The Longest Week

Tuesday morning
When the first plane hit, Greg Ferrari thought it was an earthquake.
He'd been on a conference call in his 40th-floor office. Then Ferrari, a business analyst at Lehman Brothers, looked out the window and spotted something blue, which he believes was part of American Airlines flight 11. "I went back to my call and said, 'Guys, I think a plane just hit us.'" In the stairwell, the lights were still on, but "it was stop-and-go, and someone yelled, 'Why are we stopping?' " By the time he got down to the eighth or tenth floor, there were 20 to 30 firefighters on their way up. "We wished them luck and thanked them," he says. "Those are probably the firefighters that are missing right now."

Rich Bautista, 56, a construction consultant, was headed to a 9 a.m. appointment on 59 Maiden Lane, two blocks away from the World Trade Center, when he heard the first blast. "It was so fast, it was so loud," he recalls. "I just came out of the Fulton Street subway when I heard this terrifying explosion. I looked up and saw smoke surrounding the World Trade Center. People started running. There was mass hysteria." Bautista's co-worker Ernie Kneuer, 29, saw flames pouring out of the building. They went up to the 40th floor of their building just in time to see the second plane collide. "I saw dozens of people jumping to their deaths from the 80th floor," says Kneuer. "Bodies were landing on nearby rooftops and on the plaza."

On most days, Marco Haber, a 35-year-old tech writer for Marsh McLennan, on the 97th floor of Tower One, was at his desk by 8:50. But on Tuesday, he ran into a friend in the subway, and they stopped for breakfast in the concourse. When Haber saw hordes of panicked people running for the exits, he thought it was a gunman. Then someone yelled Bomb! and they both began running. "Outside it was raining little balls of concrete. I was choking on the dust," he says. Then he noticed the papers fluttering to the ground: "The first paper that I saw close up — Marsh, right there, the letterhead." It was from his own company.

The windows in Deborah Hallen's sixth-grade classroom at P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights look out over downtown Manhattan. When students saw that one of the Twin Towers was on fire, she turned on the radio to find out what was going on, then immediately shut it off. But she couldn't shut out the scene unfolding in full view across the river. "It was really traumatic," she says. "I called down to the office and told the secretary, who didn't believe me. She said, 'How do you know?' and I said, 'We're watching it — tell the principal.' " Hallen told her class she was sure many people had died, she says, "and that we needed to close our eyes and be silent for a moment. I gave them the date and the time and said that this was a day that they would never forget."

At 9 a.m., Julie Davis, 27, was on the 83rd floor of 2 World Trade Center, dropping off a friend's cell phone. She was about to get into an elevator when the second crash happened. "I remember looking at my watch a little after nine and thinking, Geez, I'm late," says Davis. "And then I hear a huge boom, then shrieks. People were pushing me out of the way to get to the stairs. One guy said that his friend watched co-workers get sucked out. Later, I saw him pass out on the stairs. I was thinking we were doomed because there were so many people on the stairs and it wasn't moving. Dozens and dozens of firefighters were running past us, telling us to stay calm and keep moving. I remember looking into their eyes, thinking how brave they were."

Mike Maguire of Engine 33 on Great Jones responded to the first alarm at 8:45 on Tuesday morning. He and five other firefighters made their way up to the 31st floor of the north tower, carrying lengths of hose, before they were ordered out. None of them was prepared for the whole thing to fall down. "We had no clue," he says. "When we came out of the lobby, everything was white. It looked like it had snowed. I remember looking over my shoulder and saying to someone, 'Where is the other tower?' "

When the second plane hit, Michael Elam headed for Trinity Church. The sky seemed to be raining bodies. At first Elam thought they were people falling out of the crashed planes. Then he realized they were office workers jumping to get away from the fire. He had just stepped inside Trinity when the first tower came down. "There were throngs of people all looking up," Elam says. "All those people were crushed when the second building came down. I ran for four blocks and stopped just past Chambers and sat down. But the cloud kept coming. I got up and started to run. I saw a fireman who was totally traumatized. He and another fireman were holding hands when one of the buildings collapsed. And then all he was holding was the hand."

New York 1 reporter Kristen Shaughnessy, 33, was covering primary day in Brooklyn when she got a call telling her to get to the World Trade Center. As she approached the Manhattan Bridge, the second plane hit. "We saw emergency-rescue trucks racing to the scene, and we cruised behind them," she recalls. At the scene, she began filing her story live to anchor Pat Kiernan from a pay phone a block or two away when she started seeing debris fall. "He was asking me, 'Kristen, where are you exactly?' and as I looked up, I saw that one of the towers was starting to crumble. For a moment, I thought, It's not going to fall on me. And if I don't finish filing, they'll be mad. But when the debris started flying in big clouds, and all I saw were FBI agents shouting at me to run, it hit me. I said, 'Pat, I have to run,' and I just dropped the phone."

Amanda Allen, 22, an assistant bank examiner at the Federal Reserve, is walking north on the Bowery below Houston. "When the buildings started to crumble," she says, "I saw people running, burning papers flying everywhere. I picked up a bloody, ash-covered business card from a guy at 1 World Trade Center, 94th floor. He's gone — gone to Heaven."

Next: As soon as she heard the news, journalist Wickham Boyle rushed to P.S.-I.S. 89...