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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 22:49 GMT 23:49 UK
Frozen with fear
Rescue workers in the rubble of the World Trade Center
Rescue workers are continuing to look for survivors
BBC News Online users have been sending in their extraordinary first hand accounts of the horrific attacks in New York and Washington on Tuesday.

Richard Prescott Stearns was working in a windowless, sealed server room on the 8th floor of the north tower when the aircraft struck.

"In all the din of the machines all I felt were a couple judders. No fire alarms, no alarms of any kind," he said.

"Since construction was going on and large bangs were common and I worked on. When I stepped out, the floor was empty.

I turned to see both towers on fire and people jumping from the upper floors

Richard Prescott Stearns
"I went to the lifts and they were not working, my heart started to race as I found the fire escape, it was filled with smoke and panicked people still trying to get out.

"Joining them we eventually made it into the atrium and onto the street outside. Already the scene was of carnage, with debris flying down around us and bloodied bodies being taken away.

"I got to the church cemetery across the street before I turned to see both towers on fire and people jumping from the upper floors.

"Minutes later the north tower crumbled in front of us like some movie. The feeling became so bizarre that you expected a producer to turn up and yell "cut".


"Then a white cloud started to grow, at first like an avalanche, and then like a solid wall that would engulf you.

"I ran east past the park and did not stop until I reached town hall.

"A police van had gone past at one point playing a loop tape of a message 'you are all going to die, run now'.

"People were coming out of the asbestos dust and smoke clouds a single shade of grey. Some washed in the fountains in front of me."

Raj Malalgoda was at work on the 5th floor of the south tower when the plane struck and describes how he froze in fear for his life.

New York and it's people seem to have awaken to the fact that they are just as fallible as everyone else

Raj Malalgoda
"I cannot explain the sheer terror that held me frozen at that time," he said.

"It was only the screams and rush of people around me that made me start running to get as far away from the buildings as possible.

"This morning New York felt a very different city. This city is built on an air of confidence, bravado almost, but that air seemed to have disappeared.

"New York and its people seem to have awoken to the fact that they are just as fallible as everyone else."

Richard Wadja was late getting to his office in the north tower and says his that probably saved his life.

"There are no words for the events. But God was with me. I was late getting up and I was late getting my friend's baby to the babysitter. If I had been on time I would have been killed.


"About two minutes after I got out to the street I heard a loud explosion. I looked up and saw flames coming from the Twin Towers.

"I immediately thought it was a bomb. Debris was falling everywhere as if it were the ticker tape parade for the Yankees.

"Suddenly I was hit in the head. I do not think it was a piece of the plane. But whatever hit me hurt me. I just turned around and ran across the street.

"I then called my office and they told me it was a plane and that there was an announcement to stay inside. I was hysterical.

Everyone was running as if Godzilla was chasing us - I was knocked over and then someone else ran right over me

Richard Wadja
"As I was on the phone looking at the building I saw a body fall from the building. Tears were running down my face.

"Seconds later the second plane hit the second tower and exploded.

"Everyone was running as if Godzilla was chasing us. I was knocked over and then someone else ran right over me.

"Now I am finally home and I am still in shock and in pain. I have been listening and reading all of my phone messages.

"With all of my happy calls, I have heard some sad ones.

"A friend of mine was at work on Long Island. A woman who works with him got a call from her husband who works on the top floor of one of the Twin Towers.

"He called to say good-bye. He knew he was not going to get out."

Richard Wadja
tells BBC News Online his story
See also:

12 Sep 01 | Americas
Panic on the stairs
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