesday. Parker, who is homeless and trying to earn money for an apartment, had a job interview the next day and the backpack was just what he needed.
They knew it felt heavy when they picked it up, but assumed there were textbooks inside — so they carried it a block away before opening it.
That's when they found the explosives inside.
White remembers telling Parker, "'We need to go to the police station right now.' He said, 'Why?' I said, 'That's a bomb."
Federal investigators said Tuesday the backpack was planted there by Ahmad Khan Rahami, who's also accused in the Chelsea and Seaside Park bombings. The Elizabeth location, so close to the train station and bus depot, may have been chosen to inflict mass casualties during rush hour.
But because of White and Parker, police detonated the explosives early Monday morning without anyone getting hurt.
"I am glad I was at the right place at the right time," said White, who volunteers at a food bank.
White's and Parker's actions are being recognized by the Elizabeth community, and a GoFundMe page titled "Hometown Heroes" has already raised more than $14,000 from hundreds of people. The goal was $10,000.
"Hero — no, I wouldn't go that far. But doing the right thing, and 'everyday dude doing the right thing,' yeah, I'll take that over the hero stuff," said Parker.
"I thank God that it was found and no one was hurt, that's the most important thing," added White.
Parker did have the interview for the forklift operator job Monday. His prospective employer knew he was the man who found the bomb before it went off -- so perhaps that will give him an edge in landing the job and getting him back on his feet.