New York is known for its busyness and rudeness, but that’s not all the Big Apple has to offer. In this case, New Yorkers offered compassion and empathy.

A civil rights attorney, Joel Wertheimer, captured this heartwarming moment on a Sunday night.  Here’s the story.

After what he said was “a really tough week,” he “wasn’t in the mood for Showtime particularly.” He had attended the funeral of Layleen Cubilette Polanco, the transgender woman who died in her cell at New York’s Rikers Island jail, earlier this month.

A shirtless man began “bumping a speaker” that was playing the Backstreet Boys’ 1999 hit. Even though he wasn’t initially in the mood, he tweeted, “But sometimes people and life surprise you, and a little magic happens.”

Wertheimer previously worked as an associate staff member for former President Barack Obama, and said that the singalong was “just joyful.” “I’m just happy it gave so many other people the joy it gave me,” he said of the video, which had more than 1.3 million views.

Hours after the video went viral, Wertheimer asked anyone who enjoyed it to please donate to the Coalition For The Homeless because “not everybody on the train in New York is so lucky.”


“It’s impossible to take the New York subway and not be confronted with our terrible under-investment in help for the homeless,” Wertheimer stated. “I think we (I include myself) often ignore people without homes on the subway as we try to get through our daily commutes,” he continued.

He said that the moment “of lightness and community on the train” had been “a good opportunity to get other people to do the same, and recognize everybody in their community.”

The Backstreet Boys’ official Twitter account noted that the band lived “for moments like this.” Aww. What a great odd news story.

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