Eyewitness: The Building Explosion in New York City

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The day was gray and windy. In New York City's Chelsea neighborhood the streets were speckled with colorful umbrellas, protecting pedestrians from the intermittent rain. Then at 11:20 there came a thunderous sound — an explosion coming from a 10-story commercial building on 19th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues. People ran out of their homes and offices as fire alarms sounded off and police, fire trucks and ambulances arrived on the scene. Shattered glass and debris littered the ground while entire walls and windows had been blown to pieces. At least two helicopters circled around in the sky. Scott Bonilla, 19, a student of Apex Technical School, was on the 4th floor of an adjacent building when he heard the explosion. He recalls: "There was a bang. The floor was shaking like an earthquake. People were screaming and yelling. I could hear glass shattering from nearby. I just ran out of there."

The explosion left more than 40 people injured, ten of them in critical condition. Anthony Carducci an engineer who worked across the street says: "There was smoke all over, glass from the first, second and third floors blown out. All I could think of was September 11th. And could this be another terrorist attack?"

Officials on the scene denied any connection to terrorism. Instead, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters that the explosion was of a chemical nature and may have been caused by volatile chemicals stored in the basement and used by a sign-etching company. "At the moment I want to assure there is absolutely no reason to think this is anything other than a tragic accident, and we hope there is no loss of life," the mayor said.

By one o'clock there was no longer any smoke or flames visible from the outside although numerous police cars, fire trucks and ambulances remained on the scene. The mayor added that the building appears to be structurally sound. Among the many tenants it housed were a film production company, launch.com, and former offices of Talk magazine.