TOPICS > Nation

New York Struggles

September 12, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT


SPENCER MICHELS: Massive rescue and recovery efforts continued through the night and this morning in lower Manhattan– the area that had been home to the World Trade Center only yesterday. More than a thousand relief crews tried to clear away tons of debris and rubble from the site of the attack, often by hand. New Yorkers awakened to a changed and eerie skyline, one still clouded with dust and smoke from the smoldering ruins. Just offshore, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. “George Washington” was in place to provide air defenses in the skies over New York City should they be needed. Satellite photos revealed the big picture of damage and smoke at ground zero. On the ground, the scene included broken girders of buildings– once among the tallest in the world– buses and rescue vehicles destroyed, a girl’s doll lying on the street, clothing racks covered with dust. Throughout the night, crews worked to pull out victims trapped underneath. Thousands remain missing, including at least 202 firefighters and 259 police and other city workers. New York Governor George Pataki expressed thanks to the rescuers.

GOVERNOR GEORGE PATAKI: Mayor, your police and fire not only were heroes at the beginning but they are still heroes. They’re down there under enormous personal strain and risk. I saw them at ground zero while a high rise was on fire right across the street that could have collapsed and they are risking their lives trying to save their friends and colleagues and the New Yorkers who are still trapped.

SPENCER MICHELS: Meanwhile, city officials still did not have an estimate of the number of the people killed. But Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the numbers would be staggering.

MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI: Building number two had a chance to clear out. A lot of people probably cleared out of number two. Building one had some time to clear out but there were areas of it that were affected. The best estimate that we can make relying on the Port Authority and just everyone else who has experiences with this that they’ll be a few thousand people left in each building.

SPENCER MICHELS: Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency explained today why it was taking so long to recover the bodies and how that compared with the bombing in Oklahoma City.

OFFICIAL: Oklahoma City for that small stretch went 15 days. You can imagine we’re going to be a long sustained operation. The difference is New York City has a tremendous capability, 14,000 firefighters and paramedics, so that’s also in the equation but I think we’re looking at least to a 30-06 day operation.

SPENCER MICHELS: With the exception of relief workers, Manhattan’s Lower West Side was shut down today. All of the financial markets were closed for a second straight day as well. The mayor encouraged the rest of the city to try to return to some semblance of a normal day. The task of rebuilding New York’s savaged skyline and its crippled financial district, the world’s economic nerve center, was a major concern to the mayor.

MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI: There is no question we’re going to rebuild. I can’t say that we know the exact nature yet of how we’re going to do that. The skyline will be whole again, exactly, you know, what will be there, I think we have to leave to giving some time for some people to think about it and consider it and also the reality is the people in New York City will be whole again. We’re going to rebuild and we’re not only going to rebuild we’re going to come out of this stronger than we were before. And in addition to having wonderful people in New York — as the Governor indicated — we also have the strongest business community of any place in the world and we’re going to call upon them and we’re going to need they’re help. But we’re going to come out of this emotionally stronger, politically stronger, and much closer together as a city, and we’re going to come out of this economically stronger, too.

SPENCER MICHELS: Officials said late this afternoon that the financial markets could reopen as soon as tomorrow, but that the cleanup could take weeks.

JIM LEHRER: Now, a report from Ray Suarez on the ground in New York City.

RAY SUAREZ: While crews struggled to bring order out of chaos at the scene of the attack, in other parts of New York the attention turned to treating the hurt, searching for the missing, and processing the dead. A day and a half after the terrorists struck, there was still relatively little known about the human cost of the crime.

MAN: If you want to come and speak to somebody…


RAY SUAREZ: Outside the New School University in New York’s Greenwich Village, a line stretched for a block. St. Vincent’s Hospital, one of the main trauma centers in Lower Manhattan, set up an information clearinghouse, a unified database with news of all the wounded admitted to area hospitals. John Castro is helping his son looking for his fiancée.

JOHN CASTRO: Her parents had contact with her right after the plane hit the first tower, but we haven’t heard anything since, since, you know, the second, when the plane went through the middle of the second tower this. That was the last contact anybody has had with her, so, we’re out here looking. We don’t know what else to do.

RAY SUAREZ: It must get harder with every hour that passed?

JOHN CASTRO: Well, it is, as time goes by, you know, things are more bleak, but he doesn’t want to give up hope, and neither do I.

RAY SUAREZ: The family of Moises Rivas, a chef at Windows on the World, famed restaurant at the top of the World Trade towers, also waited for word and worked the phones.

WOMAN: We don’t find him in the list at all, and I’m just waiting to see if he’ll appear; that’s it.

RAY SUAREZ: Do you know that he went to work yesterday morning?

WOMAN: Yes, he; did he called me at like 9:00 exactly and he told me that he loved me and that was it. And he hanged up the phone on me because it was an explosion right this, the first explosion.

RAY SUAREZ: So he already into a something was up?

WOMAN: Yeah; he just said I’m okay don’t worry, I love you; no matter what a love you and he just hang up. and I wish he appear because we have two little kids.

MAN: My son was Mark Zeppelin; he worked on the 104th floor.

RAY SUAREZ: Desperately holding on to scraps of hope and fighting to maintain composure, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives tell anyone who’ll listen about who they’re looking for.

WOMAN: If anybody sees him or knows anything his name is Andrew Stern….

RAY SUAREZ: Do you know that he even made it to work yesterday?


RAY SUAREZ: You do know that?

WOMAN: He did go to work yesterday. He was there very early, about 7:30, so he was definitely there; so if anybody knows anything, please, his wife and his mother and the rest of us are all waiting to hear. Andrew Stern from Kanter Fitzgerald.

WOMAN: My brother was on that floor. I have a brother also that’s missing. He’s Robert Sliewak; his wife Susan and they’re from Rhode Island, their number 516-783-824 4. We were here yesterday and thought they were setting up a facility or service for people from Kanter and as I understand it now, I don’t know if they’re there or not. We would like the Kanter people to please come and give us some information. This is my brother; he’s 42; he was on the 103/04th floor. He called his wife when he heard a bang and told her this was smoke all over and the phone went dead and that’s the last we heard yesterday.

MAN: This is my brother Tom Knox; he was in Tower One on the 105th floor; if anybody knows anything about him, please contact us.

RAY SUAREZ: The flow of the wounded into trauma centers, a torrent yesterday, slowed to a trickle today. This was a chance for the emergency workers at St. Vincent’s to catch their breaths, grab a bottle of water or a piece of pizza, take blood donations, and process volunteers. A dozen refrigerator trucks rolled in a convoy to the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office this afternoon. As one processing center for the dead reaches capacity, the work spreads to centers throughout the metropolitan area.

RAY SUAREZ: What you see behind me is the front edge of a line that stretches more than two and a half blocks to the FDR Drive on the East side of Manhattan. These people are waiting to submit personal information questionnaires — a six/seven page document that contain information about blood type identifying scars, dental work, and if you remember the last outfit of clothes a missing person might have been wearing when they headed for work yesterday morning. One of the most interesting parts of this shared experience for these New Yorkers is how even though on the front of the line they have been waiting more than three hours to submit this work and give a personal interview, there is no panic, there’s very little in the way of acting out or tears. It’s deadly calm back on that street. People have very serious work to do. All day you knew something was wrong in New York, not by what was there, but by what was missing. Wednesday midday, no traffic on Sixth Avenue — and above Sixth Avenue, no shadow from the World Trade towers.