EARLY MORNING, Stuart Wilson would remember, carried no hint ofanything out of the ordinary. Happy to be away from D.C. for a week, the 28-year-old Senate staffer ambled down Church Street with his girlfriend, searching for a breakfast spot. His gaze skimmed the cloudless sky, as blue as a dream, he thought. The air came with a light chill. A straggling group of Wall Street suits hurried past them, slipping into different buildings, another long workday ahead.
Around 8:45, what sounded like a sonic boom made Stuart stop and look around. His girlfriend said, “What the hell was that?”
Exploring further along Church Street, their eyes fixed ona glowing orange hole in the north tower of the World Trade Center, maybe50floorsup.Peopleweregatheringonthesidewalkinsmall,confused groups, barely talking as their necks craned up. As if from a chimney, heavy smoke was billowing from the gaping wound and sweeping leisurely over Lower Manhattan.
Tenants and visitors were rushing out of the tower’s revolving doors that seemed to move in fits and starts. Stuart’s mind went telegraphic. Firefighters would come any minute. No need to panic. Was this some accident, or an act of terrorism? His girlfriend tugged on his arm. He realized they were standing too close to the building, that the fireinside could spread, or there could be another explosion, but Stuart was too mesmerized tomove.
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