I saw history with naked eyes today. And fate just stared me in the face and made me realize how small we are. Thank God, for having spared us from any harm. And let us not forget the souls that have departed.
Now the whole story as seen through my eyes. All times according to my watch.
8:35 am - I get out of the PATH train from Newark at WTC. Usually, I respond to the "Good morning New York" display with a good morning. Today, I am feeling low. Also cursing myself for being late by 10 minutes.
8:37 am - I cross the only block (50-75m) that separates my office (222, Broadway)from WTC.
8:40 am - I am reading my mails on the 5th floor.
8:42 am - There is a tremendous noise (like a plane flying really low), the glasses on the windows (1 m from me) bend inwards and straighten out. There is a thundering crash and I look out the window to see - people lying on the street.
Glasses of adjoining buildings blown off. Paper flying in the air, Dust and smoke. I run towards a window that offers better view. North Tower, WTC has caught fire. I feel it is a plane, people say it is a bomb.
8:55 am - I am making phone calls to ensure none of my friends are hurt. Get only my cousin on the line. Scan websites, radio programmes and send u updates.
8:59 am - Hear a similar (plane) noise and go to the window. Watch a plane crash into the South Tower. Jump away from the window and duck. The windows develop cracks.
9:10 am - Bldg Security ask us not to evacuate.
9:30 am - Radio reports of Pentagon crash, Whitehouse evacuation, Washington Mall Fire and other hijacked planes come in.
9:40 am - Third (Plane) noise begins. Some one says they see a 3rd plane (A third plane did not hit. The noise was actually the South Tower - first to fall - coming down.) (lie). But the bldg starts shaking. I am one of the first people to reach the floor exit. Doors are Jammed. Push thru and reach the fire exit. Running down flights like mad. Crowd goes on increasing and howling. Reach the reception - get directed towards the rear. The rear door is not opened coz of smoke and dust. Head towards the front.
People are crying. There is that pungent smell of electric fire. Check out the CCTV's and see that outside there is only darkness. Somebody shouts for people with asthma. I think they want help. I realize I have left my bag and inhaler at my desk on the 5th floor. I go on as I have some tabs in my pocket.
Instead, they want all asthma patients to leave ASAP. we are given water and food. I take neither and step out of the bldg. It is as good as a night without light. The hanky on my face is not enough.
I am breathing thru my mouth. Feel dust in throat. TV people like mad - going on shooting footage. Injured and terrified cops brought in for attendance. people are crying, cursing...Everybody looks white from the dust. And wet. Some were bleeding and hence appeared wet. Immobile people on the streets.
Ambulances coming in. Only siren and howling. I see people running towards what appears like light in the distance. I start walking fast. I see people inside other buildings not being allowed to evacuate as per police orders. they want people nearest to WTC to go first. I reach the City Hall and wash myself up in the fountain. I sit there for a minute. The first tower(that was hit i.e. North Tower)collapses. Though the air is somewhat clear, I move on fearing more dust/ smoke.
I just keep walking north. I get the news that the whole city has been sealed off. Only exits from the island are the Manhattan bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. Only ferry service is from south of WTC which I can in no way reach. They suspect bombs in crowded areas, So everything is sealed off.
I freshen up at a Chinese restaurant in china town.
All calls from public phones are going nowhere. all mobile networks are either jammed or no good.
Rest rooms and water are made available to affected people. And I drink a lot of water. It is hot. The smoke and dust on my trail and the humidity a bit above comfort. It is after months that I am out on the streets and walking for such a long time. I had never seen New York and this was a bad day I picked.
I have to go to Journal Square, NJ (my home). But there is nothing that can take me there. So I ask the authorities and start walking towards north. I meet people who are trying to get to New Jersey. And after discussion we decide to head towards -Penn Station (train) or PATH HQ where we may get a bus to NJ.
We walked miles today. Stopped for a burger.
Fighter planes are flying above head - indicating that there can be more attacks.
12:30 pm - On reaching 32nd street, we got to know that they have suspended everything... till God knows when. It was as if we would have to spend the night at the stn.
1:00 pm - they announce that trains will start running soon.
2:15 pm - I get a chance to board a Newark bound train.
2:40 pm - I reach Newark and find that there is no way I can go home as all tunnels are closed to traffic. They ask us to go through a decontamination routine which never took place. They were scared the dust we were carrying on us was poisoned.