Emergency Crews Come Through For Second Time In Two Months
11/12/2001 08:48 PM
Two months and one day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and still recovering from the most devastating day in New York City's history, emergency rescue crews once again rush into action Monday in a desperate attempt to save lives.
Copyright © 2008 NY1 News
Hundreds of firefighters, EMTs and police officers responded to the crash of American Airlines Flight 597, which carried more than 250 people and went down in the Rockaways, Queens, Monday morning.
"I would like to congratulate the emergency rescue teams - they responded in an unbelievable way," Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Monday. "The fire was raging when I first got there but it was out in an unbelievably short time. But for their efforts, our casualties would be far worse, and we are once again in the debt of our firefighters, our police officers and our Port Authority police."
The Fire Department says close to 500 firefighters and EMS units responded to the scene. Engine and ladder companies from across the five boroughs were called in to battle fires on several blocks, and makeshift triage centers were set up at local schools and churches.
"We actually had several different fires," said Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen. "We had a fifth-alarm and a third-alarm, so there were probably 150 people working one one and maybe 100 working on another. So we were all over the place, and they were going through backyards in a ten-block area looking for people who were injured or parts from the airplane."
In the waters off the Rockaway Peninsula, the Coast Guard mobilized in Jamaica Bay. It was a scene eerily similar to the one in the aftermath of the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996.
But these are different times, and immediately after Flight 587 crashed, the Federal Aviation Administration closed all runways at area airports. Newark and LaGuardia reopened four hours later, and Kennedy not until the early evening, as officials investigated fuel lines there.
The lockdown extended to bridges and tunnels as well. The Port Authority and the New York City Department of Transportation closed all spans in the five boroughs. Traffic snarled in some cases for three hours, as emergency vehicles raced to the Rockaways.
By early afternoon, drivers could once again make their way across all Hudson and East River crossings. In fact, all bridges and tunnels were back by mid-afternoon, with the exception of bridges connecting the Rockaway Peninsula to the mainland.
However, in a sign of these post-September 11 times, the Empire State Building was evacuated moments after the crash and the United Nations was partially locked down, as the city reached levels of alert never before seen.
- John Schiumo