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The fiery cloud came at us from the sky like a giant asteroid in a cheesy sci-fi movie Related Gully Coverage

WTC Attack
Complete guide includes info on Afghanistan and the Taliban.

Complete New York City coverage.

Pedestrians flee as the World Trade Center's south tower crashes. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. Amy Sancetta

New York Faces Terror

by Ana Simo

NEW YORK CITY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. Thousands of people were running north this morning on Centre Street, fleeing a gigantic ball of black ash and fire released by the first collapsing World Trade Center Tower. I was one of them.

The fiery cloud came at us from the sky like a giant asteroid in a cheesy sci-fi movie — we were extras in a cheap remake of "Independence Day" or "The Day the Earth Stood Still," the role, if you stop to think about it, that every New Yorker was born to play. Terror struck us in a grandiose, clichéd way — as we always knew it would, if it would at all.

Unreality helped us keep our heads cool and our mouths shut. It was a purposeful, focused silence honed by years of negotiating these intrinsically mean streets (Giuliani and Disney notwithstanding). Even now, as night falls, the babbling Babel remains preternaturally subdued, at least south of 14th Street, where only wailing ambulances and cop cars are allowed and, up to a certain point, pedestrians.

As the day comes to an end, the media will inevitably begin to spice up their rehashed coverage with tales of mayhem and chaos in Lower Manhattan. There is a horrendous story of carnage under the WTC rubble, where thousands are dead or dying. But that's a different story: mayhem and chaos are the business of those who flee and survive, and I saw none of that this morning, even when we thought we were running for our lives.

When terror rained on us this morning, we, New Yorkers, reflexively put on our deadpan subway face. Maybe a little softer than usual at the edges, allowing others into our emotional periphery, but still not breaching our mutual privacy (we know people are dying nearby, we know we could be next), but icily alert at the center (we're exiting at a lonely subway station in the middle of the night.) It's our very best civic face. It'll see us through.

For Watching the Twin Towers Fall

For Complete Coverage WTC Attack

For Complete Coverage New York City

In Depth

WTC Attack
Guide to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on NYC and DC. Includes info on Afghanistan and the Taliban.

New York City news, opinion, and headlines. Dirty secrets and surprising treasures of the city.

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