NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — They say New Yorkers don’t get fazed by much. But nearly 18 years after the 9/11 terror attacks they understandably have a bit more anxiety than most when they hear a building was hit by an aircraft.
Those nerves were tested on Monday when a luxury helicopter crash-landed onto the top of a skyscraper at 787 Seventh Ave. in Manhattan. Though there was only one casualty — pilot Tim McCormack was the only person on the doomed chopper — the incident still rekindled memories of that horrible day back in 2001.
“You definitely heard, like, a boom kind of noise,” one man said.
“It was a scary moment. I saw smoke, super crowded. It was chaotic. It was scary. It reminded me of 9/11 and the fear it put in since then,” Nipun Joshi said.
That’s was the gut-wrenching fear so many New Yorkers had when they heard about the crash. Although authorities quickly said the incident was not an act of terrorism, Gov. Andrew Cuomo talked about that uneasiness shortly after he was briefed at the scene.
“If you’re a New Yorker you have a level of PTSD from 9/11 and I remember that morning all too well. So as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, I think my mind goes where every New Yorker’s mind goes,” Cuomo said.
This time, however, “calm” and “orderly” were the words of the day. Witnesses both inside and near the 54-story AXA Equitable Center office building near 51st Street said panic was never something that set in, even for those who worked high up in the building.
Alarms sounded, telling everyone in the building to evacuate.
“There was a shake and then a noise and then we just evacuated,” one man said. “That was about it. We just heard the ground shake, like it was an earthquake and then we went back to business. Then we got the notice to evacuate.”
Nathan Hutton was on the 29th floor at the time. He said he wasn’t really that concerned, even after the building had felt like it was on the receiving end of a “hard shove.”
“Basically we didn’t think a lot of it, but our head of security came in and said, ‘Hey everyone, grab your stuff and leave the floor now because something is going on,'” Hutton told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez. “We weren’t sure of exactly what was happening, but about two minutes after that the alarms and the sirens started to go off and we hear an announcement coming over the PA saying, ‘There has been an incident. Everyone please evacuate the building.'”
Hutton said everyone went for the staircases and slowly made their way down.
“You have 30 floors that were all being evacuated at the same time. The staircases were a bit congested, a little crowded. Everyone was calm. Everyone was relaxed,” Hutton said.
He said it took about 20-25 minutes to get to the ground, adding the only time there was even a hint of anxiety was when the smell of what he described as “burned construction material,” started wafting through the lower floors.
Still, he said not once did anyone express apprehension over the situation.
Another man works nearby. He, too, said his first inclination was to get back to work, before being told otherwise.
“Next thing you know we felt the building shake, like a bounce,” he told CBS2’s Jessica Layton. “And for you to feel that it must have been a hard impact. So when that happened, everybody was looking at each other like maybe it was an earthquake or some sort. Next thing you know, few minutes later, we hear the PA speaker saying everybody evacuate the building.”