Update: 11-Sep-01 I no longer work in the trade center; we moved to midtown (ironically) because of the first bombing. I'm fine.

On Friday, February 26, 1993, at approximately 12:18 p.m. a bomb went off in the basement parking lot of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. The 1200-pound car bomb went off in the B2 level (the second basement) but the blast was so intense that it shattered the steel-reinforced concrete floor, causing debris to plunge down into the B3 and lower levels, and forcing thick smoke up into the stairwells and elevator shafts of both towers, which acted like chimneys given the position of the blast. Six people were killed by the explosion, and more than 1000 were injured or suffered from smoke inhalation. The explosion also caused $500 million in damage to the complex, and necessitated structural repairs that kept tenants out of the building for more than a month.

The FBI arrested four suspects from a radical Muslim group, who were later convicted and sentenced to 240 years each. The alleged mastermind of the operation, Ramzi Yousef, fled the country immediately after the bombing but was tracked down in Pakistan two years later.

I was inside when it happened.

And I was almost at the top.

Our firm was on the 96th floor of tower one (the northern one, with the big antenna on top). We were all sitting at our desks typing away, when there was a very loud yet muffled BOOM. The building shook, enough to knock things off the edges of a desk, and the lights dimmed briefly.

As I sat at my desk, thinking wtf?, I watched half the company run to the windows. Apparently in everyone's minds the only thing that could produce such a boom-and-shake was a plane hitting the building. (This is not entirely unprecedented, btw, since the Empire State Building was hit by a plane in the 1940s.) So lots of people run to the windows and look down, expecting to see, well, half a plane sticking out of one of the floors.

Then time slows down, and a number of things start to happen at once.

Our group manager Brigitte has security on speed-dial, so she is immediately on the phone with them. They tell her that there has been an explosion, and that we should "get your people out". By now people have realized that Something Bad has happened, and they start grabbing their coats and heading for the emergency stairway.

While this is happening, the phone at my desk rings. It is my friend Rick. This is maybe 30 seconds after the blast. I pick up the phone, and he says, "Did you hear that?". I am a little concerned at this point since the office is now filled with a thin smoky haze, and we are obviously evacuating. I am also totally confused, because Rick works in Midtown (about two miles north of the Trade Center), and couldn't possibly have heard the explosion. Unless it was a really big explosion, I think, and worry a little more. As it turns out, he was on the phone with a trader for a different company in the building when the blast happened, so he immediately hung up and called me. But I don't give him time to explain this. I can only muster, "Uh, yeah, but I...uh...I can't talk because we're evacuating. Bye." I hang up, grab my coat, and follow everybody else through the haze. We pile out into the lobby, and I follow a couple of co-workers down the "A" emergency stairwell.

Things have already backed up significantly, and we're at almost a total standstill before we even get to the stairs. We had an awesome, breathtaking view from the 96th floor. What you never think about is that in an emergency you will be walking down 96 flights of stairs. Not only will you be doing this, the other 25,000 people who work in the building will be doing it as well.

As I enter the smoky stairwell, which is pretty dark despite the emergency lighting, I think for the first time: we could really die in here. Not because the smoke is that bad right now, but that stairwell was a death trap. The doors lock behind you (for security reasons, of course, so people can't gain access to other companies on different floors), so once you're inside you are trapped. At this point we have absolutely no information, so we don't know if there's a raging fire going on downstairs or what (and remember this is 1993, before everyone and his dog had a cell phone, which probably wouldn't work inside that staircase anyway). If that staircase had filled up with thick black smoke all of a sudden, we would all be dead.

We walk slowly down the stairs. After we pass through the 78th floor skylobby and into the second stairwell, we are feeling a little better because the thin smoke is not getting worse. But it's not getting better either; it's kind of like the air in a really smoky poker game held in a small room. Several people have scarves (It is wintertime) and breathe through them. After about 20 floors, most of us have accumulated little dark smoky patches around our mouth, eyes, and especially in the spot between our mouths and noses, like a bunch of little Hitler mustaches. We wonder why we aren't hearing any official announcements over the public-address system that appears to be installed; there are speaker-like objects mounted below the emergency lights on every floor.

After a while, a bunch of us invent some games to pass the time. Roughly 50,000 people work in the two towers. With us is a junior sysadmin who is on his third day on the job. We reason that it is a near statistical certainty that it is at least a few people's first day, or last day. We get a little jolt out of the irony of this.

We reach the 48th floor in about 30 or 40 minutes. We are met by a security official who is in radio contact with the ground; they want to move us into the offices (which are less smoky) while they truck in heavy industrial fans in an attempt to suck the smoke out of the stairwells. Strangely enough, the 48th floor is the offices of one of our major competitors. We sit in the corner and joke about going through a few of the filing cabinets, since we have nothing better to do.

After what seems like a half an hour, we are given instructions to proceed. We are filing out into the 48th floor lobby, down the staircase again, and then WHAM. The lights go out.

We are in total darkness.

We find out later that apparently there has been enough time to do some damage assessment, and Con Ed (the power company) has determined that they don't know enough about the damage done to the power plant and the electrical wiring to declare the building's electrical system safe. So they shut off all of the building's power. Never mind that we've been at this for over an hour now. Never mind that the backup generators that supposedly powered the emergency stairwell lighting were destroyed in the blast, so they don't kick in the way they are supposed to.

A person walking down about a floor and a half has brought a pocket flashlight, and a few people have cigarette lighters, but we are basically walking down the rest of the way in the dark. For 48 floors. But it doesn't matter now because it's funny in a weird way. This sucks, but we're obviously not in any real danger now, and whatever they did has made things a little less smoky (or at least it seems that way, since we can't see a thing), so our spirits are lifted a bit. This feels like the home stretch.

We emerge at ground level inside the 1WTC lobby, and we are amazed. All of the enormous panels of glass that separate the lobby from the outside have been shattered, either by the explosion or intentionally by the emergency workers. There are piles of glass everywhere, but a path has been cleared for us to get out onto the World Trade Center plaza. We blink in the daylight, and look up. Helicopters are still flying overhead; some people on the top floors went to the roof figuring it was safer, and they are being airlifted down. Whisps of brown smoke still trail away from the roof and a few floors where the windows had been broken. We make our way across the plaza which presents its own challenges, since a good deal of it is rather icy. I lose my footing once or twice, but manage not to fall.

The first thing I do is find a payphone and call my mother, because she is a compulsive worrier. She's away from her desk, but I leave a message. Later I find out that she was in a meeting all afternoon, and heard my message before she heard about the bomb, so a whole lot of hand-wringing is avoided.

I get on the Lex line and travel up to Grand Central. As I'm walking through the big lobby I see another guy with a trace of a soot mustache. We exchange smiles.

"What floor were you on?"

"Thirty-nine. You?"


He shook his head. "Damn. How long'd that take you?"

"Two hours"

I call some friends who work in Midtown, but I get their voicemail. I'm dying for a drink or three, but I'm happy just to be alive and on the ground. I go home and collapse. That night I take them out for a it's-great-to-be-alive dinner, and everything about it seems to be the best it can possibly be.

update sept 11, 2001:I'm in Florida, and fine. My former HS was just evacuated...I don't know what to say. The below w/u is about the WTC bombing in 1993, not about today.

My point of view of the WTC bombing was a bit different. I was not inside, but rather in high school about three blocks to the north.

It was 5th period I believe. I was in a computers class. Out of nowhere, there was a loud thud. Didn't sound like an explosion really. Rather, it sounded like a truck backfiring or a dumpster being tipped. It sounded like it came from above, and since the lunchroom was on the next floor, I assumed it was something minor related to that. No one thought anything of it and class continued.

Then maybe 10 minutes later, we all heard some sirens and looked out the window, facing south across an empty lot (which is now an apartment building) and saw all these lights a few blocks downtown. Class ended and I went downstairs to my economics class, which also was on the south side of the building.

We saw some more lights, but the teacher made us sit down and despite our curiousity, we had to stay seated.

Next was a math class, with a much more lenient teacher. Rumors had been going around that there was an explosion in the World Trade Center. We all stood by the windows, watching and wondering. Then suddenly there was a helicopter, hovering maybe 20 feet from us, straight ahead. In a completely surreal moment, someone waved at the pilot, and he waved back, before heading towards the giant mass of lights and screeches of sirens, which had gradually increased.

I forgot if there was an announcement or if someone turned on a television or radio, but by the time I left school, everyone knew there was some sort of explosion at WTC.

Of course, I had to see what was happening. I walked the few blocks, towards the lights, and the noise. By this time, most of the evacuations were complete. Still, I saw quite a few people with soot on their clothes and their faces. It was organized chaos. No one seemed to know what had really happened and there were people crying and hugging. It all seemed like a sort of dream.

A day later, I read the newspapers and discovered one of the people who died in the blast was the father of a 7th grade classmate of mine. This hit home hard. I mean, that could have been my father or even me. I took the subway and ferry to work everyday and walked by the WTC on many occasions.

Being a high school student and a New Yorker, I had felt immortal. What could hurt me? That all changed on the snowy afternoon. In a way, that was the beginning of the end of my childhood. I started taking things more seriously and felt vulnerable and more defensive. An event like that can certainly change someone who was involved, like sockpuppet. But it also impacts those further in the distance, like me.

The events

On the morning of Tuesday 11th September, two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Centre towers. Arab terrorists hijacked the planes and flew them into the towers. After the first plane crashed into the tower, it was believed that it may have been due to pilot error. However after the second crashed into the other tower, it became much more likely that it had been a co-ordinated terrorist attack. The towers collapsed less than half an hour after the attack.

President George W. Bush ordered a full investigation. The FBI launched their investigation and others, including the CIA and NSA got involved as well.

Alan Capper, a Brit living in New York was woken by the explosion. He said, "I was in bed and there was a huge explosion. The whole building rattled and shook. I ran to the window and there was smoke billowing from the south side of one of the towers. Everyone in my building was panicking and running around."

The Pentagon was also hit by an aircraft. As it is situated near an airport, there was no anti-aircraft protection like at the White House. The resulting impact caused one part of it to be almost totally demolished. The White House was evacuated. There were other reports of attacks on targets in the US but they proved to be false. Camp David and Capitol Hill were originally belived to have been hit but neither were damaged. A fourth plane, that was apparently heading towards the White House, crashed before it reached its target. Realising what was going to happen, a group of passengers attempted to overpower the hijackers. One passenger telephoned his wife to this effect before they started. Their actions may have stopped a fourth successful attack.

George Bush was escorted to Airforce One, which took off with fighter escort. Domestic and international flights were halted. Other public buildings were evacuated across the continent, though fortunately this was not necessary. Outside of America, other countries closed some airports and stepped up security. However no bombings occured outside of America in the aftermath.

In Britain, both the Queen, Tony Blair and William Hague were quick to condemn the attacks. Military and civil buildings were put on a state of high alert, including Buckingham Palace, as were military installations around the world. Flights were grounded temporarily.

The death toll was around 3,000. People of all nationalities died, including dozens of Britons. The terrorists had no regard for race or religion when they planned the attack. The whole world was affected by this tragedy.

Subsequent details

The hijackers died in their attacks, which frustratingly meant that there were few people to prosecute. It was assumed that Osama Bin Laden organised the attacks but whether he thought of the idea or not, senior members of Al-Qaeda were certainly involved. Bin Laden's whereabouts were still unknown a year after the attacks, despite a lengthy search for him in Afghanistan. Some people claim he is alive, though in one interview with suspected terrorist leaders after 2001, an Al-Jezeera journalist heard one slip and refer to him in the past tense. If he truely is dead, then we should be concentrating on who is going to replace him.

Information from BBC, ITV and BBC online.

On Tuesday September 11th, 2001, four hijacked commercial airplanes, each carrying between 45 and 130 people, were involved in a major attack.

The first airplane, American Airlines flight 11, crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center twin towers at 8:45 am EDT. With many people watching this, another airplane flew into the second tower 18 minutes later. Thirty minute to an hour later, the top of one of the towers fell straight down, destroying the tower in a very contained way (definitely better than having it fall over sideways). The same thing happens to the other one shortly after. Later in the day, another building, #7 World Trade Center, collapsed after evacuation. A witness who was driving towards the scene said that the smoke changed within seconds from a dark grey to white, and the local radio then started reporting on the collapse.

Fortunately, an unknown number of people were able to escape from nearly everywhere in both towers - i've heard reports of people getting out of the 88th floor of Tower 1. Many people in the lower floors were probably able to escape safely. Although it was right after rush hour, and the offices were probably busy, things didn't happen as fast as it looked on TV, so the number of potential victims is reduced.

The towers were designed to withstand an airplane crash, but I believe that when the airplanes went into the A car bomb went off in front of the State Department, previously thought to be merely a rumor.

towers, they created fires and explosions that eventually left the tops standing on supports that could no longer hold them, causing them to fall off. No matter how well they was designed, they couldn't take 20-50 stories falling through it. It is very lucky though that the airplanes did not hit lower down and cause at least the upper two thirds of each tower to fall sideways.

Another American Airlines airplane crashed into the Pentagon an hour after the beginning of the attack. One part of the Pentagon collapsed later."with a chasm 200-300 feet across and fires on six stories". The airplane hit the south-west side near the heliport. The section that was hit had just been renovated and had new blast-resistant windows, which is thought to have saved some people. The Pentagon asked personel to call 1-877-663-6772 to be accounted for. There are now five confirmed crashes - a "Camp David" crash that you may have heard about is actually the Pittsburgh crash (80 miles south of Pittsburgh to be more specific), which occured near Camp David.

CBC had an interview with a former American Airlines pilot, who describes what may have happened and some new facts: for one, there were probably no firearms on the airplanes. The terrorists all used pocket knives that anyone might be carrying, and therefore could get them through security easily - they even probably wouldn't be confiscated if they were found. The flight attendants attempt to analyze passengers as they board to find potential troublemakers, and the pilots do so to a smaller extent. Since all the flights took off, the terrorists must have passed off as completely normal passengers. They would need three to five people to take control of each airplane: they would need to secure the cockpit and front galley, and the rear galley. Both can page each other, so they had to do this simultaneously and stealthily. In theory, this means that with the minimum of three people, they could have one pilot, one person securing the cockpit, and one person securing the rear galley. All airplanes were Boeing 767 and 757s, which are very similar - the terrorists could even have gone to Boeing flight school to learn them, and a terrorist who knew how to fly one could fly any other similar Boeing aircraft. This means they didn't have to bring special pilots - if they trained every person to fly Boeing aircraft, they could work with as little as one uninterupted person in each airplane.

They also had to navigate from the hijacking point to NYC, but that could easily be done by telling the pilots to go to John F Kennedy airport in New York (the pilots would probably comply with this request to avoid the terrorists taking more drastic action) - they wouldn't have to take control until they neared the airport, at which point they would be able to see the World Trade Center. This ex-AA pilot also said that once in the air, the airplanes would be as easy to drive as a car. The terrorist pilot would of course have to know the basic principles of flight, but other than that they didn't need a lot of training. Therefore, they needed three things: to get their weapons past security (a group of people well trained in martial arts might even be able to do something like this without weapons), either get the pilots to fly to NYC or have someone who can navigate, and then have someone who knows the basic principles of flight to aim at the target.

The airplanes involved were American Airlines flight 11, with 81 passengers and 11 crew members, Unite Airlines flight 93, which crashed near Pittsburg (rumored to be an intentional destruction by the pilot to avoid hitting the intended target), United Airlines flight 175, with 56 passengers and nine crew members, is said to have been the second airplane involved in the WTC destruction, and American Airlines flight 77, a Boeing 757 with 51 passengers and 6 crew members which hit the Pentagon. Three more airplanes are currently unaccounted for.

An emergency dispatcher recieved a cell phone call from a passenger on UA flight 93, who said they were being hijacked and they were going down. They lost contact after hearing an explosion. The hijacking is thought to have been carried out by four terrorists on each airplane, who would likely have had to replace the pilots or have their people already at the controls to be able to hit their targets. The FAA reported losing track of several airplanes, but regained control later.

A Korean airliner was escorted to Whitehorse in the Yukon by Canadian and American fighters after suspicion that it had been hijacked, but it is now reported that a low fuel indication triggered an emergency beacon, leading to the suspicions.

A car bomb went off in front of the State Department, previously thought to be merely a rumor.

So far, over 300 firemen and 85 policemen are reported missing from the site of the world trade center. Up to 800 people vere killed at the Pentagon (this may or may not include the airplane).

Three men were stopped in New Jersey late in the evening and are being held for questioning. Reports of them carrying explosives are false. There are also reports of South Florida police ready to serve search warrants.

George W Bush, who was in Florida, said "Freedom itself was attacked" and "the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts", speaking to the public for the second time since the attack. He will be staying away from the White House until the situation calms down. Sky News describes him as "Clearly shaken as the full extent of the tragedy sank in".

Possibly all airports in North America are being closed, and all flights are supposed to land as soon as possible. Early after the attack, many international flights were being diverted to Canada, where airports were overloaded and being evacuated. However, 22 international flights will be permitted to land in the US. All police officers in New York were called in, and the army, navy and air force bases were put on Threatcon Delta..Border security is being tightened. In NATO bases in Europe, staff were put on alert, and all NATO staff in Brussels except the essential personel were sent home. There are evacuations in New York and Washington, including all government agencies, and many other parts of America, as well as some parts of Toronto. There were also other evacuations in major cities around thw world. There is a no-fly zone over New York and Washington, with the US Air Force patroling it.

Five battleships and two aircraft carriers were deployed on the East Coast, with two aircraft carriers going to New York. All bridges and tunnels were closed. FEMA takes unpsecified action.

Stock markets in the US are closed, and in worldwide trading the prices of gold and oil are said to have increased - according to CBC, something that happens in disasters like this.

Governments and officials around the world are denouncing this attack, and there have been several reports of people claiming responsibility, but none that can be taken seriously yet - there have been many denials however.

Sources: slashdot, MSNBC, CNN, CBC, e2, Ananova and more.
At just about 13 hours after the attacks began, it looks like all the available facts have been noded; nevertheless, I apologize in advance for going against the grain and editorializing.

Today's terrorist attacks have been compared with Pearl Harbor, the attack that began America's war with Japan. That conflict ended with the use of nuclear weapons, and I very much hope that this one will have a happier ending. No doubt the loss of life has not ended, but I join the rest of the world in hoping that those responsible are swiftly and harshly brought to justice.

Terrorism is not just violence, but violence intended to frighten and disrupt the lives of ordinary people. By that definition, today's unprecedented attack was a remarkably (and I hesitate to use the word...) successful act of terrorism. I say that because it destroyed much more than buildings and airliners. It not only killed the thousands of innocent victims, but killed a part of each of us today. This was a very powerful attack on the American way of life.

It succeeded because for the first time in American history, all commercial flights were grounded. Because it shut down the New York Stock Exchange (a major blow to world commerce). Because it sent countless people rushing to buy gasoline in the fear that they might not afford it the next day. Because it shook more than the foundations of buildings, landmarks, things. It shook people. Hundreds of millions of people. It succeeded because for the better part of a day, it brought the most powerful nation on earth to a dead stop, and made us realize just how vulnerable we are.

But it has also failed.

Because where this attack has horrified and stunned countless millions, it has also united those people against a common enemy. Because today I walked through my building and saw all of my neighbors tuned into CNN. For at least one day, America shared something. Fear, loss, and anger. A need for justice, which must, and will be satisfied.

For one day, somewhere in the world a group of terrorists will celebrate victory. Their failure is that it will be short-lived; tomorrow will be a new day. And they will soon become the targets.

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