*Somebody is about to see his t-shirt hustle explode in sales.
Lance Orton, the street vendor credited for helping to save Times Square from an attempted terrorist attack on Saturday, visited the Today show this morning to discuss the events leading up to his discovery of a vehicle that turned out to contain a crude firebomb.
The T-shirt salesman alerted a mounted policeman when he noticed smoke coming from the parked SUV Saturday evening. Inside the vehicle were enough ingredients to do some major damage – propane tanks, gasoline, fireworks and alarm-clock detonators.
Orton is being hailed as a hero who may have saved uncounted lives through his alertness.
“People take it lightly,” Orton told Today’s Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer on Monday. “I’ve had a few situations where I’ve told people about things; they say, ‘That’s nothing.’ But you can’t take that attitude.”
Orton was wounded in Vietnam and gets around with a cane. He said he was sitting next to his wares when he saw a Nissan Pathfinder parked with its emergency flashers on and its motor running. A small amount of smoke was coming out of it.
The hero vendor said he didn’t see who got out of the vehicle because of a performance on the other side of the street. “I was distracted by the crowd,” he said.
But then he saw the vehicle. “I wondered why nobody noticed it,” he said.
One of Orton’s helpers suggested calling 911. Orton said he pointed at mounted police officer Wayne Rhatigan, who was on duty in Times Square.
“There’s a patrolman right there on the horse. I asked one of my guys, ‘Go over there and grab that officer,’ ” Orton recalled. “He came over on horseback. He saw what I did. It was steadily getting worse.”
When popping noises and flashing sparks came from the car, Rhatigan quickly led police in, moving pedestrians to safety and clearing traffic so that the fire department and bomb squad could neutralize the bomb before it exploded.
Another vendor named Duane Jackson also noticed the smoking vehicle and alerted police. Jackson ended up doing numerous interviews and having dinner with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Officer Rhatigan at a Times Square restaurant, but Orton brushed off pleas for interviews and passed on dinner with the mayor.
He did agree to talk to “Today,” telling Lauer just before going on the air, “I could have been here playing a harp this morning.” Asked later how he felt, he said, “Glad to be here.”