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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 03:57 GMT 04:57 UK
Shaking New York's state of mind
Time Square
People wanted company after the attacks
By Jane Black in New York

Outside the CBS News building in the heart of midtown Manhattan, a small crowd gathered to watch the continuous news coverage about the devastation of their city.

Three huge screens showed the hijacked planes slamming into the World Trade Center - over and over again.

Some people lay on the sidewalk. Most sat on the marble steps outside the building, their heads in their hands.

Streets were deserted near the World Trade Center
No one said a word.

It's not often that the streets of New York are quiet.

They are all but silent - an eerie quiet that's almost as spooky as the bizarre series of events that hit the city on Tuesday morning.

The streets are empty except for emergency vehicles and the odd tourist out buying postcards of the now-historic World Trade Center.

In Times Square, which was desolate during the evening rush hour, three hand-painted signs had been mounted reading:

"Pray for victims and families. Freedom will be defended. God bless America."

Telephones overloaded

Most New Yorkers headed straight for home as soon as the tragedy struck.

Many offices were evacuated. But regardless, most headed home or to see friends in search of comfort.

I don't know if I want to live here any more

Sheila Horne
Together, they huddled inside - glued to the television and tirelessly manning the phones hoping to reach relatives and friends who might have been near the bombing.

Most phone lines were down or overloaded. Many turned to instant messenger and email to reach friends and family.

Sherief Meleis, a management consultant who works in midtown, left work at 1030 to go to a co-worker's apartment 10 blocks away.

By 1300, eight people had gathered, including one man who worked across from the twin towers and arrived covered in ash and smelling of smoke.

Blood donors

"People were wired," said Mr Meleis. "Everyone was talking constantly.

"It took a while before we realized that they were calling for people to give blood. Then a bunch of us ran out the door."

Tara Getschman, a paralegal who works just three blocks from the twin towers, was evacuated at around 1030.

Blood donor
People quickly responded to appeals for blood donors
"We took people in. You just want to be with people. Even if it's just to say the same thing over and over again," she said.

"We're shell-shocked. We don't know what else to do."

In the busy thoroughfare around 34th Street, adjacent to New York's main train station, shops closed their doors as early as 1100.

Transport chaos

There were queues for every possible service - at grocery stores, at public phones and for taxis.

A group of people stood outside Macy's - a New York landmark - listening to a transistor radio for the latest travel information.

Trains had stopped running and the only way out of the city was to walk across the 59th Street or Brooklyn Bridge. Those who lived outside Manhattan were trapped.

On Tuesday night, as the reality of the tragedy set in, New Yorkers were thinking hard about whether they want to risk being in such a situation again.

Shelia Horne, a secretary at the New York Presbytarian Hospital, summed up their concerns: "I don't know what to say except I don't know if I want to live here any more."

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