Eyewitnesses tell of horror

Original Link: 

Eyewitnesses have been trying to come to terms with the sheer enormity of the terror attacks which hit the United States on Tuesday.
People in New York struggled to overcome horror and panic, first as two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, then as the towers themselves collapsed.

I was on the first floor. There was a big explosion, some guy came out, his skin was all off. There were people jumping out of windows. It's horrific

"I saw everything from my balcony in Soho. The first plane tried to veer off the tower but slammed straight into it, followed by the second plane," Nadine Keller of New York City wrote in an e-mail to BBC News Online.

"There was smoke everywhere. I heard the bomb and saw both buildings crumble like biscuits," Ms Keller said.

The BBC received more than 1,300 e-mails from witnesses and other concerned readers within the first few hours after the attack.

"I came out of the subway, just after the first plane hit, to scenes of absolute chaos. People were running away screaming," an witness identifying himself as George wrote.

"The sight of a hole in the side of the building was completely shocking. I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge to get home. The neighbourhood is covered in a thick pall of smoke now the second tower has collapsed," he said.

An eyewitness identifying herself as Mary was working on the fifth floor of the building and managed to escape before it collapsed.

"I work on the fifth floor, sorry, worked there. When I ran out of the building and kept running away, the only thing I could think of was that the reporters and other people who were still standing outside the buildings - they were all going to die," she wrote.

Stephen Evans, BBC's North America business correspondent, was on the ground floor of the centre when the first plane crashed.

"There was a huge bang and the building physically shook," he said. "Seconds later there were two or three similar huge explosions and the building literally shook again.

"People just can't comprehend what is happening. You can hear the shaking in people's voices," he added.

"It was like the scene out of a movie as the huge ball of rubble grew behind a terrorised crowd, running for cover," said BBC News Online's David Schepp.

Jumping out of windows

Others were even closer to the disaster.

One eyewitness told BBC News: "I was on the first floor. There was a big explosion, some guy came out, his skin was all off. There were people jumping out of windows. It's horrific.

"About 10 minutes later, the second building went off. It just blew off. People jumping out, people just kept jumping and jumping and jumping. You could see they were all alive because they were all just flailing."

The collapse of the towers caused further panic on the streets.

"Everyone was screaming, crying, running - cops, people, firefighters, everyone," fire marshal Mike Smith told The Associated Press. "A couple of marshals just picked me up and dragged me down the street."

"It's like a war zone."


Computer networks analyst Boris Ozersky said he was on the 70th floor of one of the buildings when he felt an explosion.

The collapsing towers shrouded Manhattan in smoke

He ran downstairs and outside the building, after which it collapsed.

"I just got blown somewhere, and then it was total darkness," he said.

"We tried to get away, but I was blown to the ground. And I was trying to help this woman, but I couldn't find her in the darkness," he said.

AP reporter Dunstan Prial said he heard a sucking sound just before the first building collapsed.

"Windows shattered. People were screaming and diving for cover. People walked around like ghosts, covered in dirt, weeping and wandering dazed," he said.

Pentagon fireball

Paul Begala, a Democratic consultant, said he saw an explosion near the Pentagon shortly after the planes crashed into World Trade Center.

"It was a huge fireball, a huge, orange fireball," he said.

Associated Press reporter Dave Winslow told Mr Begala he saw "the tail of a large airliner... It ploughed right into the Pentagon".

Another eyewitness said there was a thick black pall of smoke right across Washington after the crash.