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Police Keep Extra Eyes On Balloon Inflation, Thanksgiving Day Parade Amid Terror Fears

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Thanksgiving holiday rush was well under way Wednesday evening, from clogged roads to crowded airports.

But as CBS2's Dave Carlin reports, terror fears have been in the back of people's minds this year in particular following the Paris attacks. That has kept extra eyes on airports, roads, and event such as the balloon inflation for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The pre-Thanksgiving balloon inflation took place Wednesday near the American Museum of Natural History -- in an event that has become its own tradition for many New Yorkers.

Web Extra: Guide To Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Speaking at the balloon inflation Wednesday evening, Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized what a showcase the parade will be for the New York City, and how much wonderment the balloons inspire.

"It doesn't matter how old you are," de Blasio said. "There's a certain wonder you feel with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade."

He added that the Thanksgiving holiday begins a season of joy, family and loved ones – and terrorists would not undermine that spirit.

"There are some in this world who are trying to stir fear. They're trying to make us afraid. They're trying to make us change our lifestyle and change our values; lose our spirit; lose our values," de Blasio said. "We refuse to do that."

He said New Yorkers are flocking to the balloon inflation, and many more will attend the parade.

"New Yorkers don't get intimidated," de Blasio said.

The mayor urged people to attend the parade and celebrate something about America – noting that similar events have gone off without a hitch many times.

"For God sakes, don't let the terrorists dictate the terms for us," he said.

And even though worries about terrorism at major public events have been making headlines, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the idea that people were quaking with fear at the parade events was ridiculous.

"Do they look like they're living in abject fear?" he said.

Bratton fired back at Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch and Sergeant's Benevolent Association President Edward Mullins, who previously said the city would not be prepared to handle a Paris-style attack, WCBS 880's Stephanie Colombini reported.

"I'm very sorry to hear those comments made by the two union leaders, demeaning of their own membership," Bratton said. 

Bratton said more than 3,000 patrol officers have been trained to deal with active shooters and hundreds more have been equipped to handle even more extreme situations.

"I'm privileged to lead 35,000 very brave, well-trained officers who always go toward the danger," Bratton said.

Indeed, huge crowds were gathered on the Upper West Side Wednesday to take in happy, puffy and bright-colored sights as the balloons were inflated. There was lots of pointing, smiling and taking selfies.

But for a big, boosted army of protectors, the event is, as always, serious stuff. Spectator Inger Sedeniussen of Pearl River has a son on the NYPD force.

"My son is in one of them. He's working in the Bronx, and he's working down here tonight," said Inger Sedeniussen of Pearl River. "They're doing a wonderful job."

"Nothing's going to hold us back from coming up. I mean, the NYPD's here," said Dave Van Ostrand of Wappinger Falls. "There's nothing going to hold us back from coming out and having a good time."

"After with all that's been going on like the terrorist attack in Paris, 9/11, and sorts of things, like, I feel like I'm having fun too and being safe as well," said Emily Daise of North Carolina.

Along with the extra uniformed officers, the NYPD has added more plainclothes officers, K-9 units, bomb-sniffing dogs, and mobile cameras.

In place for the parade, there will be several hundred newly-trained critical response team officers, placed strategically along the route.

Critical response officers were put to the test Wednesday evening, when a suspicious package was found in the area of 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, officials told CBS2. Eighth Avenue was shut down at the scene beginning just before 6:30 p.m.

The entrances and exits to the Port Authority Bus Terminal at Eighth Avenue, 40th Street and 41st Street were also all closed. During the emergency, commuters were asked to use the entrances at Ninth Avenue and 42nd Street.

Portions of the area were also evacuated.

After a little more than an hour, the package was cleared as not a threat and the area reopened.

1010 WINS is the official radio station of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Can't be there to watch? Listen live!

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