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Amateur Video of Immediate Aftermath

Aired September 11, 2001 - 16:20   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.
AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim Destefano is a structural engineer. He knows about big buildings and what happens in these sort of catastrophic moments, He joins us from Deerfield, Connecticut on the phone.

Jim, the plane hits. What's -- and I hope this isn't a terribly oversimplified question, but what happens to the building itself?

JIM DESTEFANO, NATL. COUN. STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS: Well, it's a structure. It's a tremendous impact that's applied to the building when a collision occurs, and it's clear that that impact was sufficient to do damage to the columns and the bracing system supporting the building. That, coupled with the fire raging and the high temperatures, softening the structural steel, then precipitated a destabilization of the columns. And clearly, the columns buckled at the lower floors, causing the building to collapse.

BROWN: So it is a combination of, as we see again, this extraordinary shot of the second plane hitting the tower, it is a combination of the impact of the plane itself, and then the fire that ensues, that causes these -- I don't know, are they called beams -- to buckle?

DESTEFANO: Yes, it's the columns. The vertical elements are columns, and those are the elements that are holding the whole building up, and those are the critical, vulnerable elements that clearly failed in a buckling mode from the high temperatures and the damage from the impact.

BROWN: Now, I'm not asking you to assign any blame to anyone about anything here, but just give me an idea if, in fact, you can design these buildings in such a way so that it does not -- this sort of thing does not happen, even in a catastrophic event.

DESTEFANO: It's very difficult, when you're designing a structure like this, to imagine all the scenarios of things that might occur to the building during its construction. It is my understanding that when this building was designed, one of the criterias that it was designed for was a direct hit from a 707. Clearly, planes are larger today, and it wasn't considered the effect of the aftermath fire and high temperatures that would have been applied to the structure subsequent to the collision, as we saw today.

BROWN: And to the best that you can, give me an idea of how long it will take for that building to be safe to go into. Because what we know is there -- or what we believe, at least, there are still people trapped in there. The mayor talked about a week that this rescue operation is going to take. Is that realistic?

DESTEFANO: I think it's very realistic, that what we've seen in other collapses, like L'Ambiance Plaza here in Connecticut, and the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City and the Oklahoma City bombing -- this takes a very long time to clear the rubble and find all the people that might be trapped underneath it.

BROWN: At what point, what has to happen before it is literally safe to send someone into that space?

DESTEFANO: I don't know that it will ever be safe. I think the rescue people that are in there trying to save people are very much at risk, as they always are in these kinds of disasters. That structures always -- when you have a pile of rubble like this, the structure is always somewhat unstable, so those rescue workers that are in there are at some risk. There's never a point where you can say this building is safe to walk into and start looking around.

BROWN: Jim, thank you. Jim Destefano, a structural engineer joining us from Deerfield, Connecticut on the phone.

We have, over the last six or seven hours now, shown you some extraordinary pictures. Many of those pictures have come from the air. We have seen the plane hitting the tower. We've seen the tower collapse. In this day and age, lots of people walk around this city and every city, I guess, with video cameras, and one of them today in lower Manhattan was Dr. Mark Heath. Dr. Heath kept rolling, as we say in the news business, and this is what he saw, with as little commentary from us as possible.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. MARK HEATH, WITNESS TO WORLD TRADE CENTER ATTACK: I hope I live. I hope I live. It's coming down on me. Here it comes. I'm getting behind a car.

It's incredible. OK. I have to go find people who need help, because I don't think I'm one of them. Are you OK, sir? OK. can you help? I don't think I'm one of them. Are you okay, sir? okay. Can I just get a toot off your respirator? Can I get a toot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

HEATH: I just need a couple of clean breaths. OK. Oh, that's good. OK, back to you.

This is the car I hid behind. It saved my life. Wait, maybe it was this one.

There's all these noises. I think -- I don't know what it is. They say someone needs help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, Mike! Mike! Mike, I'm over here! HEATH: Anybody need a doctor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are you?

HEATH: Don't have oxygen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, doc.

HEATH: Hey. That guy needs some oxygen, if someone can share it with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 10-4.

HEATH: Thanks.

They told me just to wait here. See if I can help. That's what I'm doing. They won't let me go any closer. No one can go in to get the people out. There are small explosions still going on. So far it seems people are in need of oxygen from the dust. I'm going to go wash my eyes out. All right, that almost made it worse. Looking north on the West Side Highway.

You guys going in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

HEATH: Come with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

HEATH: You know, might not want to get too much closer, in case more buildings come down. Then we're not going to help anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Where you want to go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have oxygen, we have cold packs.

HEATH: Yes, yes, let's just wait right here. Let's just station up right here, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, doc.

HEATH: Why don't we set up? Can you hang IVs from this pole here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

HEATH: OK. We just heard another explosion. They are handing out gloves and masks. The consensus is it's too unsafe to go in there. Just going to wait here until they bring some people out.

I've hooked up with some firemen with some first aid stuff.

Why don't we just set this up as a little mobile hospital unit right here, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four-nine (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all units that are available (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on Wall Street. Any units available...

HEATH: Any suggestions? Should we set up here for medical work? Think this is safe enough here?

BROWN: Those pictures shot by Dr. Mark Heath. We don't know much about Dr. Heath, but we, I think, can fairly say that he had extraordinary presence of mind as he continued not only shooting those pictures, but also offering assistance where he could.

At one point he hid behind a car, tried to get into the car to protect himself from both the debris and the smoke that was building around him. The car was locked, he tried to break in -- couldn't, and then hid his face in a medical bag, his medical bag. All the while he kept shooting.

A couple of things that you might have wondered about, a couple of sounds. There was a chirping sound that you heard at various points in the tape. That is the sound of the locator devices that firemen and women wear so that if they are lost in a fire, their colleagues, their brother and sister firefighters, can get to them. And there was also a -- what sounded to us, at least, like a kind of whistling sound. That's the sound of respirators that the firemen and the emergency personnel and the rest were using and offering to people who needed it.

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