Lucy: What's that noise?
Christina: What noise? ... Oh, I don't know.
Lucy: Must be the Subway.
Man RUNNING down the street toward us: Look! (Pointing over his shoulder.)
Christina: (looking up from under the hotel awning) ... Run!
Lucy: What? What is it?!
Christina: RUN!!!!!!! (Running away.)
I started to run, and let's be clear, I make it a habit to NEVER run. After a block or so I stopped to turn and look. I don't want to be melodramatic but, God as my witness, it was like every bit of footage you've ever seen of 9/11. I saw huge, brownish, grey plumes of smoke billowing up over buildings and New Yorkers running away from it. I ran a bit more and kept thinking 'I've got to get away from the smoke. I've got to find a door to duck in to.' I kept stopping to look because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. How could this be happening? Isn't Grand Central right over there? What's happened? God damn it!!! Every once in a while heard Christina shouting at me to run. She later told me she was certain a building was going to blow up and she wanted to be as far away from it as possible. I kept watching the smoke and waiting for it to start blowing out towards us but mostly it blew upward. I think that's what kept me from just curling up in a fetal position right there on Park Avenue. It was the one detail that was unfamiliar and that was somewhat comforting.
We now know the smoke was actually debris and steam from a pipe that blew up the street, but at the time it looked like a bomb. It was terrifying. We were about 2 1/2 blocks from the explosion when it blew. I still can't quite get the images of today straight in my head. It was probably the most surreal evening of my life. After about a few minutes we started seeing people with smoke and debris all over their hair, faces and clothes. That didn't exactly help my state of mind. We had been on our way to dinner and show so we headed in that direction since it was away from our hotel and the smoke. The phone lines were all busy (again, not helping my state of mind) so we couldn't phone home to hear what was going on. Christina and I had both left our annoying Blackberry's in our rooms so we couldn't look anything up. We had no idea what had happened. It was amazing how quickly rumors on the streets started. In just about 10 minutes we heard it was a fire in a building and that Grand Central was hit. It took CNN an hour to mention it.
I have an annoying foot problem lately and running in flip flops doesn't exactly help. The friends who took us out tonight were kind enough to offer me a ride back to the hotel while my co-workers decided to walk. Well, all of the streets around my hotels are blocked off. I had to hop out of the car and probably wound up walking more than my friends. It was about 11:00 at night and there I was ducking through alleys looking for open streets. Lexington was completely blocked off even to pedestrians. I thought of calling home but knew my parents would have heart attacks if they knew I was wandering through the streets of NYC alone at that hour. I, on the other hand, figured it was probably one of the safest place on earth considering NYPD and NYFD were swarming the area.
I'm supposed to leave tomorrow evening. I hope the weather holds. I'm ready to go home.