Skip to main content /transcript




America Under Attack: U.S. Officials Regard Osama Bin Laden as Prime Suspect in Attacks Against Washington and New York

Aired September 12, 2001 - 12:30   ET


COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, U.S. officials regard Osama bin Laden as a prime suspect in the attacks against Washington and New York. He's believed to be in Afghanistan.

And early on Wednesday morning local time, news of explosions in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Soldiers from the ruling Taliban say the explosions seemed to come from a low-flying helicopter firing rockets. The United States swiftly denied any involvement, and CNN's Nic Robertson, who was in Kabul, reported that a rebel group had claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A spokesman for the Taliban government denied that his country allowed bin Laden to strike from its territory.


ABDUL SALAM ZAEEF, TALIBAN AMBASSADOR TO PAKISTAN: We in Afghanistan do not allow Osama bin Laden to use Afghanistan's territory to launch attacks against any country around the world. We took away all communication devices from him, and he does not have any communication with anybody outside of Afghanistan.

In any case, we will conduct our own investigation and find out what happened, and we denounce this terrorist attack, whoever is behind it.


MCEDWARDS: And while denouncing the attacking, the ruling Talibans say that they are going to conduct their own investigation.

Now Osama bin Laden, number one on the FBI's most wanted list. There's a $5-million bounty on his head. As we mentioned, believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

And for more on Osama bin Laden, let's go to Jeanne Meserve who is in Washington right now -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Colleen, senior administration officials saying in briefings today that they are confident that Osama bin Laden was behind today's events. Why are they saying that? Well, we're going to talk to one of the experts, one of the few Western journalists who has actually met Osama bin Laden, Peter Bergen, writing a book on the man now, also our terrorism analyst.

Thanks a lot for coming in.

Intelligence sources have said repeatedly today they had no hint that this was coming, but you say there was, in fact, some foreshadowing at least.

PETER BERGEN, JOURNALIST: The bin Laden organization has a tendency of subtly insinuating actions in coming weeks.

If you think back to the Africa embassy bombings, the two American embassies that were bombed in 1998, bin Laden had a press conference in Afghanistan two months before the bombing talking about good news in coming weeks, and then the embassy was bombed.

If you remember the USS Cole attack last year in Yemen, there was a videotape floating around the Middle East in which bin Laden was wearing a Yemeni dagger, which he's never worn in previous photographs. One of his aides said we should attack military targets, U.S. military targets in Yemen.

And there has been a videotape floating around the Middle East just recently, a two-hour tape, which lays out both bin Laden's general views and the tactics of his organization, and on the tape, bin Laden claims pretty directly responsibility for the Cole attack and says the victory in Yemen is just the beginning, calling for attacks on American targets.

So he definitely implied in the videotape future actions. As a result of those implications, the United States took some efforts in the Middle East to -- there was a security warning in Saudi Arabia. The embassy in Yemen was closed temporarily. FBI agents investigating the Cole were pulled out of the country.

But, clearly, there was no indication that something was going to happen here.

MESERVE: You said this tape was floating around the Middle East. What do you mean?

BERGEN: Well, it was floating around in several -- it emerged in Kuwait in June. A newspaper got hold of it.

But then after that, it was put on the Internet, and it was widely accessible on the Internet. I was able to pull up my own version.

And the tape is quite interesting in terms of the -- the things that bin Laden says on it and certainly the implication of future plans.

MESERVE: Why is he the prime suspect in this particular series of events?

BERGEN: Probably you've got to ask yourself who has the motive and who has the capability. Obviously, he has the motive. He's hated the United States for a long time.

And he seems to have the capability. This was, obviously, a very sophisticated operation. You needed people who were willing to commit suicide. We've seen suicide attacks by his organization in the Africa bombing, in the Cole bombing.

And, also, you needed commercial pilots.

MESERVE: Did he have those, or did he train them, recruit them?

BERGEN: We -- we know that in the past he's had commercial pilots on the payroll. He's had his own plane. He flew around from Sudan to Afghanistan. He was flying from Kenya to Sudan when he lived in that country.

So he had at least two pilots capable of flying commercial jets at that time. Now whether he was able to get four is an -- is an open question.

MESERVE: Now I heard some other terrorism experts citing some other possible suspects today. They named Iran, Iraq, and possibly some Palestinian factions. Would you cross all of those off your list?

BERGEN: Well, I'd hate to cross anybody off the list, but I think in terms of the Palestinians -- Palestinians have been very directed at Israeli attacks. If this was a Palestinian group, why would -- why didn't they just fly a plane into Ariel Sharon's residence? Iran has been looking for much closer links with the United States.

MESERVE: Quickly, can they find him, can they punish him, as has been promised by the president of the United States, or is that going to be a very difficult task?

BERGEN: It's very hard to find somebody. You need information not about yesterday or even today. You need information about two hours from now, and that's very difficult information to get about, certainly, a particular individual.

MESERVE: Peter Bergen, thanks so much for joining us today.

And a note about Washington. Coming in here a few hours ago, the city was absolutely silent. It's very eerie. There's little traffic. There are few pedestrians. Parts of the city cordoned off. The only thing that is there in great numbers: police. They are out in great force this evening here in the nation's capital.

Jim, back to you.


MCEDWARDS: All right, Jeanne. Thanks.

We want to actually show you some of that exclusive video here on CNN. We showed it to you about 20 minutes ago.

CLANCY: A different angle.

MCEDWARDS: Yeah. Let's see it again.

CLANCY: Shows -- this is the second plane. Watch carefully from the left.

MCEDWARDS: That plane hitting the World Trade Center about 20 minutes after the first one. The first one hit just shortly before 9:00, about 10 minutes to. Again, that's a reverse angle, one that we've not seen before.

CLANCY: And you look -- and, earlier, we could hear the sounds of the people in Battery Park looking on, just screaming, just seeing more of this horror unfolding in their city that led to the destruction of a landmark of New York this day and perhaps has forever changed the way Americans are going to look at whether or not they're isolated from the issue of terrorism. This has changed a lot.

MCEDWARDS: Yeah. As one member of government said earlier today, the days of talking about terrorism for the United States, he said, are over.

CLANCY: There's a lot of reaction from all around the world, reaction coming in the form of shock, dismay, and sympathy for the American people. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared Wednesday a day of mourning in Israel. Flags there are going to be flown at half staff, and emergency rescue units are being sent to the United States.


ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The fight against terror is an international struggle of the free world against the forces of darkness who seek to destroy our liberty and our way of life. I believe that together we can defeat these forces of evil.

At this most difficult hours, all Israelis stand as one with the American people. Our hearts are with you, and we are ready to provide any assistance at any time.

The government of Israeli has declared a day of mourning tomorrow as we bow our heads and share in the sorrow of the American people.


CLANCY: It's important to note, too, Israel has been on a heightened state of alert.

Now, at the same time, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat denouncing the attacks, calling them a crime against humanity.


YASSER ARAFAT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT: It's very difficult for -- personally for anyone to speak about what has happened. It is not only against the Americans. It is not only against the American people or against the American government. It's against the in -- the whole international human being. It's unbelievable. Unbelievable.

I am sending my condolences for President Bush, for his government, for his American people, for this unbelievable disaster that happened. This is touching our hearts, and it is very difficult to -- to explain my feeling, my pain.

God help them. God help them. God help them.


CLANCY: Arafat offered help in tracking down those responsible. Several radical Palestinian groups, including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, have denied any involvement.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Let's talk a little bit now about the reaction in Europe. European leaders unanimous in their condemnation of the attacks. British newspapers all carried pictures on the front page of their morning edition. Messages of condolences and expressions of support poured in.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is not a battle between the United States of America and terrorism but between the free and democratic world and terrorism.

We, therefore, here in Britain stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends in this hour of tragedy, and we like them will not rest until this evil is driven from our world.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: It is an impudent challenge thrown down to all humanity. At least to civilized humanity.

What has happened today once again emphasizes actuality of Russia's proposal to unite efforts of the international community to fight with terrorism, with this plague of the 21st century. Russia experienced terrorism. That is why we exactly understand the feelings of the American people.

Addressing the people of the United States on behalf of the people of Russia, I would like to say that we are with you and we share and feel your pain in full. We support you.

JACQUES CHIRAC, FRENCH PRESIDENT: It is with enormous emotion that France has just learned of these monstrous attacks. There is no other word (ph) that have struck the United States of America.

And in these unbelievable circumstances, the entire French people, I can state, are with the American people. I express our friendship and our solidarity in this tragedy. I assure President George Bush, of course, of my total support. France, you know, has always condemned terrorism and condemns it unequivocally and believes it must be fought in every way. That is why I'm asking you to excuse me immediately. I have to return to Paris.

GERHARD SCHROEDER, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: This is a Declaration of War against all civil societies. Whoever helps these terrorists or protects them goes against all fundamental values on which the coexistence of nations is founded.

The German people support the American people in this hour that is so difficult for the people in the United States. We remain strongly committed to the United States of America.

GEORGE ROBERTSON, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: An act of unspeakable violence took place today, and this is a moment where people are reflecting on the nature of that tragedy and standing firm against that kind of violence and with the people who have suffered from it.

GUY VERHOFSTADT, EUROPEAN UNION PRESIDENT: I want to express in the name of the European Union our entire solidarity with United States, with our American friends, and with the American people, with our allies.


MCEDWARDS: Well, perhaps you can imagine how much the attack on the World Trade Center is under (ph). Global financial markets already feel fearful of recession and, of course, some of those markets around the world are open now.

Richard Quest in London has been monitoring the situation there for us -- Richard.


This was, of course, an attack right on the very heart of the world center for capitalism, so it's not surprising that as soon as the news became clear, there were very sharp falls in share prices across Europe, and that's been seen again in Asia overnight. Let me update you briefly.

Tokyo's stock market is down around 6.2 percent. In Hong Kong, the market there down also around 9-1/2 percent following on from what was seen in Europe.

The U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill -- he's in Japan at the moment and is to return to the United States. He's had discussions not only with the chairman of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, but with the various securities regulators.

Their key goal now, of course, to restore confidence in the system, to maintain confidence in the business and markets of the United States, and to do that, the Fed has made it clear it will pump whatever money is necessary or needed into the system. I understand that discussions have taken place about not only providing cash to ATMs, to banks across the United States where there may be massive withdrawals of cash from people worried about being able to have access to funds, but also the Fed will be standing behind companies, banks in the -- in case there's some form of credit crunch. That's what could cause the recession in the U.S.

MCEDWARDS: CNN's Richard Quest -- thanks very much -- in London.


CLANCY: President George W. Bush is trying to calm and reassure the people of the United States as well as his nation's allies. In a televised address, he said America was looking for those responsible for these attacks and those who harbored them.

This is the full text of his address.


CLANCY: All right. We were listening there to President Bush as he spoke directly to the nation from the White House.

Clearly, they're trying to allay some of the fears people may have about financial markets and other things, conveying a deep sense of what had happened in the day, a deep sense that he was facing a complete change in the way the U.S. is going to have to deal with one of the major threats it faces: terrorism.

For his part, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell rushed back to Washington from South America. He told reporters U.S. officials had received "no specific warnings," in his words, in advance of the attacks.

MCEDWARDS: You also heard the president making a point that America will be open for business, as he said, including the Pentagon. The rescue-and-recovery effort, though, continuing into the night at the Pentagon where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed.

CNN's Bob Franken joins us now with more on that -- Bob, how's it looking there this evening?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's interesting. It's 15 hours -- more than 15 hours since the plane crashed into this side of the Pentagon.

You can see in back of me there's still smoke. The fire is still burning. As a matter of fact, the various firefighters are still in what they're calling a defensive position.

They haven't really attacked the interior. They're going to do that with the break of the light of day. They're going to literally peel back the walls, they're saying. They're going to peel back the walls and go in there and take a very aggressive stance and finally be able to put out a fire, I said, started about 15 hours ago and was witnessed aghast from some people who were driving from the highway right over there.


MIKE WALTER, "USA TODAY LIVE": I looked off. I was -- you know, looked out my window. I saw this plane, a jet, American airlines jet coming, and I thought this doesn't add up. It's really low, and -- and i saw it.

It just went -- I mean, it was like a cruise missile with wings, went right there and slammed right into the Pentagon. Huge explosion. Great ball of fire. Smoke started billowing out. And then it was just chaos on the highway as people either tried to move around the traffic and go down either forward or backwards.

We had a lady who was in front of me who was backing up and screaming, "Everybody go back. Go back. They've hit the Pentagon."


FRANKEN: There's still no official estimate of casualties. We're being told now by one of the local fire chiefs that there could be between 100 and 800 deaths inside. Of course, we know there are about 65 people on the plane that actually crashed into the building here.

The Rumsfeld -- the Defense secretary held a briefing just a few hours ago, and he was not really able to give any details on casualties.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There -- there cannot be any survivors. It just would be beyond comprehension. The -- there are a number of people that they've not identified by name but identified as being dead.

And there are a number of casualties, but we're -- the FBI has secured the site, and the information takes time to come. People have been lifted out, taken away in ambulances, and the -- the numbers will be calculated, and it will not be a few.


FRANKEN: Now it's very, very important to the Pentagon that it reopen tomorrow. The Defense secretary said he was determined that at least some of the services would be conducted here. There will be an opening of this building, but individuals should check with his supervisor to find out exactly whether he or she should come to work.

And some of the work that will certainly be going on today will be very preliminary planning at least of the ultimate retaliation, once they can figure out who it is they're going to retaliate against -- Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: Understood. Bob Franken at the Pentagon tonight. Thanks very much -- Jim. CLANCY: As the United States tries to come to grips with what has happened this day, the magnitude of the tragedy, thousands of people, more than 300 firefighters' families trying to deal with this problem, victims perhaps in their thousands, all trying to deal with missing people or people that are known to have died in the violence.

Among those victims, in the attack on the Pentagon, a person perhaps familiar to many of you CNN viewers, Barbara Olson, an attorney. She was frequently a commentator here on CNN. Her husband is U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson.

He says she called him twice on her cellphone from inside the aircraft telling him that it had been hijacked by men with knives. Barbara Olson was not originally scheduled to take that flight, but she delayed her travel plans to have breakfast with her husband on Tuesday, his birthday.

MCEDWARDS: And this is really disturbing as well. A man on board one of the doomed planes actually called his mother as the aircraft was being hijacked. Mark Bingham (ph) was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 that was en route from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco, called his mother in the Bay area minutes before the plane crashed near Pittsburgh.


RELATIVE OF VICTIM: ... that "I love you very, very much, in case I don't see you again"...

CORRESPONDENT; He said that?

RELATIVE OF VICTIM: ... that "The plane has been taken over by hijackers," and -- and then I said, "Well, we love you very much, too, Mark. Let me go get your mother."

ALICE HOGLAN, MOTHER OF VICTIM: I got on the phone, "Mark," and he said, "Hi, Mom. This is Mark Bingham." He gave me his last name. And he said, "I want to let you know that I love you, and I'm -- I'm flying and" -- I think he said, "I'm in the air. I'm calling you on the air phone of the airplane."


HOGLAN: I presume so. He said, "I -- I want you to know I love you very much, and I'm calling you from the plane. We've been taken over. There are three men that say they have a bomb," and I said, "Well, who are they, Mark?" and he said -- he repeated that he loved me, and he said, "I" --

I don't think he said, "I don't know who they are." He just -- he -- he became distracted there as if someone was speaking to him, and he said, "It's" -- something to the effect that "It's true" and -- and then the phone went dead.


CLANCY: Authorities in New York City not giving up hope of finding more survivors.

CNN Producer Rose Arce is on the scene in Lower Manhattan -- Rose.

ROSE ARCE, CNN PRODUCER: I'm right across the street from Two World Trade Center which is still surrounded by a plume of smoke, and in the foreground, you can see where a building on Vesey Street is still on fire.

But, for the first time tonight, we're actually seeing rescue workers inside Two World Trade Center. All day, they've been behind barricades being pushed farther and farther back because of falling debris, and -- and now, for the first time, they're actually on the cat walk that surrounds the -- it's like right above the first story of World Trade Center with only about maybe seven or eight floors of the building left above them.

It's just been shaved off at the top, it's completely black, and the windows are dark, and there's really no sign of anything going on in there, but they're walking around in there. They're going through the windows, and it looks like they have some access at least to what is the second floor now of the building and are looking around inside there.

You can -- you can see some flashlights. You can see some of them walking around.

CLANCY: Rose, you're describing the situation there for us very well, but there's no power in the area, is there, and this is, indeed, a very dangerous operation, isn't it?

ARCE: Yes, there is. There actually is power in one building across the street. I don't know if it's a generator or...

CLANCY: All right. We were talking...

ARCE: The entire area is only lit up by emergency lights. It's virtually a ghost town in Lower Manhattan, you know, except for just the area right around where the plane hit the building and where there is debris and, as I said, for the first time, an active rescue operation.

CLANCY: How many people are in the building? Any idea?

ARCE: As far as rescue workers, I've only seen maybe half...


ARCE: ... like I said on this cat walk, and then down on the ground, there are just hundreds of firefighters that have reached here for the first time and are trying to clear through the debris of the adjoining buildings.

There's also a triage center that's been set up across the street from Two World Trade Center where you can see several dozen people getting oxygen with -- there's some flying glass -- there's a thin flying glass in the air that seems to be getting in people's eyes, so they're...


ARCE: ... trying to clear them.

CLANCY: All right. Rose Arce, CNN Producer, down at the scene in Lower Manhattan.

MCEDWARDS: And, you know, all day, the -- the Red Cross has been calling on people to donate blood, to get out there, give blood because so many people have been injured.

Jeanne Meserve is in Washington now, and we want to hand it over to her for a moment to talk about the Red Cross, how emergency services handle this kind of thing.

Jeanne, away you go.

MESERVE: Well, Colleen, people in Washington and in New York and all across the country want to help in a situation like this, and this afternoon, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the way to help was to contact the Red Cross and give them blood or give them money.

And here with me today is Shelly McCaffrey. She's a Red Cross volunteer.

Thanks for coming in.


MESERVE: First, let's talk about the blood situation. How does it look right now? Have you gotten a lot of donations?

MCCAFFREY: We have had a wonderful response, and the truth is blood donations are going to be needed in the long run. This is going to be an ongoing problem for many months. So it's important that people call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE and make an appointment and keep their appointment. And, again, this will be many months.

MESERVE: And the people in Missouri can give blood, and it will be as helpful as people in Greater New York.

MCCAFFREY: Exactly. Sure. They can contact their local blood region. Make an appointment close to home, and if they call that 1- 800-GIVE-LIFE, they can make that through that number.

MESERVE: Why is the need for blood going to last for months? One can understand weeks, certainly, but months.

MCCAFFREY: Right. Again, even if we use the blood that we have right now, it will need to be replenished, and it will -- it will be ongoing. We're going to have many, many months and, of course, we don't know what's going to happen. We are still in the middle of hurricane season, and the Red Cross will be there through all other disasters, including this one. So it's so important to keep that blood supply going and to make sure that Red Cross is there to save lives every day through the next few months or however long it takes.

MESERVE: But what about the cash donations? Are those flowing in to you as well?

MCCAFFREY: Yes. It's wonderful to see the response of the American people at a time like this. It's so traumatic and people want to know how to help, and the truth is turn to the Red Cross and be there for us so that we can be there for the American people.

People can donate by contacting their local chapter. That's really the easiest way to go about it. Call the local chapter. Look it up in the phone book. Or contact the Red Cross at 1-800-HELP-NOW.

MESERVE: You were mentioning that your Web site has just been flooded with people who want to help.

MCCAFFREY: Right. It's wonderful, and in response to that flooding, America Online has also instituted in order to help the Red Cross and to funnel some of those donations through their Web site as well. So if you're having trouble with the Internet, that's another option to go in addition to

But, again, contacting the local chapter really is the most important way and the most effective way to get that donation to the Red Cross.

MESERVE: What about people who want to volunteer their time?

MCCAFFREY: That's also a wonderful way to help out. However, the Red Cross has trained volunteers. It takes many hours of training. We want to make sure that we have the right people in the right place at the right time ready to go whenever needed.

So, again, contact the local chapter. Look it up in the phone book. Make that call. Tell them that you want to volunteer. And they will put your name into our network of 23,000 volunteers nationwide. They'll give you the training, and then when you are needed, you will be called upon.

MESERVE: We've been talking today over and over about how unprecedented these events are. For the Red Cross, is this also unprecedented?

MCCAFFREY: Absolutely. It's such a traumatic incident, to have something like this happen right on the American soil, and we've been receiving such support from our international sister societies. It's just been -- it's just been incredible. It's so traumatic for the American people, so emotional, and -- and so deeply trying, but, of course, we will rise to the occasion.

MESERVE: Tell me about that international support.

MCCAFFREY: Right. The American Red Cross has been receiving calls of condolence and offers of support, whether it be financial or material, from our sister societies, the British Red Cross, the German Red Cross, and it's so -- it's so amazing to experience that international support.

In the same way that those other countries are supporting President Bush and are supporting the American government, we are also receiving that same support, and right here in America, it's so wonderful to see the people rally around that Red Cross, that symbol of help and hope that is the same worldwide.

MESERVE: Shelly, before we leave, why don't you once again give the -- the phone numbers, the Web sites so people can contact you if they want.

MCCAFFREY: Sure. Everybody can contact us at 1-800-HELP-NOW to make that financial contribution. That's also available in Spanish, 1-800-257-7575.

Or people can contact us at or to make that online secure contribution.

If people want to give blood, 1-800-GIVE-LIFE or contact that local chapter.

MESERVE: Shelly McCaffrey of the Red Cross, thanks so much for joining us here today.

MCCAFFREY: Thank you.

MESERVE: Our coverage of the day's events and the aftermath will continue in just a moment. Stay with CNN.

CLANCY: A day of unimaginable horror in the United States. A hijacked airliner smashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

MCEDWARDS: Minutes later, another jet slams into the south tower.

CLANCY: U.S. President George W. Bush is promising now that he's going to find the perpetrators, as terrorist attacks on U.S. landmarks change the very landscape of American life.

MCEDWARDS: All right. We're going to continue on here. I think we're supposed to have a little animation there, but let's keep going.

CLANCY: All right. I'm Jim Clancy.

MCEDWARDS: And I'm Colleen McEdwards. We're going to continue CNN's coverage of the most devastating terrorist attacks ever to take place on American soil. Continuing that coverage for you right now.

It is now thought that several thousand people may have perished in New York and Washington on Tuesday. This is the new New York City skyline -- let's show it to you right now -- with an eerie void where the World Trade Center used to be. The twin 110-story buildings collapsed Tuesday after hijacked airlines crashed first into one tower, then into the other.

CLANCY: A short while ago, we received pictures of that first plane that hit the north tower.

MCEDWARDS: Actually, we don't have those pictures right now. We're just getting things sorted out here. Bear with us.

But 18 minutes later in a terrorist operation of extraordinary precision, a second airliner hits the south tower, and we've been showing you video of that from a couple of different angles. Hundreds of people ran for their lives. Debris showered Lower Manhattan.

CLANCY: Well, you know -- and as we look at the skyline now, Colleen, and see it darken, and we've hard reports that, yes, there are some rescue crews that have gone down into that area that are looking for some of the debris. There's only about eight stories or even less remaining of World Trade Center building number two.

MCEDWARDS: CNN's Deborah Feyerick reporting even that cadaver dogs haven't been able to do their jobs there because that coating of dust is so thick.

CLANCY: Looking like a nuclear winter.


CLANCY: After this devastating strike and audacious strike involving a hijacking of four separate airliners in one single day for the cases that we know about, those hijackers were using knives or cardboard cutters, utility knives, actually a razor blade perhaps in plastic, perhaps that's the way that they got them through the security checks at airports, but an incredible day.

MCEDWARDS: And, actually, you know, one of the -- one of the things we've been hearing later this evening is that there was even maybe cellphone calls coming from that area. So still lots to sort out in New York.

But, right now, we want to go to CNN's Bill Hemmer who's got a look at -- at the day's terrible events. Let's look.


BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eight-forty-five a.m. East Coast time. An airliner smashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Minutes later, 9:03 a.m., a second jet slams into the south tower.

EYEWITNESS: You can see the people jumping out the window. They're jumping out the window right now.

HEMMER: Officials in New York closed airports around the city. Tunnels and bridges shut down.

At 9:30, President Bush tells the word the U.S. has been hit by an apparent terrorist attack. Within 10 minutes, the FAA shuts down every airport in the country, the first time this has ever happened.

Nine-forty-five, an explosion at the Pentagon after another plane slams into the headquarters and the symbol of the U.S. military. Ten o'clock, New York City, the south tower of the World Trade Center collapses, raining debris on to the street.

Less than 30 minutes later, as evacuations continue, the north tower falls.

EYEWITNESS: Here it comes. I'm getting behind a car.

HEMMER: In that same half-hour, back in Washington, part of the Pentagon collapses.

Further west, outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a plane crash reported in Somerset County.

Plans go into effect to protect the government, much of Washington is shut down. Federal buildings and the White House are evacuated.

Members of Congress point to the possibility the attacks are the responsibility of Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire blamed for other terrorist attacks.

As part of emergency measures, the president cuts short his trip in Florida, first making a stop in Louisiana declaring the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible.

He's later flown to Nebraska where he convenes with security officials.

One-forty-four p.m., a state of emergency declared in Washington, D.C. Two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and five other warships leave Norfolk, Virginia, headed to the New York City area. The FBI says it believes the four missing planes were hijacked and is working on the assumption the morning's events were a coordinated terrorist attack.

Then about 6:00 Eastern Time, explosions rock Kabul, capital city of Afghanistan. The White House denies this was any sort of retaliatory strike but rather part of the ongoing civil war in that country.

Bill Hemmer, CNN reporting.


CLANCY: We have all witnessed over and over again in person or even on television in the United States or around the world the incredible images of the tragedy that unfolded in Washington and New York City this day.

Some of us are better than others at expressing the emotions that those images draw out of us. One of those who is good at it, indeed, is Garrick Utley. He joins us now from his city, New York. GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, I feel like most of our colleagues here today, even those -- those of you who have been watching this for, what, nearly 16 hours, what can words really say?

The fact is we've been watching those images, those pictures, and perhaps we forget that behind each camera and each image, there's a camera person, a man or a woman who was there near the Pentagon or here in Lower Manhattan. They were standing there. They were on the front line today. They didn't flinch.

What we want to do now is share again some of these images but also with the words, the thoughts, and the experiences of that person who took those pictures.

He's camera operator Tom Nuchio (ph), and here's what he saw and what he lived through today.


TOM NUCHIO, CAMERA OPERATOR (voice-over): When I started filming the Trade Center towers this morning, I thought I had woken up in a nightmare. The flames, all these people running, trying to get out of Manhattan already.

Then the first tower collapsed. And day turned to night. A man turned up covered in soot, still carrying his briefcase. People were crying. Some just stood not knowing where to go.

I kept thinking about my family, my colleagues, whether they were all right, whether I would see them again. It felt like the end of the world.

Then I looked, and the second tower collapsed. It was gone. It looked like an exodus. People were coming out of nowhere covered in towels.

A bar man closed his bar in front of his. Today, there would be no business as usual, although somebody started to clean his fire escape around Wall Street.

After we saw this woman call her family, we called ours, too, to let them know we were OK. People stopped to tell us what they saw.

EYEWITNESS: ... people running, their hair on fire. People were jumping out of the World Trade Center. Jumping out because they don't know what to do. So, I mean, they're dead by doing that.

NUCHIO: This man was taking this boy away from the scene.

EYEWITNESS: Their parents work in the big building.

NUCHIO: This couple was reunited and fine.

We were invited into a hotel on Wall Street, which was serving food in a makeshift room. We met the lucky ones, too.

This man overslept and didn't get to work on time. He worked on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center.

EYEWITNESS: From what I understand, my whole office is dead. Everybody died up there, jumped out, were burned.

NUCHIO: When we got to Wall Street, the stock exchange was closed. The police were blocking our way.

We found a policeman two blocks away from the World Trade Center who was guarding a piece of one of the planes. He was waiting for a forensic team to come and pick it up.

I felt the nightmare was just carrying on.

When we got closer to the World Trade Center, policemen were getting more and more nervous.

Then we finally saw it through the smoke. The remains of the World Trade Center looked like a broken fence. It felt like covering a volcano eruption, dust everywhere inches thick, pieces of people covering the ground from the buildings.

Again, it was 3:00 in the afternoon on Broadway. It felt like a very bad horror movie.

On the way back to the office on the empty highway out of town, I thought about all this senselessness, about these terrible acts, and about the freedom to do evil.


UTLEY: The pictures, the thoughts, the experiences this day of camera operator Tom Nuchio. Truly one of the real reporters on the front line of this tragedy.

Back to you, Jim and Colleen.

CLANCY: All right. Garrick Utley, thank you for that.

Well, we want to show you once again some of the video in case you've just tuned in. Video that is coming to light as the day wears on.

That an angle of the second plane as it plowed into the World Trade Center. That videotape perhaps because the cameraman was trapped down there on Lower Manhattan and couldn't make his way out just coming to us now.

Terrifying. Awesome. So much pain in a picture of what happened this day in New York City and, indeed, the pictures have been non- stop.

MCEDWARDS: That being United Airlines Flight 175. Sixty-five people on board that plane.

Jeanne Meserve is watching things in Washington for us tonight. Let's go to her for the very latest -- Jeanne. MESERVE: Colleen, President Bush started his day in Florida but returned to the White House just as the sun was setting. The arrival designed to show that the United States leadership will not be cowed. A short while later, Mr. Bush addressed the American people the world from the Oval Office.

Let's listen to his full address.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: ... America. I, unfortunately, will be going back to Washington after my remarks. Secretary Rod Paige and lieutenant governor will take the podium and discuss education.

I do want to thank the folks here at the Booker Elementary School for their hospitality.

Today we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. I have spoken to the vice president, to the governor of New York, to the director of the FBI, and I've ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and their families and to conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act.

Terrorism against our nation will not stand.

And now if you join me in a moment of silence.

May God bless the victims, their families and America. Thank you very much.




Back to the top