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America Under Attack: Firefighters Watch Helplessly as the World Trade Center Continues to Burn

Aired September 11, 2001 - 15:21   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: CNN producer Rose Arce on the streets of New York. She's joining us by telephone. Rose, can you hear me?

ROSE ARCE, CNN PRODUCER: Yes I can, Judy.

WOODRUFF: What are you seeing? Tell us where you are.

ARCE: I am about two blocks north of where the World Trade Center used to be standing. And I am surrounding by firefighters who are just watching helplessly. They have had to suspend the rescue operation, and they are just watching a burning hulk of a building right now.

The front part of the World Trade Center has completely sheered off, as well as many of the upper floors, and every few minutes you will here like a small sort of rumbling sound, almost like an explosion sound, and another chunk of it will come flying down into the street, creating a situation where rescue personnel just have been not been able to get close to this building now for over an hour.

WOODRUFF: Rose, how close are they to the building?

ARCE: I'd say the closest people are probably about two blocks north of there, just in front of where I am. I spoke to a firefighter a few minutes ago who had said that he had had to stand there and watch helplessly as at least a dozen people leapt from the upper floors of this building during a fire.

WOODRUFF: Rose, when the mayor was asked this question at a news conference a little while ago, he said he was not able to answer, but given your vantage point, can you tell how large a perimeter, how many square blocks are we talking about that has been devastated?

ARCE: Well, I would say that at least, you know, up to four blocks north, five blocks north of the World Trade Center, there is debris on top of buildings. There are building that have been pierced by debris. The streets are covered with several inches of soot and literally pieces of people's desks, you know, office supplies. You know, where I'm standing right now, I can see there's letters on the floors, there's one woman's resume, there's some insurance papers -- you know, things that clearly came from inside that building.

WOODRUFF: Rose, where -- again, you are how close to what is going on here?

ARCE: I am about I'd say about two and half blocks north of the World Trade Center.

WOODRUFF: And are you still seeing victims, injured, being taken away or walking away?

ARCE: No, right now there's actually nobody that's getting anywhere near close to that building. There is just a huge and enormous pieces of debris just falling one right after the other, and as I said, firefighters just -- a lot of them are just standing here helpless, you know, wanting to go in and try to fight the fire, but just can't get any closer because of safety problems.

WOODRUFF: And Rose, is your sense that there are enough emergency personnel there once they can -- I mean, are there -- give us a sense of how many emergency personnel you see.

ARCE: There is an absolute small army of fire safety people. I mean, I even see Immigration and Naturalization Service officers, federal marshals. You know, there are trucks from all over New York. I see license plates, New Jersey, people from upstate New York. There is just a small army of people here, but there's just really not a whole lot that they can do for, you know, to whoever may be left right now, because it is just such a dangerous situation.

WOODRUFF: CNN producer Rose Arce. She's talking to us right now. She is a few blocks away from the World Trade Center, describing efforts by rescue personnel who just cannot get close, because it is still a very dangerous situation. You heard her say large pieces of debris still coming down.

And these pictures we are showing you, all of them taken earlier in the day since the first airplane hit the World Trade Center about 8:48 this morning. And again, these are those still pictures that Aaron first referred to a few minutes ago, still pictures of a commercial jetliner, this was the second one to come in. This was the plane, the United Airlines flight 175 that we now know has to be the one, that Boeing 767 bound from Boston to Los Angeles. Instead, it ended up inside and going through incomprehensibly, one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

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