ACCOUNT OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER COLLAPSE ---------------------------------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org firstname.lastname@example.org 2001 September 19
[This is a series of seven emails I sent to various friends during and shortly following the collapse of the World Trade Center. They are lightly edited from the original emails to remove grammaticals and typos and to clarify wording here and there. The set of seven is here in one file. Pictures mentioned in the emails are omitted from this compilation. New comments are inserted between bumpers. The issue date is that of the final episode, 2001 September 19.]
= = = = = 2001 September 11, ~12:00 EDST
I witnessed much of the calamity of the World Trade Center collapse this morning, September 11th, 2001. I was never near the Trade Center and was never caught up in the tragedy itself. I'm writing this at quite noon from my office near Fifth Av and 34th St. My office still has its utilities and other services and there is no immediate danger here. Yes, the Empire State Building is exactly across the street. My building sits in its shadow. This COULD be a followup target and it is by now evacuated of its 20,000 tenants. As I was riding to my subway station this morning, via a ride offered by my father, in Brooklyn the car radio was playing a helicopter traffic report. We noticed smoke like from a nearby house fire in the north. It looked quite innocent, like other local fires that occsaionally happen to Brooklyn. The station announced a timemark at 8:45 AM and let the traffic report begin. The chopper pilot was totally crazy. He just saw something small and fast smash into the north tower of the World Trade Center! He was screaming about a hole in the side of the building with smoke pouring out. (This tower is the one with the tall broadcast mast. The other, south, tower has the roof deck for sightseeing.) The first plane hit the tower before the traffic report was put on the air. The pilot was telling what he saw from minutes earlier. From the azimuth of the smoke my father and I saw, that smoke was the initial outpouring from the WTC immediately after the attack. The pilot began to continue his traffic report but his timeslot ran out. I was let out at my station and I got on my train, a Brighton Beach local to Manhattan. On the way the train crew announced assorted service reroutes due to the plane collision and gave instructions for alternate routes. At this time the collision was considered an accident. Most of the early announcements mentioned only a major fire at WTC. Reroutes were supporting the firefighting work. Here and there in the coach riders were gasping and frightened because, as they exclaimed, they were heading to the World Trade Center for their jobs! The train PA alerts were the first news they had of the incident. The commotion deepened as later announcements delivered news of sharper curtailments of service. Trains were being short turned, held in depots, skipped around stations. By radio and cell phone calls some riders learned that the plane crash was a deliberte attack with a full-size airliner and that a second large plane purposely smashed into the second tower. At the last stop in Brooklyn, my train was held in the station while numerous, at times divergent, reports were barked over the PA. After a couple minutes my train took off toward Manhattan. This train gets to Manhattan via Manhattan Bridge on tracks along the south flank of the bridge. (The train used the north tracks but were from bridge construction shifted to the south side in July.) This new routing gives a dropdead spectacle of all of Lower Manhattan with Brooklyn Bridge in front. Riders routinely take in the view thru the coach windows. Today that view was utterly awesome!! The WHOLE UPPER THIRD of the north tower was enveloped in smoke oozing out of a hole punched into this tower. Much was also oozing from what must have been busted out windows around the hole and on other sides of the tower. It was more like forest fire smoke or volcano ash more than that from, say, a petroleum fire. There was no cauliflower texture or other solid appearance. Overall it was opaque, dark gray in the denser parts and light gray or muddy in the thinner parts. I saw that there was far more smoke than could issue from just this one puncture. The south tower was swirling in smoke, too. I did not see any flames or internal luminence. The smoke was rising only slightly above the full height of the tower, about 400 meters tall, and was drifting mostly east acorss the East River. It did not come north over Manhattan Bridge. With a monocular I carry with me, the south tower had some sort of punch thru, too, but the smoke was too dense for a clear view. An other hindrance was that the south tower is behind the north when viewed from the bridge. By this time many riders with cellphones or radios already recounted stories of a second plane hitting this tower. At the moment I thought this report came from general confusion. The train dived into subway on Manhattan and chugged slowly to Herald Sq without any major incident. The running was slow, but I must have gotten one of the very last trains to get thru before Transit began chopping off service. By the time I got out to the street, the streets were filled with far more people than normal, if that's possible in Herald Square. At my office, those who arrived earlier already had a television running and told me that the EHTIRE south tower of the WTC sloughed and slumped down and VANISHED!! The television pictures sure showed only ONE tower left!! By a little past 10 AM emergency orders went out to shut down all major public services, including river crossings and transit. My crew was stranded here. When I got into the office the director already announced that we should leave for home if we wanted to. Some of us who did leave came back within a half hour or so because they found their train or bus depots barricaded shut. Being that my office is a base for field inspections of water projects in te Northeast, about half our crew is away on inspections. We called them to advise not to try and come home. Stay in the field until the trip is finished, typicly by Friday. Those of us on leave were told to stay home and not come to work. All leave regulations are suspended. With the kamikaze hits on the Pentagon and State Dept buildings in Washingtom the entire federal workforce is now subject to deputization. All military bases are on standby alert. On the television the SECOND tower started to slide downward and crumple onto itself, quite verticly downward. It sank into an upwelling cloud of dark gray smoke. Some of us think it then leaned over and crashed while immersed in the smoke. It reminded me of the early space launches where the rocket detonated on the pad and collapsed down to nothingness. THERE IS NO LONGER A WORLD TRADE CENTER ON MANHATTAN!! Some surrounding towers, from the TV filmage, looked damaged by falling or flying debris, but as far as I can tell there were no major fires or explosions. The damage looked mechanical by collision of chunks of WTC structure. Aerial newsmedia views of Lower Manhattan look like an asteroid did its thing. The ground zero is around 100 meters across with damage zone out to about a half kilometer. Some of us ran outside to Herald Square. From there looking south we could see the billowing smoke covering a dome which must have engulfed all of Lower Manhattan. Access to Lower Manhattan by 11 AM was completely sealed off from the Battery to Canal St, with only rescue and emergency vehicles allowed in the area. Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges are closed, as is the Battery Tunnel. The Hudson Tubes must be totalled. Its depot is directly under the Trade Center. During my lunch, at about 13:00, the street traffic subsided to normal levels for pedestrians. Road traffic was decimated! Except for specific blcoks around potential targets, I didn't see any restrictions on road traffic. The Fifth Avenue side of the Empire State Vuilding was roped off with traffic diverted to Mafison or Park Av. Yet the sheer number of vehicles was but 10 percent of normal. Most of thee were fire and rescue vehicles and buses. Bus service seemed to be about nromal, with buses coursing in 34th St, Fifth Av (with the ESB detour), Sixth Av, and certain side streets. The shops seemed to be filled with the usual or only slightly thinner crowds. Several shops, normally open today, were closed. I don't know if they closed early and I was out on the street after this closing or if they never opened at all for the day. But there were few of scuh closed stores, with plenty of alternative ones to shop at. I did learn from the street banter that only the Lower Manhattan bridges and tunnels were shut. the Queensboro Bridge was open, as were the ones farther north of there. Transit by 12:00 was still shut down. Police at the Herald Square station stairs shooed people away. The one wonderful aspect of today was the weather. The Sun is blazingly bright, sky is deep blue, only a few cumulus clouds. The air was charged with a brisk breeze. In fact, when I was hearing the initial report in my father's car, I questioned the plane collision from adverse weather. It was then just about uttterly ideal weather for flying! The casualty count is likely in the myriads! The World Trade Center has about a full square kilometer of floor space and more tenants and visitors come to it than to all of downtown Boston. A guesstimate, based on the still early hour in the morning commute, is that only 50,000 people were in the towers.
= = = = = 2001 September 12 ~11:00 EDST
By about 15h on 11 September 2001 the City started to recover from the tragedy of the World Trade Center. We at work examined replays of the collapse and on each occasion we noticed some new and extra technical feature of the event. (The office is crewed by civil engineers well versed in construction.) We were very fortunate that the towers infalled verticly, much like some controlled demolition, and actually very little damage -- considering what could have happened! -- was inflicted on surrounding towers. The damage to the vicinity was collision from flying pieces of the WTC structure. These started small fires in the vicinity, which were quickly brought under control and there was no cascading collapsing or torching elsewhere. Across the street from the main part of WTC was 7 WTC. It did collapse yesterday afternoon or evening after fires started in it. Because it was evacuated and cleared out much earlier in the day, it was left to self-destruct. One thing that saved the City from a more massive destruction was the plan of the Trade Center campus. The campus covers about 1/4 square kilometer with the towers more or less in the middle. Except on the north side of the campus, there are no major structures adjacent to these towers. Note well that while everyone thinks of the WTC as the Twin Towers (Tuning Fork, King Kong's Stilts, &c), the campus had six buildings on it. These framed the towers and were very modest in bulk and height. The tallest, I think, was a hotel sitting just west of the towers, facing the Hudson River. (7 WTC, about 40 floors, is just outside the campus on Vesey St.) However, the campus did have an extensive labyrinth of subsurface levels. These housed a huge shopping arena, assorted government service buros, eateries, and a mixing bowl for people walking from place to place within the campus. Beneath this were three transit stations and the terminal of the Hudson Tubes. This latter is a transit system working nearby parts of New Jersey. These stations were extremely busy in the rush as adit and exit points for commuters heading for other parts of Lower Manhattan. Quite plausibly, because the incident occurred in the rushhour, these were filled with riders. I have to assume that with the towers imploded into these lower levels, these facilities and their occupants are completely annihilated. As civic services were ramping up slowly toward the end of the workday on September 11th, our crew started to head home. The transport grid in New York is recticulated and interlinked sufficiently to offer alternative routes, even if they are longer and disjoined, to get home. Vehicle transport remained closed. All river crossings were either completely closed or were open only for outbound traffic. You could leave Manhattan. The Lower Manhattan bridges were opened in both directions only for foot traffic; all three (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburgh) have walkways. Police were posted on these walkways a dozen meters apart for crowd control and to keep an eye on things. My plan for getting home was to take a bus as far downtown as practical to the Williamsburgh Bridge. I would then walk over the bridge to a bus hub on the Brooklyn side. At this hub there are two routes that penetrate into my hood, within walking distance of my house. Altho buses were running, any north-south routes were turned back at 14th Street. This was a scrimmage line clear across the island, now fortified with police and what looked like national guard or state militia, sort of like Hadrian's wall across England. All of Manhattan south of 14th Street (it really helps to follow all of this discourse with a map of Manhattan at hand) was no-man's land, except for emergency personnel and vehicles. Complicating matters was that this zone of Manhattan includes major concentrations of population: Greenwich Village, Chinatown, Alphabet City, TriBeCa, even islands of residences around the Trade Center itself. You could enter the exclusion zone at checkpoints along the scrimmage if you had positive proof of residency there At quite 17:15 on the 11th I boarded a downtown bus in Fifth Av, which immediately slapped over to Park Av. This move was forced by the closure of Fifth Av in front of the Empire State Building, which I mentioned in the first account. The driver announced along the way that the bus is ending its run at 14th St. The air was sparkling clear (away from the smoke plume in the south), the Sun was dazzlingly bright, there were no regular clouds in the sky. The sky color was a deep rich blue, signifying extremely good transparency. A persistent breeze tempered the solar heat; many people wore light sweaters or jackets. It was ideal walking weather! At 14th St a bevvy of police conferred with the driver and advised her to procede to Cooper Sq, a ha'K farther south, and then await instructions. This bus, and the next one I took, did not collect fares. The farebox mouth was blocked with a wad of paper and the driver waved people past it. I suspect that the electronic fare system was knocked out. Maybe the central computer station was in or near the World Trade Center? But one block south of 14th St my bus edged up to an other one and the two drivers spoke together. This other bus was ordered to continue to Houston St, about the equivalent of zeroth street. Most of us changed buses and rode to Houston St and Broadway. There was a barrage across Broadway of police cars and armed militia-like characters and the bus simply could not physicly go any farther south. It discharged everyone and was told to turn back via Houston St. The bus was acclimatized but when I stepped off, the air was filled with smoke aroma. It smelled like smoke from a house fire or other 'wood' fire, The smoke sifted low to the ground obscuring far off landscape, making the scene resemble that of a summer hazy day. I do assure that everyone was calm and orderly. There was no panic or fright at all among the people all during the ride to Houston Street. Yes, there was confusion on account of the bus reroutings and the lack of normal subway service, but everyone pulled together and were well behaved. It so happens that at this corner is a subway station usually worked by a route that eventually does go to my part of Brooklyn. And I saw people going down the stairs. What's running thru this station now? I backtrack a bit. When I cooked up the bridge walk plan I packed my camera into my shoulder bag, fixing to take pictures of the City from the walkway. I left at work some heavy books I brought to work. These were show-&-tell materials fo the Descriptive Astronomy Class, which I long before in mid morning cancelled by calling all the students. I might as well leave these heavy books, of antique starcharts and constellation pictures, at work to lighten my load for the long walk. I was lucky that limited subway service was running thru this station, Broadway-Lafayette, including the one, route F, that I could get home with! I skipped the bridge idea and rode the F train into Brooklyn. It was slow going because, according to PA chatter, several foreign routes were shifted to this station and were sharing track. Serendipity! Route F is a subway for most of its way thru downtown and central Brooklyn. It ramps onto an el in southern Brooklyn. But! there is a special station near downtown Brooklyn which is on a high crossing of Gowanus Canal. When this line was built, the canal was worked by ocean cargo ships and the crossing had to clear these large ships. The platform is about 30 meters above the street. This station, Smith-9th Street, is specially favored by riders for its panorama views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and is on a gentle sweeping curve as the line swings from one alignment to an other! I hopped off here and skipped to the uptown end of the platform. WHAT A SCENE! NO WORLD TRADE CENTER!! Where it stood was now a seat of heavy smoke, like that from a volcano or the plume of comet Hale-Bopp!!! I started snapping pictures, two attached as JPG files [omitted]. The smoke issued slowly. Thru my monocular I estimate it flowed up and out at about 5 meters per second, as gauged against other towers nearby. The plume arcked in a gentle curve, quite like a comet's tail!, to the right. It attained about 50 degree altitude in the north, where it was hidden by the roof of the station. The color was light gray mixed with some yellow, or as I term it, muddy. Texture was soft with no sharp contours. I didn't smell any of it from this location. I wasn't the only person with the idea to document the scene. During the time I was inspecting and photographing, perhaps twenty other folk came and went with cameras and camcorders. During the twenty minutes of my stay, trains scudded thru the station from several foreign routes. Some stopped to exchange riders; others tooted their horn and blew past the station. It was by now about a half hour before sunset. I boarded the next route F train that came in and rode home. The train ducked back into subway and moved along slowly with frequent stops between stations. I suppose this was the result of congestion from the foreign trains now mixed in with the F route. At my home station, on the el in Washington Cemetery (the station for historical reasons was built in the cemetery), I scanned the scene again. I was now much farther away and the very skyline was smaller and lower on the horizon, now more to my north. The smoke plume was more vertical and reached toward the zenith. It was now dark and silhouetted against the sky apparently below the sightline to the Sun. The Sun had set only a few minutes earlier. A local bus came quickly, this time fare was collected, and I arrived at my house in deep twilight. From my street corner I saw the smoke plume now reaching across the western sky. It issued from the northwest over to the west, with a maximum altitude of 35 degrees, and feathered out in darker sky to the southwest. I didn't see any gross movement altho the plume slowly waxed and waned as I watched. There was no smoke scent in the air from my house. After supper, with the sky dark, my kid sister told me the sky was really clear with lots of stars out. I stepped out onto my front stoop and, yes, the transparency was better than average, with stars of 4- 1/2 magnitude overhead. With care I could make out, by its attenuation of the background stars!, the plume stretching across the western sky. It was lost in dark sky in the north and south, so I was tracing out the nearest section. It was like a 'black' Milky Way!! While outside and later indoors near open windows once in a while the smoke aroma blew over me. Same woody scent. After reviewing newscasts of the disaster I went to bed. By the way, immediately after the fire in the north tower, all the television stations were thrown off air. The mast on top of this tower houses all the network stations, except for channel 2, CBS! The only station covering the news on its own frequency was CBS. All the other stations were dead. Later in the day ABC got back on air thru facilities provided by channel 21. This morning, on the 12th of September, I woke up at my usual hour, more out of habit and the alarm clock than any real desire. I figured that as long as transit was running I might as well go to work. Otherwise I would just mope around the house and make my sister and father go silly. Father drove me to my home station on the Brighton Beach line and we inspected the smoke plume in the north. It was more like a lid or hood of smoke hugging the north horizon. It sprang from the same spot on the horizon as the curl of smoke we saw yesterday morning, when the attacks occurred. To the untrained eye it looked like a horizon cloud. Its soft texture and obvious (to the trained eye) muddy color gave it away as combustion smoke. I had the camera with me. Being that it today made no matter when our crew showed up for work I hit on the idea to go back to Smith & 9th St and see what's going on. I therefore took a Brighton Beach train downtown, toward Coney Island, and not uptown to the City. This line meets the Culver line (route F) near Comey Island. I changed trains and rode to Smith & 9th St station. The going was slow but at least this time it was continual with only a few dwells. The train was cozily filled, like on a weekend. There were about 20-25 percent empty seats, yet some riders preferred to stand. Light banter filled the coach. I did see several persons in sadness or grief, likely from the general news or news of a friend lost in the collapse. At Smith-9th St I went to the uptown end of the platform like I did last night, and took several more pictures. No plume of smoke this time but a veil of thin haze over Lower Manhattan. The sky was overall clear with no clouds but tempered by a thin haze. It looked like a regular summer haze except that there was a definite bias toward the City. A few other people watched with me and took their own pictures. After about twenty minutes I got on the next Culver train and rode to work. Slow running again and one change in downtown Brooklyn when my train was instructed to divert to an other line. On exiting at Herald Square, there were about the normal number of people in the street and they seemed to be going about their business normally. Many stores were closed and many coffee and hotdog wagons were missing from corners. Vehicle traffic was still at a very low level. The mix was more even between cars & trucks and emergency vehicles. Buses were running in all the streets. Other transit lines coming into Herald Square seemed to be operating with healthy crowds of people coming to the street from them. So far this morning, on the 12th of September, at work business is restored more or less to normal. Some of the crew stayed home, likely due to lingering transport curtailments in their home vicinity.
= = = = = 2001 September 13 ~11:00 EDST
Yesterday, the 12th of September of 2001, I went out for lunch at about 13:30. After taking in pizza I ambled around the Herald Square area. The streets were filled with a thinner than normal crowd of people. Yet these people seemed more or less in normal busyness. Deliveries were in progress on the side streets, stores were open with customers coming and going, tourists were riding the sightseeing buses, and so on. I guesstimate the packing in the street to be about 2/3 of normal. This I suppose was due to the erratic transport system and the general advice to pass up on commuting if possible. Road traffic was brisk, more cars and trucks than on the 11th, yet still far below normal levels. Traffic agents at major corners diverted cars when ever an emergency vehicle approached. Overall, The City looked and felt like an other large American town. I was on a side street in the upper thirties when simultaneously I smelled smoke and the scene around me fogged over. I and several others around me looked up and, yes!, the wind shifted to push the World Trade Center smoke into midtown Manhattan. It covered the Sun but caused no aureola around it. The view down Fifth Av was hazed with good perspective effect Under Herald Square and Penn Station, subways were operating, as evidenced by the rumble and vibration felt at street level. Inside Penn Station I wandered thru the Long Island RR side. The schedule on the annunciator boards and monitors looked full. Voice announcements barked out departures every minute or so. Activity was here roughly at the level expected for mid afternoon. I did not check out the NJTransit or Amtrak sides. I took a couple pictures of the smoke over the skyline, attached [omitted], and went back to work. The one of the haze in Fifth Av also shows the blocked part of the avenue in front of the Empire State Building. This edifice is on the right side, out of camera view. On leaving work, I wanted to get close up skyline pictures. By now subway service was stabilized with routes announced via PA. In general, any train normally routed thru Lower Manhattan either skipped stations within that district or were turned back before entering it. This did create some very weird routings! I went to the promenade of Brooklyn Heights. The ride to there was uneventful; it just took a little while due to slow running. I got off at Court Street station in 'downtown' Brooklyn Heights at about an hour before sunset. Right away I was caught up in a stream of people migrating toward the Promenade. Access is directly by gentle ramps from the east-west streets of the Heights. I should explain that Brooklyn Heights is so named because it was built in the 18th and 19th century on a bluff about 20 meters tall fronting the East River. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is cut into the face of the cliff and roofed over by the Promenade. This Promenade is an overlook built over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and is a favorite place to admire the Lower Manhattan skyline and New York harbor. It was packed with spectators. The folk were calm, a bit hushed, otherwise friendly with spontaneous chatter and banter. From here the Trade Center campus would be on the far, rear, west, side of Manhattan and was blocked by foreground towers. Out of where it would be rose a thin plume of smoke, like that from an ordinary fire. It was hard to tell the geographic flow but it angularly arcked up and right to about 45 degrees altitude in the north. There is thinned out and dilated. The low Sun about 45 degrees to the left of the site backlighted the plume, making it white with some yellow tints here and there. It was not gray. All the while I was there, about a half hour, helicopters floated past the skyline. Some I didn't see for the glare of the Sum. On the highway under me there were caravans or convoys of emergency trucks coursing by every few minutes. (The roof deck covers only the inboard lanes; the outboard lanes are open to the sky and you can look down on them.) At about a half hour before sunset I left. I got several pictures of the people and skyline, attached [omitted]. This part of Brooklyn is near a bus hub, where I got a bus to get home. At home I learned from the newscasts that most of the television stations moved to alternate locations and were back on the air. Civil air transport was still shut down with no assurance of any quick resumprion. Travellers stranded at airports were allowed to leave but not come back without proof of a flight in hand. On Thursday the 13th of September I passed up looking at the skyline going to work. My Brighton Beach train run normally thru Brooklyn. Then we rolled out into the open air on Manhattan Bridge. The train was stuffed to about normal rushhour amount with more people boarding at each successive station. The PA announced assorted service changes, all due to localized rescue or police activity in Lower Manhattan and were promised to be of short duration. Once in the open air, I saw the sky was covered with a general haze, like that of an autumn day and there were a few clouds around. Temperature was a bit warm, around 25C, for a light jacket. This I tied around my waist in the stead of wearing it. Everyone gawked at the skyline with NO TWIN TOWERS. A thicker dust plume issued out of the Trade Center site and curved to the right. A few people around me had radios but did not offer any news to the rest of us. Others were poring over newspapers all of which devoted their entire issue to the catastrophe. My monocular revealed no more details than what I saw my eye out of the train windows. I took no pictures because the windows were too scratched or dirty and the bridge girders flitted by too fast to shoot between them. When we reached land on Manhattan, the train filled with the smoke aroma. We were then passing under the plume, whose lower fringes descended to street level over Chinatown. It was the strongest I so far smelled the smoke, likely because at this moment I was the closest to the source than ever before. The train crew announced a shutoff of the air comfort to stem infiltration of smoke. The coach got stuffy very quickly! The crew promised to turn the air back on after a few stations when the smoke thinned out. It was turned on at Union Square and the rest of the ride was normal. The frontier of the no-man's land is still officially 14th Street, but from the street chatter yesterday during lunch it looks like people were allowed to Houston Street, about a kilometer farther south. I myself rode a bus to Houston Street on Tuesday the 11th and the fortifications were indeed along that east-west street. Yet certain trains made stops at stations between 14th St and Houston St. Mine, for instance, did skip Canal St and Prince St stations, these being well below Houston Street, but did stop at 8th St, between Houston and 14th St. The skipped stations were empty, no police around this time. At Herald Square the street scene was a bit fuller than yesterday morning, a little more road traffic, a few more people. I guess with transport running the folk began returning to work. Many stores were still closed and coffee/hotdog wagons were still gone from many corners. I asked at a deli on my office's block about deliveries and trash collection. The clerk said there was no interruption, just slower timing. The shop seemed to well stocked with goods with no apparent depletions or shortages. From Herald Square the smoke was off in the far south curving to the left behind towers lining the avenues.
= = = = = 2001 September 13 ~23:00 EDST
I think this account is the last of the daily reports on my experience with the World Trade Center calamity. The City, at least in the midtown area, is essentially back to normal and the scene at the Trade Center site is stabilized. I also have no pictures for this report being that, as I elaborate, life in the areas I visited today was pretty much back to normal. [There are actually three more episodes, for seven in all.] Subway service was stabilized to account for the oblitteration of certain tunnel sections under and around Ground Zero. Trains are either turning back at the frontier of the exclusion zone, still officially at 14th St on the north and the waterfront on the other sides, or skipping stations within this zone. For sure the yellow (BMT Montague St or Tunnel), red (IRT Clark St and IRT South Ferry), and blue (IND 8th Av and IND Cranberry St or Fulton St) took massive damage with crushed tunnel and packing up with debris. It will definitely take several years to rebuild these structures. Lines staying clear of the no-man's land are running about on normal schedules. Yet with traffic so unbalanced, they are operating at woefully suboptimal service. Some lines, notably the green (IRT Lexington Av) line, suffer service shifts thruout the day. The present subway map is exfenestrate, despite its last major revision in late July. You have to hang loose and not worry about punctuality. Despite the great injury to transit, it is carrying the present ridership without being swamped. Why? The ridership is way way depressed! A possible several myriads of riders who were in the Trade Center collapse are no longer with us. With Lower Manhattan closed and all business within it shuttered, an other half million riders are staying home. I went for lunch at about 13:30 EDST on the 13th. The general busyness in the streets was about up to predisaster level. The road traffic was dense, with jam-ups at the corners. All lanes on any street were filled with the proper mix of cars, trucks, cabs, buses. The noise of this traffic was about up to par, also. The downside of this normality is that emergency vehicles had tough sledding. As is the case without any disaster, fire trucks, ambulances, rescue trucks and all were hung up in traffic. With horns and sirens screaming, they were trapped. Obstructing cars couldn't move aside or skip into the cross street. This is what goes on in calmer times. I noticed that some of the stores which were closed when I arrived at work were now open. All the store I passed seemed busy with customers. During my walk, my usual routine for lunch, I worked up a thin sweat in the summer warmth. This I alleviated by stopping in air conditioned stores along my itinerary. All seemed well stocked and filled with the normal number of customers. Shelfs were loaded with no apparent empty spaces or signs of depletion or shortages. A sandwich shop I took lunch at had all the menu items to satisfy the patrons. While I was in this store, a delivery of food ingredients was in progress. Trucks abounded on the side streets loading or unloading cargo. My own office in late morning took in two large deliveries originally scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday. They were delayed until now but otherwise everything was in order. I made a circuit thru Herald Square, to Macy's, Penn Station, Garment District, Times Square, Library, SIBL, and back to my office. The scene was for all intents and purposes the usual ordinary customary New York hustle and bustle. Crowds clogged the sidewalks, causing the usual number of pedestrian collisions. Jaywalking was again the chicken sport it always was. I did not enter Penn Station. People were flowing into and out of the edifice with no apparent anxiety. Same for Macy's, which in mid morning suffered a bomb threat, Empire State Building, which suffered a bomb scare late last night, and other large structures seemed in normal operation. Remember that what in New York is a modest skyscraper and not a likely terrorist target can actually be a 50-story tower. Such a structure in any other American town would be a monstrous presence, I guess like the World Trade Center was for us here. Lunch carts were at the normal posts along the streets and were well patronized with lines of customers. Street vendors had their mats or tables of shlock laid out for sale Sightseeing buses swooped by. In Times Square construction work on several office towers was in full swing. The cranes were in their ballet. Hardhat workers flocked together at lunch carts, on curbside, or by their machines. Trucks laden with excavate left the various sites. Others filled with construction parts or concrete arrived at the sites. Similar activity was going on at skyscrapers under way in 5th, 6th, and Madison Avs. I could see no specific evidence of the Trade Center smoke. The air was hazy over the whole sky with a couple small cumulus clouds here and there. I smelled nothing of the smoke during my walk. The Recent Astronomy Seminar convened on time, altho the chair called me to inform of his absence. Train service in his hood was still too erratic and he didn't like playing subway hopscotch late in the night. I chaired for him. He gave me a punchlist of topics for the Seminar members to banter about. During the late afternoon I heard that the green line was running only north, uptown, from Grand Central. When I left for the Seminar, at quite 17:30 I took a detour via the BMT Broadway line, changing to the green line at 59th St & Lexington Av. In fact, this is how I get to AAA-HQ in inclement weather. The outdoor walk is much shorter. Hence, this routing was not all that troublesome. This instance was my first peek at a Manhattan nabe other than midtown. AAA-HQ is in Yorkville, a congested residential district. It is, so many tell, about the densest populated in the world with about 50,000 residents per square kilometer. On exiting to the street, I saw the streets were crammed with the usual assortment of folk. All the shops and vendors were busy. Road traffic here was quite up to snuff, with close calls between cars and people When I arrived at AAA headquarters, a few members were already on hand. We set up the room with proper furniture and greeted the other members as they arrived. Pretty much on time, at 18:30, we had a regular full attendance of nine members. This is about the low mean number we attract under calm conditions. The meeting covered my punchlist, plus a few new news items, and included some lively sharing of World Trade Center experiences. I cut color prints of some of my own pictures to pass around. Following the Seminar we skipped our usual socializing over supper due to the prospect of longer circuituous train rides home. As we stepped into the street at about 20:30 we were hit by the smoke odor. Not a strong odor, more like that from a house fire around the corner or down the street. The sky was by now cloudy with no evidence of the Trade Center smoke. Going home, I retraced by steps to the BMT Broadway line. This time I simply stayed on the BMT all the way to Brooklyn. I mused that I'll get a nighttime view of the Lower Manhattan skyline from Manhattan Bridge. It was my first nighttime view. Of course, I expected the absence of the Twin Towers. What I saw was incomprehensible. THERE WAS NO SKYLINE!! Brooklyn Bridge dead ended at the Manhattan shore!! The FDR Drive was not there! Nor were there any South St Seaport, Woolworth tower, 40 Wall St, 60 Pine St, Battery Park, or anything else!!! Then it hit me. Because of the collapse, utilities were clobbered. The electric was then shut off in this region! There were several individual lamps sprinkled thruout the area, few enough to count if you were patient. I hazard about fifty single bulbs were lighted in all of Lower Manhattan from the viewpoint on Manhattan Bridge. Reflections from the coach lights interfered. I had on my hooded rain shedder. I threw it over my head. After a few seconds I was enough dark adapted to see yet a more incredible sight. LOWER MANHATTAN WAS SILHOUETTED AGAINST THE SKYGLOW OF NEW JERSEY!! Yes, the illuminations which many inexperienced darksky advocates attribute to Manhattan itself, actually pours onto that island from across the rivers! In this case, from my viewing angle, New Jersey was the culprit!! Wait! Maybe I was seeing a backlighting from the immense floodlights at the disaster scene? Rescue and recovery work is proceding round the clock. At night titanic banks of floodlights are turned on. Nice try. These lamps, as bright as they are (they are powered by Diesel generators) are almost always, in New York, deeply hooded. They are aimed down at the ground. Yes, I think I did see a swelling of light where the site was on the dark side of the skyline. The general skyglow stretched clear across the horizon into the harbor. It was with no reasonable doubt issuing off of the Garden State. I did notice that this blackout zone was only from Chambers St (City Hall) to the Battery. Towers and streets north of Chambers St were illuminated in the usual way. Prior instances of such silhouetting occurred during the bona fide electric power blackout of 1977. Even back then, astronomers were awed at the immense light glow from beyond Manhattan's frontiers. This does have severe implications for the darksky efforts in the City. Altho astronomers are confident they can work some major reduction of luminous graffiti issuing from Manhattan, there will be a 'light ceiling' of transparency beyond which they can not penetrate. No, no one is retracting the 'Promise for Starry Eyes' with its goal to see by naked eye the Milky Way from somewhere on Manhattan by 2010. It does mean that there will be a limit to the ultimate sky transparency they can achieve on the island. They figured that this is quite 5th magnitude. [It reached 4-1/2 in the mid 2000s from Central Park.] I expect darksky fans will study the black skyline carefully as a measure of peripheral luminous graffiti radiated from the City's surrounds. There are plenty of angles to view this from: Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Hoboken Terminal, Liberty State Park, Brooklyn Bridge State Park, recreation piers, private rooftops or vacant land along the waterfront. As at today the obvious options of the footpaths on Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges are off limits for the duration of the World Trade Center crisis. The rest of my subway and bus ride home was uneventful. At around midnight it began to rain heavily with thunder.
= = = = = 2001 September 14 ~22:00 EDST
I believed that the report from September 13th would be the last of my daily accounts but there was unexpectedly a lot of new experiences for me after work today. There was nothing new from this morning or from noontime except that it was raining. This rain stopped and the Sun broke out in early afternoon. It then steadily cleared up and dried out. I was merely after work going to head straight home. As I was on the Brighton Beach train it stopped at 8th Street station. This was a new regular stop on the shuffled service following the Trade Center collapse. My train stopped here on the other days since the disaster. It occurred to me while the doors were hanging open to exchange riders: Why do we stop at 8th St, below the exclusion zone border, and then skip Prince and Canal Streets? I impulsively bailed out. The platform was sprinkled with people waiting for their train. (Two different routes, Brighton Beach and West End, now work this station.) How did they get here? Did they go thru some checkpoint or security scrutiny? I left for the street with a bunch of other people. It was about 18:30. The streets were populated with vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, pets on leashes, vendors, and all the usual and customary other inhabitants of this part of the City in normal times. This is Greenwich Village. There were no patrols in the streets. Traffic flowed in Broadway with out inhibitions. People crisscrossed Broadway and side streets without thought or care. Stores and sidewalk vendors were busy. Off hand I could not see any substantial distinction between tonight and a predisaster evening. In quick succession three really creepy features hit me. The first was a littering on lamppoles, mailboxes, other street furniture by posters asking about lost or missing people. These were done up like the posters for lost or missing pet animals, with name, stats and specs, sometimes a picture. One extra bit on these posters was the office and location within the World Trade Center, like 'Alpha, Bravo & Charlie Partners, 2 WTC, 95th floor'. There were hundreds of these notices. Closer inspection revealed that there were many instances of the same poster. Even so, there were within my immediate vicinity at 8th St and Broadway there were perhaps a hundred of different notices. During my wanderings I saw other clumps of these missing-person posters. They apparently were put up at particularly busy places and were thinned out in the empty stretches of Broadway. Once in a while i saw a couple folk inspecting a poster and whispering to each other. Did these people know the poster person? The other feature I saw a ways up (north, uptown) Broadway. A cluster of fireflies! Lovely flickering yellow ones bobbing and gently flying at chest height! The lights were candles held by praying or silent people as part of the candlelight vigil for the Trade Center victims. I walked up Broadway and came onto a gathering of the candlebearers in front of Grace Church, about thirty of them of all ages and stripe. The candles were in little glass cups like those from restaurant or coffee tables. The folk held the cups closely at their chests, probably to minimize chance of dropping or spilling them. I came onto more candlebearers in my wanderings. They walked slowly, again likely for safety, in groups of two or three in the sidewalk. Sometimes I passed several on a stoop. Other groups placed the cups on the ground around them so they could talk together with hands free. At Grace Church Broadway bends a bit so you can look straight south along it. This vista is normally closed at the far downtown end by the lighted tower of the Woolworth Building. No Woolworth Building. It was too dark to see it at all. From last night's ride home from the Seminar I knew the darkened tower resulted from the shutoff of electric in Lower Manhattan. Beyond it ws a hood of shmutz. I guess this was smoke from Graound Zero, but it could easily have been a regular horizon haze. I first briskly walked north to Union Square to see any barrage or checkpoint there. There was none. Not even a token security scrimmage. It's as if there simply was no frontier here at all. Traffic flewed down from above Union Square, swirled into Broadway, and hightailed on south, tempered only by the traffic signals. Pedestrians ran freely all over 14th St to and from the park and subways. Buses ran freely in their normal routes, including south into Broadway. Lines stood ready to enter the cinemas on 14th St. Assorted preachers, vendors, solicitors lined 14th St. I did not cross to the park or north side of 14th St, so I don't know what was going on there. With nothing special here I turned back south in Broadway. As long as I'm here I checked out Strand bookstore. The book carts were lined up outside with lots of people picking at them. Crowds came and went thru the doors. Inside, the place was busy but with freer space to move about. There were fewer people, like on a less busy normal day. I cruised for about twenty minutes in the astronomy section without finding anything I wanted. When I left Strand it was well into civil twilight. I headed south to see just where is the border of the exclusion zone. At Houston Street there was no frontier. Road traffic scudded right across Houston St to points south. Pedestrians flowed across in waves. The subway station here, the same Broadway-Lafayette station I used on Tuesday evening, was volleying riders thru its adit stairs. The trains in Broadway stop at 8th St, which I now understand to be quite reasonable, given the mass of activity on the streets there. So what's going on at Prince St, which the trains skip? That station is south of Houston St, so that's where I set off for. The street activity thinned out mainly because this part of Broadway, in SoHo, isn't so busy in normal times. Yet when I reached Prince Street station, it was indeed closed. The stairs were chained off with a cop at each one. I asked one cop innocently about service here. He was polite and calm. He noted that this station is closed but just one block north there's the IND service at Broadway-Lafayette. I thanked him and continued my circuit. With night coming in, I turned north again to go home via 8th Street station. Before getting that far I detoured into the campus of New York University. 'Campus' is a joke. This, the largest private university in America, has no orthodox campus! It's built out of former factories and lofts, with newer specificly built academic halls. There is no perimeter wall. The Village streets run between the halls. Washington Square is the 'quadrangle'. The place was closed. The upper floors were almost completely blacked out. A couple individual rooms were lighted. The entry doors were crewed by campus guards or were locked shut. There was none of the torrents of students flowing around the place. Foot traffic in the streets here seemed to be entirely from local residents. I swang back to Broadway, passing Georgetown Towers, a modest (for Manhattan) residential skyscraper. It was alive with its residents. They came and went thru the entry hall. The street level shops were busy. The subway station is on its corner. The platforms were jammed with riders, as it can be in regular times. My train was also crowded like it can be on a late evening. Thereafter, ny ride home was normal.
= = = = = 2001 September 18 ~22:00 EDST
Since Friday evening, the 14th, when I went to Greenwich Village I was not in the City all weekend. The smoke from Ground Zero once in a while drifted over Brooklyn in short whiffs, with a sweet plasticky odor. Other than that, life was back to normal. As a matter of fact, on Friday night, September 14th, the City scored its first Milky Way sighting of the 2001 season. We astronomers here have an unofficial game of watching for the Milky Way in the sky from anywhere within the praecincts of New York. It is routinely seen from darksky zones around the City but it is not at all common to spot from within the five boros. For sure it hasn't been seen from Manhattan island for many decades, perhaps since before World War II. In the 1990s, however, the air over the City has improved in clarity due to massive efforts to remove industrial and combustive pollution. We plain no longer have the photochemical smog of the 1980s and before. We also made major advances in eradicating luminous graffiti in the use of modern properly designed and installed outdoor lighting. The combo of an air free of absorbing and scattering particles and the reduction of reckless emission of light into the air darkened the skies over the City to achieve by 1994 a normal Manhattan transparency of quite 4th magnitude. This is so incredible that even today -- six and more years later! -- many darksky leaders can not believe it. It goes without saying that this transparency is realized by observers removed from direct local lights shining on them, such as by getting above the streetlamps or interposing trees and structures in front of them. In the outer boros, transparency can hit 5th magnitude on the better nights, with the brighter parts of the Milky Way coming thru. But this is not the usual situation. It does require really clear clean air and a high summer Milky Way. This combination occurs in late summer and fall. September 1st is the unofficial start of the City's Milky Way season. It closes at year end because weather gets too unfavorable by then and the summer Milky Way is leaving the evening sky. [The seasonsince then was shortened to Spetember 1 to Novmeber 30. A second Milky Way season runs from May 1 to June 30, with a lesser chance of sightings. The nominal clear dark transparency over Central Park has since improved by the mid 2000s to 4-1/2 magnitude.] We, in my recollection, had at least one confirmed Milky Way sighting from New York in every year in the 1990s, but I seem to recall we did miss one year, altho I can't recall just which one. So it was on Friday, the 14th of September, that the sky and all else was just right in the late night before midnight. Several observers spotted various parts of the summer Milky Way. The conditions for seeing the Milky Way are extremely localized. One person may see it while an other one nabe away will see nothing of it at all. Hence, when I post in PazMiniBits a Milky Way sighting, I combine the reports and generalize the sites where the Milky Way was seen. In this instance, the zones in Cygnus thru Scutum were seen, as well as the patch around M24. The sites were on Staten Island (the boro with overall the darkest skies) and Brooklyn (which has darksky sections within it). When you consider that Staten Island is about the equal of Denver, Toledo, St Louis and that Brooklyn is larger than Philadelphia and close to Chicago, this is one incomprehensible feature of New York. You can, on occasion from within its frontiers, see the Milky Way. On Monday 17 September I went to work. Lower Manhattan was slated to reopen for as normal a routine as practical. The exclusion, also called frozen, zone was further contracted to Chambers St and Broadway. The region east and north of these boundaries, back north to Canal Street, were open only to pedestrians, no vehicles. North of Canal St, traffic was normal, much like I saw it on Friday evening. My train ride was quite ordinary. Over the weekend the Transit Authority regularized the routes such that almost full capacity was on the rails and only two lines were still completely out of commission. I will not elaborate the changes for they require an intimate knowledge of the predisaster system, specially the mass shuffling of routes on 22 July 2001. In general, certain routes were scrubbed and their itineraries were patched onto the remaining ones. On Manhattan Bridge, the view was sad. No World Trade Center. Riders stared out as if to hope that last week was some weird dream. Only a thin smoke rose up from the site, blending into the real clouds above it. There was no odor during the bridge crossing. The Brighton Beach train stopped at Canal St and Prince St, exchanging riders at each. The run to Herald Square was a bit zippy, not stop & go like last week. After work I had a supper meeting with the New York chapter of the National Space Society. It wants to cooperate with the [Amateur Astronomers] Association on assorted programs, like cross-publcizing meetings and adding some astronomy to its newsletter. This was at 19h, so I had some time to while away. [Out of this meeting came my monthly SpaceWalk column to introduce spacefarers to the astronomy benefits of space exploration. it is now carried worldwide thru pass-along copies on Internet.] I walked from work to the 69th Regiment armory, 26th and Lexington Av. This was, until this very morning or Sunday night, the victim identification center. Friends and family came here all last week with artifacts to help identify victims of the World Trade Center collapse and to learn of any survivors. The immense number of people who turned out -- several myriads! -- forced the relocation of the center to an exhibition pier on the Hudson River, starting this morning. The armory was simply too small. If you're wondering how an armory can be too small, this particular one is about the smallest armory in creation. It fills only 2/3 of a Manhattan half-block, from Lexington Av back toward Park Av. Despite its puny size, it is still a tough fortress with its turrets, loopholes, heavy gate. I should note that only New York has real armories, altho many towns have structures called an 'armory'. Those in the City were built in the 19th century for exactly the reason the innumerable 'Fort This' and 'Fort That' were built in the American Midwest to quell rebellions and maintain a police function. The municipal police wasn't fully organized yet. With the armory closed, with only the military crew on hand, there was none of the mob scene of last week. Barricades were folded and stacked, most of the trash was cleared away. Guards at the gate directed people to the pier, reachable by local bus. But within the few days of operation, this armory acquired national attention. All around its battlements were thousands of missing-person posters! All taped to the walls, they asked for help in finding this or that person who worked in the World Trade Center. There were candles and flowers at the sidewalk or on ledges and parapets. These posters spilled over to a large Staples store on Park Av and to street furniture on the surrounding streets. They were all more or less of similar design. Across the top is the person's name, then some personal specifications, description of clothing and body markings. Then the place in the Trade Center where he or she worked. Most had a picture of the victim. The greater percent seemed to be cut from computer publishing programs, with a good mix of hand lettered sheets run off on a photocopier. The people inspecting these posters were of the greatest diversity. They ranged from sloppy downdressers to charcoal gray suiters. From news accounts, the missing count stood on Monday evening at about 5,400. During the day we learned that the death toll may be far LESS than originally feared. The reason is that the World Trade Center, from the day it opened, was very tough on fire preparation and response. The Port of Authority, who owned and ran the place, knew full well that any foulup in protecting the tenants would force it out of business. All tenants were exercised in fire prevention and practiced escape routes and procedures. This paid off. Within seconds after the first plane hit, the fire alarms sent the tenants to the street in a swift sure, but thoroly orderly and calm, precession. Probably everyone on the floors below the impact point had a fighting chance to evacuate before the tower's collapse. And it was due to the practice and exercise that no one quailed at walking down 50, 60, 70, 80 floors via firestairs. In the second tower, 2 WTC, the alarm went off when 1 WTC was struck, but the tenants there were not evacuated then. The towers are totally independent structures with no way for any plausible fire to communicate from the one to the other. However, the tenants were on alert to get out if conditions changed. When 2 WTC was hit by the second plane, its tenants rolled. Because this plane impacted a bit lower down, there were fewer floors able to evacuate but even so several thousand made it to the street before that tower infalled onto itself. This scenario is supported in what I saw in the posters. Overwhelmingly the place of work was in the upper floors of the towers, near or above the impact floors. I saw only a few from lower floors. Other mitigating factors were the ongoing arrival of tenants, absence of tourists, and paucity of visitors. Tenants were on the way into the towers, it not quite being the start of the business day. Tours don't start arriving until 9 o'clock; their buses were on the way to the Trade Center when the strikes occurred. Visitors hadn't yet arrived for being still a bit early in the workday. Overall, the occupancy of the Twin Towers at 08:45 EDST was about 1/2 of capacity, or some 50,000 people. This matches the missing person count. (5,400)/(50,000) = 10.8%. And this is about the amount of floorage at and above the impact points on the towers. Even if we allow for an increase in the reported number of missings to 10,000, a cool myriad of people, this is far far less than the dread of coping with the loss of a sizable American town, like Cambridge, Massachusetts, or Indianapolis, Indiana. Yet 10,000 casualties is four times the loss at Pearl Harbor, about that in the grossest battles of the civil War, and excedes the loss from some monster earthquakes. With still time to eat up I wandered down to Union Square. I passed the Square on Friday evening but did not enter it. It was also then too dark to see into it. Now it was filled to overflowing with people. The entire park was made into a rallying stage for victims's friends and family. Walls and lamppoles were festooned with missing-person posters. Candles, flowers, makeshift cairns, piles of momentos, were everywhere thruout the park. One memorial display, made from thousands of momentos, filled a circular zone around a horsey statue (no, I don't know who it is) fully 10 meters in diameter! [The statue is of George Washington.] The crowds were very orderly, well-behaved, very -- to the word 'go' -- a Villagey stripe of folk. Many arrived with flowers, a photograph, some clothing piece, to lay on the memorial piles. There were some sloganeering, by signs and posters and by oration. Union Square, from my father's youth, was a nest for every color and flavor and odor of person to have his day in the Sun. Any political and social bent can be aired here. In the old days, people collected in 'beehives' to argue out their philosophies and mindsets. A person would stand on a soapbox (then made of wood) to elevate above the listeners and be heard and seen better. After a couple decades of miserable decay, Union Square was reopened in the mid 1990s as one of the world's grand public parks (Manhattan has the others). It's still under construction but enough is finished to allow full enjoyment by the people. So the Square is once again a nest for commentary, only the orators now stand on plastic milk cartons and advertise their websites. The south flank of the Park, fronting 14th St, was lined with mobile newsmedia trucks, all busily recording the activity. By now it was getting toward 7 PM. I popped into the BMT station under Union Square. My train came right away and shot me to my supper date in a few minutes. Nothing special happened with me since that Monday night. As I see things, the BMT now runs much better with the new routings than with the predisaster ones! Trains came frequently, ran smoothly and swiftly, got me around town with no undue delay or hassle. Going to work on Tuesday, the 18th, I had a scare. My train was empty! So empty that I had a choice of seats, when normally the train is good and crowded. What now? Nothing. Tuesday is Ros Hashanah, Jewish New Year. About one million New Yorkers stayed home for this holiday.
= = = = = 2001 September 19 ~16:00 EDST
[This episode is the seventh and final one for my experience with the collapse of the World Trade Center.] During lunch, at about 12h EDST on September 19th, I took the train to Lower Manhattan to see what's going on there. The eastern half of Lower Manhattan was opened for business on Monday morning, the 18th, genrally east of Broadway. I got off at Brooklyn Bridge station on the IRT Lexington Av line. My first stop on the street was near the Municipal Building. I took several pictures during this excursion, samples attached as JPG files [omitted]. From near the front of the Municipal Building a fantastic view of the skyscrapers is presented with the Twin Towers looming up behind them. Today, there were all the other towers, but not the Twin Towers. The air was hazy, like a typical New York fall haze, and there was no strong smoke issuing from Ground Zero, There was no smoke odor in the air, depsite a west wind from the Hudson River across the site. The air in midtown was definitely clearer, with a deep Mediterranean blue sky, so there may well have been a diffuse Trade Center haze over just Lower Manhattan. I then walked onto Brooklyn Bridge, which was populated by many visitors and sightseers. I went out to the Manhattan tower, where you get the classical skyline view thru the bridge cables. No Twin Towers. People were marvelling at the altered skyline and taking pictures of it. From the Bridge I headed south in Broadway. This Lower Manhattan district is open outside the exclusion or frozen zone only to pedestrians. Only authroized vehicles are permitted in the streets. But the sheer number of such vehicles, -- turcks, vans, machinery, police, fire -- was so huge that road traffic was about as dense as regular predisaster traffic! Pedestrians were kept out of the road lanes by parade barricades along the curbs. Police at every corner and in many mid bblocks kept people moving. Only the east side of Broadway was open for civilians. Right away the room for foot traffic was cut in half, creating jams and crowding like that during a parade. Movement was greatly impeded by the multitude of construction canopies all along Broadway, Their poles got in the way, narrowing the path for people to squeeze past them. These canopies wre a fortunate feature that prevented mass injuries during the collapse. They are built at construction sites precisely to protect civilians against falling debris or tools! They consist of a framework of heavy sections of pipe clamped together to straddle the sidewalk. In some cases the poles are doubled for extra strength and cross bracing is added. This frame is decked with thick planks and fitted with a plywood fence. Anyone passing under the canopy when an object strikes it from above will be scared to death from the amazingly loud bang. The planks take the blow and injuries are prevented. The fence holds back things that bounce or ricochet. So with so many of these marching along the streets due to the all points mass construction thruout Lower Manhattan, pedestrians were likely to be under one when the collapse occurred and sharpnel started flying around. The downside is, besides slowing traffic, is that the canopy blocks views upward! New Uork is a vertical city, as evidenced by the open top sightseeing buses. Police maintained a strict righthand flow of foot traffic, with monitors posted every so often, like ten meters, down the sidewalk between the two streams. I, therefore, had to get my views of the site from the curbside stream while walking south. My first vantage point was Fulton St, Ann St, and Broadway. This intersection has St Paul's Chapel, a holdover from colonial years, and the oldest, I told, continuously occupied sturcture on Manhattan. One very typcial tourist picture is this colonial church standing against the facade of the Trade Center. Now it stands against open sky. The church escaped without a scratch, according to news accounts. The edifice did get doused in ash and dust, but there was no actual damage at all! One church, which I did not inspect today because it is within the frozen zone, is a tiny Greek Orthodox chruch across the street from the Trade Center on, I think, Cedar St. It was literally squashed off the face of the Earth by falling rubble when Tower @2 infalled. This corner of Fulton, Ann, and Broadway was choked with people staring at the scene. Police tried mightily to keep the road clear for rescue operatons, but the trucks got hung up and blcoked by the crowds. I do have to express immense pride in the City police for their absolute politeness and professional handling of the traffic. Not a single one uttered an angry word or threatened force. The mobs studied the empty sky beyond St Paul's, some comparing it with books and photos of the same view with the Twin Towers. Picturetaking was rampant. Police repeatedly asked me and others to keep moving and not to dwadle. On a couple occsions, when I stopped to frame a picture, a cop aksed if I got the picture yet. Good, please keep moving, now, thanks. The theme was not to prevent photography but to prevent foot jams and gridlock. With only one side of Broadway open and a full lunchtime business crowd, plus sightseers (like me), plus tourists, plus emergency workers, the street was packed as if for a ticker tape parade. Police sometimes advised me to walk along Nassau St, parallel to Broadway and far less trafficked. (I would do this on the way back north.) My next destination, taking a good half hour to reach from Fulton St!, was Liberty St. By a quirk of luck Lower Manhattan had a 'graybelt' stretching across it at Liberty St and Maiden Lane. It consists of adjoining open plazas of towers from Nevelson Square to Tobin Square. The latter is the main arena or 'quadrangle' of the Trade Center campus. It's a graybelt because until the 1990s, the spaces were rather barren of any foliage and were paved with stone. As part of the new paradigma of the new millennium, all the plazas were under massive rebuilding to include trees, plants, benches, and other civic amenities. Now at Liberty St and Broadway I was at the south end of the Trade Center campus, and I would have seen the skywalks connecting it to former Bankers Trust Plaza on the south side of Liberty St. [The became the Deutsches Bank building.] No skywalk. No Trade Center. Only shredded girders and columns! Crowds packed up here for the clear sightline along the graybelt to the demolition work. Police manfully tried to keep the people flowing, with mixed success. It was tough to sweep people out of Broadway, when they spilled off of the sidewalk, to make way for authorized vehicles. The Liberty Plaza tower is here, the one supposedly on the verge of collapse. The north side, which I saw before getting to Liberty St, was banged up as if by a giant's hammer. The girders forming the facade are structural in that they are the exterior framework of the tower; some were dented up. By now I was getting a bit bushed from all the buffeting and bumping. I pulled out of the crowd and headed east to Nassau St. This is normally a foot mall filled wall to wall with people during lunch. Now it was almost empty of people with a road lane barricaded off in the center. Foot traffic was confined to what would have been the sidewalks (there is no curb here because the whole width of the street was laid out for pedestrians.) It was a quick walk back to Fulton St. I expected to see masses of ash all over everything being that there is no sensible way to hose down thirty and higher floor towers. There was very little massing of ash anywhere. Oh, there were little piles here and there, in crevices and in the sculpted parts of facades. I then remembered that on last Thursday night and Friday morning it rained torrentially. This rain must have washed off the verneer of dust and ash. Where I could reach and touch the ash, it felt like crumbling sandstone or, perhaps in a finer vein, sugarstone. At Fulton St and Nassau St I ducked into the subway and headed back to work.
= = = = =