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NEW YORK (CNN) -- An American Airlines jet with 255 people on board crashed Monday in a residential neighborhood after taking off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
American Airlines Flight 587 went down at 9:17 a.m. EST in the Rockway section of the New York City borough of Queens about five miles from Kennedy Airport. Mayor Rudy Giuliani said there were two crash sites -- one where the plane landed and another where an engine landed. Both were about six blocks from a school building. The school was closed for the Veterans Day holiday.
A senior administration official told CNN initial indications are that there was an explosion aboard the plane, but that the source of the explosion is unknown.
Asked if terrorism was suspected, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Bill Schumann said, "All options are open at this time. We have very limited information."
The plane was scheduled to leave at 8:40 a.m. EST, but takeoff was delayed until 9:14 a.m.
The plane, an Airbus A300, was en route from New York to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said the plane was carrying 246 passengers and nine crew members.
An eyewitness told CNN, "I was in my kitchen ... and I saw the plane hit the house behind my house. It was so low, I was ducking almost, then huge fireballs and I jumped out of the ... window of my house.
American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A-300 -- 246 passengers, nine crew members
En route from New York to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Scheduled for 8:40 a.m. EST departure
Plane took off at 9:14 a.m. EST
The plane went down at 9:17 a.m. EST
New York declares Level One alert; 44 firetrucks, 200 firefighters dispatched to scene
Three New York-area airports initially shut down, city tunnels and bridges closed
"I ran right across the street ... it's unbelievable," she said, overcome by emotion. "It sounded like two planes. It was flying too low, and then it hit. It was like a bomb exploded."
Another eyewitness, Phyllis Paul, who lives near the crash site, said a "big, silvery piece of metal" fell behind her house before the plane went down.
"I was sitting having breakfast, and I heard the engines very loud," she said. "They were loud and low, and because of what happened September 11, it gave me a chill. ... I looked out of the window to see if I could see where it was."
Paul said she got her 10-year-old son and left the house.
"I didn't hear an explosion at first when I saw the metal fall. I heard an explosion about a minute and a half later," she said.
CNN confirmed President Bush postponed a scheduled interview with Russian and American reporters so he could meet with advisers and discuss the crash.
"The president is on top of it. They're alert; they're watching everything else all over the country," Giuliani said. "So I think people should remain absolutely calm. This can be handled, and we're just being tested one more time. We're going to pass this test, too."
The Pentagon said surveillance flights were going on in the area and nothing unusual had been spotted.
At least four houses were on fire, and a huge plume of smoke could be seen rising from the site. The New York Fire Department dispatched 44 firetrucks and 200 firefighters to the scene.
All three New York City-area airports -- Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark -- closed after the crash, but Kennedy was later reopened to arriving flights. All the city's bridges and tunnels were closed after the crash. Giuliani declared a Level One emergency, mobilizing all available police, fire and emergency personnel.
The crash affected both national and international air traffic. British Airways said it had two flights en route to New York at the time of the crash. A spokesman said those planes would be diverted. A Lufthansa flight to New York was grounded. In Los Angeles, airport officials said flights to the three New York-area airports had been grounded.
The United Nations went into a partial lockdown after the crash. No cars or pedestrians were allowed to enter the United Nations, which is holding the high-level General Assembly debate.
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