America Under Attack: A New Yorker's Account
by Andrei Rublev

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

I wake up earlier than usual, around 8:30 AM I guess because, unconsciously, I know I have to make sure to get a plane ticket to leave tonight as I have missed last night's flight to Nice. Everything goes pretty smoothly with Delta and Air France and before 9 my flight is booked.

As I hang-up the phone I hear people shouting in the street. Not the usual Greenwich Village street shout though. It is the kind that you hear when something big happens. I look out the window expecting to see a bus in a deli or a truck laying flat on the street. All I can see is people running north and south, traffic stopped with drivers and passengers in the street, looking south.

I have a busy day ahead of me so I decide to ignore the incident and to go back to my phone and my packing agenda. As it is a same-day plane ticket I have to retrieve it at a Delta counter. The nice Delta girl suggests over the phone that I go to a Delta office in the city rather than at JFK because Air France and Delta are not in the same terminal. I know that and it makes sense to follow her advice. The yellow pages list 4 or 5 offices in Manhattan. I have used the one on 42nd street several times but I notice that the World Trade Center has one too. It might be closer than 42nd Street and I haven't visited the Twins in a while.

Before heading down I call a limo service to reserve a car to take me to the airport tonight. I am told that all bridges and tunnels are closed. I think it's a strange commercial trick of the company and I head down to the subway station.

As I hit the street I see a large crowd and a definitive unusually chaotic state. There seems to be something really unusual in progress. I walk one block down to check out what could cause such an interest and see nothing. I'm not the kind of person who stares at accidents anyway so I head into West 4th Street subway station. I have my Metrocard in my in hand when I hear an official subway guy saying that all trains are stopped and that there is no subway working in New York. Chaos is growing.

I rapidly rule-out taking a cab and consider for a minute riding my bike down to the World Trade Center. My schedule being already pretty disturbed I might as well find-out about the cause of this chaos. As I walk down 6th Avenue I overhear a man telling a woman that the Twin Towers have been damaged. This is when it hits me. I glance at the downtown skyline and I see the top tier of the North WTC tower in flame! This is hard to accept. The typical case in which I don't believe what I see. My body starts to shiver. Getting back to my information source I learn that the southern tower already collapsed. Now this is just too much. Can such a building ever go down? I look south again but there is too much smoke coming out of the North tower for me to see the other tower. The woman to whom the man is talking is now crying. This is not an exercise.

I rush back up, turn on the TV and hit record on my VCR. I browse the first 10 channels frantically and I have immediate confirmation of the disaster in progress. Several commercial planes have been high-jacked and flown into US buildings! WAKE UP! Boeings are actually being thrown at some the Free World's most cherished symbols! You are not dreaming. This is the real thing! I rush on my roof and have re-confirmation. I just cannot believe what I am seeing. I take more pictures.

I go back to the roof a couple of times where I witness the collapse of the North tower. I am surprised to feel only little he ground shakes. I hear on TV people comparing this attack to the one against Pearl Harbor. The first couples of thoughts that come to mind is that the WTC are office buildings, not war machines and also that the Hawaiian attack killed 2400. It is almost certain, unfortunately, that today's casualties are going to be much greater.

Then I realize that this might not be it. The attack could still be in progress. CNN tells me that the part of the Pentagon that was distroyed was the home of army intelligence. I imagine the worst. Now that the introduction is done, that the army is decapitated, it is time for a full-blown nuclear attack against the most important cities in the US. New York could very well be the first or second target.

I run around my place like a madman grabbing dry food, image recording equipment, official papers and a bomber jacket. I place all this in the center of the room on the floor and try to get my thoughts together as the TV tells me that the government is not yet at risk but that the President is not getting back to the White House but to a military base. This is not an exercise.

I try to call my girl-friend and my relatives abroad without success. When I finally get a line, the numbers dialed are busy. Cell phones are not working. Christian calls me from Switzerland. I can't help crying.

It is now 12:30 PM, I am slowly calming down but it is definitely a time for superlatives.

1:07 PM In his speech, President Bush tells us two times to "Make no mistake".

1:27 PM Air Force planes are flying over New York City. They are the only ones in the sky.

1:38 PM Air Force planes are flying over the City again.

1:46 PM Two US aircraft carriers are headed towards New York City.

1:48 PM Top US government players are now in undisclosed locations.

1:51 PM People are playing ball in the West 4th Street court. Feels strange and reassuring at the same time.

2.04 PM It hits me again: there is no more Twin Towers in New York. I will not see them any longer when I rollerblade on the West Side or when I cross the Brooklyn Bridge. I am very sad. I was so attached to them, always trying to decide if they were my favorite building in the City. Their plural made them so attractive.

2:12 PM Jacob Javitz Center is converted into a dispatch center.

2:14 PM I start believing that the attack is over and that New York City will not be wiped-out of the planet today.

2:18 PM There is no commercial airplane in the US sky. There are usually around 4000 at this time of day.

3:09 PM The TV beeps. Is it warning for a past or a future attack? Fear comes back into the picture.

3:38 PM Keywords: re-evaluation, post-twin era.

3:41 PM Still cannot contact Europe over the phone. Just answered two emails. Unlike TV and the phone, the Net is intact as it was conceived to be in such times.

3:44 PM I am shocked to see scenes of joy in the streets of a middle-eastern city broadcasted on CNN.

4:15 PM Air Force planes keep flying above the City as WTC building 7 is under heavy fire and about to collapse.

4:43 PM Jeffrey Beatty, President of Total Security Intl., suggests that the terrorists didnšt have to bring a bomb into the US. The planes, full of fuel, were used as bombs.

4:54 PM Going back on the roof to take more pictures.

5:21 PM 47-story building 7 at World Trade Center collapses.

6:00 PM CNN shows explosions in Kabul, live. My first impression is that US planes are bombing Kabul.

6:18 PM Smelling smoke I look out the window. There is no car in the streets. Kabul images are still on TV. CNN emphasizes a lot (like ten times) on videophone technology describing it as state-of-the-art and apologizing for the audio and video quality. I donšt get it.

6:33 PM I wish CNN would tell us the recent history of Kabul bombings. I believe less and less that this was US retaliation.

6:36 PM My question is answered by White House staff. Kabul bombing is not part of US retaliation.

6:58 PM President Bush is back in the White House.

7:21 PM The landscape has changed. The Empire State is the talest building in the City, again. I am sitting on the roof. I see other people on the surrounding roofs, doing what I am doing. Contemplating. Staring at the skyline, feeling a definitive sense of loss and sadness, almost as strong as after a death of a loved one, and certainly grander. At the same time, the world seems smaller.

7:44 PM The sky is dark. Downtown is still smoking.

7:58 PM I'm in the street. No cars. Buying more VHS tapes. I've recorded 8 hours so far.

8:26 PM The house of Paula (Julien's girlfriend) was two blocks away from the WTC. I've talked to Julien twice today. They are coming to my place right now as she cannot get back to her place.

10:12 PM I get heat from my girl-friend in Europe for not calling. Just what I need right now...

10:37 PM I am tired and not looking forward to waking up tomorrow, in a twin-less world. This was not an exercise.

Mandatory credit for pictures: "" Permission is granted to publish in hard copy, broadcast and electronic media, provided proper attribution is given for each and every use.

Questions, Comments

From: "Ruth"
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 10:34:38 -0400

God bless and keep you all in his care.

A Canadian friend

From: "moby"
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 10:22:15 +0200

Hi there,
I'm a 26 year old girl from the Netherlands and I saw what happend in NY. For 2 days on a row we were able to follow the horror in your beloved city. I hope for you all that everything will be okay again very soon. We can't imagine the sadnes everyone must be feeling right now,esspecially the people who has lost a loved one.

All I can do right now is give money to the organisation who collects money to help you guys out there.

My thoughts are with you all, love,
Esmeralda Basten,the Netherlands.

From: "Lody Alblas"
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 01:41:04 +0200

Hi andrei..

My deepest sympathy and feelings are for you all there in the U.S. I'll pray for all of you for strength and save livin'. I know as i say we all here in the Netherlands are deepest shocked by the terror you all are in and looking on the Netherland channels, I can see how we all in this litttle country sending our thoughts to you all. The netherlands television channel and the leaders and the queen where shocked too and prommisse all help the U.S.A. need.

I'll keep on praying for you all and hope this wil never hapen again...

With deepest regards
Lody Alblas
the Netherlands.

Do you think american people will be under shock for a long time?
I think yesterday was one of the most important day not only in the history of the US, but in the history of mankind. It will never be forgotten. It was an extremely sad one but the American People is not likely to remain in shock. The message of President Bush is clear. Today, Wednesday, September 12, the government is at work and the US are open for business, except below 14 street in Manhattan where most of the shop are closed and where there is no car in the streets to leave room for emergency vehicles.

Like after other catastrophic events, there might be noticeable psychological after-effects in the New York population. My feeling a little dizzy and out-of-the-world could be part of this.

How did people in the street react to this terrorist attack?
In the area in which I was (6th Avenue between Bleeker and 4th Street) there was a lot of observation. Most people were looking at the towers, sharing information with the neighbours, listening to the radio. Some were running (in both directions north and south) but I haven't witnessed any act of panic.

Related links:
- Satellite images from including Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon the day after the attack.
- American Red Cross

anti copyright 2001 Andrei Rublev - JetLog - Flyvision