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Sept. 11, 2001: A deadly day at the farmers’ market

Sept. 11, 2001, was no ordinary day at the farmers’ market for Ron Samascott.

The farmer from Kinderhook, N.Y., had long been doing the World Trade Center farmers’ market on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That one dawned like many others, a brilliant blue-sky fall day. Samascott Orchards had about five people working, with six canopied sections and a truck laden with 6,000 lbs. of fruit and vegetables, set up in the shadows of the World Trade Center towers.

“It was busy, we were selling things,” Samascott said. “And then you could hear what sounded like a jet engine coming down the street. It sounded like the plane was accelerating, I thought it must be that he realizes he’s in the wrong spot and he’s trying to gain altitude.”

Then came the sound of a crash.

“I went out from under the tent and looked up and you could see the top of one of the towers was all completely in flames already, in just a few seconds. And then the whole sky was covered in debris from the building. It was all insulation, and CD disks. I remember I picked up a CD disk less than a minute after and it was half melted.”

Samascott said he was contemplating what to do next when people began pouring out of the North Tower -- the one that had been hit.

“They weren’t panicked or anything,” he said. “They were just walking fast. A lot of them came over and said, ‘Let me buy some corn before I go home,’ so we were standing there selling stuff.”

Not for long.

“About 15 minutes later, I heard an explosion,” he said. “So I went out from under the tent again and looked up and it was the other tower, and I thought, ‘Oh, this isn’t the place to be.’”

Though a few of the other 15 or so vendors managed to pack up and leave, Samascott’s tables ringed his truck and there wasn’t time for that. So he and his workers jumped in the cab. But Samascott thought better of it as debris continued to fall. They got out, locked the doors, and went north on foot. (He would learn later that the truck had been crushed.)

“Cars were stopped all over the street,” he said. “Nobody really knew what happened. I kept trying to call and couldn’t get through – every line was busy.

“Then finally about an hour later I got through to my brother up here at the farm. He was watching TV, and when I was talking to him, he said, ‘Oh my God, the building’s falling.’ I was about 20 blocks away at that point, and I turned around and looked.”

Samascott had to spend the night in a hotel, then made his way to a train for a two-hour ride home the next day.

“Amtrak was full, the whole aisle was full with people standing, every seat was full,” he said. “And all the way from New York up to Hudson, I don’t think anybody said a word.”

                                                                                      -- Kathy Gibbons, Editorial Director

Originally posted Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012

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