September 11, 2001

Spared the bombs and sieges that scarred nearly every other

world capital in the 20th century, New York

on Sept. 11, 2001, suffered

the most catastrophic attack on American territory since the Japanese attacked Pearl

Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Thousands of civilian men, women and children were killed and thousands more

injured when two hijacked jetliners crashed into the World

Trade Center

at the beginning of what was to be just another day in pre-recessionary New

York. The famed twin towers, dominant features of the

downtown skyline since 1970, collapsed in a sickening heap about an hour after

the crashes.

Combined with a similar attack on the Pentagon, the

casualties for Sept. 11, 2001,

very likely will exceed the number of Allied casualties on D-Day, when 2,500

soldiers died and 10,000 were wounded.

“The number of casualties

will be more than any of us can bear,” Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said during an

afternoon news conference. “There was a large number

of firefighters and police officers in harm’s way. We don’t know how many we’ve

lost.”

As night fell, thousands of families throughout the New

York area prayed for loved ones they had not heard from, fearing the terrible news that might come with a

phone call, or a visit from a clergyman. Downtown Manhattan,

symbol of the resurgent New York

which gleefully laid claim to the title of “Capital of the World,” had in an

instant been rendered an appalling slaughterhouse.

President George W. Bush, who was told of the atrocities

while he was reading to schoolchildren in Florida,

promised to seek out the groups or people responsible. The President was flown

to Nebraska, home of the

Strategic Air Command, and then returned to Washington

in late afternoon.

By midday, F-16

fighter jets were patrolling Manhattan’s

skies, and all other air traffic throughout the nation was grounded.

Sirens-suddenly reminiscent of air-raid warnings in London during the

Blitz-replaced the honking horns and chaotic sounds of midtown as streets were

shut down to allow access to emergency vehicles, some of them summoned from

towns in Westchester County and New Jersey.

Doctors in St. Vincent’s Hospital

were, by late afternoon, awaiting casualties that were slow in coming. Dr.

George Neuman, head of anesthesiology, said there was great concern about the

number of injured people trapped under the massive rubble.

The scene downtown was terrifying. People trapped in the

towers could be seen leaping from windows, as witnesses on the ground screamed

in horror. One eyewitness said one of the jumpers landed on a firefighter,

killing both of them.

Crowds gathered in City Hall Plaza, several blocks to the

northeast, to watch the tragedy unfold. At 10

a.m., they heard a terrible roar as the first tower, No. 1 World

Trade Center, collapsed. Acrid white smoke quickly enveloped City Hall, and

people began running north. Police officers shouted, “Move, move, move!” Some

people sought refuge inside a subway entrance. Within minutes, the plaza was

deserted. An ambulance was parked on a nearby street, seemingly abandoned.

Soon, emerging from the thick smoke, refugees began streaming north towards

City Hall. “I need a mask! I need a mask!” shouted an Emergency Medical

Services worker. Somebody else shouted, “It’s coming!”

Zdizislaw Zulinski, a Port Authority employee who worked on

the 74th floor of the 1 World Trade Center, said he escaped shortly after he

felt the building start shaking. It took him half an hour to walk down the

building’s fire stairs. “I saw windows falling from the west side of the

building,” he said. “I jumped into the fire stairs, and just was walking and

walking. There will be thousands of people dead.”

Keith Kooper, an employee of Sidley, Austin,

Brown & Wood  in

1 World Trade Center, said he felt the tower begin to shake while he was on the

56th floor. When he emerged in the plaza below, he said, he saw several badly

burned bodies. A colleague at Sidley Austin, Quinlan Kato, said it took him

about an hour to get out of the building. “There were corpses everywhere,” he

said. “They were mangled.”

Just after the first tower collapsed, grim-faced emergency

workers and frantic family members tried to make their way south, while

distraught survivors wandered uptown along the West Side Highway and other

streets. Some of them were covered in dust and soot as they approached Warren

and Greenwich Streets, when they heard a huge explosion behind them. The second

tower had fallen. Their view obscured by smoke, some survivors screamed, “It’s

another plane!” Most people scattered east, west and north-everywhere but

south. But José Machado, a 56-year-old father of two, was trying to fight his

way toward the smoke. “My son’s there!” he said. “He’s in school. They won’t

let me through.”

Earlier in the morning, Mr. Machado had dropped off his

8-year-old son, Joseph, at Intermediate School 89 near the World

Trade Center.

He saw both buildings struck. “I looked at the first building, and I saw people

jumping out of windows from about 75 stories,” he said. “I saw those poor

people jumping, and I was praying to God. When the first building collapsed, it

blew up like a bomb.” He retrieved Joseph but was worried about his other son,

Matthew.

Along Second Avenue

on the East Side, people gathered around shop windows to

watch televisions or listen to radios, an image associated with another era of

strife. Scores of ambulances-many from the outer boroughs and beyond-raced down

the avenue, which was almost devoid of normal traffic.

With the subways shut

down, people wandered the sidewalks, eager for news. Many were talking on cell

phones, although placing a call was extremely difficult.

Manhattan

residents by the hundreds shook off their shock and went to nearby hospitals to

donate blood. Governor George Pataki visited Cabrini

Medical Center

near Gramercy Park

in late afternoon, thanking people who had lined up to give blood.

The Governor was in his car when he first heard news of the

bombing. “At first, you don’t believe it,” he said. “I immediately got on the

phone with the President. And then when the second one happened, you knew it

was terrorism.”

Frightened people passed

along rumors of further atrocities. Laurie Abraham was walking along West 42nd Street near Seventh Avenue,

en route to the Manhattan Bridge and home to her family in Brooklyn, when about 15 people came running towards here.

“I heard one of them say, ‘There’s a bomb on 42nd Street!’ So I headed back in the direction I came from,

and I saw a woman looking very flustered,” said Ms. Abraham, executive editor

of Elle magazine. ‘She said, ‘I hear

someone has a machine gun back there.’ I kept going, and someone else said,

‘Stay away from the Met Life building. There’s a bomb in there!'”

Police were summoned to a suspicious-looking car on East

64th Street between Park and Madison avenues. The

Police Department Bomb Squad took the car apart, but it contained only some

paint cans and car batteries. A police official said he expects nervous New

Yorkers to report many other such unfounded complaints in coming weeks.

Thousands of people left Manhattan

by foot over the Brooklyn Bridge,

turning the historic span into an escape route for shell-shocked refugees. Many

were covered in ash and could summon neither the energy nor the interest to

brush it off. One woman sobbed, “I saw the building just drop in front of me.”

Brooklyn’s Atlantic

Avenue was wreathed in smoke, and some of the

neighborhood’s many Arab-owned shops closed their doors. An anti-Israeli,

pro-intifada sign adorned the shop of Ahmed Ali, a Palestinian who owns Wafa

Translation Services and a 40-year American resident. “It’s our country, too,”

he said, of the United States,

“and we feel like any other American citizen living in this country. We have a

lot of friends in those buildings. We’re human beings, and human life is valued

more than anything else.”

Residents gathered along the promenade in Brooklyn

Heights, even as breezes blew smoke

across the East River. Two photographers carried a

three-foot poster of the Twin Towers

taken from the promenade vantage point. Several passers-by asked the

photographers to take their picture with smoke-filled downtown in the

background. One of them was a 60-ish resident named Dominick Rizzi. Mr. Rizzi’s

30-year-old son was working on the 36th floor in one of the towers when the

planes hit. “He got out,” Mr. Rizzi said, as his eyes filled with tears. “But

he said there was no way that anyone above where the planes hit could have

survived.” Mr. Rizzi posed for his picture. “Please send me one,” he told one

of the photographers. “Today is a day that life changed.”

“You cannot underestimate the damage this will do to all our

psyches,” said Mark Ackermann, senior vice president of St. Vincent’s

Medical Center.