Weekend Terror Scare Highlights New Technologies, Old Rivalries

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Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill on site for explosion on 23rd Street in Manhattan on Saturday, September 18, 2016

Your cell phone won't just alert you to storms or missing kids anymore. Now it will spontaneously give warning about people suspected of committing a crime. 

A little before 8 a.m. on Monday – just 36 hours after the bombing in Chelsea – a jolt shot across the city when New Yorkers heard their cell phones come alive with that classic emergency alert tone.

On the screen flashed an ominous message: "Wanted. Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-year-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen."

Notify NYC has been in place since 2012, as part of a nationwide Wireless Emergency Alerts system allowing government agencies to blast warning of imminent danger to residents.

It was only the eighth alert New York City officials have sent. Most have been weather-related, including the first, which was for Sandy. Monday's alert was the first time the system was used to flag a wanted person.

The events also prompted fears of a different sort. In Elizabeth, N.J. on Monday, Muslim leaders tried to get ahead of any backlash as a naturalized citizen of Afghan descent was taken into custody.  

Nawaz Sheikh – president of the local Islamic center – released a statement Monday after the arrest.

"Muslim Community Center of Union County categorically denounces the action of the individual and thank the brave men and women in the uniform," Sheikh said. He went on to call Ahmed Khan Rahami's actions "un-Islamic."

The bombing in Chelsea on Saturday night also forced all levels of law enforcement and government to swing into action. Despite the crisis, political leaders opted for their own – separate – communication strategies.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared together in the aftermath of the bombing on Sunday morning, when they toured Chelsea together. But they held separate news conferences.

On Monday they again took to the airways on their own, sometimes appearing on the same networks just minutes apart.