Joel Wertheimer, a civil rights attorney at Shanies Law, captured the heartwarming Sunday night moment on video.
He said he’d had “a really tough week” after attending the funeral of Layleen Cubilette Polanco (the trans woman who died in her cell at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex earlier this month) and “wasn’t in the mood for Showtime particularly” when a shirtless man walked between cars on the 4 Line “bumping a speaker” that was playing the band’s 1999 hit.
“But sometimes people and life surprise you and a little magic happens,” Wertheimer added in the caption he posted on Twitter.
Check out the video here:
Wertheimer, who previously worked as an associate staff secretary for former President Barack Obama, told HuffPost the spontaneous 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 garnered more than 1.3 million views.
Several hours after his clip began to spread online, Wertheimer asked anyone who enjoyed it to 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 underinvestment in help for the homeless,” Wertheimer said. “I think we (I include myself) often ignore people without homes on the subway as we try to get through our daily commutes,” he added.
The moment “of lightness and community on the train” was “a good opportunity, he said, “to get other people to do the same and recognize everybody in their community.”
The Backstreet Boys’ official Twitter account said the band lived “for moments like this.”
Band member Nick Carter, meanwhile, called it “amazing!!”
The Backstreet Boys on Tuesday performed in London as part of the band’s DNA World Tour:
Compare the subway riders’ rendition of the song with the original here:
This article has been updated to include comments from Wertheimer.