By Jessica Easthope
As New York City trains rattled past, Sean Conaboy decided to lower the volume in his headphones. He was listening to “Desolation Row” by Bob Dylan. He’d listened to the song countless times, but this time was different.
“And the volume was so low that I was able to hear the victim scream,” he said.
There’s a lyric in Bob Dylan’s song that says “you’re in the wrong place, my friend.” Except last Wednesday, Conaboy was in the right place. He sprung into action in a way that’s become uncommon when these all-too-common attacks happen.
Sean, a native New Yorker and parishioner at St. Michael’s Church in Sunset Park, is being called a Good Samaritan – a term rooted in faith to describe someone who stops to help when others stand by.
“I never imagined it would be so heinous and so violent and so depraved, but that was what I experienced and I had to act,” Sean said. “To not act would be an option, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.”
The chilling surveillance video from inside the Union Square subway station showed a man with a knife stalking potential victims. When the man chose a victim, Sean said something in him took over.
“This woman is being fatally assaulted with a knife, I have to stop it,” he said.
Sean said the man wielded the knife in a way that showed he wanted to kill 54-year-old Kelli Daley. The man who put him on high alert even went back for more.
“What’s most horrifying is that once I tackled him and separated him from the victim, he went back for her,” Sean said.
The Good Samaritan says his faith has everything to do with his action that day. It’s because of leaders in the Diocese of Brooklyn that showed him how to put faith into practice. One faith leader who showed him, Sean says, was his former pastor, now Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey, Kevin Sweeney.
“To see Sean respond in that way knowing him as the person of faith that he is, it’s not surprising,” Bishop Sweeney said. “But not everyone does it and I can see his faith coming out in that courageous act he took, willing him to sacrifice himself for the safety of another.”
The attack Sean stopped was the fourth attack at Union Square station in a week. He has a message for New York City officials: use this an example.
“It’s not that long ago, that this was a really safe way to travel and I remember when it wasn’t. So to see it swing back in that direction is heartbreaking.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher,” Sean added. “We’re fighting for our lives down here. That’s the most potent example you’ll ever see.”