NEW YORK — Andrew Voirol was at a digital marketing conference six stories up in the Time Warner Center on Wednesday morning when security personnel burst in and told everyone they needed to leave immediately.

“They said, ‘This is not a drill,’ and I thought, ‘Is this real, or is this part of the event?’ ” said Voirol, who was here in midtown Manhattan for a multi-day conference attended by thousands of people called Onward18. “Then we got to the ground floor and I realized it was serious.”

For Voirol, who runs a digital marketing company called the Social Diner on Cape Cod, the scene had uncomfortable echoes of the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon. “I lived through the Marathon bombing so it brought back painful memories.”

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Outside the Time Warner Center, where authorities say a pipe bomb was found in the CNN mailroom Wednesday morning, many were similarly reflecting and worrying.

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A scene of what might be described as organized chaos unfolded as evacuees, employees, tourists and reporters stood on the chilly streets outside the complex, talking nervously to strangers as they sought information on the unfolding emergency.

Javier Sanabria, dressed in a white painter uniform, watched the scene perched several feet off the ground on a wooden barricade. Sanabria and his co-workers had briefly left the Time Warner building where they were working and now were stuck outside.

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“It’s scary when this happens. Everyone has to stay strong,” he said.

James P. O’Neill, the New York City police commissioner, told reporters gathered here that authorities had discovered what “appeared to be a live explosive device” at CNN. The device appeared to be identical to explosive implements sent to former president Barack Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, as well as other government officials, authorities said.

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) called the incident an “act of terror.” President Trump condemned the attacks, saying on Twitter he “agree[d] wholeheartedly” with Vice President Pence’s message that they were “cowardly actions” and “despicable.”

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The incident unfolded at one of the most popular — and, given the midmorning hour, populated — areas of Manhattan. The tightly packed set of buildings, at the traffic hub known as Columbus Circle, contains hotels, supermarkets, apartments, event spaces and high-end shops such as Coach, in addition to serving as headquarters to the cable news giant.

By noon, a gaggle of news cameras waited for a news conference at one end of the city’s 58th Street while police officers and a bevy of heavily armored equipment lined both sides of an eerily traffic-free block, which CNN fronts. Officers spaced 50 feet apart down the long block sternly told pedestrians to keep moving as they and guard dogs kept watch.

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Earlier, the normally wide and bustling street had been blocked off even from pedestrian traffic so an NYPD truck could remove the device. The truck, with the device under a large black cloak, made a surreal trip slowly down a one-way street in the wrong direction so it could be taken out of the area for investigation.

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The incident offered a scene in which New York’s usual mix of visitors and hardened regulars were sharing crowded sidewalks, only now against the heightened backdrop of an attempted terrorist attack.

Across the street from the Time Warner Center, Louis, a supervisor at a Whole Foods located in the complex’s basement, said his nerves had been significantly rattled.

Louis, who declined to give his last name, said he and other employees had been waiting more than two hours in the cold to hear whether the building had been cleared of danger. “They haven’t told us anything,” he said, as he stood with several dozen workers in their signature white coats, a striking contrast against the tourists streaming behind them. “We’re just waiting to know if it’s safe for us to be at work.

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Not lost on him was that he was standing next to the Trump International Hotel and Tower, a luxury high-rise at the base of Central Park that the president helped renovate.

One block west, CNN staffers worked phones and colleagues with equal fervor, while news crews moved equipment to prepare stand-ups for reporters covering the story, now forced into a makeshift operation on a crowded city street corner. “Shortest drive I ever had,” one crew member told his colleague as he exited a production van.

At a diner across the street from one such ad hoc newsroom, employees from CNN and other Warner Media television properties gathered to eat and calm frayed nerves. Some offered dark political humor about Trump, Clinton and others as a means of coping.

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The specter of so many media people in one place — reporters flocking to cover a story about reporters — became a New York attraction in its own right.

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“Who is that? Do you know who that is?” Anaya Reid, a 19-year-old college student, asked as she gestured toward MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, standing outside the police barricades with dozens of other reporters from around the world. Reid crept closer, then turned her back to get a selfie with Velshi.

Meanwhile, Amy, a mother from the Bronx who declined to give her last name, said she had just gotten out of the subway to complete an errand with her young son in a stroller when she saw the police presence and convergence of reporters.

“I thought it was a movie set, and all the cameras was because there were stars,” she said. “I mean, it’s New York, right?”

She added: “This is much scarier.”

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