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Families Of 9/11 Victims Push For Full Public Disclosure Of Tapes

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The families of those who died in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, say the tapes of the 911 calls made that day prove emergency operators were not well prepared for such an attack.

Over the last week the families of those lost were granted access to the tapes of the emergency 911 calls made that morning. But unlike the general public, the families were allowed to listen to unedited versions of tapes, including the voices of both the operators and the callers.

The city on Friday released public copies of the tapes with the victims' voices edited out.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, family members said that full disclosure of the calls to the public could help improve the system. The families also say it would help efforts to build safer skyscrapers and improve rescue plans, in the event of another terror attack.

"Disclosure will assist and stimulate efforts to build safer buildings and plan more effective rescue operations, so that in the event of a future similar terrorist attack, the loss of life will be minimized," said Norman Siegel, attorney for the 9/11 families.

"I think we can learn from our mistakes, the mistakes that were made,” said Al Regenhard, a victim’s father. “The only thing that can come from this and I owe it to my son and all those who died, that we do better in the future."

Some family members said that releasing the complete, unedited tapes would allow those who lost someone to listen for their loved one's voice. The family members say it would be especially helpful in cases where callers did not give their name.

But the city is releasing unedited calls only to the families of those victims who have been identified on the recordings.

City officials agreed with the families that emergency operators had a very difficult job on 9/11, but top police and fire officials say emergency operators did as well as they could under the tough circumstances.

In a statement, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said: "The 911 calls in the attack on the World Trade Center remind us once again of the remarkable performance of our 911 operators, who displayed professionalism and compassion under the most trying of circumstances."

Speaking on NY1's "Inside City Hall" Thursday night, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta also supported the emergency call system.

"You only get one part of the conversation, so occasionally you may hear a dispatcher appear to be very short with the caller, but you don't get the other side, so you don't know how many times that caller has said the same thing,” said Scoppetta. “The dispatcher being faced with an enormous number of calls in a very short period of time is trying to move to the next call and will say 'I'm sorry sir, stay where you are, I have to go.' You hear things like that. But, for the most part, you'll hear a solid professional job done by the operators."
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