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Pipe Burst Elicits 9/11 Images, Not Fears?

This story was written by Scott Conroy with additional reporting by David Hancock.

A day after a steam pipe explosion turned a midtown Manhattan street into a gigantic urban geyser, life in New York City carried on at its typically vigorous pace.

Aside from the NYPD officers wearing protective masks outside the cordoned-off streets around Grand Central Station, there were few visual reminders of the chaotic moments that occurred during Wednesday's afternoon rush hour.

But memories of the eerie scene were still fresh in people's minds.

"I thought a bomb blew up," Rufat Iskiyayev, who was in his office on the East Side, told CBSNews.com. "People started running, people crying … I thought it was another terrorism attack."

Although Wednesday's event turned out to be the apparent result of an aging pipe rather than the work of Osama bin Laden, similarities to the unforgettable scenes that occurred downtown on Sept. 11, 2001, were impossible to ignore.

But New Yorkers often characterize their attitudes about living and working under the constant threat of another attack with a sigh and a shrug.

"People's lives are not changing because they think al Qaeda is coming to America," said Jerry Golden, a licensing professional who was at the scene of the explosion on Wednesday.

In the same way that Londoners embrace the stiff-upper-lip defiance that their bomb shelter-dwelling forbearers made famous during World War II, New Yorkers seem to relish the collective coolness that has carried them through each elevated alert and false alarm in the years since 9/11.

Dr. Thomas Demaria, a clinical psychologist and Director of the WTC Family Center, told CBSNews.com that there are likely some more complex feelings lying beneath those tough exteriors.

"For a lot of New Yorkers, there's the realization that [terrorism] is a possibility, but there's the commitment that you have to move on," Demaria said. "The way memories are encoded, it's the sights, the smells, the feeling of chaos … there's a lot of things that go right back to 9/11."

In a CBS News/New York Times poll conducted around the five year anniversary of 9/11, 54 percent of Americans said they felt generally safe.

But Demaria points out that people might be more inclined to say they aren't worried when asked in a poll or speaking to a reporter.

Karen Harford, a ranch hand from Haigler, Neb., who was visiting New York City for the first time, heard about Wednesday's accident through a phone call from a concerned friend. And how did this rural Midwesterner react to the big city threat?

"Life goes on, so I'm not going to worry about it," she said.