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NEW YORK (
) -- The plane appeared to be traveling in slow motion. I couldn't imagine what it was doing around here, but it looked entirely in control. It continued to approach but now appeared sure to miss where I was standing by a wide margin. I kept watching as it dipped its left wing, and I read the markings clearly on the side of the fuselage as it looked ready to pass us: United Airlines.
But it didn't pass us. It buried itself in the second tower in an explosion that looked straight out of a Hollywood action movie. A fireball appeared where the plane had disappeared, and glass and metal exploded in every direction. The entire crowd standing with me recoiled and shrieked.
"Oh God, these pilots are having a very bad day," I thought to myself. I can't believe it now, but for a moment I thought that some air traffic controller systems had gone horribly haywire, incorrectly leading pilots into flight patterns that sent them right into these huge towers.
Seconds later, however, I figured it out: Two planes in a row couldn't be a coincidence. I phoned my wife.
"We're under attack," I told her.
"Get out of there," she told me.
There was nowhere to go. We were as far west as you could get without jumping into the river, and I wondered what a "safe" place would be. Some of the traders were bracing themselves against the stone foundations of the exchange building. "I want cover when the next one comes," one of them told me.
I had swum in a charity event down the Hudson River for years, and I considered jumping into the water and swimming toward New Jersey on the other side, easily two miles away. Many of us searched the sky for more airplanes before we again began to focus on the carnage just a few thousand yards to the east. The smoke from the first tower was joined by what seemed an even fiercer fire coming from Tower 2. Paper continued to fall from both buildings, and more sirens could be heard in the distance.