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America Under Attack: Unprecedented Acts of Terrorism on American Soil

Aired September 12, 2001 - 04:00   ET


SILVIA DE SILVO, CNN ANCHOR: Acts of terrorism that almost beyond comprehension. Hijackers seize control of four planes, including two that crashed into the World Trade Center.

MANN: The Pentagon shares a similar fate, as the U.S. vows to hunt down and punish those responsible.


HUGH SHELTON, GENERAL: We have watched the tragedy of an outrageous act of barbaric terrorism carried out by fanatics against both civilians and military people, acts that have killed and maimed many innocent and decent citizens of our country.


MANN: Thousands may have perished. The search is on for the living.

From CNN Center, I'm Jonathan Mann.

DE SILVO: And I'm Elisa De Silvo.

September 11, 2001 began like most other Tuesdays in the United States. Millions of Americans awoke, many heading off to work, others perhaps to the airport. But normalcy ended at 8:48 a.m. Eastern time when this happened.

An airliner crashed into the north tower in New York's Trade Center. It had been diverted by hijackers. They'd also commandeered three other jets, one minutes after the first, slamming into the Trade Center's south tower. That was the end of a prominent part of the city's skyline for the past three decades. It was also the end of thousands of lives.

The next hijacked plane fell from the sky as well, this time devastating a section of the Pentagon. The hub of military operations in the United States. An unknown number killed there.

Finally, the fourth aircraft crashed into Pennsylvania's rural Somerset County. As in the case of the other three planes, all aboard were killed. MANN: It is being called America's newest day of infamy, a horrible tragedy, a horrendous turning point in history. Our colleague, Garrick Utley, joins us now from New York.


GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, there comes a point in a tragedy like this where the initial shock that numbs the body and the mind gives way to the body somehow dealing with it, minds functioning once again and getting to work. And that's what happened behind this here in lower Manhattan.

The rescue work continues. It is a 24-hour a day and night operation. These are some of the latest images from the Trade Center area. We see the heavy equipment that's been moved in, fire hoses still being played on the building. Although, the fire as far as we know, is largely out.

There are still considerable amounts of dust in the air. And they will continue because of the work itself, which is going on there.

Now we know that when the two towers, each more than 100 floors high collapsed, there were thousands of lives, no doubt, lost inside But to try to give a sense of who is in there, that this rescue operation is going after, here are some of the companies, the tenants in the World Trade Center.

Major companies like Morgan Stanley, financial giant. It had 22 floors at the World Trade Center. New York State Blue Shield, Blue Cross had 10 floors. Credit Suisse, First Boston and one of the major international institutions had a large operation there.

Sun Microsystems had at least two floors in one of the Trade center towers. And the Oppenheimer Funds, Incorporated was on four floors. Hundreds and thousands employees of these firms, trapped there and believed, almost all of them most certainly lost.

The rescue efforts there continuing. And there are still the stories coming in, the individual stories of those who were in the building and escaped with their lives. And what we want to present to you right now is some of these eyewitness accounts, as they occurred this day and recorded by our CNN camera teams and reporters.

Here they are.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was walking to work about quarter to 9:00, going southbound. Manhattan island looked like a 737 jet went straight into the north side of the World Trade Center, went in, looked like slow motion. And it looked like something out of a movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we were watching CNN, actually. And they were telling us, you know, that World Trade Center I got hit. People were screaming, "Calm down, calm down. Nothing is happening here."

But at that moment, at exactly that moment, the plane hit us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When that second plane hit, a huge fireball in the sky, an explosion that kind of knocks you back. And you'd look up into the blue sky and you'd see all this debris coming and flying. Everybody's running like a riot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out! Get out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tower collapsed and it was just a big on rush of ashes, smoke and people running. It's horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was complete dark. There is no lights. So thank God, somebody with a light came on because we could not even see what's happening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody's bleeding. People are laying all over the floor. It's horrible. And I was there the first time. And this is twice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the explosion went off and everything went black and my lungs filled up with he debris, I just thought, you know, OK, I might die here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was about five blocks away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we did see were people jumping out of the building in suits. It was unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came down here with about 25 police officers. We went inside. We were expecting an evacuation on the second floor. We were helping people out of the building while we still weren't sure exactly what happened.

Then we heard stuff coming down. The next thing I know, there was complete darkness. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't see. The building had come down. And how I got out, I don't know. I'm very blessed, myself, my CEO and one other officer shouldn't be here, but we got out.


UTLEY: Some of the eyewitness accounts today. And this is a live scene of 8th Avenue in Manhattan, looking down to lower Manhattan. And as you can see, it is empty. You can't drive down there. Nobody is driving, even in the parts of midtown Manhattan, which are still open to traffic. The city has been dead tonight.

Of course, it's a little after 4:00 a.m., but usually at this time, there's plenty of activity and life in these concrete canyons of midtown New York City, but not on this evening. People are home. People are sleeping.

And one of the things that really shows how a city like this, a city of more than 7 million people has been affected is a very simple thing. By 4:10 a.m. in the morning Eastern time, we'd be having the first editions of the morning newspapers, "The New York Times," "The Daily News," and "The New York Post." We don't have them yet. Why?

The reporters in the editorial offices are just a few blocks from here. "The Daily News" is just right over here, one block away. But the printing presses several years ago are moved outside of Manhattan, where real estate is cheaper. They're across the Hudson River over there in New Jersey. Some of them are over in Queens in that direction. The tunnels are closed. The bridges are closed.

Obviously, they'll get the papers in the town at some point, but as of right now on this Wednesday morning, there are no newspapers in New York, as New Yorkers will soon be waking up.

Back to you now in Atlanta.

DI SILVO: Thank you, Garrick. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani says the dimension of his city's tragedy will be very large in terms of casualties. The death toll more than likely in the thousands. But he says search and rescue officials will keep going, keep hoping and keep praying.


RUDY GIULIANI, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: ...rescue teams are able to get very close now. It was very difficult during the day, but in most places, they now can operate. There still a few dangerous areas, but they're able to operate. And they're able to operate down there now.


DI SILVO: And joining us now with the latest on the search and rescue efforts in New York is Michael Okwu. Michael, what can you tell us?

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Elisa. Just moments ago, we saw three victims transported and brought here into St. Vincent's Hospital. It is unclear, I should say, whether any of those victims sustained injuries having anything to do with the World Trade Center attack. For the most part, it has been very quiet here. We haven't seen any action outside of those three victims brought in here moments ago in more than about two to three hours now.

For the most part, what we have seen here is a handful of medical personnel. We've seen gurneys. And just next to them, we have office furniture essentially covered in sheets, all there and set up, presumably to transport some of the -- what they hope will be many of the survivors, who may still be possibly trapped near the twisted litter and metal and rubble of lower Manhattan, which is just five minutes due south of here.

St. Vincent's Hospital, as you may know at this point, has become the main triage and trauma center here in New York. Some moments ago, at about 10:30 actually last night, hospital officials told us that 327 patients were admitted here. 50 to 55 of whom were at that time in critical condition. And of course, they have pronounced 3 people dead here on the scene.

Earlier today, my colleague, Greg Clarkin, spoke to one of the doctors here at St. Vincents.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, there's, you know, a whole host of injuries. Anything you'd see in any other kind of major trauma. Obviously a lot of broken bones, cuts and bruises, but a lot of blunt trauma, chest trauma, head trauma, things like that.

Well, you know, I mean, the longer people are buried, I think the more severe the injury. And they're going to -- there's going to be a lot of smoke and gas inhalation. And people are going to be dealing with that in the next 12 to 24 hours, I believe.


OKWU: Now earlier this evening, Governor George Pataki of New York visited the hospital. He said that he visited with many of the victims who were brought here, as well as to the doctors who are trying to perform feats of heroism. He said that their stories were unusual.

And on this night in New York, it's very difficult to imagine describing it as anything other than that.

Back to you guys.

MANN: Michael, thanks very much. All day Tuesday, firefighters struggled to bring a massive blaze under control at the Pentagon, after a hijacked plane hit the building at 9:38 a.m. local time. Overnight, the search has been underway for the dead and missing. And last information we have is that the fire itself is still burning.

Bob Franken has the latest. Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, actually smoldering is more like it. They're hoping that they can have it enough under control, that about daybreak they can peel away the wall, the part that was hit by the plane and start to go through the rubble, looking to see who's inside, looking for casualties, looking for the human cost of this tragedy, which of course, hit New York, but has also hit the Pentagon, the sign of military strength in the United States.

As you can see, people have been around the building now for so many hours. It was about 9:40 yesterday morning that this happened. And all day and all night and throughout the night, they have been climbing around the building, dealing with the fire inside, allowing it to burn out, spending so much time.

Now at the very same time, there was still work going on there. There are plans to in fact put ships out to sea on both coasts to protect the West coast, where an entire flotilla of ships is going out, including the aircraft carrier Stenus (ph) on the East Coast. The Kennedy and other ships have gone out along, to protect the East coast of the United States.

And in the area of the Middle East, there are ships that are in fact -- were schedule to come back to the United States, but they're being kept there, the Enterprise in particular, the aircraft are and it's retinue of ships.

So at the same time the United States is still trying to recover from the shock, particularly the shock here to its military establishment, the center of its military activity, the Pentagon, military plans are very slowly developing when it comes time for retaliation.


JOHNATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: Bob Franken, thanks very much. A fourth hijacked plane crashed in a rural area of Pennsylvania. The United Airlines Boeing 757 was headed from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco with 45 people on board when it went down.

Intelligence sources say they believe the intended was another government target, possibly Camp David, the presidential retreat. There was some speculation that the plane was shot down, but the military denies it.

Local emergency officials say men who identified themselves as a passenger on a flight called by cellphone just 10 minutes before the plane crashed. That was how authorities leaned the plane had been hijacked.

DE SILVO: In a five minute address to the nation, a grim-faced President George W. Bush, said the United States would make no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them. The President said thousands of lives were claimed by the "evil, despicable acts of terror."

He branded the attacks "mass murder" and said those responsible would be hunted down."


BUSH: These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat, but they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.

DE SILVO: American forces overseas have been put on high alerts. The U.S. European command in Germany says it has taken steps to insure the security of the troops and their families.

Now we're joined by our correspondent Tom Bogdonovich at the U.S. base in Renstein (ph), Germany. Tom?

TOM BOGDONOVICH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Well, let me first tell you about what's going on at the Germany equivalent of the World Trade Center. That was evacuated this morning, after a bomb threat. 4,000 people work in that very tall tower. But I understand that that has been calmed down. Everybody's back at work.

So that's the German Mesatomb (ph). The motor show, which is taking place in Frankfurt here, that is going on as normal, although all parties and that sort of thing have been canceled. It's a very subdued show.

I'm standing right outside the Frankfurt Air Base, the Rheinmein (ph) Air base. This is at maximum security alert. We saw that the soldiers were checking for every -- the airports were checking every single car going in there. Engines were being examined, mirrors were used, dogs were being used.

Where we're standing now is the nearest that we're allowed to go to the base at present. We' re not allowed to stand in front of the front, front gate.

This base is not actually an active base. There are no planes here. It was due to be closed down for -- in 1995, but it was kept going because of the Kosovo crisis. This air base is actually right next to the Frankfurt Airport, so it can take very large planes.

There's a runway here and it can take large cargo planes. If there were to be any operations in Europe, then this base would definitely be used, because it can take those planes.

So this base could be active again. In terms of what the German government is doing, we've just been hearing from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. He's expressed his solidarity with America. He's described the act as a declaration of war against civilization. And he's announced that they'll be a five minute silence at 10:00 on Thursday. And workers and executives will participate in that.

There's a memorial service today with all faiths. That's in Hedrick's Cathedral in Berlin.

Back to you in Atlanta.

DE SILVO: Tom, thank you.


MANN: The editor of an Arabic language newspaper in London says he received a warning three weeks ago. He believes the warning came from Islamic fundamentalists close to suspected terrorist mastermind, Osama Bin Laden.

The warning was of huge and unprecedented attack, but it offered no specifics. The editor says there are several groups capable of such an operation.


ABDEL-BARI ATWAN, EDITOR, AL-QUD NEWSPAPER: It could be a work of consortium of many organizations, systemic organization which they declared war against the United States. You know, the anti-American feeling gets very high now in the Middle East and the Moslem world because what's happening on the occupied territories. And many people accuse the United States of actually helping the Israeli and protecting them.

So the groups like Bin Laden and other Islamic fundamentalists actually, they would like to come out and say, "Look, you know, we are targeting the United States. The United States is s supporting the Moslem and Arab benefits, which is the Israeli. And we are taking advantage of what's happening.

So we learn from sources that, you know, there are really at work to hit American target. But nobody expected that this target would be in New York itself or the Pentagon.

So the place of that task force surprising to everybody.


MANN: Afghanistan's ruling Taliban are harboring Bin Laden. Only hours after the attacks, several explosions rocked the perimeter of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. The United States said it had nothing to do with the Afghan explosions. The Taliban opposition first denied and then claimed responsibility for them.

CNN correspondent Nic Robertson is in Kabul to help us sort it out. Nic, what's going on there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jonathan, a few hours after those explosions, we were in touch with the Northern Alliance. That is a group of fighters and their political leaders controlling the last five percent of Afghanistan, the Taliban has yet to gain control of.

They told us that they were responsible for those attacks. And shortly after that confirmation, Taliban officials, ministerial officials, also told us that the city had been attacked by the northern alliance. They said they were attacked by helicopters firing missiles.

Certainly we can see the missiles fired, flying across the 50. Certainly, we can see an ammunition dump fire. And also here, aircraft in the air.

Taliban officials also tell us today that two aircraft and workshop facilities at Kabul Airport were damaged, two antinoff (ph) aircraft, one the national airline Arianna, and one a military aircraft were damaged on the air field. But certainly from here in Afghanistan, what happens last night Kabul was part of an ongoing civil war, spurred on by the fact that a key leader in the north was the subject of an assassination attempt over the weekend. Very unclear if he's still alive.

This morning in Kabul, United Nations aid workers have been preparing to leave. They're being reduced to a skeleton staff here. And workers from other international territory organizations, non- governmental territory organizations, have been preparing to leave.

Of 10 German groups in the city, we understand that 4 are leaving today. And certainly, some of them, they're already seen today driving out of their compound and leaving the city. Taliban, of course, Jonathan, very swift to move in this situation and say that Bin Laden was not responsible and that Afghanistan condemns terrorism. A certain amount of apprehension here, in the leadership circles about what could happen in the coming days and weeks.

The Taliban's very swift to put their stamp of what happened, the responsibility here. Very clearly, they are not responsible, they say. Equally they say, they believe Bin Laden not responsible as well, Jonathan.

MANN: Nic, many people in the United States are calling this an act of war, though they're not naming the enemy, who presumably carried it out. Does Afghanistan, does the leadership there feel like it's being drawn into a war? Are they preparing for one?

ROBERTSON: Well, when asked about that last night, Taliban foreign minister, Joquid Achmed (ph) was clear. He said that Afghanistan had not been directly accused yet. And he said that it was not necessary for Afghanistan to take any precautions, such as to go on a heightened state of security alert, secure airfields and other such areas.

Because that wasn't necessary at this time, Afghanistan and Bin Laden he said have not been accused openly. However, they are very concerned about the situation right now, Jonathan.

MANN: Nic Robertson in Kabul. Thanks very much.


DE SILVO: John, for more analysis now, we are joined by Magnus Rengstorp, who is the deputy director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism, Political Violence at St. Andrews University.

Mr. Rengstorp, thank you very much for joining us. Your thoughts on who could have carried out these attacks?

MAGNUS RENGSORP, DIR. CENTER FOR THE CENTER OF TERRORISM: Well, it's perhaps too early to say right now who would be responsible for the attacks. It could be a combination of a consortium of groups. It could be possibly state involvement. But I think most of the money, most of the attention is focused on Bin Laden, perhaps not him personally, but many of his lieutenants and this network of followers that are distributed all around the world.

His organization is truly a multinational enterprise with not only followers from many different nationalities, but also have financial infrastructure all around the world. And that has been a massive intelligence-led effort, ever since 1996, when he declared an open war against America, to try to track down, not only him and his followers, but also his financial assets.

DE SILVO: Where did intelligence fail in this case?

RENGSTORP: The organization, given the fact that they have fought the Soviet or members of the organization have fought the Soviet Union for over a decade, well skilled in guerrilla techniques and terrorism techniques, they understand how the West gathers intelligence. They have therefore avoided signals, intelligence, in terms of using satellite phones and so forth, that figured previously in some of the information we have about Bin Laden himself.

The United States and other intelligence agencies have a great difficulty, giving the decentralized nature of the organization in being able to infiltrate it. Many of the followers we aren't aware of in terms of their nationality. And therefore, most governments, most intelligence agencies do not have lists of these operatives.

However, there are all sorts of nationalities that have figured at the top end of the core of Bin Laden's and Al Cada (ph) as an organization. Those being principally Egyptian, but also Algerian, particularly following Al Cada's (ph) ability to infiltrate the armed Islamic group in Algeria in 1997, '98 and set up an infrastructure in Europe.

DE SILVO: You're certainly pointing out to the complexities of the post-Cold War era, where it is very difficult to pinpoint terrorist attacks.

RENGSTORP: Yes, it's very difficult because you are -- you have individuals, groups that can overcome asymmetry of power using very conventional, yet as we have witnessed yesterday, through very conventional means, simple means, caused a catastrophic mass casualty event.

And we are...

DE SILVO: Yes, finish your thought.

RENGSTORP: ...and we have been facing a new kind of terrorism, a faceless enemy that does not claim any credit anymore, that is interested in retribution, that is interested in mobilizing forces against the dominance of the West and the United States in particular.

And in particular vis a vis Bin Laden over the issue of continued U.S. presence in the Gulf. He had advocated and mobilized and tried to use the issue of Jerusalem as a cause to get more popularity. And of course, the Iraqi population suffering under the sanctions.

DE SILVO: Mr. Rengstorp, thank you very much for speaking with us.


MANN: U.S. financial markets, including the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq will remain closed Wednesday. In Asia, markets fell decisively right from the open. Richard Quest has the latest now on Asia and European trading as well.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, Jonathan. The markets in Asia pretty much followed the trend that has been seen in Europe. Of course, there was no trading in the United States on Tuesday. So it was really left to Europe and to Asia to give the financial world's reaction to what was being seen.

There were very sharp reduction in values. Tokyo was off some 6 percent. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index down 8 percent.

At the moment, we're seeing something of a turnaround. We'll get to that in a second. Across the financial world, central bankers have been trying to talk confidence into the market. The Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank, the U.S. Fed, they've all said that they stand ready to add to cash, to add so-called liquidity to the market. That can be in the provision of cash to ATMs for people withdrawing money out of panic or to companies who are suddenly themselves in a credit crunch.

OPEC has said it also stands by to provide greater supplies of oil in the event that prices should exceed supply. That would be, of course, very bad for the world economy. And there had been fears that the rise in price, which we saw in the last 24 hours, would continue. It doesn't seem to be at the moment.

Overall, all financial agencies, all central banks are aiming to build confidence in the world business system. As Bob Hormat, the vice chairman of Goldman Sachs explained.


BOB HORMAN, GOLDMAN SACHS: G-7, particularly have to work together to restore confidence, by showing that they're working together on this. It's not just one country. It's the overall financial world that needs to have confidence restored. And the G-7 leaders need to do that together.


QUEST: And to that end, they will take whatever measures they deem necessary, cutting interest rates, providing money to the markets.

The European markets are open. We'll now catch up with what's been happening. Liz George is at the London Stock Exchange with an update. Liz George?

LIZ GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Richard, thanks very much indeed.

It's extremely somber here in the city. In fact, there's an eerie quietness. Normally on a morning at this particular time in the morning, you see the streets very packed, commuters coming into work. Today, the streets are extremely quiet. There's hardly any traffic around, just a few people walking into work.

And one of the most extraordinary things, of course as well, is that there's not even any aircraft noise. Now the city is normally in the flight path. And of course, there are no aircraft coming across either.

There's an awful lot of quietness, very, very somber feeling here. The links between the financial markets here in London and the financial markets in New York are extremely strong. And traders, investors, people in the city really thinking very hard about their colleagues, their co-workers, their friends in New York, that perhaps are missing, that they haven't heard from.

So there really is a great deal of quietness. And that's pervading onto the trading floors as well. Extremely somber, very light trading. People really waiting to see what's going to happen. Trading rooms extremely empty today.

I was talking to one analyst earlier on, Jeremy Batson of Natwest Stockbrokers, about the mood yesterday when this news actually broke across the trading floors. And he was saying there was a huge feeling of panic, just a gut reaction of massive amounts of selling going on. But he was saying that as people begin to take time to think about this, then the markets are going to come back slightly. And that's what we've seen them doing today, as people just digest this mood.

So the market's at the moment a rising slightly, but they've been wavering all over the place. Now let's go to (INAUDIBLE) Lake in our New York bureau.

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Liz, hi there. As you can imagine, everyone here still reeling from the news today. We won't find out how markets react. All financial markets are closed in the United States.

For many companies, their first concern, especially for those in New York in the lower part of Manhattan, are making sure that all their employees are accounted for. We've seen some companies running banners on the news stations across the bottom saying, asking their employees to call numbers, to make sure that they get a final headcount. You know, personal safety is going to be the first concern here.

There are a lot of worries about what this will do to consumer confidence. We were already having many fears about whether the U.S. economy was facing recession. This type of unprecedented action here in the United States. We're just not clear what kind of impact this will have on consumer confidence at a fragile time.

We'll have to wait some days before that is evident. We will not have stocks trading in the U.S. tomorrow. We also understand that Instinet is not trading U.S. stocks in Europe until we're able to come out of this.

One of the big focuses when we do -- are up and running again of course will be the insurers, as is often the case here with so much damage and loss of life. There are two areas really of insurance that are going to be covered which is liability and property. And some of the -- the last time -- you know it's eerie, we have been through this before at the World Trade Center. Many of the -- many of the people coming out saying this is round two for them and hopefully the last time.

Last time out, insurers paid $510 million in damages in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Their big focus, I know that they're suffering losses abroad in both Asia and (INAUDIBLE) insurers. Some of the companies last time that were affected: American International, Hartford Services, CIGNA, which sold its U.S. property insurance to the Bermuda insurer ACE, and Lloyds of London. Of course we do not know if they are the companies that will again be facing liabilities on this side. We have had a statement from Chubb already, but we are going to have to wait until we can sift through them. You know some -- as I said, a lot of these companies at least have some satellite offices. Even if they're not these insurance companies, others that are involved in life have satellite companies down there.

We understand that Paul O'Neill, the Treasury Secretary, is making his way back to the U.S. Obviously, as Richard mentioned, the Fed has come out and said they will provide the liquidity needed to keep the markets moving.

So still a sense of shock here, but hopefully things will slowly get back to business.

I also should mention that a lot of employers will keep their people home tomorrow and not bring them into Manhattan, so we're going to slowly grind forward here -- Liz.

Actually, I think we're going to Jonathan Mann, perhaps.



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