The impact is so close that I'm thrown bodily to the floor. Everything lurches. Computers topple from desks, glass breaks, filing cabinets slam to the floor. Someone else falls on top of me and rolls away. The air is thick with screams and shouts. For a moment I don't dare move, sure that the floor is about to give way, that the whole building is about to collapse around me. But it doesn't. After a second the shaking stops and I climb cautiously to my feet.
The office is wrecked. Most of the windows along the south side are broken, littering the carpet with bright cubes of safety glass. The air is full of dust, thick and hard to breathe. Desks are overturned, chairs fallen, tiles dangling from the ceiling. But worse than all that are the people. The receptionist who came to me when I stood at the window not two minutes ago is huddled back against the wall, covered in dust, her head buried in her hands, shuddering with sobs. All around the office, men and women in suits are picking themselves up, gazing around at the damage, looks of horror on their faces.
Then the screaming starts. It's close, but not anywhere on this floor. And it's different from the kind of screams that I've heard already today. This sound is long and sustained and piercing: a scream of pain.
That noise, more than anything else, jolts me. I wheel around and run for the door to the stairwell. I have to get out of here, quickly, before the next one hits. I pause at the door and look back into the office. Everyone is still picking themselves up from the devastation. The receptionist is still crying against the wall. Nobody's moving, nobody's running away. Don't they understand? I think of all those little specks I saw in the sky. Little specks growing bigger.
"Come on!" I yell, as loud as I can. "Come on, quick! We have to get out of here." People turn and just stare at me, as though they don't understand what I'm saying. Shock. It must be shock. "We have to go, now!" I yell. But nobody moves, and so I turn and plunge on down the stairwell alone.
I run. I run so fast that I'm afraid any second I might fall, leaping four steps at a time down and down and down. By the time I reach the second floor a few others are starting to enter the stairwell. I pass a man with a wide, bright bloodstain down the front of his shirt. I pass a couple of frightened-looking interns still trying to coax a response from the mobiles.
My thoughts go to Sharon again. She must be worried. I wonder, are things any better off on the other side of the river? A surge of fear passes through my body, making me feel cold and jittery inside.
I reach the lobby. As I'm crossing towards the main doors the building shakes again. I stumble but keep my feet. The security guard's at the door, yelling and directing people outside. He looks as lost and scared as the rest. As I pass through the doors and into the outside world the tang of smoke reaches me, hot and bitter.
The street outside is thronged with people. They're pouring from every doorway of every building, a tide pulling in a hundred different directions. People are bloodied and dust-covered. People are screaming. People are calling out each other's names. A couple of cars are stranded in the middle of the road, doors flung open, the mass of people flowing around them.
Without hesitation I throw myself into the crowd and turn towards the river.