It began with a screech and some shaking, then an arc out toward the water, settling close to where the Hudson and Harlem rivers meet.
Passenger cars tumbled off the track. Some people were thrown from the Grand Central Terminal-bound train. Others grabbed on to whatever they could until the crunch of glass and shriek of twisting metal came to a stop on the 5:54 a.m. Metro-North train from Poughkeepsie.
At the Spuyten Duyvil train station, about 100 feet south of the crash site, Doron Langberg was waiting for another train to arrive when a noise broke the silence. "It sounded horrible -- like an earthquake," the Riverdale resident said. "There was screeching and that awful shaking. Where the train usually curves, it just went straight out toward the water. I couldn't believe what I was seeing."
Inside the train, Jack Babcock, 51, of New Windsor had been sleeping when he felt the car derail. "When I woke up, we were just flipping over," he said. "Glass broke and there were trees and dirt coming through the windows."
With the car flipped on its side, Babcock and a few passengers scrambled from the train. His bruises and scratches were treated at the scene. "It's kind of sinking in now," he said.
The sound of responding helicopters, fire trucks and emergency vehicles woke Peter Derrick, 69, who lives near the crash scene. "If the train had gone another 50 to 100 feet, it could have crashed into the station, and it could have been much worse," he said.
Cherelle Coore, 19, felt the train going "very fast" and as it derailed, she managed to wrap her body around the car's luggage rail.
The University of Delaware nursing student saw a woman get thrown through the window as the train flipped, said Coore's cousin Lisa Delgado, who visited her at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. "She felt a jerky movement, and that's when everything started to roll over," Delgado said of Coore, who had a concussion and other injuries.
For Fidajete Brucaj, 49, of Yorktown, the crash was a noise, blackness and then a hospital bed. "She doesn't remember anything that happened," said her brother Hilmi Mujaj, 43, from Montefiore Medical Center. "She was asleep, she heard the noise and then woke up in the hospital."
The family had just spent Thanksgiving together and frantically called hospitals for two hours before finding her.
"My dad woke me up and asked if I had talked to my mother," daughter Hana Brucaj, 19, said. "We saw . . . the first cars were affected and were worried. She usually takes the first few cars."
Brucaj has bruises and a head injury. "She is awake and communicating but she complains about her back," Mujaj said. "We are glad she is alive but it will be a long recovery."
Cheryl Patton was on the train with two friends for a trip to New York City before her flight back to Texas on Monday. She was released, one friend was being examined and another was admitted to NewYork-Presbyterian.
"It was real surreal," she said. "People were calm and collected. We got up if we could and dusted ourselves off and were able to walk off the train."
Monday, she faces a train trip to the airport. "I just don't know if I can go through with that," she said. "Being on a train just scares the hell out of me. We're still in shock."
Back at Spuyten Duyvil, the train remained, a sign of death in a once-tranquil place.
"This is such a beautiful spot," resident Sara Winter said. "We walk by it all the time and just to see that train face down like that, it's very scary. I ride that train to work every day and I feel so safe."
With Nicholas Spangler, Kevin Deutsch, Rita Deutsch, Ivan Pereira, Maria Alvarez and Emily Ngo