When sales consultant Robert Samuel woke up this morning, he was hit with a wave of emotions at the thought of Steve Jobs' passing.
"It's funny, but I found myself crying," he said, comparing the loss to when Martin Luther King Jr. or John Lennon died.
Samuel was among a few dozen people who paid their respects to Apple's co-founder at the company's store on 14th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan. Many were merely walking to work, or just dropping off their kids, but all stopped to snap a photo of the makeshift vigil in front of the store or take in the scenery.
Similar tributes were seen at Apple's flagship store on Fifth Avenue, where flowers adorned the steps in front of the iconic glass cube, which is still covered because of its recent renovations. The words "iLove Steve" were spray-painted on the wooden barrier to the other side. In Boston, a stream of people made a trek to the Copley Square store to take photos of its glass walls and the temporary shrine set up there. Likewise, the Paris Apple store drew a handful of Parisians after they awoke to the news.
The crowds, along with the throngs of media set up outside the stores, underscore the impact that Jobs had not just on the technology world, but on our way of life. The Apple brand has become synonymous with hip and trendy, and Jobs' creations--from the ultrathin MacBook Air to the seemingly ubiquitous iPhone--are a common sight in public. His force of personality also made any Apple unveiling a must-see event, a claim few other technology companies can make.
"It's a huge loss," said Melanie Hamilton, who works in sales and stopped by the 14th Street Apple store on her way to the Google offices in Chelsea. "It's strange to reflect on the fact that we're not going to get any great keynote speeches anymore."
Hamilton added that she would miss Jobs' vision, drive, and resolve, noting that he was one executive "who didn't waver."
Nancy Jacobs left flowers this morning outside the Upper West Side Apple store before heading inside to take a class. She said she had never done anything like that before, but felt compelled because her 16-year-old and 14-year-old children were so affected by the news of Steve Jobs' death. Her son had learned of his death while reading the news on his iPad.
"They came in my room last night crying," she said. "What other CEO in America do they know the name of? It really touched me."
In Boston, people talked about how the Apple products they owned changed their daily lives, particularly the iPod and iPhone. An iPhone customer for four years, David Rysin has become a fan of Apple the company, which has replaced his iPhone even after he's damaged it and dropped it in the toilet.
"I love their customer service and it wouldn't be the way it is without (Jobs) so I thought I owed it to him to come down and leave a card," said Rysin, an 18-year-old student at Boston University.
Like many, he was swept up in the historical significance of Jobs' passing. "I spent more time studying the history of Apple than I did studying for my midterm exam in economics last night," he said.
Jennifer Horton owns many Apple products which she said have changed her life and made her appreciate Jobs' work. But Horton's professional life has been tied to Apple and its reemergence under Jobs, too. She works at a nearby staffing agency which once called itself Mactemps, which suffered during the.
"It's been 18 years and there was a time where we almost died," she said, adding that the company changed its name to Aquent a few years ago. "We've tried to diversify but we're still very focused on Mac."
As people filtered through the flowers, cards, and candles on the sidewalk outside, one person said: "How weird is it that everyone is taking photos with iPhones. It's crazy."
Jay Chakrapani was dropping off his kids near an Apple store on 14th Street in New York and swung by to pay his respects.
"You knew it would happen eventually, but when it did, it was shock and awe," he said. "I was in the bedroom when my wife came in and told me to turn on the TV."
Chakrapani, who works with digital media at McGraw Hill in Chelsea, said his family has a collection of iPhones, an iPad, MacBooks, and a "iPod graveyard."
Andrew Weg also came to the 14th Street store before class at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law to pick up his MacBook Air. While waiting for the store to open, he stood there admiring the door, which was adorned with a note with one of Apple's original logos surrounded by several Post-it notes with messages of gratitude and condolences for Apple and Jobs' family.
"It's kind of crazy," said Weg, who has owned at least one Apple product for the past eight years. "And after the bad reaction for the iPhone 4S too."
Weg, like many Apple fans this morning, was curious to see where Apple would go without Jobs at the helm, but expressed confidence in the company's fate. He said he would be getting the iPhone 4S when it becomes available next week.
"I still think they make the best products," he said.
Hamilton was similarly optimistic. "You hope he passed along his vision," she said.
For Samuel, who spent the early part of his day off at the Apple store, Jobs' loss was particularly personal. He attributed his love of the iPhone as the inspiration for his job at a New York AT&T store.
"I love what I do just like he loved what he did," he said.
Updated at 10:41 a.m. PT: to include reaction in Boston.
CNET's Marguerite Reardon and Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.
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