At about noon on November 8th, 2006, a bomb exploded in Kirby Plaza, Midtown, Manhattan.
It was estimated to be a 10-kiloton nuclear explosion. Effects from the blast stretched the width of the island, north through half of Central Park, and south to Madison Square Garden.
A crater 300 feet in diameter now fills the space between what used to be 57th and 42nd streets, centered along Broadway. For half a mile in all directions from ground zero, buildings were largely obliterated. Some battered structures still stand on the edges of this range, broken and unstable. At this half-mile point, 50% of those present on the day of the explosion died from the blast or shrapnel thrown by it. Closer to ground zero, few to none survived the explosion.
Those who survived were badly burned by the blast. Many, many more died from extensive burns, or burns that could not be treated in time, the city's hospitals being filled to overflowing and beyond with those needing aid. Of those who were rescued from zones near ground zero, many were blinded by the flash accompanying the explosion.
Prevailing winds at the time of the blast carried the fallout plume southwest from ground zero. Midtown West, Chelsea, Garment District, western portions of Greenwich Village and SoHo, and points beyond Jersey City and Hoboken all received doses of radiation. From Times Square to Chelsea, as many as 35% of those who survived the blast died within a month from radiation sickness. Others, both there and as far away as Jersey City and Communipaw, fell ill but did not die from the radiation directly — those who died were killed by secondary, opportunistic infections.
The casualties cannot be accurately estimated; even a ballpark number is really beyond the capability of any 'expert'. The most common numbers given are 150,000 dead and another 150,000 injured in the blast, with who knows how many people affected by the radiation in either short- or long-term.
New York's economy and infrastructure also took a serious blow. Much of Midtown West, Times Square, and Garment District were uninhabitable for months after the explosion; even the salvageable regions are still shunned by most, for fear of lingering radiation. The southern half of Central Park, the lower part of Upper West Side, and parts of Midtown East, Murray Hill, Gramercy, Chelsea, and Greenwich Village were similarly abandoned for the first few weeks and months after the bomb. People have returned to them since, but none of these neighborhoods are quite what they used to be.
The Lincoln Tunnel was closed for months; its entire eastern end had to be rebuilt. The major roads within the blast area, including Broadway, have been recreated. Buildings that were not destroyed have been repaired, and some rebuilt — but many others were not. Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza — these icons of the Big Apple, among many others, simply no longer exist. Perhaps someday they will be rebuilt, but for now, the heart of the city is a crater, a scar on the landscape surrounded by piles of debris and the twisted skeletons of broken buildings.