Saves woman from knife attack: ‘God was with me’
UNION SQUARE — Sean Conaboy is convinced he wasn’t acting alone when he jumped onto a man who was stabbing a woman on a Union Square subway station platform on May 19.
“When I reflect back on it, yes, I think God was with me at that moment,” said Conaboy, 52, a devout Catholic who attends Mass at St. Michael’s Church, Sunset Park and is being hailed for heroically saving Kelli Daley’s life in an act — captured by a surveillance camera — that has since gone viral.
The suspect, Joshua Nazario, 22, was arrested at the scene.
God likely intervened in another way, too. Conaboy wasn’t even supposed to be in the Union Square station that night. Conaboy knows his way around the subway system — his late father John worked for the MTA — and that night, he was in the right place at the right time. He usually doesn’t take an N, R, or W train home from work.
“I [usually] take the D. But it was late and the MTA was doing track work on the D. I couldn’t go home my usual way,” he said. “So I took the No. 6 to Union Square to catch a train home.”
Conaboy returned to the Union Square station Monday to give a firsthand account of the incident and reflect on how his deep Catholic faith led him to do the right thing in that life-and-death moment.
Conaboy, a freelance cameraman, had just finished a 12-hour shift working for the Canadian Broadcasting Company in Times Square when he entered the Union Square station, hoping for an uneventful ride home to Sunset Park.
“I haven’t been in this station in, I don’t know, many years,” he said.
It was 10:10 p.m. and Conaboy “just wanted to get home. I was tired.”
As he waited on the Brooklyn-bound N/R/W platform, Conaboy was listening to Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” on his headphones when he noticed a man who caught his attention.
Nazario was dressed in winter clothing even though the weather was warm. He seemed to be staring at a man on the platform as if he was casing him, according to Conaboy.
“He was circling around him like a fighter does in a fight. That raised my alert level,” Conaboy said. “He walked over a little too close to my right shoulder. He stood along my right shoulder. I noticed his shoes — red shoes.”
Nazario then stared straight into his face, and Conaboy got a good look at him. The man walked away, but within seconds, Conaboy heard a woman screaming from a short distance away and ran towards the screams. That same man was stabbing Daley, 54, who had also been waiting for a train.
“I saw a knife,” Conaboy remembers about his encounter with the suspect. “I jumped on him from behind and tackled him. I got him to the ground.”
Police arrived soon afterward and took Nazario into custody.
Daley had been stabbed in the chest, shoulder, and collarbone, and was taken to Bellevue Hospital for treatment. Later, she called Conaboy and thanked him for saving her life.
The attack on Daley was the fourth assault in a week at just that one subway station.
Conaway said that while he is grateful that Daley survived and that he was able to stop the attack from going further, he is angry that violence has become an everyday occurrence in the subway system.
“The city needs to do something,” he said. “More cops, something,”
In addition to God, Conaboy was thinking of someone else after his heroics — his late mother Bridget. The subway incident took place on the ninth anniversary of her death.
Conaboy grew up in East Flatbush and attended Mass at St. Therese of Lisieux Church on Avenue D. He was a student of the parish school, now known as St. Catherine of Genoa-St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Academy.
He went on to attend and graduate from Nazareth Regional High School: “I remember very well being taught to be compassionate to others.”
Conaboy added that his Catholic education gave him a deep faith and “the ability to nurture it for a lifetime.”
When he moved to Sunset Park, he started attending St. Michael’s Church, where he met and was inspired by Father Patrick Burns, who died in 2018.
“He was an amazing man — very encouraging,” he said. “The most profound service I ever attended was a Good Friday service he had. It made me realize that whatever faith we have in us is nothing compared to the faith we could have.”
Conaboy also admired Father Kevin Sweeney, who was pastor of St. Michael’s for 10 years.
“In Father Sweeney, you had another wonderful shepherd,” he said.
In 2020, Father Sweeney became Bishop Sweeney of the Diocese of Paterson, NJ.
“To see Sean respond in that way knowing him as the person of faith that he is, it’s not surprising,” Bishop Sweeney told Currents News. “But not everybody does it and I can see his faith coming out in that courageous act he took, willing to sacrifice himself for the safety of another.”
As Conaboy spoke to The Tablet about the incident, the hustle and bustle of the subway station continued with trains pulling in and out of the station, riders rushing up and down stairways between the mezzanine and the train platform, and conductors making announcements.
He looked around and said if the same situation came up again, he would do the same thing.
“How could I not get involved?” he said.