One of the most striking recollections of the day - every car, taxi, bus and truck on the island seemed to vanish into thin air that morning.
On the 34th floor of the mid-town Manhattan Sheraton hotel, the producer and reporter are preparing for a news conference and an appearance on the Today Show. They have no idea what happened just minutes earlier four miles away in lower Manhattan. The third member of the California based production team flew in that morning on the red-eye from Los Angeles. She walks into the hotel room just before 9:00 a.m. and turns on the TV to follow a news story first seen on a monitor in the lobby - the World Trade Center is on fire.
A remembered and 'as it happened' video diary from NYC on September 11, 2001
At first the news coverage consists mostly of long lens images of smoke coming from the first tower and a few wide shots from the street. The scale is impossible to understand because the building is so massive. Many people, including the crew watching in the Sheraton assume that a small plane has flown into the tower. Maybe it was off course with mechanical issues, or maybe it was a suicide. Within seconds the scene switches to replays of the second tower being struck by a jetliner and a massive fireball engulfs both buildings. The scale of the damage is immediately clear.
In the hotel room the producer is on the phone with a staff member of the Today Show, at work in Rockefeller Center, the headquarters for NBC. The reality starts to sink in, "Everyone here just started running," says the staffer, "I'll have to call you back."
It would be many weeks before they would speak again. In those intervening days the world would be forever changed.
Where did the millions of cars, trucks, cabs and buses go? Within an hour they vanished - many likely left the city altogether, over the bridges or through the tunnels. The only wheeled movement still there: bicyclists and skateboarders.
Outside the Sheraton on the streets in midtown it is a beautiful crisp Fall day. Nobody is thinking about the weather as the exodus begins. It's quiet, eerily quiet. Within an hour of the second plane hitting there isn't a car, taxi, bus or truck on seemingly any street in Manhattan. Every vehicle in the city disappears into thin air. As the crew starts the long walk with their video gear towards lower Manhattan kids on skateboards are doing slalom runs down the middle of 7th avenue. Every now and then an emergency vehicle speeds past. Everyone has one eye on the sky.
The news ticker banners in Times Square relayed real time information as thousands watched together in horror while the events unfolded, hour after hour.
What followed was the story of a city in shock. It seemed like everyone knew someone who worked at the tower. The phone system was scrambled for hours so finding out who was safe was impossible. Slowly the shock turned to anger, then sadness as the day wore on. Finally, candles were lit and prayers were said as night fell.