Saturday, Jan 3, 2008
There’s a tremendous amount of material to be gleaned from the newspaper editions that were published in the days immediately following the events of September 1, 2001. Only seven years have passed since that human tragedy was visited upon us, yet already an aura of history has surrounded it. There is a certain forgetfulness that makes revisiting the moment all that much more of a discovery, even though, with the advent of the electronic media, there is unprecedented access to the written word in all its forms.
Below are some cogent passages from The New York Times and the New York Post that I found among a personal stack of archived newspapers, dating from the days immediately following 9-11. These passages are made all the more relevant by research conducted over much of the decade. They supplement others I have already brought to the attention of readers in “Early 9-11 Reportage Reveals Surprises” (see below, also here and here).
We find, for example, that there were reports of a second explosion at the Pentagon following the alleged aircraft impact that is said to have caused the initial damage to the building.
(ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW)
The New York Times, Sept 12, 2001 p. A5
“A Hijacked Boeing 757 Slams Into the Pentagon, Halting the Government”
by Don Van Nata and Lizette Alvarez
Other witnesses said the plane crash was followed by an explosion about 15 minutes later that could be heard miles away–apparently the sound of a large portion of the Pentagon collapsing.
[CAPTION: A New York Times photograph of the Pentagon building taken on the day it was allegedly hit by a hijacked airliner, although
debris normally associated with such an event is clearly absent.]
Moving on to the World Trade Center, we have mention of some foreknowledge of the collapse of the Twin Towers, and then, potent comments by observers who witnessed their disintegration:
The New York Times, Sept. 12, 2001, p. A7
“A Creeping Horror and Panicked Flight as Towers Burn, Then Slowly Fall, p. A7 (continued from p. A1)”
by N.R. Kleinfield
Police officers warned people in the vicinity to move north, that the buildings could fall, but most people found that unthinkable. They stayed put or gravitated closer.
Abruptly, there was an ear-splitting noise. The south tower shook, seemed to list in one direction and them (sic) began to come down, imploding upon itself.
“It looked like a demolition,” said Andy Pollock.
“It started exploding,” said Ross Milanytch, 57, who works at nearby Chase Manhattan Bank. “It was about the 70th floor. And each second another floor exploded out for about eight floors, before the cloud obscured it all.”
Several people voiced the thought: “Get out of here, the other tower’s going to fall.”
People started walking briskly north until the premonition became real–another horrifying eruption, as one floor after another seemed to detonate.
Late in the afternoon, hundreds of rescue workers remained outside where the trade towers once loomed, watching the stubs of the buildings continue to burn into infinity. Several stories still stood, but it was hard to judge how many. Above the second story was nothing but an intense orange glow.
Here’s a personal account that some will find relevant:
The New York Times, Sept. 12, 2001, A10
“Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable”
Mr. Pollard, 45, a portfolio manager at Deutsche Bank, ran into a nearby firehouse on Liberty Street, and took refuge with half dozen people, some of them injured, including a Japanese woman who had been badly burned all over her body.
“Her clothing was just blood and rags,” he said.
The group gathered in the firehouse kitchen, just across from the Twin Towers, and watched the live television coverage, while they tended to the wounded. Suddenly, they watched in disbelief as the television showed the facade of tower one collapsing. “We just ran for the door, but a blast of heat and debris drove us back inside,” Mr. Pollard said.
Then, a little something about Building 7 of the complex. There is an ongoing debate about what happened in Building 7 before, during and after the “attacks.”
The New York Times, Sept. 12, 2008, p. A7
“Trying to Command an Emergency When the Emergency Command Center Is Gone”
by Richard Perez-Pena
Initially, city officials set up shop in the Emergency Command Center on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center, a stone’s throw from the twin towers, but officials concluded that the building should be evacuated.
One of the witnesses to the condition of the building in the early morning hours of that day was Barry Jennings, who recently died of undisclosed causes. Fortunately, his testimony has been recorded. He is said to have been reticent to fully disclose what happened that day, as he feared that if the information were made public, it would jeopardize his employment.
Moving on, we have a snippet from the New York Post about fires in the rubble, the origin of which are hotly debated:
New York Post, Sept. 13, 2001, p. 2
Written by Tracy Connor
Some of the rescue work was delayed by sudden bursts of fire that erupted as chunks of concrete were removed.
“We’ve got a problem with fireballs” someone screamed from an FDNY radio.
The following passage mentions the Blackstone Group, a rather weighty firm, not just in terms of the magnitude and character of its holdings, but also for its connections to current and former government officials.
New York Post, Sept. 13, 2001, p. 32
“$1B INSURANCE FIGHT: ‘Act of war’ claim may let firms off the hook
by Lois Weiss
John Ford, a spokesman for Blackstone–which owns the debt on Seven WTC–declined to discuss the financing but said Tuesday’s events “may take the shine off trophy properties, that’s for sure.”
One of the most startling stories to come out of 9-11 involves reports of individuals in the south tower (Building 2) who announced only moments after the first plane struck the north tower (Building 1) that it was safe to return to work. I have a particular interest in this issue, as only two years before 9-11, I worked for a short time at Fuji Bank, which occupied the offices where the second plane hit. During my stay, I participated in a fire drill in which the division I was working for walked down all 79 flights of stairs and exited the building, an exercise of the type the 9-11 Commission Report expressly denies ever occurred. [The 9-11 Commission Report, 2006, Barnes and Noble Pub., NY p. 280: "Deputy fire safety directors conducted fire drills at least twice a year." p. 281: "But during these drills, civilians were not directed into the stairwells, or provided with information about their configuration and about the existence of transfer hallways and smoke doors. Neither full nor partial evacuation drills were held."]
But I digress:
The New York Times, Sept. 13, 2001, p. 6
“Instincts to Flee Competed With Instructions to Remain”
by Michael Moss and Charles Bagli
Nat Alcamo of Morgan Stanley had been on the phone with his fiancee, who told him to flee his 60th floor office, and as he made his way down he ignored the official with the bullhorn on the 44th floor who said he was just as safe there as outside.
Moments later, his tower was struck, and “I went down three steps at a time, flying,” he said.
Richard Jacobs of Fuji Bank left the 79th floor with all of his colleagues, but on the 48th floor they heard the announcement that the situation was under control.
Several got in the elevators and went back up, two minutes or so before the plane smashed into their floor.
“I just don’t know what happened to them,” Mr. Jacobs said.
There’s an elaborate sidebar that takes up at least a quarter of page six, with illustrations of the two towers. Along the sides of the graphic are testimonies of survivors. One of these testimonies supplements the others cited above:
The New York Times, Sept. 13, 2001, p. A6 (sidebar)
“GETTING DOWN AND GETTING AWAY”
He started down from the 60th floor and made it to the 44th when a man with a megaphone told him to go back. He and others went back up and returned to their desks. When the second plane hit, he headed for the exit again. “I really felt like punching the guy,” he said about the man with the megaphone.
Back to the main article, we have the following passage relating to the management of the World Trade Center complex:
Yesterday, Ernesto L. Butcher, chief operating officer of the Port Authority, refused to discuss evacuation procedures at the World Trade Center. But other Port Authority executives said the towers were under the command of the trade center’s new operator, Larry Silverstein.
Executives like Alan L. Reiss, the director of the World Trade Center, had been working on a transition team with Silverstein Properties that was to last for three months. But in recent weeks, agency executives said, Silverstein Properties asked Mr. Reiss to let it more fully operate everything from safety systems to tenant relations.
Mr, Silverstein would not comment yesterday on any aspect of the disaster. In response to questions concerning announcements made by security guards in the south tower advising tenants that it was safe to return to work, he issued a statement saying: “We are investigating this situation carefully. At this time we do not know whether a statement was issued, or, if it was, who issued it.”
To be continued.
This article was posted: Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 5:25 am