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The unthinkable terrorist attacks on Manhattans World Trade Center sent a shock wave through Queens Tuesday, halting transportation into the borough, closing businesses and disrupting schools as residents began searching for answers.
While government officials said there were no warnings of possible terrorist assaults before two hijacked passenger planes crashed into the Twin Towers Tuesday morning, a Port Authority source said LaGuardia Airport had been on heightened alert for about three weeks after receiving a written terrorist threat.
Three people with a truck full of explosives were arrested in New Jersey by police at about 6 p.m. Tuesday. Channel 2 News reported the suspects had enough explosives to decimate the George Washington Bridge.
Manhattan was sealed off soon after the devastating attacks on the Twin Towers as Queens two airports were evacuated, its bridges and tunnels to the other boroughs were closed and mass transit was stopped throughout the city.
The first commercial airline plowed into the north tower at 8:48 a.m. and the second plane struck the south tower at 9:03 a.m.
Police officers from the 105th Precinct in Queens Village and the 109th Precinct in Flushing were seen directing traffic in Lower Manhattan after the towers collapsed later in the morning as emergency personnel from Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey were called in to assist rescue efforts.
A third building at the World Trade Center complex, weakened by fire and the explosions, collapsed at about 5:45 p.m.
About 200 firefighters were believed to be missing, including some of the Fire Departments highest-rank officers. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said William Feehan of Bayside, who was the second in command in the FDNY, was among those who died.
Nearly 80 police officers were unaccounted for by the end of the day, the mayor said.
Security personnel sealed off Borough Hall on Northern Boulevard Tuesday morning on orders from Borough President Claire Shulman.
At Engine Co. 306 in Bayside, firefighters waited to be called to the World Center after the towers were struck. Off-duty personnel had rushed to Lower Manhattan.
Sirens rang out throughout the borough during the day as emergency service personnel were directed toward Shea Stadium, one of the key staging areas for the rescue effort at the World Trade Center. Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows, Belmont Racetrack in Floral Park and Fort Totten in Bayside were among the other sites.
Sections of the Long Island Expressway and the Belt Parkway were closed off so that emergency vehicles could get through. The Clearview turned into a miles-long parking lot.
Barriers were thrown up around precincts in Queens to ward off possible terrorist attacks, and the 111th Precinct on Northern Boulevard in Bayside was surrounded by city buses
The Queensboro, Triborough and Whitestone bridges as well as the Midtown Tunnel were closed after the attacks.
Hordes of grim-faced people stranded in Manhattan by the Twin Towers assaults were eventually allowed to walk across the Queensboro Bridge on foot to get back to Queens.
A smattering of pedestrians crossed the Triborough from Manhattan to Queens around noon Tuesday. But in Whitestone drivers waiting to get on the Whitestone Bridge were left stranded on the roadways for hours as a bomb scare added to the chaos.
Thousands of airline passengers gathered outside LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports, which were shut down soon after the planes slammed into the World Trade Center. The U.S. government closed the nations commercial airspace for the first time in history.
Subway service was suspended throughout Queens and the rest of city after the Twin Towers were decimated, but trains began running again during the day. The Long Island Rail Road resumed service by the afternoon.
Many Queens residents waited for word about family members who worked in the World Trade Center or commuted to Lower Manhattan on subway lines that run underneath the complex, which was struck at the height of the morning rush hour. Victims trapped beneath the debris were calling 911 for help on their cell phones late Tuesday night.
Phone lines in Queens were jammed for much of the day Tuesday, making it nearly impossible for residents to reach relatives in Manhattan and other parts of the city or for survivors to contact their families.
Queens streets remained eerily quiet as people sat in restaurants and other businesses glued to televisions and radios seeking information on the evolving crisis. People walked down Main Street in Flushing listening to radios pressed to their ears.
As the day wore on, scattered businesses closed around the borough and some put up signs decrying the carnage.
Hundreds of people lined up outside Jamaica, Elmhurst and New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens to donate blood, which was urgently needed to help the World Trade Center survivors.
Queens hospitals geared up to take in World Trade Center victims, but many of the survivors were treated by medical personnel at the scene.
While public schools remained open, many Queens parents raced to retrieve their children from classes. Schools Chancellor Harold Levy circulated an e-mail asking Board of Education staffers to beef up security at schools. Many stayed open beyond the 3 p.m. closing time to wait for stranded parents.
Late in the day Levy announced schools would be closed Wednesday.
The citys biggest Primary Day election in memory was canceled in the wake of the terrorist attack, leaving some election workers at Queens schools and voters milling around in confusion.
A source at the Port Authority said Tuesday LaGuardia Airport has been under high-alert for several weeks after the Queens airport received a written terrorist threat, a possible precursor to Tuesdays attack.
The World Trade Center is headquarters for a host of major companies and state agencies, including the Port Authority. Some 40,000 people worked in the two towers.
One man who saw the initial World Trade Center attack and managed to hitchhike back to Bayside just before Manhattan was closed off described the devastating scene.
I saw it, the man said of the first plane that crashed into one of the towers. I started paging my buddies and said to get out of the building.
The still shaken man, who asked not to be identified, had been standing underneath one of the towers before he decided to move away from the buildings.
I was watching people jumping out of the building, he said. I thought, OK, I guess thats it, and then I saw the second plane.
The people inside did not know what happened, he said.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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