New York City Shuts Down

September 11, 2001

New York City Shuts Down



NEW YORK -- Terrorist attacks at the peak of rush hour paralyzed Manhattan, shutting down subway lines, crippling cellular phone service, and forcing evacuations from Wall Street to the United Nations.

The mayor closed lower Manhattan to make way for emergency vehicles. Thousands of people left by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The election was called off. The airports were closed. Trading on Wall Street was suspended. The United Nations building was evacuated. Offices throughout Manhattan closed. Children were kept in their schools because their parents could not get to them.

Victims from the attack on the World Trade Center -- many suffering from extensive burns -- began arriving at hospitals in New York City about an hour after the two planes slammed into the twin towers, witnesses said Tuesday.

"Hundreds of people are burned from head to toe," said Dr. Steven Stern at St. Vincent's Hospital in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of lower Manhattan.

About 50 or 60 doctors and nurses were standing in scrubs and uniforms waiting for the next wave of ambulances to come in. The first wave arrived around 10 a.m. EDT, doctors said.

The entire entrance to the emergency room was lined with stretchers covered with white sheets.

Doctors said the victims mostly had burns.

"So far we've received a few patients, mostly second-degree burns," Dr. Gary Fishman at St. Vincents said. "We are expecting the brunt of the people to arrive soon."

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was forced to evacuate from his building, told New Yorkers to remain in their homes or businesses, unless they are located south of Canal Street. People in the downtown area are advised to head north and clear out the streets.

"Remain calm and try to assist in the rescue effort and pray," Giuliani said. "The main thing is having these streets open so we can move people out of there."

Most of the early patients were being sent to New York University's Downtown Hospital and to St. Vincent's.

At about 8:45 a.m. EDT, a plane struck one the north tower of the landmark complex in lower Manhattan, and the building was soon engulfed in flames. Moments later a second plane struck the south tower.

Both towers of the complex collapsed, the first falling about 75 minutes later and the second crashing half an hour after that. The entire south end of Manhattan was engulfed in smoke and airborne debris.

"The whole of lower Manhattan is coated in half an inch of dust," Reuters reporter Daniel Sternoff said.

People were fleeing the area in a panic.

At St. Vincents, hospital staff appealed for blood donors in the street, Reuters reporter Ian Driscoll said. The line to give blood was over 100 people long.

"We expect smoke inhalation, trauma, and burns," Dr. Bernd Reisbeck said. "I expect we will be working non-stop for at least the next 24 hours."

At every pay phone, people were lined up a dozen deep to call loved ones, but many ended up hanging up in frustration at the profusion of busy signals. At one pay phone in Greenwich Village, a woman was sobbing into the phone, saying she didn't know whether a loved one was OK.

Cell phone service throughout Manhattan was interrupted. Regular phone service was congested, forcing many callers to dial repeatedly to get through. AT&T shut down its entire phone and communications system in Manhattan, according to a spokesman, who declined to give his name.

Bridges and tunnels leading also were closed, a Port Authority spokeswoman said, leaving hundreds of trucks and cars stuck as they tried to enter the city.

All subway lines stopped running, said Bob Slovak, spokesman for NYC Transit.

Rockefeller Center, the complex of offices and shops that is a favorite tourist destination in the heart of the city, was among the buildings where property managers urged tenants to go home.


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