September 11, 2002, MSNBC / The New York Beacon, NYC's worst nightmare comes true, by Martin Wolk,
MSNBC's Martin Wolk was in the Trade Center when it was struck by hijacked planes
NEW YORK, Sept. 11 - I was in the World Trade Center when every New Yorker's worst nightmare came true. I was in the grand ballroom of the Marriott Hotel, attending a conference by the National Association of Business Economists when the crystal chandeliers shook, there was a loud bang and the floor shook. Everyone ran out - there were people screaming everywhere. A commercial airliner had struck the 110-story building.
I WENT OUT THE side door. Initially I thought it was a car accident. Then I looked up and saw Tower One of the World Trade Center in flames. It was clear there were hundreds of casualties. Everyone was on cell phones.
I'd lost my cell phone and laptop computer when I ran out the building. I went over to the Hudson River.
After I called in to my editor from 3 World Trade Center across the street, there was another wave of panic and people were running everywhere.
I went outside and saw Tower Two had been hit, right about in the middle. For a while, I just stared and watched with the other survivors as the tower burned.
As I was watching, I heard a gasp and an "Oh no!" Someone had just jumped or fallen from the top of Tower One. I saw three more people fall from Tower One.
There were people injured on the street, probably hit by falling debris. I kept walking, looking for a phone.
Around 9:40 a.m. ET or so, there was another wave of rescue vehicles rushing downtown.
I talked to some people who saw the second plane hit Tower Two. I was about a quarter of a mile away when I heard people scream. I looked back and saw Tower Two was gone, and the sky was filled with plumes of smoke.
I eventually made it up to Greenwich Village, where a man named John Roccosalva was kind enough to let me and other survivors use the telephone and get a glass of badly needed water in his tiny studio apartment.
Another man, Harvey Schonbrun, who works at the brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald, had been on the 78th floor of Tower One when the first plane hit. He said "everything went black, I was thrown to the floor." He said he had crawled to the hall and to the stairwell. Another man, Brian Conlon, was on the 37th floor. He was a survivor of the previous World Trade Center bombing. He said he was 15 flights down by the time the alarms began sounding. I left the apartment and went to St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village about a half mile north of the Trade Center where the scene was one of barely controlled chaos. Police are asking for volunteers to direct traffic and move vehicles. Hundreds of people are lined up to donate blood. Hospital officials say they have taken 112 casualties, no fatalities. That, of course, is just one hospital of dozens or scores in the area.
St. Vincent's said they had taken in 184 casualties, and two had died. Several others were "gravely injured" by burns or smoke inhalation, a hospital spokesman he said. St. Vincent's is one of two major trauma hospital's handling the most severely injured victims.
More than 500 people lined up to donate blood outside the hospital. Finally, a phalanx of half-a-dozen city buses lined up to take them to another location where they could handle the blood donations.
Police and volunteers are directing traffic on every corner in this part of Lower Manhattan, and emergency vehicles of every kind are screaming by, six hours after the first attack. The blue sky is eerily quiet and empty, except for the occasional roar of a fighter jet overhead.
I can't describe what it feels like to look to the south from Greenwich Village and see blue sky where the two towers once stood. New Yorkers are in mourning, and I know many share the feeling in the pit of my stomach - like a part of our body has been ripped away.
And how do I describe a mass murder with so many hundreds of witnesses and survivors? I can only tell my story.
8:45 a.m. - American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 en route from Boston's Logan Airport to Los Angeles International with 92 people onboard, slams into the north tower of the World Trade Center
9:03 a.m. - Approximately 18 minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175, also a Boeing 767 enroute from Boston to Los Angeles with 65 people onboard, hits the south tower of the World Trade Center.
9:21 a.m. - New York City Port Authority closes all bridges and tunnels in New York City.
9:24 a.m. - President Bush calls the crashes "an apparent terrorist attack on our country."
9:32 a.m. - New York Stock Exchange closed
9:40 a.m. - The FAA orders the entire nationwide air traffic system shut down. All flights at U.S. airports are stopped.
9:43 a.m. - American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 enroute from Dulles Airport outside Washington to LAX with 58 passengers and six crew members, crashes into the Pentagon. One of the building's five sides collapses.
9:45 a.m. - The White House is evacuated.
10:00 a.m. - United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco with 38 passengers and seven crew members, crashes just north of the Somerset County Airport, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Shortly before impact, a passenger called on his cell phone from a locked bathroom: "We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked!" At this time there was concern the plane was headed to Camp David.
10:05 a.m. - The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses in a plume of ash and debris.
10:24 a.m. - The FAA reports that all inbound transatlantic flights are to be diverted to Canada.
10:28 a.m. - The World Trade Center's north tower collapses.
12:15 p.m. - The United States closes some border crossings with Canada and Mexico.
1:02 p.m. - New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani orders an evacuation of Manhattan south of Canal Street.
1:04 p.m. - In a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush announces that security measures are being taken and says: "Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."
1:44 p.m. - The Navy dispatches aircraft carriers and guided missile destroyers to New York and Washington. Around the country, fighters, airborne radar and refueling planes scramble. The North American Aerospace Defense Command go to its highest alert.
1:44 p.m. - President Bush leaves Barksdale Air Force Base for Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base, home to the U.S. Strategic Command.
4:30 p.m. - President Bush leaves Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for Washington.
4:45 p.m. - The City of New York announces that 200 firefighters have been killed and 78 police officers are missing.
5:25 p.m. - Seven World Trade Center, a 47-story tower, collapses from ancillary damage.
Article copyright Smith Haj Group.