New York City officials released Friday morning portions of chilling audio recordings of 911 emergency calls made by the victims trapped in the twin towers of the World Trade Center in the final hours before the towers collapsed on September 11, 2001.
Nearly nine hours of recordings were released in all, detailing the responses of 911 operators who answered the frantic calls in the time between the start of the attack at 8:46 a.m. and the collapse of the second tower at 10:28 a.m.
"You saw an explosion? You saw an explosion at the Twin Towers?" asks one operator. "Okay, yeah, there's a lot of calls."
Nearly 3,000 people died when the twin towers were destroyed by two hijacked jetliners under the control of Islamic fundamentalists, in the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.
Due to the sensitive nature of the tapes and to protect the privacy of the families, only censored versions of the calls have been released to the public. Only operators and dispatchers are heard, with the callers' voices redacted, or muted out.
An exchange between two operators relaying details from callers indicates the sporadic manner in which the information came in.
Operator 1490: "This is operator 1490. I have a call from a lady at the Bank of New York. She states that the World Trade Center..."
Operator 8736: "Yeah we got that already."
Operator 1490: "She states that at the northwest side, that there's a woman hanging. There’s an unidentified person hanging from the top of the building. OK, that’s all the information. That's One World Trade Center."
Operator 8736: "Alright, we have quite a few calls."
Operator 1490: "I know."
Operator 8736: "Jesus Christ."
Operator 1490: "I know."
The September 11 Commission concluded in 2004 that many operators didn't know enough about the situation to give the best information to those trapped. Although the commission determined that NYPD officials ordered an evacuation of the buildings shortly after the first plane hit, many operators are heard on the recordings telling callers to stay where they are and wait for help.
"I'll have somebody come up to you, OK," says one operator. "We're going to get somebody up there as soon as we can. Just give a listen to what we say and what they tell you on the air, OK. Sir, if you can get out of the building then get out of the building. If you can't just remain there and somebody'll get you."
The transcripts also reveal that operators were dealing with so many calls that their computers went down, temporarily crippling their response.
The release of the tapes follows a three-year lawsuit involving a group of nine families who lost loved ones on 9/11. The families fought for the release of the tapes, arguing that they were necessary for piecing together what happened on the day of the attacks.
The New York Times requested the names of the callers be audible on the public tapes in those cases where the dispatcher said the name aloud. A judge ruled in favor of the Times on Wednesday, but the city is appealing that decision.
Relatives of 27 victims and one survivor received unedited versions of the tapes earlier this week.
The Hanley family released the full recording of the call made by their son Christopher, a Manhattan resident who was killed in the attacks. He was on the 106th floor of the North Tower when he called 911 at 8:50 a.m., four minutes after the first plane struck the tower he was in.
Families of the victims said that hearing the recordings was painful yet comforting.
"It's kind of painful to hear it again — to hear him live like that — but I thought he distinguished himself very nicely under a great deal of pressure," said Hanley’s father, Joseph Hanley.
But only a small percentage of the callers have been identified, according to Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, who appeared on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” Thursday night.
"There are many other conversations where we don't know who those callers are, so they've been redacted in accordance with the court of appeals and they won't be released," said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.
Appearing on NY1’s “The Call” Thursday night, attorney for the families Norman Siegel said the release of the unedited audio recordings could accomplish two things.
"The tapes will reveal how the 911 system worked, or did not work. That’s very important: our training, how can we improve that,” said Siegel. “Second, the tapes, if they are not edited would let family know the last moments of their loved one’s life."
|TRANSCRIPTS OF WTC 911 CALLS|
The following are redacted transcripts of emergency calls made to 911 FDNY and EMS operators from the World Trade Center's twin towers on September 11, 2001, released by New York City on Friday.
FDNY 911 Transcript Part 1 of 9
FDNY 911 Transcript Part 2 of 9
FDNY 911 Transcript Part 3 of 9
FDNY 911 Transcript Part 4 of 9
FDNY 911 Transcript Part 5 of 9
FDNY 911 Transcript Part 6 of 9
FDNY 911 Transcript Part 7 of 9
FDNY 911 Transcript Part 8 of 9
FDNY 911 Transcript Part 9 of 9
EMS 911 Transcript Part 1 of 4
EMS 911 Transcript Part 2 of 4
EMS 911 Transcript Part 3 of 4
EMS 911 Transcript Part 4 of 4
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• Families Of 9/11 Victims Push For Full Public Disclosure Of Tapes