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EXPLOSION AT THE TWIN TOWERS: Disruptions; Manhattan Is Held in Grip Of Traffic

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Author Topic: EXPLOSION AT THE TWIN TOWERS: Disruptions; Manhattan Is Held in Grip Of Traffic  (Read 77 times)
Kristin Moore
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« on: April 10, 2011, 02:43:49 am »

EXPLOSION AT THE TWIN TOWERS: Disruptions; Manhattan Is Held in the Grip Of Traffic Snarls and Anxiety
Published: February 27, 1993

Traffic snarled to a standstill in lower Manhattan. Major arteries downtown closed, and a half-dozen subway lines were rerouted. Nervous relatives jammed the 911 emergency lines. And an anxiety that began in lower Manhattan at lunchtime yesterday grew infectious as the day grew long, generating a restless buzz throughout New York City.

As news spread that the explosion at the World Trade Center -- which the F.B.I. said may have been caused by a car bomb -- had been followed by a bomb scare at and evacuation of the Empire State Building, nerves began to fray. Drivers sitting bumper to bumper on Canal Street leaned on their horns, waiting over an hour to enter the Holland Tunnel. Subway riders jostled their way onto overcrowded trains, pondering their commuters' headaches as well as what seemed to be a different kind of urban terrorism. An Eerie Quiet on Closed Streets

"It's frightening," said Charles Sampey, 34 years old, a building superintendent riding the IRT No. 3 downtown at 6 P.M. "You'd expect more to get robbed in New York than to get hit by a terrorist bomb."

After an underground explosion rocked the World Trade Center at noontime, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, the West Side Highway, the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and most side streets in lower Manhattan were closed to all but emergency vehicles. It grew eerily quiet -- "like Sunday at dawn," said a Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority spokesman, Frank Pascual -- but for the cry of sirens. With their antennae atop the Trade Center, all except one New York television station -- WCBS, Channel 2 -- went off the air.

As trading on five commodities exchanges was disrupted and thousands of employees were evacuated from the smoke-filled office complex, transportation officials immediately began making emergency plans for an imminent rush hour. They added buses, trains and ferries to New Jersey to make up for the closing of the PATH Station at the Trade Center.

At 2 P.M., Trade Center office workers wearing pearl earrings and raccoon-like circles of soot around their nostrils began to flee lower Manhattan. They were a surreal presence, kicking off an early rush hour and an evening marked by a sense of unease.

A panicky uncertainty prompted 16,000 calls to 911 in the eight hours following the explosion as people grew concerned about relatives or just curious for more information. An average day would produce about 5,500 calls in the same period of time. In a 20,000 square-foot room on the ninth floor of One Police Plaza, 94 operators worked under flourescent lights in an atmosphere of controlled commotion. Another phone center, a hot line set up in the afternoon, drew about 3,000 calls.

Throughout the city, rumors abounded, such as the one that a Presidential limousine had been in the garage when a car bomb apparently exploded. But "the President's vehicle was not there," said Dale Wilson, a spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington.

Shortly after 4 P.M., firefighters and police evacuated all visitors and workers from the Empire State Building because of a bomb threat, which turned out to be a false alarm. More rumors, this time of a link with the World Trade Center explosion, rippled through the crowd.

"People were saying, 'Is it Bosnia? Somalia? Saddam Hussein?' " Julia Mantiales, a tourist from California, said last night. "Then it was, like, 'What's next? The Chrysler Building?' "

What was next was the Port Authority Terminal, which received a "general bomb scare" at 5:45 P.M., said Edward C. Forker, a Port Authority police inspector. While extra officers scoured the bustling terminal for unattended baggage, no bomb was found.

On a typical day, New York City receives 7 to 10 bomb threats. Yesterday, there were 69 threats between 2 and 9 P.M.

The Port Authority placed the region's three airports -- La Guardia, Kennedy International and Newark International -- at their highest level of security.

At the bus terminal, authorities expected about 218,000 commuters last evening, about 18 percent more than usual on 167 extra buses. The ferry service between Battery Park and Hoboken was transporting 6,000 commuters an hour on five boats, about 2,000 more people than it usually moves in an evening rush-hour.

Some New Yorkers, being New Yorkers, were remarkably blase. Winston Spencer, a delivery man and keyboard player who lives in Harlem, said, "It's New York's personality, the madness, the craziness." And Raymond Kowalski, a specialist at the New York Stock Exchange, said, "It's just another day at the park."

But Joan Weiss, pausing on a corner in TriBeCa, expressed the common feeling of vulnerability that many edgy New Yorkers voiced last night. "No one feels safe anymore," she said. "You never know if you're going to come home alive."

Map/Diagram: "Emergency Conditions in Lower Manhattan" PATH: Service suspended to and from the World Trade Center. Extra trains were running from 33d Street every 10 minutes to Jersey City and Hoboken. And shuttles were added between Hoboken and Journal Square, and Hoboken and Newark. The ferry between Battery Park and Hoboken was running every five minutes. SUBWAYS: The New York City Transit Authority suspended subway service on the entire C line, on the 1 south of Chambers Street, and on the E from West Fourth to World Trade. The N and R were skipping Cortlandt Street. ROADWAYS: The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the streets immediately surrounding the World Trade Center were closed. Motorists were asked to avoid lower Manhattan. [ Map of lower Manhattan ] (pg. 22)

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.
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