1. Headline
  1. Headline
A fiery explosion blasts New York City's World Trade Center after it was hit by two airplanes on Sept. 11, 2001.
By Martin Wolk Executive business editor
msnbc.com

This story originally appeared Sept. 11, 2001.

I was in the World Trade Center when every New Yorker's worst nightmare came true. I was in the grand ballroom of the Marriott World Trade Center, attending a conference of the National Association for Business Economics when the crystal chandeliers shook, there was a loud bang and the floor shook. Everyone ran out — there were people screaming everywhere. A commercial airliner had struck the 110-story building.

I went out the side door. Initially I thought it was a car accident. Then I looked up and saw Tower One of the World Trade Center in flames. It was clear there were hundreds of casualties. Everyone was on cell phones.

I'd lost my cell phone and laptop computer when I ran out the building. I went over toward the Hudson River.

After I called in to my editor from 3 World Trade Center across the street, there was another wave of panic and people were running everywhere.

  1. Related 9/11 content
    1. Iconic figures: Where are they now?
    2. Last woman rescued: ‘I can’t believe I’m here’
    3. Preserving stories, voices of 9/11 forever
    4. How 9/11 changed Pakistan
    5. Firefighter: Pride in his heart, dust in his lungs
    6. American Muslims come of age in post-9/11 era
    7. Inside the ‘bigger, better' World Trade Center 
    8. Remains of the day: Relatives honor dead with relics
    9. Twins born days after 9/11 reflect on dad's loss
    10. What the world looked like on Sept. 10, 2001
    11. How 9/11 changed msnbc.com readers' lives
    12. 9/11 aftermath: Covering the invasion of Afghanistan
    13. Muslim travelers still saddled with 9/11 baggage
    14. Photographers revist 9/11: ‘Horrific’
I went outside and saw Tower Two had been hit, right about in the middle. For a while, I just stared and watched with the other survivors as the tower burned.

As I was watching, I heard a gasp and an "Oh no!" Someone had just jumped or fallen from the top of Tower One. I saw three more people fall from Tower One.

There were people injured on the street, probably hit by falling debris. I kept walking, looking for a phone.

Around 9:40 a.m. ET or so, there was another wave of rescue vehicles rushing downtown.
I talked to some people who saw the second plane hit Tower Two.

I was about a quarter of a mile away when I heard people scream. I looked back and saw Tower Two was gone, and the sky was filled with plumes of smoke.

I eventually made it up to Greenwich Village, where a man named John Roccosalva was kind enough to let me and other survivors use the telephone and get a glass of badly needed water in his tiny studio apartment.

Another man, Ari Schonbrun, who works at the brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald, had been on the 78th floor of Tower One when the first plane hit. He said "everything went black, I was thrown to the floor." He said he had crawled to the hall and to the stairwell. Another man, Brian Conlon, was on the 37th floor. He was a survivor of the previous World Trade Center bombing. He said he was 15 flights down by the time the alarms began sounding.

  1. Stories from
    1. Why Prince William Will Leave Kate at Home When He Flies to China and Japan
    2. Why We Give Thanks for FriendsGiving
    3. Nebraska Family Adopts Eight Brothers
    4. P.D. James Dies at 94
    5. See Amal Clooney's Chic Airport Style on Thanksgiving Alongside Hubby George (PHOTO)

I left the apartment and went to St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village about a half-mile north of the Trade Center where the scene was one of barely controlled chaos. Police are asking for volunteers to direct traffic and move vehicles. Hundreds of people are lined up to donate blood. Hospital officials say they have taken 112 casualties, no fatalities. That, of course, is just one hospital of dozens or scores in the area.

St. Vincent's said they had taken in 184 casualties, and two had died. Several others were "gravely injured" by burns or smoke inhalation, a hospital spokesman he said. St. Vincent's is one of two major trauma hospital's handling the most severely injured victims.

More than 500 people lined up to donate blood outside the hospital. Finally, a phalanx of half-a-dozen city buses lined up to take them to another location where they could handle the blood donations.

Police and volunteers are directing traffic on every corner in this part of Lower Manhattan, and emergency vehicles of every kind are screaming by, six hours after the first attack. The blue sky is eerily quiet and empty, except for the occasional roar of a fighter jet overhead.

I can't describe what it feels like to look to the south from Greenwich Village and see blue sky where the two towers once stood. New Yorkers are in mourning, and I know many share the feeling in the pit of my stomach -- like a part of our body has been ripped away.

And how do I describe a mass murder with so many hundreds of witnesses and survivors? I can only tell my story.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. TODAY

    slideshow See the best of the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

    11/27/2014 4:30:58 PM +00:00 2014-11-27T16:30:58
  1. Katie Tate, Laura Langan Spoerl,

    Why are you thankful this Thanksgiving? Show us! #WhyImThankful

    11/27/2014 1:41:45 PM +00:00 2014-11-27T13:41:45
  1. TODAY

    video Martha Stewart, Giada answer turkey questions

    11/27/2014 1:15:27 PM +00:00 2014-11-27T13:15:27