JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man was in New York City last week when authorities said a former sailor mowed down pedestrians in Times Square, killing a teenage Michigan tourist and injuring 22 others.
Dr. Wayne Wood, who lives in the Riverside neighborhood of Jacksonville, on Monday shared his experience and his photos with News4Jax.
Wood was at an art exhibit in the middle of Times Square when the crash happened Thursday. He described what he saw that day as "surreal."
"I still have flashbacks on this, thinking about what a horrible scene that was," Wood said. "I was directly across the street from the young woman, who unfortunately died, and the policeman standing over her, looking down at her dead body. (It) was just one of the most tragic scenes you could ever imagine."
Richard Rojas, who lived with his mother in the Bronx, drove his car Thursday through Times Square, then made a U-turn and steered his car onto a sidewalk, plowing through helpless tourists for three blocks before crashing into protective barriers, police said.
After he was detained, he said he wanted to "kill them all" and that police should have shot him to stop him, a prosecutor said at his court appearance Friday. They said Rojas also admitted to smoking marijuana laced with PCP sometime before the crash. Officials are awaiting toxicology reports.
"Suddenly, all this chaos happened and I picked up my camera and started taking pictures of what I saw, even before I really knew what was going on and what the magnitude of the disaster," Wood said.
Wood showed News4Jax the photos he captured, some of which are too graphic to display.
"It brings it all back. It's just like having a dream and reliving it and you can't really be sure how it could've happened and that I was this close to something that was so dreadful," he said.
Wood said what he saw that day gave him a renewed perspective.
"The thing that struck me from this is how precious life is and how fragile it can be, even when you have a feeling of security," he said. "And so you need to celebrate every day and live life to the fullest."
Wood said he will not hesitate to visit New York City, and Times Square, again.