NH natives in NY had direct window on tragedy
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally ran Sept. 12, 2001.
NASHUA – From the window of his Manhattan apartment, Will Femia witnessed what most Americans have seen only on television: an American Airlines jet smacking into a World Trade Center tower.
Femia, a Hudson native and graduate of Alvirne High School, has lived in New York for the past six years. His apartment is located just three blocks away from where the twin towers once stood.
The 29-year-old was in the shower Tuesday morning when the first American Airlines plane hit the north tower. He peered out his window and watched the unfolding of a drama typically reserved for movies.
“People were standing in the street, looking up and staring,” Femia said in a telephone interview from a friend’s apartment in New York’s Upper East Side. “I could only see a plume of smoke. Moments later, I heard a loud rumble, not like thunder.”
Femia saw an American Airlines Boeing 767 collide with the World Trade Center’s south tower, he said. After the first explosion, New Yorkers had watched almost passively, but now they panicked, he said.
“If there’s two planes, you can only think there’s three or four coming,” Femia said. “What do you do when terrorists crash into your neighborhood?”
The wave of smoke from the buildings made Manhattan look like it was nighttime, said Femia, who works for MSNBC.com.
Another New Hampshire native experienced the horrors thrust upon New York.
Tony McLean, who lived in Nashua for six years before taking a job as a manager with the trade journal Advertising Age, was walking to work when the first jetliner struck.
McLean, 36, and his co-workers were terrified, he said. Their fear stemmed from radio news reports linking the first crash to a terrorist attack – the Advertising Age office is near the Israeli consulate and the United Nations building, both of which were evacuated after the crashes.
When the second jetliner smashed into the other tower, “it was incredible, just incredible,” McLean said. “It was mayhem, but it’s been controlled mayhem because everyone is helping everyone.”
McLean was still in his office at 711 3rd Ave. at mid-afternoon Tuesday, watching the chaos unfold around him and plotting a route to walk home. The city’s massive public transportation system was shut down, he said, and people were simply walking in disbelief through the city, away from the scene, covered in soot from the towers.
Linda MacGuffie of Gilmanton recalled her disbelief as the pilot of her Southwest flight, flying from Baltimore to Manchester, pointed out the New York City landmarks in Manhattan, including the smoking skyscraper.
“I hope he’s wrong,” MacGuffie remembered thinking as the pilot announced: “I see a lot of smoke coming out of the New York Trade Center.”
Her seatmates confirmed the billowing smoke they saw out their windows. She was not sitting near a window as the plane passed over the city a little bit before 10 a.m.
“We had no idea what was going on,” said MacGuffie, who finally learned what had happened in New York once her plane landed in New Hampshire.
Once her husband told her about the plane slamming into the tower, MacGuffie said she had a “sense of horror, disbelief.”
As her Southwest flight landed at the Manchester Airport, the pilot told the passengers not to rush to make connecting flights because of “some word of terrorist” activity and all the planes had been grounded, she said.
The budget airline has a reputation for levity and jokes, MacGuffie said, and she expected a punch line to follow the announcement.
“No punch line ever came,” she said. “It was the wrong kind of punch. It was a punch in the gut.”