Around six o'clock this evening I received an IM from one of my coworkers on a lower floor of our building.
Lauren: Why are people running down 42nd Street?
Me: What do you mean?
Lauren: Did a building collapse? Turn on the news. I don't have a TV.
So a few of us walked from the 43rd Street side of the office to the side facing 42nd Street and looked down, and sure enough, about 20-some-odd stories below, masses of people were running in the direction of Times Square. Of course, many immediately wondered if it was another act of terrorism. And the photos of bloody and ash-covered pedestrians that were later posted on nytimes.com were certainly reminiscent of September 11.
We were all pretty calm as we returned to our desks, despite the mild chaos outside and began to google news headlines. That's when I overheard Victoria tell another colleague: "A friend of mine just called from Grand Central. He heard a large explosion, the building shook slightly and shortly afterward, the police started telling everyone to run west."
We googled "New York City" and "explosion" and "Grand Central" and a variety of other search terms in hopes of results that would shed light on the situation. Nothing. We went to ny1.com, 7Online.com, cnn.com, msnbc.com. Nothing. WTF. Are reports and webmasters for each of those medium not posted with laptops on every block in this city to report instantaneous headlines? I mean, it's the instant information age ... get with it, newspeople!
Rumors of a transformer explosion spread so we switched up our search terms again. Still nothing. Darn that ConEd, somebody joked. But by the looks of the huge pillar of smoke a few blocks away, some wondered how big the transformer must have been and if that had really been the cause. On the phone with Jenny, Amie (both from the marketing team) said, "Are they sure it's not just a Guerilla marketing campaign for Transformers, the movie?"
Gotta love those marketers. By the time the midtown explosion was making headlines on cnn.com, we were wrapping up our work for the day and trying to decide on another bar in which to unwind since our original plans to gather at a spot near Grand Central had literally blown up in our face. Cell phone service was a bit jammed by the onslaught of callers trying to touch base with loved ones, and a voicemail from my dad finally came through: "Ah, yea, Katie. Hi, it's your dad. I'm assuming that you weren't blasted when 41st Street blew up, but you know, your mom and I just wanted to make sure. Give us a call."
It was much later when we learned that one person died and a few dozen were injured. As SUBWAYblogger posted, it was slightly surprising that more were not killed or injured given that the blast swallowed a tow truck and shattered windows 16 stories up. Joe.My.God works 200 feet from the explosion site, but had already gone home. He posted a few pictures from the Associated Press. And Midwesterner in NYC had a momentary spike in visitors yesterday because he has recently blogged about an apartment explosion, the movie Transformers and his posts generally center around New York City - which I found kind of funny/interesting despite the circumstances.
Subway service on the East Side is running but bypassing Grand Central. West Side transit was unaffected last night and this morning during my commutes, but I did notice that the shuttle to Grand Central was still blocked off in the Times Square terminal while I was on my way to the gym this morning before work. Latest reports indicate that the explosion was caused by an 80-year old steam pipe.
Other than that, another Thursday in New York City is before us.