Thursday, July 19, 2007

yesterday's explosion

As the hands of the big round clock on my office wall approached 5:50, I sent my last e-mail for the day, something about sending a rug to a photo shoot for Friday. I sat for a moment, chatting with a coworker about our plans for the evening, which entailed dinner with an old friend for me (which is why I was in the office later than usual), and a Target run for her, and we were venting about annoying commuters... And that's when it started. I thought it was thunder at first, and then the building started to shake. Someone yelled to get under a desk. We started to, until we saw the brown smoke and debris shoot up past our 9th story windows and surround the building. The thunderous roar continued, and the floor kept shaking. My two coworkers and I grabbed each other, and ran for the closest stairwell.

Running down those flights of stairs seemed to be happening in slow motion. I kept looking for my one coworker ahead of me, and one behind me, to make sure we were still together. When we got to the bottom, we could hear a woman's voice over the speaker telling us to evacuate. The rumbling got louder. There were no windows, but the floor and walls were shaking around us. People pushed towards an exit door, but whoever was at the front could tell that whatever was happening, was happening right on the other side of that door, so we couldn't open it. I am so thankful for whoever that was. If they had opened that door, it would have been right on Lexington by 41st, and everything- the heat and ash and debris, would have shot in and pummeled us all.

We started running the other way. People were yelling about Grand Central and the subways, which run right under our building, and explosions, and terrorists. I could barely hear them though, between the deafening roar and the high pitched pulses of the building's alarm. There was someone with a walkie talkie directing us towards another exit, and trying to keep people calm. Not an easy task, although I think many people were still in a state of shock. Through the darkness of the seemingly endless corridors, I finally saw a sliver of the outside world. What literally looked like a light at the end of a tunnel.

I felt a combination of relief and total fear about what I was about to see and experience. As I exited, I heard a woman yell, don't look back, run for your life.

We ran down 41st, trying not to trip on abandoned shoes and bags that were strewn on streets and sidewalks. I was about a block and a half away, when I had to turn and look. It was exactly what I had seen in a nightmare I had several months back... People screaming and pushing. Clouds of smoke and ash rising to the sky. Manhattan, a rumble and smokey blur.

With all of the movement at the bottom of the smoke plume, and the way it seemed to be spreading, I thought the explosion was moving. The only thing I could think, was that the explosion was moving through the subway lines. In my mind, behind that smoke, buildings were falling to the ground, and the subway lines were spreading the explosion across Manhattan.

We kept running, and trying to call our families. My phone kept saying call failed. I was imagining my husband or my mother turning on the tv and seeing my building, submerged in all that smoke, and the people running, so reminiscent of 9-11. I finally reached them, thankfully before the explosion reached the news, and as calmly as possible, explained that I was okay, but that something was happening in New York and I was trying to get away. We walked up the East side, on 2nd I think, but knew that we had to get across to the West side to catch a bus to Jersey. Even though people started calling and telling us that the path trains and the other subways lines besides the Grand Central lines were okay, there was no way that I was stepping foot on a subway. As we attempted to cross back across Lexington, a few streets higher, by 45th or so, we stopped in our tracks, seeing the smoke plume that we had just been inches away from, now from a distance.

My phone cam could not begin to capture the magnitude...

I now know that it was just a pipe explosion, but as I was experiencing it, the only thing I knew was the roar, and the shaking, and the look of terror on people's faces as they were running for their lives. I've been watching the news, and see that it was only a pipe, but my body and mind don't seem to be accepting that. I just hope that they will let me actually get some sleep tonight. Apparently, even wine and ambien can't keep me from looking back.
posted by Danielle @ 8:24 PM |


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