"We just saw the white smoke," said one student.
"That was terrible," said another.
Terrible, they say because these high school students - some with asthma- panicked and couldn't breathe when they had no idea what was happening around them at the Liberty High School, which has a mostly immigrant student population. All they heard was screaming just before 1:30 on Friday afternoon, and all they saw was white powder and a young man running from police.
Police say the 24 year old man walked into the school through the front door and asked the school safety agent at the front desk if he could speak to a teacher. Following a brief discussion, the man grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher and allegedly sprayed the school safety agent.
The man then ran into the school and up the stairs, spraying the fire extinguisher indiscriminately, according to officials.
Police say the intruder made it all the way up to the top floor before school safety agents were able to subdue him.
At least 9 students were injured, but none of them seriously.
Three school safety agents were treated after they were sprayed with the fire extinguisher.
The man was taken to Bellevue Medical Center for treatment. Officials say he has a psychiatric history and he was previously diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The rest of the students were taken to the nearby Manhattan Business Academy for the rest of the day.