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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 14, 2001

America's bloodiest day
Former Hawai'i residents report aftermath of attacks

By Johnny Brannon and Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writers

Many Hawai'i residents heard riveting firsthand accounts from friends and relatives who witnessed Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

As part of the heightened security in Honolulu in the wake of East Coast terror attacks, Coast Guard cutter Rush crewman David Demers stands guard outside a Coast Guard housing area in 'Aina Haina.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Taber Gonzales, who is from Lanikai, was at work on the 42nd floor of the World Financial Center, directly across West Street from the first building attacked, the World Trade Center's north tower.

"I heard a boom and all of a sudden the windows just shook," said Gonzales, 23, a 1996 graduate of Punahou School. "Then debris was falling all over outside, like it was raining."

People quickly began to evacuate the building. Gonzales said that just as he emerged onto the street, the second hijacked airliner slammed into the World Trade Center's second tower.

A massive crowd surged up the West Side Highway to escape the chaos and falling rubble. Gonzales glanced back.

"I saw people waving their hands out the windows. Then we heard people crying, 'Oh my god!' as the tower just collapsed," he said. "It wasn't a pretty sight. You never heard stories that can make you even imagine anything like that."

The people really began to panic as they fled.

"It was like a sea of people just trying to get away," Gonzales said. "People were running into the street. I just couldn't believe it."

"It was just shocking," said Gonzales, who moved to New York City about a year ago. Kathy Rosales, who is from Wailuku, Maui, was in the library of Manhattan's Barnard College when she learned of the attack.

"A lot of girls were on the side crying," said Rosales, a 19-year-old sophomore. "Some of them had family that worked in the trade center."

Many people rushed to hospitals to donate blood or render other assistance, said Rosales, who arrived in New York a week ago with her parents.

Her father, Camilo Rosales, a surgeon at Maui Memorial Medical Center, hurried to volunteer his services at St. Vincent's Hospital.

Susan Stanton, a 19-year-old junior at New York University who is from 'Aiea, struggled half the day to return to her Greenwich Village dormitory from upper Manhattan after the shutdown of the city's subway system. Then she went out to donate blood.

Tracy Okubo, a legislative aide to Hawai'i's Rep. Patsy Mink, was at work on Capitol Hill in Washington when the first hijacked airliner slammed into the Trade Center.

"We were watching live TV coverage and they showed a second plane crashing into the second tower, and that's when we knew this this wasn't a coincidence" said Okubo, 22, who is from Kaimuki.

When a third plane smashed into the Pentagon, she and many others feared that the Capitol would be attacked next.

Iris Taniguchi, a realtor who lives in Kaimuki, received a call just after 3 a.m. from her son Erik, who recently moved to New York and works near the World Trade Center.

"He said it was just crazy, really crazy — crazy things were happening. No one knew what was going on. I know he's safe right now, where he's at. But, of course, I would rather have him home."