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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 22:25 GMT 23:25 UK
New Yorkers rush to help
Chelsea Piers has turned into a disaster area
Chelsea Piers has turned into a disaster area
By BBC News Online's David Schepp in New York

Chelsea Piers is normally a place where New Yorkers spend an afternoon or evening bowling or ice skating.

The huge entertainment complex, which occupies several blocks alongside the majestic Hudson was opened in 1998 and features everything from basketball to golf to roller-blading.

A man bringing food to victims of the attack
New Yorkers brought clothes, food and water
But in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks that felled the twin trade towers, the entertainment complex has been turned into a morgue-in-waiting.

Inside and outside the building, which is situated on West Side Highway on the majestic Hudson River, hundreds of emergency personnel and volunteers have gathered to tend to the needs of the injured and ready themselves for the possibility of thousands of corpses.

Nurses from several New York hospitals ventured down to Chelsea to offer their services.

Expect the worst

Kelly Gavin and Mary Jane Betron were among those who volunteered. Both said they knew the city would need all the help it could get.

They were told is was going to be a war zone and to expect the worst - everything from scrapes and bruises to cadavers.

Both expressed concern for emergency workers who must sift through the rubble in search of bodies.

Asked if she thinks rescuers will find anyone alive, Ms Gavin said, "I hope so."

Episcopal priest Tim Dobbins, a first-hand witness to the devastation that took place at the foot of Manhattan, told reporters outside Chelsea Piers of the scenes of bravery he witnessed as rescuers searched for survivors in the rubble.

Still clad in his debris-encrusted loafers, Father Dobbins said that while there was a sense of urgency among the emergency personnel, they understand that they must act carefully as well as quickly.

"People are afraid if you touch something it'll break something else," he said.

Overwhelming generosity

New Yorkers by the dozen came burdened with clothes, food and bottled water - all the necessities for a search and rescue effort.

Despite the generosity, calls went out by volunteer coordinators for more food, clothing and frozen water.

A woman in a wheelchair is brought by ambulance to be treated at Chelsea Piers
This woman and her dog survived
At around 1100 (1500 GMT) the first ambulance carrying victims arrived, a bandaged man, back flat on gurney, and an elderly woman and her dog.

The woman managed to get out of the ambulance on foot to a waiting wheelchair. The dog was dirty, but in good spirits.

New Yorkers' generosity over the course of the tragedy, which has entered its second day, has been overwhelming.

Calls for blood have been answered so enthusiastically that some hospitals fear they may have too much.

At Chelsea Piers, Father Dobbins said the terrorists hit the wrong target if they were looking to strike at the soul of America.

"It's out there in the harbour," he said. "It's Lady Liberty."

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