NEW YORK (Updated Sept. 11, 2:40 p.m. EDT) — In a suspected terrorist attack, two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, causing the collapse of both towers.
President Bush called it an “apparent terrorist attack,” and ordered a full-scale investigation.
The Pentagon in Washington suffered a similar attack.
The entire downtown area of Manhattan was evacuated as far north as Rockefeller Center, according to an official at an emergency command post.
Morning commuters stood on street corners, many of them crying, while they waited for news from the disaster. Black smoke poured out of two gaping holes in the World Trade Center. Shortly after the plane crashed, a second explosion rocked the other tower. Witnesses said that a second, smaller plane crashed into the tower.
Subway service was suspended, and telephone and Internet lines were jammed.
The World Trade Center, recently purchased by Silverstein Properties, suffered a bombing attack by terrorists Feb. 26, 1993. The bombing killed six people and injured more than 1,000 others, and led to strict security measures at the buildings.
Some plastics companies reacted quickly to the disasters:
* Nova Chemicals has closed its Pittsburgh headquarters, which is in the flight path of the Pittsburgh airport.
* Dow Chemical Co. is operating under "heightened awareness," but has not increased security levels or closed any of its facilities,according to spokesman Peter-Paul Van De Wijs.
"The attacks were clearly not aimed at the chemical industry, but we're still taking them very seriously," he said. "We're staying in contact with local police and authorities to monitor the situations."
* A GE Plastics spokesman declined to say if the firm had taken any extra security measures at its ABS plant in Parkersburg, W.Va., although the usatoday.com web site reported that security at chemical plants in that state had been heightened.
* Officials at M&G Group, which operates a PET plant in Point Pleasant, W.Va., could not be reached for comment.
* Although several speakers had to cancel at the last minute, the situation in New York has not stopped Vinyltec 2001 from continuing, said registration chairman Jay Kotak. The conference was scheduled Sept. 11-12 in Iselin, N.J., outside New York City, by the Vinyl Plastics Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers.
Most of the 200 attendees arrived the night before the attacks, Kotak said. "We must wipe it out of our minds and go on," he said.
* SPE has not canceled its annual Thermoformers Conference & Exhibition, scheduled for Sept. 15-18 in Milwaukee.
Conference Coordinator Gwen Mathis said her flight from Atlanta to Milwaukee scheduled for today has been canceled, but that a board of directors meeting planned for Thursday and Friday before the start of the conference Saturday will go on as planned.
As a security precaution, convention center officials will search large trucks transporting equipment from conference exhibitors, Mathis said.
Mathis said Milwaukee's Midwest Express Convention Center — which is near a federal building in Milwaukee — as well as participating hotel staff have assured her that they see no immediate need to cancel the event.
“[The national security alert] will affect some of our attendees, but as of right now, we would advise people to stay in touch,” Mathis said. “It's hard to cancel something because of the financial liability. Unless something else major happens we have not canceled it and don't plan to.”
Mathis said some attendees have notified her that they now plan to drive rather than fly to the convention.
* The attack sent shock waves out to Detroit, where General Motors Corp. ordered its corporate headquarters evacuated about an hour after the New York strikes. The Renaissance Center is Detroit's tallest building, stretching up for 73 stories.
Both Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG closed their global headquarters, in the Detroit suburbs of Dearborn and Auburn Hills, respectively. All three of the corporations also were debating whether to shut down other sites.
“Ford is taking all reasonable precautions to protect our employees and facilities,” the carmaker stated in a brief written release, which called the crashes and explosions a “national tragedy” and extended sympathy to all those affected.
“We are shocked and deeply troubled by today's terrorist attacks on the American people,” DaimlerChrysler chief Jurgen Schrempp said in an official statement. “As a German/American enterprise, we are in complete solidarity with the American people during this dark hour.”
Most of the top executives from North American automakers and their suppliers are in Frankfurt, Germany, this week for the international auto show there, but the business community in the Detroit region still had complications to ordinary operations beyond the emotional shock.
At Textron Automotive Co. Inc., executives had looked into securing hotel rooms for employees stuck on either side of the U.S.-Canada border when the government temporarily shut down bridges and an international tunnel in southern Michigan, said Textron spokesman Tim Weir. Those accommodations became unnecessary when access was reopened, although security remained heightened.
Textron's Kautex division has units in Windsor, Ontario, and engineers and executives frequently travel between Windsor and Textron Automotive's corporate headquarters in Troy, Mich., he said.
Plastics News staff reporters Rhoda Miel, Joe Pryweller, Jinida Doba and Frank Esposito contributed to this report.