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As New York City and the nation remained shell-shocked over the worst terrorism to hit the United States, Convenience Store News Senior Editor John Lofstock witnessed the explosions of the two 110-story structures known as the World Trade Center.
"I felt like I was watching a big screen TV, like a movie. I couldn't believe it was real," Lofstock said. The explosions in the nation's financial district occurred between 8:45 and 9 a.m. and shut down Wall Street.
Lofstock, who also is editor of CSNews Online was with friends some 20 to 25 blocks from the World Trade Center. "We saw the ball of fire from the second explosion after the billows of smoke from the first blast caught our attention. We could see airplanes sticking out of the buildings and flames shooting everywhere with debris falling all around. As we got closer people began jumping out of the building.
"As we ran downtown thousands of people were poring onto the streets as buildings, offices and shops were being evacuated. The city was pandemonium. Buses and cabs were stuck in the morning rush-hour traffic. Ambulances and fire engines were trying to race through, blasting their horns and screaming for cars to move to the side."
While details remained sketchy, it was clear that one of nation's most recognizable landmarks was felled and that hundreds, if not thousands, of people were killed and injured. Media reports indicate that as many as 20,000 to 25,000 work in each of the Twin Towers. Many are believed to have been safely evacuated.
While people were scurrying from lower Manhattan both landmark towers collapsed, sending debris as far as Brooklyn -- three miles away across the East River. "There was a gasp as the South Tower just exploded and crashed down. The first think I was thinking of was the implosion of the Federal building in Oklahoma City."
A short while later the second tower, which had been engulfed in flames, appeared to wilt from the fire's heat, falling as if in slow motion as onlookers consoled one another, soot-covered firefighters embraced, individuals in wheelchairs were rushed away and body-covered stretchers were transported to local hospitals, Lofstock said. The last piece to fall was the famed antenna that rolled almost gracefully in a scene of paradoxes.