Empire State visitors describe shooting scene

Hassan Gadraoui, 47, of Morocco, is joined by Hassan Gadraoui, 47, of Morocco, is joined by his wife and son in New York City for vacation and had planned to visit the Empire State Building but could not because of the shootings earlier. (Aug. 24, 2012) Photo Credit: Nancy Borowick

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Visitors to the Empire State Building stumbled onto the unexpected -- a wild shooting on the sidewalk outside the 103-story landmark.

Some were nonchalant about Friday's gunfire, while others expressed fear.

"This is not going to change our life," said Hassan Gadraoui, 47, of Morocco. "This can happen anywhere."

However, his wife, Saubry Amina, was scared. She said she didn't think it was safe to go up to the observation deck. "I worry," Amina said, adding that she'd never before seen a shooting.

After eating breakfast on 32nd Street, the family had planned to visit the Empire State Building but couldn't because of a police cordon. The couple and their son went shopping and returned around 3 p.m., but police still barred entry to the building.

Management said the building and observation decks remained open throughout the day.

"This unfortunate event had nothing to do with the Empire State Building or with terrorism," Anthony Malkin, of building manager Malkin Holding, said in a statement. "At no time was there any related activity in the building. We express our deepest concern for those innocents who were hurt and our appreciation to the NYPD."

Soaring more than a quarter of a mile above Manhattan, the Empire State Building's 86th and 102nd floor observatories offer panoramic views of New York City.

William Missault, a police officer visiting from Belgium with his wife and teenage son, was in the building lobby at the time of the shooting, waiting to visit the observatory.

"We had just entered the building when we suddenly heard four or five loud shots and then we saw a woman come running in with a child. I thought it was fireworks at first, but once I went outside and looked up and saw three helicopters I knew it was something serious," Missault said. "My wife said it was just like in a movie. We don't have as many shootings in Belgium," he said.

While waiting in the observation deck line, three friends -- one from Ireland and two from England -- learned of the shootings when their families back home texted them.

One young woman's mother told her not to go up, but she said the trio really wanted to see the world-famous skyscraper before they leave on Sunday.

"I am a little nervous," said Kirsten Conlan, 21, of Ireland. "It's a little weird."

Her friend, Hannah Isaac, 19, of Southampton, England, said she has learned to adjust to the situation. After the 2005 terrorist bombing of the London Underground during morning rush hour, she said, she was nervous about using the "Tube," but she knew she would have to ride the subway at some point.

"It's just a case of getting back on a horse," Isaac said.

Rosie Champman, 62, a school social worker from Detroit, said she has family in the city and visits every year.

"It happens. I'm just glad it's not terrorists. I'd be more scared then," Champman said.

Matt Jordan, 29, and his wife, Kate, 28, of Birmingham, England, said they were married last week and were on their honeymoon.

"Quite shocking, was about to walk there 15 minutes ago," Matt Jordan said. "We saw the Madison Square Garden this morning before coming here but we were going to come here first. We're going to be a little more aware."

Loretta Lukaczer, 61, of Seattle, said she tries to visit the city about every five years, and was not concerned.

"I think there's maniacs everywhere and there's lots of people here so it's going to happen," she said.

With Chau Lam,

Ron Bittner and Igor Kossov

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