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EXPLOSION AT THE TWIN TOWERS: The Scene; First, Darkness, Then Came the Smoke

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Kristin Moore
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« on: April 10, 2011, 02:22:31 am »

EXPLOSION AT THE TWIN TOWERS: The Scene; First, Darkness, Then Came the Smoke
By N. R. KLEINFIELD;
Published: February 27, 1993

 It depended on where you were in the towers when it came. For some the warning was a trembling underfoot or just a blank computer screen and flickering lights. For others, it was a shocking noise. One woman was blown out of her high heels. Another, desk chair and all, sank into the floor. And then, instantly it seemed, came the billowing smoke and the chilling realization that you had to get out of there. The Face of Death

There were those who panicked, those who coolly absorbed it, those who got sick to their stomach and those who saw the face of death. No one was sure what had happened; did a plane hit the building, was it an earthquake, had lightning struck? Many wondered why there seemed to be no evacuation plan and no guidance -- not realizing that the blast had knocked out the center's operations center.

But thousands of people in the World Trade Center yesterday afternoon knew they were in the grip of one of the most dreaded urban nightmares: they were in the city's tallest building and something was very wrong.

Joann Hilton was low. And, in this disaster, that was the worst place to be. A secretary working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, she was at her desk in the command office on the B1 level of the building, musing about the weekend.

"All of a sudden, we heard this big boom," she said. "It sounded like an earthquake. And then the floor just collapsed and me and my chair sank into the floor. The ceiling started to come down, too, and I'm in my chair in the floor. Some of the lights went out. And then it was all dark. Like a cave. Somebody pulled me out of that floor and we beat it out of there."

Denise Bosco was high. She was on the 82d floor, where she too works as a secretary for the Port Authority. "The whole building shook," she said. "The lights flashed on and off. The computers went down. Then, instantly, there was smoke. I was terrified. People panicked. They started pushing and shouting to get out. Some of them were throwing up. I said, 'Oh dear God, what is it? What is it? Is it my time? Is this the way?' " Wrapped in a Bath Towel

Her coat was still in her office and she was wrapped in a white bath towel as she stood outside. She broke down into tears. "It was horrible," she said. "There was this awful feeling that we might not be able to get out. We were in the mighty, tall tower but we weren't getting out."

They didn't know whether to stay put or flee, but instinct said to run. Along with her co-workers, she sped for the stairwells and began the seemingly endless descent. Smoke was thick in the stairs, and it was dark. And congested. People fumbled their way down. A few were lucky enough to have found flashlights in their offices. Others lighted matches. As they reached another floor, they would have to stop, because new escapees were joining the mass exodus.

Courtesy held up. When people saw a pregnant woman, they would call out, "Pregnant woman on the right," and usher her by. Two pregnant woman inched their way down together, crying the whole time. Others summoned the strength to carry the more feeble on their backs.

"I kept going and going," Ms. Bosco said, "never sure how many more flights I would make. It was unbelievable."

It took her an hour and a half before she was out in the daylight, shivering in the cold. 'I'm Not Going Back'
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2011, 02:23:20 am »

 She has already resolved her future association with the trade center, where 50,000 people are employed and 80,000 visit daily. "I'll never go into that building again," she said. "I'm sorry. I'm not going back in there ever."

Phenomenal luck played its hand for some. Brenda Russillo, a Secret Service agent, was returning with two other agents to their office. They swung their car into the parking garage beneath 1 World Trade Center. As she stepped from the car, Ms. Russillo was blown out of her high heels five feet into the air. Landing hard on her chest, she instinctively yanked her coat over her head.

"I screamed, 'We've got to get out of here!' " she said. "I couldn't see. I couldn't catch my breath."

One of the other agents was propelled 20 feet and cut his eye. "I said, 'It's a bomb, it's a bomb!' " he said. " 'There's got to be another one!' "

The third agent thought someone had knocked him over. "I thought somebody is kidding around and slapped me as hard as he could," he said.

Then guilt overtook him. He had been driving and thought he must have been responsible for the explosion. "I thought I'd backed into an air compressor," he said. "I thought I caused the whole thing."
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2011, 02:23:50 am »

These New York Times reporters and photographers contributed to the coverage of the explosion at the World Trade Center: Ralph Blumenthal, Fred R. Conrad, Celia W. Dugger, Seth Faison, Ian Fisher, Lindsey Gruson, Dennis Hevesi, Lynette Holloway, Marvine Howe, Edward Keating, Clifford J. Levy, James C. McKinley Jr., Steven Lee Myers, Alison Mitchell, Maria Newman, Larry Olmstead, Garry Pierre-Pierre, Todd S. Purdum, Dith Pran, Selwyn Raab, Lynda Richardson, Calvin Sims, Ronald Sullivan, Ruby Washington, Craig Wolff.
http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/27/nyregion/explosion-at-the-twin-towers-the-scene-first-darkness-then-came-the-smoke.html?ref=worldtradecenternyc
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2011, 02:25:13 am »

(Page 2 of 2)

Not far from where they lay, a gaping hole had opened up and two floors had collapsed into rubble. Behind them, the metal doors of the garage were twisted. A "Sorry Garage Full" sign lay bent and on its side.

All three agents escaped serious injury. Her heels gone, Ms. Russillo left a hospital later wearing green hospital slippers.

In a ballroom of the Vista Hotel, right above what appeared to be the center of the eruption, tables and dressing rooms had been prepared for a children's beauty contest yesterday. There were cracks in the floor. A big piece of the ceiling dangled crazily. Rubble was everywhere. But the children were not yet there.

Courage also made its appearance. As soon as he realized there was fire, Don Burke, a Port Authority employee on the 66th floor, scrambled back into his office and found Kathleen Collins, a lawyer who uses a wheelchair. Mr. Burke and a colleague assisted her down the 66 flights. She would bump herself down, like a child playing, for a few steps, then the men would take turns carrying her. Near Death in an Elevator

Michael Dugan, a firefighter, tackled the elevators in 1 World Trade Center. "We opened an elevator door and found people who had been in there for at least two hours," he said. "There were 10 people lying on the floor. None of them was moving. It was like a scene from a movie. All we could hear was one woman crying. The rest were semiconscious with coats thrown over their faces. They were five or 10 minutes from death."

Some people sought safety higher up. A pregnant woman was plucked off the roof of 2 World Trade Center by a police helicopter. Later, a helicopter also picked up a police officer after he was overcome by smoke.

Some people stayed put. David McDonnell, an engineer, remained in his 51st-floor office, knocking out some windows and waiting until rescuers arrived. Destruction and Confusion

Confusion was rampant. Those who fled said they had no formal warnings, no sirens or alarms. Most said they didn't encounter rescue workers until they had reached the last couple of dozen flights. The director of the World Trade Center, Charles Maikish, said later that damage from the blast had "destroyed" the center's elaborate evacuation plan.
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2011, 02:25:37 am »

 Many complained afterward about the lack of guidance. A 27-year-old trader working at the commodities exchange on the eighth floor of 4 World Trade Center said he was enraged that 4,000 people on the trading floor were not evacuated until 1:30, more than an hour after the explosion.

Frances Morrill, a travel agency manager who escaped from the 25th floor, said, "No one was telling us whether we were walking away from the danger or whether we were all fleeing right down into the fire."

Some of the firefighters and police officers succumbed to smoke inhalation. One firefighter, Tom Shea, suffered a broken left kneecap trying to pull a man out of the basement. The floor collapsed under him and he fell two stories. No More Than a Rumbling

People chose their course of action in odd ways. Raquel Vidal, a legal assistant for Federal Home Loan Bank, was at her office on the 103d floor. That high up, she said, she detected no more than a rumbling. "We said, what was that?" she recalled. "My boss said, 'Let's wait a while before we do anything.' "

Ms. Vidal picked up the phone and called her sister and asked her to turn on the radio and see if there was any news about the World Trade Center. "She heard plenty," Ms. Vidal said, "and she shouted at me, there's been an explosion, get out of there now."

As she threaded her way down the stairs, she began to feel much older than her 43 years. "About the 40th floor, my knees starting to give in," she said. "I didn't think I was going to make it. But my co-workers kept egg ing me on. Let's keep going, they'd say. We only have 40 floors to go. We only have 30. We only have 20. So I kept going, and I'm not sure my knees will ever forgive me."

Photo: The explosion that shook the World Trade Center yesterday left a crater 60 feet wide below the building. (Reuters)
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2011, 02:26:33 am »

EXPLOSION AT THE TWIN TOWERS: Television; News Coverage Plays Central Role in Story
By ELIZABETH KOLBERT
Published: February 27, 1993



WNBC's Chuck Scarborough instructed people trapped in the World Trade Center to remove the ceiling tiles from their offices. WWOR-TV urged those stuck in the building to call the station and report their locations. And WCBS's Jim Jensen tried, in a conversation on the air, to reassure a worker trapped on the 107th floor.

With a tremor in his voice, the worker, Scott Salem, said that the smoke in his office was getting worse and that the people trapped with him, especially one woman who was pregnant and having trouble breathing, were growing increasingly anxious. "We did break the window, because a lot of people were panicking," he said.

No emergency crew had yet visited the floor.

"Tell them to calm down," Mr. Jensen instructed Mr. Salem on the air. "We're going to try to get help to you."

Yesterday's explosion at the World Trade Center was a thoroughly modern tragedy -- one in which the television coverage became a central part of the drama. Throughout the afternoon and evening, New York City newscasters gave out emergency phone numbers, urged calm on those trapped inside and praised the work of the city's emergency crews. Signals Lost

But because the drama took place at the World Trade Center, where most New York City broadcast stations have their transmitters, most of the coverage could be seen only on cable channels. More than three million households in the city and its suburbs were affected by the loss of over-the-air signals.

When the explosion shook the World Trade Center yesterday at 12:18 P.M., one of the city's network affiliates, WNBC, was knocked off the air right away. About an hour later, the power to the World Trade Center was cut off and several other broadcast stations, including WABC, WNYW and WWOR, also lost their ability to transmit.

By midafternoon WCBS, which maintains backup equipment at the Empire State Building, was the city's only broadcast station still transmitting over the air. The station was flooded with calls from people trapped inside the building who were apparently watching WCBS on battery-operated televisions. 'Part of the Story'

"We tried to connect people with the Fire Department and the police," Bud Carey, the station's general manager, said. He noted that the station was in the unusual position of "being part of the story and trying to report the story."

Virtually all of the city's broadcast stations feed their signals directly to Time Warner Cable, which operates cable systems in Manhattan and Queens. Cable subscribers in much of the city, therefore, could receive the stations yesterday afternoon even though the stations were unable to transmit over the air.

Much of the coverage had the raw, edgy tone of a report from an emergency room: the death toll rose, fell, then rose again. There was a stream-of-consciousness quality to the coverage, and many unsubstantiated theories about what had caused the blast made it onto the air. A faulty transformer, an exploding car and finally a bomb were forwarded tentatively, then amended as police and the F.B.I. gave out more information. Occasional Blunders

Occasionally, there were what could only be described as blunders. At one point, for example, WCBS's Frank Field instructed those trapped inside the World Trade Center to smash their office windows. This prompted an outraged phone call from a New York City firefighter who upbraided Mr. Field on the air and warned against tossing objects out the windows that could strike people on the ground.

The three major network affiliates -- WCBS, WNBC, WABC -- all began continuous coverage of the World Trade Center explosion about 1 P.M. WNYW, the local Fox station, began its live coverage shortly before 2 P.M. WWOR and WPIX, both independent stations, also had live coverage throughout the afternoon.

On cable, New York 1, the Time-Warner station devoted to New York news, covered the crisis continuously, and CNN devoted much of the afternoon to it.

By the end of the day, some of the stations that had been knocked off the air found ways to transmit their signals.

WNBC said that it had made arrangements with WLIW, Channel 21 on Long Island, to transmit its signal. And WNET, the Channel 13 public television station, announced that it would be broadcasting on Channel 25 using the New York City Board of Education's transmitter in Brooklyn.

http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/27/nyregion/explosion-twin-towers-television-coverage-plays-central-role-story.html?ref=worldtradecenternyc
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