For most of the 45 years I worked in New York City, I commuted daily on The Long Island Rail Road, usually catching up on some sleep, or sitting there bored out of my mind. So I started bringing my camera and taking photographs out the window.
I did this for years, thousand and thousands of photos of basically the same thing every morning and evening. I admit a bit odd, but nobody seemed to mind, and I was happy.
One day a few years after 911, the train was passing through the yards right outside the tunnel in Queens. Lot’s of great photos there, especially at dusk when the light gets particularly beautiful. A short time later, the Conductor makes an announcement over the intercom saying there’s a sick passenger and we’ll be making an additional stop at Jamaica. Another great place to take pictures.
I’m busily take shots when I feel a presence behind me. I turn and there are six LIRR Police in full Kevlar standing there holding an assortment of automatic weapons. A sergeant asks me what I’m doing. I say I’m taking photographs, it’s a hobby of mine.
He asks to see some identification. I hear myself saying, “What do you think, I’m a terrorist?” “I’ll ask the questions,” he says, and they march me off the train in front of a trainload of very scared passengers.
Once off, he takes my camera and ID and goes off somewhere to check me out, leaving me with the rest of the officers and the machine guns.
Make a long story, short, he comes back and says, next time you take pictures let the Conductor know, you’re scaring the other passengers. I said okay,
Of course, what I didn’t say, was that I was the Executive Creative Director of the Long Island Rail Road’s advertising agency and had just finished up the MTAs new, “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign.
I guess someone saw something.