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America Under Attack: Terrorist Attacks Paralyze America

Aired September 12, 2001 - 01:30   ET


JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Richard Quest. He joins us from London -- Richard.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Jim. Of course, there's no trading in the United States. So the initial financial reaction has had to come from overseas. Europe saw very sharp falls as the news came in from New York and Washington.

That's been followed up overnight in the Far East. Asian markets are down between -- around six to 10 percent, 10 percent in the Hong Kong market.

The worry, of course, is clearly what this will mean for the wider issue of the economy. Clearly, business will be seriously affected as Wall Street is paralyzed. And simply, those who can't even get even get to their offices to do business, let alone as those who have actually been affected by the crashes.

Overall, nobody can really say at this point the extent to the economic effects. We do know that the Fed is trying to pump money into the economy. That's designed not only to prevent a cash shortage -- ordinary consumers who may just be taking larger sums out of the bank -- but also it prevents any form of credit crunch, Jim.

CLANCY: All right, when you look at the markets, is there any way of telling how long lived this might be, this steep drop that you see in Asia right now?

QUEST: I think that one has to put this into two different categories. On the one hand, there is the markets' reaction. That can unwind itself in a matter of days. That is simple panic.

We've seen markets react before. Two weeks later, you wonder what happened.

Much more serious is the effect to business confidence. Bearing in mind the World Trade Center has over 435 tenants in those two buildings alone. They come from more than 26 countries around the globe.

There were major financial institutions -- Morgan Stanley; Keefe (ph), Burat (ph) and Woods; Credit Suisse First Boston -- just some of those who were actually in the buildings. Now, taking away from that and moving slightly further afield, you've got, of course, the collapse of number seven World Trade Center. You've named off all the other buildings nearby where people simply won't be able to get to work.

The ripple effects will start to be felt. And that's why it's vital that people like Paul O'Neill, the U.S. Treasury secretary who is now leaving Japan and heading back to the United States, Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Fed who is at a bankers' meeting in Basel in Switzerland, and the SEC are all coordinating at the moment not only to send a message that they will provide the money necessary for corporate America to continue but also to restore confidence in the market system.

CLANCY: All right, Richard Quest reporting to us there from London.


COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, of course, as we've been telling you all along, some of the rescue efforts still going on tonight, especially in New York City.

We've actually got some tape in just now that we want to show you of those night rescue operations in and around the area of the World Trade Center. Just backing it up there a little bit. Let's see if we can get it rolling again. You can see some of the areas that have been lit.

We heard earlier from a report from CNN's Deborah Feyerick, who was down in that area, that they do have dogs there. They've got cadaver dogs searching. Even that is being made difficult because there is so much dust on the ground. She was saying that even the dogs can't really do their work. It's still a lot to sift through.

There have been reports this evening of telephone calls, cell phone calls, being made possibly from the basement area of that complex. None of that has been confirmed. But, of course, rescue officials hoping and trying to see if there are people alive. They want to be able to get them out.

We heard earlier from the New York mayor that more than 300 firefighters they believe are missing and presumed dead and dozens of police officers as well, who were surrounding that building when the two towers essentially crumbled, just crumbled into dust.

So, you're looking at some pictures there in and around the World Trade Center of the night rescue operation still underway at this time.

CLANCY: Incredible pictures because really that's our best look really at the destruction we've seen thus far because we've been -- it was enveloped in clouds of dust for so long during the daylight hours. It was very inaccessible. But we can see the way that the buildings are simply gone. All you see are the shells.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, you see a few floors there, Jim, just a few obviously badly burned out. CLANCY: But having worked there, you know, CNN had its New York bureau in the World Trade Center when the network first started on the air 20 years ago, more than 20 years ago. And when I look at those pictures, it's hard to believe.

And, as many people have noted on this day, there's a sense among the people in the United States that there has to be retribution for this. The death toll alone is going to be staggering. We've been warned about that. No one even knows. No one can even estimate, although United States officials say there have been no credible claims of responsibility for Tuesday's attacks in New York City and Washington.

And they remind everyone it's still too early to speculate about exactly who may be involved. Still, some U.S. intelligence officials are telling CNN there are good indications -- that's their words -- that people linked to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden might be responsible.


JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the World Trade Center burned furiously, smoke billowed above the Pentagon, and the White House was evacuated, one security expert declared, "This isn't an act of terrorism. This is an act of war."

Noting there was no direct evidence, several experts pointed out that few terrorist organizations around the world were capable of mounting such an audacious attack. They mentioned only one man by name, a name repeated by U.S. officials for years.

GEORGE TENET, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: There is not the slightest doubt that Osama bin Laden, his worldwide allies, and his sympathizers are planning further attacks against us. Despite progress against his networks, bin Laden's organization has contact virtually worldwide, including in the United States. And he has stated unequivocally that all Americans are targets.

GREENFIELD: For almost a decade, Osama bin Laden has been accused or suspected of coordinating attacks on the United States, on U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in the suicide mission against the USS Cole, at the World Trade Center in 1993. And the list goes on.

Terrorism experts paint a picture of bin Laden as a Saudi-born revolutionary determined to end U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia. In interviews, bin Laden has renewed his vow to bring jihad, or holy war, against the United States. Specifically, he said Washington had failed to get the message from bombings aimed at U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, TERRORIST (through translator): We declared a jihad, a holy war, against the United States government because it is unjust, criminal and tyrannical.

GREENFIELD: Terrorism analysts warned earlier this year Osama bin Laden was turning his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hoping to win armed converts and gain global political momentum out of the chaos of the collapsed peace process. Bin Laden's wealth, estimated by some at around $200 million, is seen as key to not only recruiting militant followers but funding carefully planned and coordinated attacks.

U.S. officials blame Osama bin Laden in the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, which they say were carefully timed to increase the dramatic effects of a simultaneous onslaught against U.S. interests.

It is precisely the same strategy that appears to be at work in the financial and political centers of America in the latest attacks. U.S. officials assert that bin Laden initiated his terrorist network during the war in Afghanistan, later moved to training bases in Sudan, and is currently being sheltered by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.

The Taliban say they have been warned the U.S. will hold Afghanistan responsible for any attack on U.S. interests linked to bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are governments like Afghanistan, which are engaged in the smuggling of heroine and the harboring of terrorists. And governments such as Afghanistan I think have to be considered criminal organizations.

GREENFIELD: Sanctions against Afghanistan are already in place. U.S. missile strikes hit bin Laden's training facilities there in 1998 but missed the 44-year-old leader of an organization he simply calls the Base.

Earlier this year, reporters who visited bin Laden in Afghanistan said he appeared to be in a race against time, a race to see who could strike first, the United States or Osama bin Laden.

It may be weeks or months before those behind what is apparently the worst terrorist strikes in the history of the U.S. are known. What is certain is that Osama bin Laden is already high on the list of suspects.


CLANCY: One Arab journalist says Osama bin Laden warned three weeks ago that he and his followers would carry out an unprecedented attack against the United States. He is joining us now.

Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based "Al-Quds" newspaper, joining us from London. Tell us a little bit more about this warning. There have been many others, haven't there?

ABDEL-BARI ATWAN, EDITOR, "AL-QUDS" NEWSPAPER: Well, actually, I believe it could be the work of a consortium of many organizations, and organizations which they declared war against the United States. You know, the anti-American feeling is very high now in the Middle East and the Muslim world because what's happening on the (INAUDIBLE). And many people accuse the United States of actually helping the Israelis and protecting them.

So, the groups like bin Laden and other Islamic fundamentalists, actually they would like to come out and say, "Look, we are targeting the United States. The United States is supporting the Muslim and Arab enemies, which is the Israelis. And we are taking revenge of what's happening."

So we will learn from sources that they are really at work to hit American targets. But nobody expected that big target would be in New York itself or in the Pentagon. So, the place of the attacks was surprising to everybody.

Abdel-Bari, Osama bin Laden has been said to be really trying to turn Afghanistan not only into what he would term a pure Islamic state, but into a base, a base where there are people who would support exporting, if you will, his brand of Islamic revolution.

ATWAN: Well, actually, I interviewed Osama bin Laden on Afghanistan in November, 1996. And I did see his camps and his followers there. He is a man who is ruthless. And he believes that he should declare war against the United States. And this kind of appeal -- this kind of call actually appeals to many young Muslims all over the world.

And recently, he managed to recruit those highly educated Arabs who were even educated in the United States itself and some western countries. So I am not surprised if he is surrounded with experts and different teams.

And we notice that the attack against the American destroyer Cole in the seaport of Aden was highly sophisticated at that, highly sophisticated on the bombing, information gathering, and the monitoring of the movement of the American warship. So I'm not surprised if there highly intelligent people, highly educated people actually were behind the planning of the attacks against World Trade Center.

CLANCY: You know, when people look at this and they see it in the narrow confines of one day, people saw Palestinians standing up and cheering these attacks in Nablus, in refugee camps in South Lebanon, where they've languished for half a century. When they look at that, on one hand, it creates a sense of anger. There has to be a sense as well from some among the Arab world that this is not going to lead to an improvement in the situation and certainly not a change in the U.S. position.

ATWAN: Jim, you are absolutely right. But we have to put into our consideration there are 300 million Arabs. And those people are very few who actually were dancing the streets in Nablus or in refugee camps in Lebanon. The Palestinians definitely will suffer because of these attacks because they want American involvement in the peace process to be revived. And they want Americans to be the sponsor of the peace process and to intervene and put an end to the Israeli aggression against their people there.

So we cannot say those people representing the Arabs. But, we have to ask our question, why America is targeted? Why the American people are targeted? Definitely, there is something wrong in the American foreign policy.

So, these wrongs has to be readdressed, has to be rectified. And want more involvement from the United States on the Arab-Israeli conflict, to revive the peace process, to put an end to the Israeli atrocities. Also, there are Palestinians killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip every day by the Israeli tanks, by the Israeli missiles.

So, we have to understand the frustration of some people. But it doesn't mean that we should support any terrorist attacks against innocent Americans in New York and Washington, anywhere in the world...

CLANCY: All right...

ATWAN: ... This is a terrorist act everybody condemned in the Middle East.

CLANCY: Abdel-Bari Atwan of "Al-Quds," thanks to you for being with us there.


MCEDWARDS: All right, Jim, thanks.

We want to show you some tape again now that we're just getting in. We're just starting to get some nighttime footage rolling in of the efforts that are going on there. This is the rubble around the World Trade Center.

And, actually, maybe I need to be corrected. That doesn't look like nighttime. Perhaps that's from earlier in the day. John, perhaps you can let me know for sure.

Regardless, that is the rubble around the area of the World Trade Center. You can clearly see parts of the buildings, all that dust that rained down, all the debris.

In that debris, we saw earlier sheets of paper from the offices in there. Only a few floors of that building remaining standing. A fair bit of dust there.

We saw in pictures from nighttime just a few minutes ago that a lot of that dust had settled, rescue workers on the scene. There you see them there, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani saying 300 or more firefighters believed are missing, believed dead and dozens of police officers as well.

All right, those pictures obviously from earlier of the rubble around the World Trade Center -- Jim.

CLANCY: Devastation this day also in the nation's capital. Let's go now to the Pentagon and Bob Franken live for an update on the situation there -- Bob. BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been about 16 hours here since the explosion here, since the plane collided with this west side of the Pentagon. And you can see it's still smoldering a little bit. They're still waiting, waiting for the embers to stop glowing so they can actually go into the building.

We saw just a moment ago some of the supervisors. They were lowered in what looked like a bucket. They were actually being lowered into the bombed building where the plane had hit so they could take a look and just see what the status of the fire was.

The plan is at daybreak to literally peel away the wall a little bit and then go in. Of course, about 15 hours ago we had some video that was shot shortly after the plane had collided with this side of the building. You can see that there was quite a bit of firefighting effort going on. There were literally hundreds of firefighters going.

They were trying to put out a blaze that is still going till now. They fought all day with this. And, of course, there was also an evacuation of the injured.

We don't have any sense of the casualties yet. We've been told that it could number in the hundreds. There could be more than 100 dead. There are wide estimates.

The Pentagon is not giving any estimates. Perhaps we'll know more tomorrow when officials are actually able to go inside the building.

The plane, of course, collided shortly after 9:30 this morning, a plane that was flying from Dulles. Of course, it was taken by hijackers -- that is the report, of course -- and was then moved into the Pentagon, causing the damage that it did.

Now, people talked about retaliation. And the Pentagon is already thinking about that. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says that he will have the forces necessary.


GEN. HENRY H. SHELTON, U.S. ARMY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I send my condolences to the entire Department of Defense families, military and civilian, and to the families of all those throughout our nation who lost loved ones. I think this is a reminder of the tragedy and the tragic dangers that we face day in and day out both here at home as well as abroad.

I will tell you up front I have no intentions of discussing today what comes next. But make no mistake about it. Your armed forces are ready.


FRANKEN: And tomorrow, they will be ready to open the Pentagon. It's become a matter of pride here. At least they're going to be opening part of the building. The defense secretary said he's determined to do that to prove to the world that terrorism cannot knock down a building, cannot knock down the spirit of the American military, Jim.

CLANCY: Bob, the toll of dead and injured at the Pentagon, does anyone know for sure?

FRANKEN: As a matter of fact, the Pentagon is quite assertive about the fact that no estimates can be made. There was a local fire chief who said that the deaths could range between 100 and 800. Pentagon officials think that that is way too high, the 800 number. But it is truly possible that there could be deaths that number in the hundreds.

CLANCY: All right, Bob Franken reporting there live from the Pentagon -- Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: All right, Jim.

The attacks brought much of the United States to a halt as people watched events unfold, transfixed. Schools, offices were closed. Highways across the country fell into gridlock as thousands of people returned to the sanctuary of their homes. But nowhere was the sense of shock so profound as in Manhattan.

Greg Clarkin has that.


GREG CLARKIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The terror attacks on the World Trade Center paralyzed New York and brought life to a standstill across America. Manhattan was sealed off minutes after the attacks on the twin towers, tunnels and bridges closed, subway and commuter rail service suspended, hundreds of thousands of people staggering out of the financial district on foot on highway usually clogged with cars.

Many scrambled to call loved ones, only to find pay phones and cell phones rendered useless. The World Trade Center was a major hub of telecom equipment. And call volume swamped phone networks.

Manhattan's supermarkets were jammed. And long lines formed at cash machines. New York City Police precincts were sealed off. And an urgent plea for blood was issued as hospitals throughout the metropolitan area were pressed into service.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: Right now, at last count, we were utilizing over 50. I think it will be over 100, but that was as of a half-hour ago. Utilizing all of the hospitals in New York City. We're utilizing the hospitals in Westchester, Rockland, Nassau County, northern New Jersey.

CLARKIN: For the first time in United States history, airports across the country were shut down. And they'll stay that way until at least noon on Wednesday.

KAREN HUGHES, PRESIDENTIAL COUNSELOR: The Federal Aviation Administration ordered all airports closed. And all planes which were in the air were directed to land at the nearest airport. Transportation Secretary Mineta has directed the Federal Aviation Administration to suspend operations until at least noon tomorrow.

CLARKIN: Amtrak canceled train service between New York and Boston. Greyhound canceled a big chunk of its service as well.

Government buildings and businesses across the country were evacuated. Security tightened along the U.S. border with Mexico and Canada. NASA shut its centers down. And even some offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was suspended.

Stock trading was canceled. And financial markets will be closed all day Wednesday.

Major League baseball canceled its schedule for the first time since FDR's death in 1945, and for only the fourth time in its history. The NFL is considering canceling Sunday's games. Across the U.S., tourist attractions and landmarks shut down, Disneyland, Disney World, and Seattle's Space Needle among them.

Back in New York, the mayoral primary election was also canceled.

Greg Clarkin, CNN, New York.


CLANCY: All right, for some insight now into how Americans view the attacks, CNN, "USA Today," and Gallup conducted a public opinion poll just before the president's speech.

Eighty-six percent of those questioned said they considered the events an act of war. But the majority agreed the U.S. military should not strike back until it is clear who is responsible for the attacks. And 78 percent said they were confident in President Bush's ability to handle this situation.

MCEDWARDS: Some relatives of the people killed had to deal with this attack right as it was happening. A man on board one of the planes called his mother as the aircraft was being hijacked. And this is so upsetting I can't tell you.

Mark Bingham, a passenger on United Airlines flight 93 that was en route from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco, he called his mother just minutes before the plane crashed near Pittsburgh.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said, "I love you very, very much. In case I don't see you again." He said the plane had been taken over by hijackers. And then I said, "Well, we love you very much too, Mark. Let me go get your mother.

ALICE HOGLAN, MOTHER OF MARK BINGHAM: I got on the phone with Mark. And he said, "Hi, Mom. This is Mark Bingham." He said his last name. And he said, "I want to let you know that I love you. And I'm flying." 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 want to say 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 repeated that he loved me. And he said -- I don't think he said, "I don't know who they are." He became distracted there as if someone was speaking to him. And he said something to the effect of, "It's true." And then the phone went dead.


MCEDWARDS: An emergency dispatcher in Pennsylvania where United flight 93 crashed said that he received a call from a passenger on board the plane as well. And that man repeatedly said, "We are being hijacked. We are being hijacked." Jim.

CLANCY: Millions of people all around the world remained riveted to their television screens for hours once they heard about the attacks. Anne McDermott has more on the U.S. public reactions to what they were watching.


ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The pictures were just so insane that all these University of Southern California students could do was stare. But the younger ones have questions, lots of questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I first saw it on the news, I sort of wondered how protected we really are in America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think we'll be able to catch all the people involved?

MCDERMOTT: The teacher, for once, had no answers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How, how, how? Why, why, why? These are the questions.

MCDERMOTT: And here's one more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think anything like this will ever happen again?

MCDERMOTT: Will it happen again? Psychologists say that's what can make people so crazy at first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not that we're afraid of the unknown. In the face of the unknown, we fill it in. We think there are monsters out there. And we actually end up frightening ourselves more.

MCDERMOTT: Many of these people in an LA-area gym admitted they were frightened and came here only for something to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm looking at the streets. And it looks like Beirut. And I can't believe it's my backyard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The smoke continues to billow out of the Trade Center building six hours...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we're definitely going to go to war.

MCDERMOTT: This Korean War vet sure hopes not. But he knows the feeling.

RAY VEDUGO, KOREAN WAR VETERAN: I see what it is right there, America under attack. People didn't have to die.

MCDERMOTT: But they did die. And America is in mourning.

Anne McDermott, CNN, Los Angeles.


MCEDWARDS: All right, we are actually coming to the end of this hour of coverage of America under attack. It has been about 16 hours since all of this horror began. The attacks on New York and Washington Tuesday, September 11 will never be forgotten by those who experienced them firsthand or by the millions of people around the world who actually saw them unfold.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard the sound of a jet. I assumed it was like a Navy jet or something like that just flying by.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we heard a big bang. And then we saw smoke coming out. And everybody started running out. And we saw the plane on the other side of the building. And there was smoke everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a large explosion. I thought it was a sonic boom. And when I heard the explosion, I looked up. And what I saw was I saw red. And I actually saw debris start to fall down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As soon as the building, as soon as it got hit, I was thrown to a window. So I was very lucky to get out. There was a lot of people that didn't get out. There's a lot of people coming down the stairs burned up. It's bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an enormous fireball. There was fire, debris falling to the grounds, then just a whole kind of mushroom of smoke that sort of just billowed up. And I stood there absolutely in disbelief. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a lot of people hurt. They were lying on the floors coming down the stairs. A lot of people had asthma attacks while they were coming down. It was bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody was screaming. Everybody was running. The cops were trying to maintain the calm. And in their haste, people were stampeding.

People started screaming that there was another plane coming. I didn't see the plane. But I turned around, and it just -- the second building just exploded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see a second commercial jet flying extremely low, actually fly into the south tower of the building. At that point, we started just to get out of there. People were just going crazy at that point and backed away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw people jumping out of -- off the building, many, many people just jumping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And people were just -- they were just falling down. I saw about six people falling down from the building from the binoculars. I saw a lady with a black suit. She fell down. And a boy with a white shirt. He fell down. And it was horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you go over by there, you can see the people jumping out the window. They're jumping out the window right now. Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody was on top of each other trying to come down. And then somebody finally calmed the crowd down to get them to come down the stairs in an orderly fashion and get them out of the building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw the south tower collapse to the ground, decimated. And then later it was very amazing to see the north tower standing there by itself after years and years and years of seeing them together. And all of a sudden, the north tower just collapsed on itself. It just fell to the ground. The fire, the dust, it covered all of downtown Manhattan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These New York policemen and firemen, God bless them. They kept us calm. They tried so hard to keep us moving north. And it was just absolute horror. It was horror.


CLANCY: Now, those are the words from the day America came under attack. Let's take a look at some of the pictures of the day, of the damage that has been done as a demarcation line is crossed, in the words of some a line that separates past from future in the way that the U.S. is likely to deal with terrorism and the realization above all that it is not isolated, that it is not safe because it is sheltered between two oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Many people that you heard their voices there never believed they would see these kinds of scenes as a result of a deliberate act of violence. But that is indeed what was witnessed in New York City, in Washington, on this day, people believing that the security that had been in place would prevent these kinds of scenes.

The utter destruction of two of he landmark buildings in New York City at the very heart of the financial districts, symbols, as some would say, of capitalism, of America's financial strength. But they were laid low today by two hijacked jetliners that were plowed into the side at a horrible cost in human life.

The news continues now on CNN.



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