These pics were taken and sent live to my blog from my mobile phone as this was all unfolding; you can see the originals, along with time-stamps of me freaking out, at my site.
I work at 100 Park Ave and 41st St street in Manhattan (for you from outta town that’s 1
block away from the blast). It was absolutely nuts! My coworkers and I were sure it was another 9/11. I’m still in shock from this afternoon, but writer and NYC resident Cara Buckley pretty much summed up my experience at
‘ground zero’ of the steam-pipe explosion in Midtown Manhattan today:
UPDATE: ConEd has announced that asbestos was detected in the dirt and debris expelled from the explosion. They are asking anyone with debris on their clothing to place it in a plastic bag immediately. They have setup a customer service van parked at the corner of Madison Avenue and 42nd
Street. The van will be at that location for the next several days from
7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Con Edison will arrange for the safe disposal of these
items. Customer care personnel will be available to help people fill
out a reimbursement request.
My shirt and laptop bag got totally covered with this brown goo raining down from the sky. I showered immediately after getting home from the scene and plan on taking in my clothes and definitely filling out a ‘reimbursement request’.
All thoughts seemed to converge to a single dark point
as the thick tower of smoke, chunks of asphalt and plumes of gravel
raced up from a crater near 41st and Lexington, 12 stories into the sky.
“I look out of the window, I see all this smoke, and I think, ‘I’m a
goner. We’re under attack,’ ” said James Ling, 21, an intern at an
investment advisory firm on Lexington Avenue.
He raced down 32 flights; once safely clear of the explosion — it
had ripped a gaping hole in the street — he shakily lifted a cellphone
to call his family to tell them he was all right.
It seemed that everyone nearby thought the same thing.
“I thought it was another attack,” said Chris Crenshaw, the owner of
Salon Seraglio, a hairdresser’s shop on the second floor of 343
Lexington Avenue, as the first rumbling grew to a sustained roar.
He ordered everyone out. “We didn’t even look back,” he said.
One woman stood beside him and wept. “I thought it was another
9/11,” she said in a choked voice. She said she worked for American
Airlines. “I’m a flight attendant,” she said.
Amid the roar and the flying concrete, Lexington Avenue near the crater devolved into chaos.
Hundreds ran, covering their mouths and noses with work shirts and
hands. Men in mud-splattered oxford shirts and crisp dress pants
emerged from the smoke, trembling. Outside Grand Central Terminal,
commuters ran as fast they could, screaming as they went, their faces
covered in brown debris.
Some buildings were quickly emptied. In others, workers stayed inside, worried about the billowing cloud.
A small school bus, empty, its front door open, was standing just
beside the crater as the steam roared out. Its door was open, and its
windshield and roof were blanketed with fast-accumulating dirt.
Lexington Avenue was completely obscured by billowing smoke.
At times, the Chrysler Building seemed all but devoured by smoke,
too. Waves of dirt spit upward, moving in slow waves like dark brown
lava. Police officers pressed wet towels to their mouths and noses as
they screamed at the crush of wide-eyed onlookers to get back. There
was fear that the block was unsafe, and that another blast could follow.
At 41st Street, a brown leather sandal and a black dress shoe lay
abandoned on the asphalt. At the sidewalk, two canvas flip-flops were
arrayed side by side, as if someone had jumped out of them and ran.
“Once the steam line blew, it sounded like a building coming down,”
said Ted Horlebein, 58, an engineer at 120 Park Avenue for 27 years.
“Everyone thought it was another building collapse like 9/11,
everyone was calling to make sure their relatives made it out safe,”
said Michelle Lopez, 29, who was working at the security desk at 120
Park Avenue. “We just saw, like, a lightning, and then the floor
started shaking, and all the smoke started coming out.”
Edward P. Barry, an assistant vice president at Seligman Data
Corporation at 100 Park Avenue was heading for track 33 in Grand
Central when “we heard a rumble and people started running,” he said.
“Of course they thought it was another attack.”
As Mr. Barry headed out of Grand Central to see if he could help,
“it was 9/11 all over,” he added. “People were running around saying,
‘What’s going on?’ There was thick black smoke.”
Street entrances to the stores at Grand Central were all locked by
6:30, and a luckless woman was locked in at the Banana Republic store.
Four firefighters broke down the door to free her.
At a health club on the 31st floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel, people
using treadmills and facing south said the explosion felt like a
building coming down, as if a jet plane had hit it.
Dan D’Ambrosio, a banker visiting from Los Angeles, held his black
garment bag in his hand because he ran back to his hotel room, thinking
he had to leave the city quickly.
“It sounded like a million Harley-Davidsons lighting up in front of
my window,” said Kevin Baum, 28, who was sitting on a couch in his
third-floor apartment at 337 Lexington Avenue, on the block where the
Mr. Baum’s main concern was his girlfriend, April Lestansky, 25. She
was on her way to visit him and he expected her to emerge from the
subway at Grand Central at 6 p.m. He could not get through to her
After five minutes of futile attempts to call, they found that text messaging worked, and they were soon reunited.
By 8 p.m., the huge plumes of steam that came from the crater in the
early stages had been reduced to small puffs. Hundreds watched from
behind police barricades. Four helicopters hovered above.
The streets and sidewalks were coated with mud and littered with
debris, including small chunks of concrete, the biggest the size of a
fist. A flow of warm dirty water several inches thick sluiced through
A yellow taxicab, its rear windows blown out, possibly by debris or
the force of the explosion, stood parked on Lexington Avenue, the
driver’s side door eerily open. An empty M103 bus was parked not far
from the geyser at 41st Street and Lexington, its brake lights still on.
“It seemed like a hailstorm, until glass and debris started hitting
our windows,” said Leonard Fay, 67, an accountant who works nearby. He
was covered in dirt and mud and tried to catch his breath. “Everything
got dark, and then I heard the glass breaking, and we went down the
stairwell. There was water streaming from everywhere, so we made a run
for it. We just ran toward daylight.”