The radio transmission of National Public Radio died and I unwittingly switched to the music station. A woman announced a plane had crashed into the WTC and then played a song. That didn't register in my head at all (was it some belated April fool's?) as I biked south on Broadway. At the office all the staff was desperately trying to tune the radio: someone mumbled something about two planes, the WTC, and the Pentagon. You gotta be kidding! Still in absolute disbelief I logged on until a colleague said "come to the roof, we can see the smoke from here." Indeed, south of Central Park a cloud of black then grey then white smoke rose covering all lower Manhattan... We were all in tears. Thousands of New Yorkers on foot started drifting north in stupor. After that we could only raise our eyes to watch the F16s fly. Up at Columbia University the only sign of distress were the queues at the supermarkets and an unsettling silence that lasts even today.
Liliana Davalos, NYC, USA
After the morning's events yesterday I thought I had almost seen it all. I was in a windowless sealed server room lab at the core of the 8th floor, and in all the din of the machines all I felt were a couple judders. No fire alarms, no alarms of any kind (6 months ago there had been a fire on the escalators and no alarms then either). Since construction was going on and large bangs were common and I worked on. When I stepped out, the floor was empty (it was by now somewhere after 9am). I went to the lifts and they were not working, my heart started to race as I found the fire escape... it was filled with smoke and panicked people still trying to get out. Joining them we eventually made it into the atrium and onto the street outside.
Already the scene was of carnage, with debris flying down around us and bloodied bodies being taken away.
I got to the church cemetery across the street before I turned to see both towers on fire and people jumping (for their lives) from the upper floors. Minutes later Tower 1 crumbled in front of us like some movie where the feeling became so bizarre that you expected a producer to turn up and yell "cut".
Then a white cloud started to grow, at first like an avalanche, and then like a solid wall that would engulf you. I ran east past the park and did not stop until I reached town hall. There was a park bench so I sat with others trying to understand what had gone on.
The MTA officials had told us there was a third plane overhead, a police van had gone past at one point playing a loop tape of a message "you are all going to die, run now".
People were coming out of the asbestos dust and smoke clouds a single shade of grey. Some washed in the fountains in front of me.
As I took stock I realized I had left the buildings with only my latch key and WTC security passes. I did not even have money for the phone.
Within the hour the second tower disappeared.
Richard Prescott Stearns, New York
I was working on the 5th floor of the second WTC building when the first plane hit. All we heard was a loud bang followed by a slight tremble of the building. I walked over to the window to see what was happening and all I could see in the reflection of the Millennium Hilton was glass falling and people running.
It was then that we saw the second airliner flying in and crash into what was, minutes earlier, our office building. I cannot explain the sheer terror that held me frozen at that time. It was only the screams and rush of people around me that made me start running to get as far away from the buildings as possible.
Even then, we were not safe. As we made our way from downtown, we again heard the screams of people behind us. Looking back we saw a cloud of smoke just unfurl through all the streets of lower Manhattan as the first building collapsed. We continued on our way in a state of disbelief and for some reason, we looked back minutes later at the skyline of Manhattan which looked so incredibly different with just one WTC building standing. It was then that we saw the second WTC building shake slightly before just disintegrating before our eyes.
This morning, on the way to work, New York felt a very different city. This city is built on an air of confidence, bravado almost, but that air seemed to have disappeared. New York and it's people seem to have awaken to the fact that they are just as fallible as everyone else.
I am thankful that my wife, my friends and colleagues and I are safe today, but my heart goes out to all those people who have lost someone they know as a result of this atrocity.
Raj Malalgoda, New York, USA
I was on a subway that got into WTC at 9am, down in the WTC concourse nobody really knew what was going on upstairs but then gates went down between the concourse and the main shopping area and we were locked in so we all had to exit wherever we could and when we got outside the 2nd plane crashed right over our heads with debris falling everywhere...it was chaos...I started running and luckily didn't get hurt...
S. Sheerin, Manhasset, NY