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New Yorkers' first reaction: 'Not again'

Milan crash thought to be accident, quelling fears

By Janine Yagielski

NEW YORK (CNN) -- "I immediately thought the worst: It is happening again," Sam Myers, a New York photographer, said of his reaction to news that a small private plane hit Milan, Italy's tallest building.

For many of those in New York on Thursday, the images of smoke billowing into the sky and twisted metal protruding from a Milan skyscraper brought back a flood of emotions from the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

"I was in a panic. I knew it wasn't happening here, but at the same time it felt like it was happening here," said Star Reese, a videographer who watched the attacks on the World Trade Center from her apartment window a few blocks away at Chambers and Greenwich streets.

"The first plane flew right up Greenwich Street, so I heard the noise. I thought it was going to crash right into us. But by the time I got to the window I saw the top of the Trade Center in flames, then I saw the second plane hit," she said.

"Today, as I learned of the other crash, I was really visualizing what happened on September 11 again."

Myers learned of the crash in Italy through a phone call from his wife. He immediately turned to the Internet for more information, but when she called back with news of a rumored second crash in Rome, he ran into the street to ask a police officer if he knew what was happening. Like many others in New York and around the world, his first thought was terrorism.

The Milan crash had some New Yorkers fearing another terrorist attack.
The Milan crash had some New Yorkers fearing another terrorist attack.  

"Why Italy? What is going on there?" asked Jay Manis, a New York photographer who works with Myers at "Here is New York: A Democracy of Photographs," an exhibit of photos relating to September 11. " When I heard the news I thought, 'This really is the whole world.'"

Dolores Marshburn, an office manager from Brooklyn, watched the news of the Milan crash in the same Midtown conference room where she watched the horrors of September 11 unfold. She also immediately thought of terrorism.

"I was in disbelief. Not again," Marshburn said. "I immediately thought it was a terrorist. I thought it had something to do with [U.S. Secretary of State] Colin Powell's trip to the Mideast."

Sean Flynn, a consultant for a professional services firm from Queens, lost a fraternity brother in the Trade Center attack. He believes the emotional reaction to this type of plane crash is inevitable.

"Any time in your life, you ... hear [that] a plane went into a building, you are going to think about September 11," he said, adding that his reaction was tempered by the news that the crash occurred in Italy. "If it was here, more flags would have gone up for me."

The news that officials suspect the crash was an accident, not an act of terrorism, meant that Flynn could relax and join hundreds of others of New Yorkers for an outdoor break in Bryant Park on a warm April day.

Images of the Milan crash evoked similar reactions beyond New York.

"I thought, 'Here we go again,' " said Kevin Clanton, a Memphis, Tennessee, man attending a conference in Atlanta, Georgia. "But I just made note of it and moved on."

Jan Poe, whose husband was attending the same conference, said the Milan crash frightened her. She immediately assumed it was a terrorist attack, she said, and will still be frightened even though authorities have ruled it an accident.

"I think it's scary that these things are continuing to happen," said Poe, of Frankfort, Kentucky. "It is frightening to me. It is a continuing fear that if someone wants to hurt you, there really are no barriers to stop them."

Back in New York, Joseph Nardone -- the chief of New York Fire Department Battalion 9 -- said he was "comforted to hear it was an accident." But for Nardone, whose battalion lost 32 firefighters on September 11, it did not take the video of the wreckage at the Pirelli Tower to bring back memories of the World Trade Center attack.

"We don't need much to flash back. We're still living it," he said. "We're still grieving. We're still going to funerals."

-- writer Christy Oglesby contributed to this report.




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