When the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, they made a sound heard around New York as a roar, or distant thunder. The South Tower was the first to go. Its upper floors tilted briefly before dropping, and driving the building straight down to the ground. Many people died, and many others were lucky enough to make it out alive. Twenty-nine minutes later the North Tower collapsed with much the same result as the first. The two symbols of America’s economy were gone, and not even the so-called World Trade Center Seven, a relatively new forty-seven-floor tower that stood independently across the street from the complex, remained standing. The building burned persistently throughout the day, and that evening became the first steel-frame high-rise in history to fall solely because of fire. (Online)
There was wider damage then just that to the World Trade Center buildings and on the scale of ordinary disasters it was heavy. For thirty years or so the Twin Towers had stood above the streets as all tall buildings do, as a bomb of sorts, a warehouse for the prodigious energy originally required to raise so much weight so high. Now, in a single morning, the towers released that energy back into the city. Massive steel beams flew through the neighborhood like gargantuan spears, penetrating subway lines and underground passages to depths of thirty feet, crushing them, rupturing water mains and gas lines, and stabbing high into the sides of nearby office towers, where they lodged. The phone system, the fiber-optic network, and the electric power grid were knocked out. Ambulances, cars, and fire trucks were smashed flat by falling debris, and some were hammered five floors or so down from the street into the insane chaos erupting inside the World Trade Center's immense ten-acre foundation hole, seventy feet deep, that was suffering unimaginable violence as it absorbed the force of each tower's collapse. (Online)
Over the first few hours, the volunteers joined with the firefighters and the police, who by then were shaking off their disbelief and struggling to take effective action. By afternoon thousands of people in these combined forces were searching through the ruins for survivors, attacking the debris by hand, forming bucket brigades, and climbing over the smoking pile that in some places rose fifty feet above the street. In the late afternoon World Trade Center Seven collapsed tidily in place, damaging some adjacent buildings but killing no one. By dark the first clattering generators lit the scene, and an all-American outpouring of equipment and supplies began to arrive. The light stuff got there first: soda pop and bottled water, sandwiches, flashlights, bandages, gloves, blankets, respirators, and clothes. Indeed, there were so many donations so soon that the clutter became a problem, hindering the rescue effort, and a trucking operation was set up just to haul the excess away.
On the morning of Friday, November 2, 2001...