America's sense of security was smashed with apocalyptic fury Tuesday whenthe most destructive and meticulously planned terror attack in history shatteredtwo of the country's most potent symbols.
Shortly after leaving Boston, American Airlines Flight 11 to Los Angelesbanked south near Albany and raced down the Hudson River Valley. It plummetedfrom a crystal blue bowl of morning sky and punched a hole through the northtower of the World Trade Center, the heart of the nation's financial nervecenter in lower Manhattan.
It was 8:45 a.m., the start of a series of calamitous attacks that broughtthe nation face to face with its vulnerability. With the twin towers toppled inNew York, the Pentagon burning, a jetliner down in Pennsylvania, the morning'scruel work ended the nation's normalcy.
``Today, our nation saw evil,'' a grim-faced President Bush said Tuesdaynight during his first prime-time address from the Oval Office. He promised thatthe United States will avenge its thousands of terror victims by retaliatingagainst ``those behind these evil acts,'' and any country that harbors them.
There were four planes hijacked by presumed terrorists Tuesday, and fouraccompanying disasters that caused unfathomable carnage. Rescue experts wouldonly speculate that the death toll could reach well into the thousands. The fourplanes alone carried 266 people, and a New York fire official said as many as300 firefighters died when the towers collapsed.
Hospitals in New York and the rest of the tri-state area, includingsouthwestern Connecticut, braced for thousands of badly burned survivors. Bymid-morning, victims were pouring into triage centers. Thousands of blood donorswere joining lines across the country. By midafternoon, New York Mayor RudolphGiuliani said, at least 600 people had been taken to hospitals and about 1,500``walking wounded'' were ferried over New York Harbor to Liberty State Park,near the Statue of Liberty. Late Tuesday, New York's police commissioner saidthere may be people alive but trapped in downtown buildings near the World TradeCenter.
Thousands of families in Fairfield County fought with overwhelmed telephonesystems to learn the fate of the 32,000 Connecticut residents who commute toManhattan daily, beginning almost as soon as the second blow was struck Tuesdayin New York.
That blow, hijacked United Airlines Flight 175, also from Boston to LosAngeles, exploded into the World Trade Center's south tower minutes after 9 a.m.Forty minutes later, American Airlines Flight 77, bound from Washington to LosAngeles, deliberately plunged into administrative offices at the Pentagon,across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
Little was disclosed Tuesday about the identity of the terrorists. But latein the day, security experts analyzing intercepted electronic communicationswere developing evidence that the attacks were undertaken by a network reportingto terrorist Osama bin Laden, who is responsible for previous attacks on U.S.embassies in Africa.
It also was unclear how the terrorists had managed to circumvent airportsecurity. However, phone calls from passengers in the doomed planes suggestedthat they had brought knives rather than firearms on board as weapons.
Barbara Olson, the 45-year-old wife of U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson,was aboard the jet that struck the Pentagon. Among her last acts were twotelephone calls to her husband in which she reported that the plane was beinghijacked by attackers wielding knives and box-cutters
A passenger on the fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93 fromNewark to San Francisco, phoned his wife shortly before the plane crashed incountryside 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
Tom Burnett, a salesman from San Ramon, Calif., made a cellphone call to hiswife from the plane, a family priest told the San Jose Mercury News. Burnettsaid someone had been stabbed. ``We're all going to die, but three of us aregoing to do something,'' Burnett told his wife, Deanna. ``I love you, honey.''The phone went dead just before the plane crashed about 10 a.m.
Not long after, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., slipped into St. Joseph'sCatholic Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., for a moment of reflectionand prayer. ``We'll be operating differently after today and for some time tocome,'' he told the Associated Press. ``This will have a long-term and profoundimpact.''
Giuliani told a television interviewer: ``It's the most horrific thing I'veseen in my life. We saw the World Trade Center in flames. We saw people jumpingfrom the top of the building. The number of casualties will be more than any ofus can bear.''
The lower stretch of Giuliani's Manhattan was reminiscent of a volcaniceruption. Opaque smoke from the burning upper floors of two of the world'stallest buildings choked the narrow streets of the financial district. Fiftythousand people, the equivalent of the population of a small city, inhabit theWorld Trade Center complex during the week.
Then, at 9:40 and 10:30 a.m. respectively, the buildings that dominated theManhattan skyline collapsed as if imploding. Petrified people in sooty businesssuits raced through the streets in desperate, futile attempts to outrun thedusty clouds exploding from tons of raining debris.
Tens of thousands of pedestrians swarmed into Brooklyn on the Brooklyn andManhattan bridges. From the perspective of television news helicopters, theywere grimy refugees fleeing a city under attack.
By Tuesday evening, police departments in cities along the East Coast werebroadcasting an all-points bulletin for two vehicles. They were searching for aChevrolet van with New Jersey plates and an ``Urban Moving System'' sign on theback in connection with the New York attack, and a red Dodge minivan with SouthCarolina registration in connection with the Washington attack.
In Boston, authorities seized a car in the parking garage at LoganInternational Airport that contained Arabic-language flight training manuals, asource told the Boston Herald.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said five Arab men had beenidentified as suspects, including one who was a trained pilot.
At least two suspects flew to Logan on Tuesday from Portland, Maine, whereauthorities believe they had traveled after crossing over from Canada recently,the source said. The bags from one of the men did not make his connection. TheBoston Globe reported the bags contained a copy of the Koran, an instructionalvideo on flying commercial airliners and a fuel consumption calculator.
The FBI in Boston refused to comment on the report, and state police referredcalls to the FBI. The car reportedly was a Mitsubishi Mirage with Virginialicense plates.
Bin Laden Top Suspect
Although there was no official identification of suspects in the attacks,Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told the AP that U.S. intelligence officials hadlinked the terror attacks to communications to bin Laden.
``They have an intercept of some information that included people associatedwith bin Laden who acknowledged a couple of targets were hit,'' the news servicequoted Hatch as saying.
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, which has given sanctuary to bin Laden -- whois on the FBI's Most Wanted list -- told the Reuters news agency that bin Ladenlacked the sophisticated organizational ability to carry out such a complicatedattack.
Later Tuesday -- early Wednesday in Afghanistan -- CNN reported rocketattacks on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul. The White House said U.S. forceswere not involved in the attacks.
Elsewhere in the world, allied nations rallied to support the United States.In the Middle East, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat deplored the attacks evenas thousands of Palestinians, angered by what they perceive as U.S. support forIsrael, celebrated the terrorism by handing sweets to passersby.
Horror In Lower Manhattan
But reaction from abroad was far from the thoughts of battered New Yorkersstruggling with the enormity of events there.
Mark Englert, a technology consultant from Vernon, witnessed the secondattack on the World Trade Center from the roof of a nearby apartment building.He saw the panicked faces of people looking out the windows of thesoon-to-be-ruined tower and watched several leap to their deaths in desperateattempts to avoid the conflagration ignited moments later by exploding balls ofjet fuel. Then, Englert said, smoke and dust and debris blotted out the morningsun.
``It was like somebody painted the windows black,'' he said.
He felt his way to the basement of his building, where he joined neighborshuddled in a laundry room, soaking towels to cover their mouths and filter thedust. A television report told him what had blotted out the daylight: The firsttower had just collapsed.
Englert realized he would be crushed if the second tower, the closer of thetwo to his building, came down. Another man with the same thought was racing upand down the apartment's halls, screaming ``Run! Get out of the building!''
Outside, the air was thick and the ground was blanketed in a carpet of tonsof business papers blown out of the World Trade Center offices.
``It was like standing in a gray blizzard,'' Englert said.
He saw light coming from the direction of the harbor a few blocks away. Heran for his life and reached the esplanade at the tip of Manhattan just as thesecond tower fell.
``There was no way to outrun the cloud and nowhere to go,'' Englert said.``We were hanging over the railings on the esplanade. That was the only placeyou could breathe, with the wind coming off the river. It was blowing the smokeoff us.''
Police were herding women and children onto a small fleet of fishing boats.Englert and others helped. When there were only men left, they were permitted toboard and escape as well.
Kevin Carey, an insurance company lawyer who works just east of the WorldTrade Center, said he had an unobstructed view of the collapses from his23rd-floor office. He got to work just after the second hijacked jet struck, andhe could see a hole in Two World Trade Center and the fire that raged abouthalfway up the building. Again, it was like a bad movie.
``It was just black, and the whole top of the building was all smoke,'' hesaid. ``You're watching it and you're mesmerized because this giant building isburning out of control.''
Then Carey heard a rumbling. The building dropped and there was a loud crash.Enormous chunks of skyscraper were falling from the sky.
``The building just crumbles from the part in the middle and stuff juststarts dropping out and you see the top of the building drop down, it justdisappears, like when you see them explode the buildings -- that's exactly whatit looked like, except there was fire in the middle,'' he said. ``There was acloud of ash, dust and soot and you couldn't see out of [our] building anymore.It was like you were in a cloud.''
Through a cloud of smoke a short time later, Carey said, he could hear asecond rumbling but couldn't tell what it was. He suspects it was the collapseof the second tower.
``You couldn't see anything; it was like midnight on a cloudy night. It waspitch black,'' he said. ``You figure you want to get out of here.''
He left his office between 11 to 11:15 a.m. to walk home. Most of lowerManhattan was sealed off below city hall and people were walking north. The airsmelled like fire, and a film of soot and ash was on the ground. Something like``volcanic ash'' covered sidewalks and cars, he said.
The strangest moment, he said, was looking out at the well-known New Yorkskyline without the familiar, massive towers.
``Walking home, you're used to seeing the World Trade Center there, butthere's nothing there,'' he said. ``You're so used to seeing those giantbuildings and they're just not there. ... It's really bizarre, it's unreal.''
During his address Tuesday night, delivered as smoke still poured from therubble in New York and Washington, President Bush said, ``These acts shatteredsteel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.''
He asked the nation to pray for the families of the victims and he quoted theBook of Psalms, saying, ``And I pray they will be comforted by a power greaterthan any of us spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: `Even though I walk throughthe valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.'''
`We Are At War'
The United States received no warning of the attacks on the Pentagon andWorld Trade Center towers, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
Elsewhere in Washington, political figures were guardedly suggesting that theterror attacks were acts of war.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the top Republican on the Senate IntelligenceCommittee, told the AP that the attacks have set off ``a war without boundaries,but it's total war.''
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said, ``If you can do this to the USA and get attwo symbols of the strength of America, that tells you essentially we are atwar.''
Standing in a park near the evacuated Capitol, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., thesenior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: ``This is oursecond Pearl Harbor, right here in the nation's capital.
``This story has been written in fiction and now it's before us as reality.Our lifestyle will never be the same again. We'll need to restrike the balancebetween the exercise of our freedoms and security pressures to protect thisnation.''
The terror attacks shut down not only two of the most powerful cities in theworld, but cities around the country and much of the national transportationnetwork.
State Offers Help
Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland closed state office buildings, whilereadying state hospitals and emergency services personnel to assist New Yorkrescue efforts. Because of the number of Connecticut commuters, Rowlandpredicted that everyone in Connecticut would be affected by the terror attackseither directly or indirectly.
There were ``well over 900 [state hospital] beds" available, and victimshad begun arriving in Stamford and Greenwich by Tuesday afternoon. The governoralso was prepared to send eight National Guard helicopters, 100 National Guardmedics and heavy construction equipment to New York.
"The devastation that occurred this morning has no bounds. It's going tochange the way we look at everything in our lives," he said.
The World Trade Center attacks shut down vast stretches of New York andstranded millions of people in their homes, offices and on the streets. Manycould not get home or reach loved ones by phone.
Andy Thornley, 43, who works for an insurer in Manhattan and witnessed one ofthe suicide attacks, took shelter in a bar with co-workers until it becameclearer how they could get home.
``I took the bus in to work this morning and it was a beautiful summer day,''Thornley, still shaken hours after the attack, told the AP. ``I looked at theManhattan skyline and thought there's no more beautiful place in the world. Andnow it's gone.''
The attacks sent thousands fleeing up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. Subways andcommuter trains were shut down immediately after the attacks, and the city'smultiple tunnels and bridges were closed to vehicles. Thousands fled Manhattanby foot across bridges, some of them dazed and streaked with ash.
Trading on Wall Street was suspended and the United Nations building wasevacuated. Offices, courts and colleges throughout the city were closed. NewYork City's primary election, to select candidates for mayor and other cityoffices, was called off.
Thousands of workers who jammed the ferries to New Jersey had nowhere to goon the other side of the Hudson River, because railways and highways there wereclosed. Jersey City police tried desperately to clear the roads and keeponlookers away. One officer directing traffic screamed: ``Get out of here! Wehave to bring dead bodies through here!''
Across the region, those with cellphones found them useless because ofoverloaded networks. Commuters lined up to use pay phones or wangled rides withstrangers. Regular phone service was also slowed.
Limited rail service out of Manhattan to other boroughs, Long Island and NewYork's northern suburbs resumed by 1 p.m.
On the Upper West Side, far from the attack, grocery stores were packed asNew Yorkers stocked up on food and water. With her subway line shut down, onewoman was walking 50 blocks to pick up her young daughter from school.
Around the city, clusters of people -- their hands clutched to their heads inhorror -- stood at radios set up on chairs and outside stores. Strangers pattedeach other on the shoulder as they tried to comfort one another.
``Take care! Be careful!'' people called to one another as they parted ways.
At the Statue of Liberty in the New York's harbor, Radley Osorio, a27-year-old Guatemalan immigrant who lives in Elizabeth, N.J., wiped tears fromhis eyes as he switched between his video and still cameras. He said he came tosee the statue because it represents America.
``Even though I'm from another country, this country and this statue has cometo signify more for me than I could ever imagine,'' he said.
By late afternoon, the Hudson River and the busy ports on the New Jerseywaterfront were empty -- no boats, no barges or watercraft, except for emergencyuse.
Even the cranes that normally unload cars and containers were still. Workersstood along the docks and stared at the burning skyline.
Chaos In The Capital
The nation's capital was crippled as well.
``I was in my office watching on TV and all of a sudden my office shook,'' anaide to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told The Washington Post. ``I went tothe person next to me and said, `Did you feel that?' and all of a sudden peoplewere screaming in the hallways and calling 911, and there was a generalcommotion.''
Several Washington-area schools and universities canceled classes or closed.Office buildings near the Pentagon in northern Virginia were evacuated, snarlingtraffic. Traffic into the city was jammed on major roads and bridges. Policeclosed I-395 near the Pentagon. Train service in and out of the city wassuspended and Metrorail closed its Pentagon and National Airport stations.
The national transportation network was similarly affected. The FederalAviation Administration shut down every airport in the country and ordered anyaircraft in the air at the time of the terror attacks to land at the nearestairport. International flights bound for the United States were ordered to turnback. The FAA said the flight ban would not be lifted until today at noon EDT,at the earliest.
Around the nation, airports were put under heightened security. Los AngelesInternational Airport and San Francisco International Airport were evacuatedexcept for essential personnel, according to officials. Boston's Logan Airport-- departure point for two of the doomed planes -- underwent a security sweep.At Chicago's O'Hare Airport, passengers were barred from entering the gatedareas, and police patrolled with dogs.
``You can't put into words what's going down,'' Tom Fickard, 29, ofShreveport, La., a passenger at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, told the AP. ``Youdon't ever think about somebody that would actually attack the U.S.''Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times