New York Crash Revives Fears of Terrorism

The plane crash in New York City on Wednesday afternoon had residents and emergency responders preparing for the worst. But what some feared might be a new terrorist attack turned out to be a heartbreaking accident.

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Here's what we know so far about the crash of a plane owned by New York Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle. It crashed into a 50-story condominium on the Upper East Side of Manhattan yesterday. Lidle and another person were killed.

This early after an accident it's also worth noting what we do not know. In a news conference last night, National Transportation Safety Board member Deborah Hersman told reporters that the plane did not send out a distress call before the crash.

Ms. DEBORAH HERSMAN (National Transportation Safety Board): We've asked the FAA and they have reviewed some air traffic control tapes. At this point in time, they have no indication that there was a mayday call.

INSKEEP: That leaves investigators searching for other evidence while New York City turns its attention to some personal stories.

There's the personal tragedy of a Yankee pitcher, and there's the almost miraculous survival of everyone in a large apartment building.

NPR's Margot Adler reports.

MARGOT ADLER: The plane started out from the small Teterboro, New Jersey, airport. It circled the Statue of Liberty and then headed up the East River. The plane was in the air for only ten minutes before it crashed into the 72nd Street building at around the 30th floor.

Two bodies were found on the street below and the plane's engine was found in one of the apartments. Flames burst out of several windows. Debris fell into the streets. Black smoke was seen across the skyline.

Chris Foage(ph) was right there.

Ms. CHRIS FOAGE (Witness): There were huge flames coming out of the top of the building in New York City. Very scary. I was on the street and I heard the bang. And I look up and I was like, oh my God, not again. Please don't say this happened again.

ADLER: In fact, many New Yorkers felt it was a reminder of 9/11. But within an hour, most had learned it was an accident. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was incredibly lucky. The two people who were in one of the apartments that the plane crashed into were shaken up but unharmed. The mayor spoke to them.

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Republican, New York City): They said they were sitting there. They heard a noise; instantly glass breaking and metal coming in. And they ran to the door out into the hall. And that's all they could tell us.

ADLER: Mayor Bloomberg also said the people were beginning to reoccupy many of the building's apartments.

Mayor BLOOMBERG: They do not believe that there's any structural damage and the fire has been totally knocked out.

ADLER: Bloomberg said that the emergency response was massive, quick and coordinated. The National Transportation Safety Board is beginning its investigation of the crash. Meanwhile, as the story changed, New Yorkers took the changes in stride as they listened to the news.

Demetrius Ducasta(ph) was just getting out of high school.

Mr. DEMETRIUS DUCASTA (High School Student, New York City): I just thought that, like, another terrorist attack was happening, until they said it was just a minor accident.

ADLER: As the story changed from possible terrorism to a baseball tragedy, New York was gearing up to watch the New York Mets play in the playoffs. Near a subway station, many people, some in New York Mets t-shirts, were on their way to Shea Stadium to see game one of the National League Championship Series.

The reports of Cory Lidle's death were on many minds, like that of Sam Stires(ph).

Mr. SAM STIRES (New York Resident): You know, a Mets fan, I'm a baseball fan and it's absolutely horrible. And I feel for his family first. You know, I hope they do something at the game tonight just to honor him. But I still think they should play the game.

ADLER: The game was postponed, but due to rain.

The death of Cory Lidle brought other memories back to New Yorkers: memories going back to 1979 and the death in a plane crash of beloved Yankee catcher Thurman Munson. Munson's number 15 was retired and his locker in the Yankee clubhouse remains unused.

As for Cory Lidle, he was a fairly new pilot. He had only been with the Yankees for a few months and ended his year with a team on a sour note. He was taken out of the rotation during post-season play. He leaves a wife and a six-year-old child.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

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