NEW YORK: In the Clouds

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The Quiet & the Dead. In the instant of the crash, 13 persons were dead. Among them: Colonel Smith, his crew chief Staff Sergeant Christopher Domitrovich, and Albert Perna, a Navy bluejacket who had hitchhiked a ride from New Bedford. Most of the others were girls and women employed by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, which has offices on the 79th floor. Many were burned beyond recognition. The body of a man who worked on that floor was found on a ledge of the 72nd floor; apparently he had been blown out a window.

There were some miraculous escapes. A woman who had been dropped in an elevator was dug out alive (automatic devices had braked the fall). Rescuers battered a hole through the wreckage and Donald Malony, 17, a Coast Guard hospital apprentice, squeezed through it, brought her out, gave her morphine. Passing the building at the moment of the crash, he had run into a drug store, talked a clerk into giving him hypodermic needles, drugs, other supplies. He gave first aid to many.

Men & women caught by the recurring minor explosions were burned and blackened, buffeted from wall to wall. Others, trapped behind buckled doors, suffered the hell of smoke and intense heat until firemen got to them. The injured were counted at 26.

Bad as it was, New York had been spared worse. The crash came on a summer Saturday; in the building were only about 1,500 people. On a normal week day there would have been 15,000 office workers, perhaps several thousand visitors.

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