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America Under Attack: Press Conference at St. Vincent's Hospital

Aired September 12, 2001 - 06:20   ET


GARRICK UTLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Right there we're seeing a shot. That's one of the -- along one of the broader avenues running north- south, but around the World Trade Center, that's just a catacomb -- just a maze of tiny roads and streets.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Garrick, in taking a look at this shot, we get a sense also of the New York Police Department's rescue crews trying to move through that area. Are you hearing whether the rescue crews themselves are hearing the voices of people who are still alive, still trapped under there? And are they giving you a sense of how long it's going to take to get anybody out?

UTLEY: Well, several questions. First, no -- no, estimate guess as to how long it's going to take. It's going to be days and weeks, that is absolutely certain.

Question No. 2, any survivors, yes. The Port Authority, that's the regional government institution that runs the World Trade Center's tandem (ph), runs the airports, the bridges, it reported that three or four of its security officials have been pulled out of the rubble. Presumably they're on the fringes. They heard voices, they were able to recover those men who are wounded or injured but they are said to be -- they're going to be all right.

We heard an earlier report last night that the special teams that were brought in, special handlers with dogs trained to look and smell and sniff out humans dead or alive, were going through the rubble and very quickly the dogs indicated they had no scent. They couldn't get any scent. They were disoriented, why, because of all the dust in the air. The dust was interfering with the dogs, even with their sensitive sense of smell, to do their job. Perhaps today it'll get slightly better, we don't know, but that's another obstacle that stands in the way of the rescue effort.

CELLINI: All right, Garrick Utley, thank you for being our guide through this madness that is now Manhattan. We'll be checking in with you periodically -- Carol.

LIN: Toughest hours still ahead, Vince.

Right now let's go to Kelly Wallace. She is standing by at the White House. Kelly, question on many American's minds, what sort of action is President Bush going to take -- able to take? What are some of his options in responding to this crisis?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, definitely, as you heard President Bush say last nigh, Carol, he will say that the U.S. government is going to do everything it possibly can to find those responsible for these terrorist attacks. Mr. Bush also saying, though, that they will draw no distinction between those responsible for the attacks and those who harbor them.

Now as for a sight setter here, at the White House you might expect, and that is the case, flags at half staff all around the White House complex for what is likely to be a very somber day here. President Bush, as you know, quite the early riser, usually up by 5:30 a.m., this day expected to be no different. He will begin his day getting an up-to-date briefing from his national security team on the latest concerning the investigation as well as the search and rescue efforts.

He's also invited a group, bipartisan congressional leaders, over to the White House. And at that time, Mr. Bush will come before the cameras again, his message will be that the U.S. government is doing everything it can to assist in the disaster areas in New York, Pennsylvania and then, of course, at the Pentagon here in Washington, D.C. He will also say that the work of the government goes on and again that the U.S. will do everything possible to find those responsible.

Last night the president went before the American people, a very grim faced U.S. President George W. Bush, in what must have been obviously a very difficult moment for the president. He said that those responsible for what he called acts of mass murder would -- were hoping to frighten the nation into -- his words -- chaos and retreat, but Mr. Bush said they have failed.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world, and no one will keep that light from shining.


WALLACE: Now U.S. officials publicly and privately right now refuse to say exactly who they believe might be responsible for these attacks, but we do know that senior administration officials briefed members of Congress last night. Sources telling my colleague, CNN's John King, that those senior officials saying they are confident that the evidence is pointing to affiliates of accused terrorist Osama bin- Laden. Also those senior officials saying that they are going to take their time to make sure they find out exactly who is responsible and then, of course, hold them accountable -- Carol.

LIN: Kelly, you have seen both sides of the coin on this story. You're obviously in Washington now, but you were in New York yesterday. What was that like?

WALLACE: Absolutely, images that none of us will really ever forget. I was actually about 15 blocks from the World Trade Center complex when the first plane hit one of the towers and then went out on the streets. I think the images that really come to mind are people sort of leaving the downtown area in a very orderly manner but calling on their cell phones, look of disbelief as people watching not one but two towers come down.

And also I talked to so many firefighters. It was an unbelievable situation, Carol, you couldn't use cell phones really. You could barely get a call out. And so as I was holding my cell phones trying to get calls out, firefighters would come up and say can I use your phone? We said we couldn't get a call out but we would take their names and numbers and then call their relatives or their loved ones. Obviously they were very concerned to let their loved ones know that they were OK, but clearly firefighters were concerned about their colleagues. So many people saying that they had gone in -- those firefighters had gone into those towers as the people were coming out. And many people that we talked to very concerned about the firefighters who, of course, went into those buildings and of course, what happened once those buildings came down -- Carol.

LIN: That's right, still 300 firefighters unaccounted for. How did you get out of the area?

WALLACE: That was another difficult thing because, as you know, airports were closed, Amtrak was down for most of the day, bridges and tunnels going into Manhattan were down. But by late in the afternoon around 4:00, 5:00, 6:00, Amtrak starting running, at least around 5:00 starting running trains out of Washington so there was some opportunity to get out. A lot of commuters who needed to get away, obviously there were ferries taking people from downtown Manhattan over to New Jersey.

Again, it was sort of a very orderly thing. People were moving from the downtown area, getting away from the scenes of destruction and obviously very patient. A lot of crowds at Amtrak at Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, but I can tell you, too, Carol, how this hit so many people on the train from New York to Washington. There was one woman who had a friend of a friend who was on one of those planes that obviously went down. A man in front of me had a friend of a friend who was in an office above where one of those planes hit. So you can see how many lives this -- these tragedies have affected.

LIN: And, Kelly, what a strange situation for you to be in. I mean you're a trained journalist, you're taught to be dispassionate, you're told time and again that you're not to be a part of the story. And yet here you were in a situation where you were almost part of the rescue operation in trying to give technical support and trying to flee as well with the crowds. WALLACE: Yes, I mean, Carol, as you know, it is impossible not be affected by the scenes of firefighters sort of sitting on a curb, their heads in their hands, wondering, you know, about their colleagues. So it's hard to be affected.

What was great is that we could be of some assistance. I mean how happy some of these firefighters were to know that we just talked to their wife or my boyfriend's mother was able to get through and that they knew that their loved ones could then call all the relatives so that at least they had some comfort. But of course you know there's so many people who just questioning whether or not their loved ones are still alive and it's just impossible. You just do the best you can, try to help and get the story out.

That was the major frustrating thing, Carol, though, you couldn't get a cell phone to really work so it was very difficult to call CNN New York or in Atlanta to convey what we were seeing, but that information was getting out throughout the day.

LIN: Right, well your instincts served you well, and I'm glad you're back safe home and now hard at work. Thank you very much, Kelly Wallace, reporting live from the White House -- Vince.

CELLINI: We want to remind you we are just minutes away from a press conference that will be taking place at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City and we'll get that as soon as they begin. But right now, and with all due respect to the victims of this horrible tragedy, we want to see how the ramifications will affect now business in this country and worldwide.

We go to David Haffenreffer who's in New York and he has that story.

Good morning, David.


As you might imagine, lower Manhattan, the heart of the financial community, all financial markets obviously closed in the U.S. today. Even trading of U.S. stocks in London through the electronic trading firm Instinet have been halted.

Let's take a look...

CELLINI: David, we have to interrupt. We have to interrupt you now, David.

This is the press conference at St. Vincent's Hospital. We're taking that live.

MARK ACKERMANN, ST. VINCENT'S HOSPITAL: FAL Associate Director of the trauma center here at St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center.

Let me first briefly update you on our numbers and what has happened during the night and then Dr. Westphal can give you some information on our paramedics, our ambulances, what they've been doing and what's been happening in the trauma center.

Since 9:04 a.m. yesterday morning, St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center has received 361 individuals through our emergency room trauma center. Ninety of those individuals have been admitted to St. Vincent's Manhattan, 4 of those individuals have died, 58 of the individuals who have come to St. Vincent are paramedics, firefighters or police officers.

We have six other hospitals in our system in Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, those hospitals received 42 additional patients, including 20 who were brought by barge over to St. Vicent's Staten Island. One of those individuals died at St. Vincent's Staten Island.

Our paramedics were at the scene throughout the day yesterday. As you saw, and continue to see, we are ready for what we hope will be additional survivors today. We are the closest trauma center, and thus if there are any miraculous recoveries from the wreckage, they will most likely be brought here.

I'm going to ask Dr. Westphal to talk to you a bit about our paramedics and the work that they did, our ambulances, and the work that's happening in the trauma center. And then, we'll take questions.

DR. RICHARD WESTPHAL, ST. VINCENT'S HOSPITAL: Thank you, Mark. I'm Dr. Westphal, associate director of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

Mr. Ackermann has mentioned a number of patients that we've had, the conditions and the four deaths in Manhattan. Our paramedics have had about seven crews since 8:00 a.m. yesterday morning that have assisted FDNY EMS and obviously this massive undertaking of responding to critical trauma or emergencies downtown. And none of our -- all of our crews have been able to participate and treat patients and move patients and fortunately have not been injured or have been critically injured themselves.

We have an emergency department right now about -- all through the night a triple staff of nurses, physicians, physician assistants and technical staff. The administrative senior management has been up, almost all of them, throughout the night. And we have been prepared and are awaiting victims from the site as well. We are -- I think, Mayor Giuliani has said over and over, we are very hopeful, we are prepared and we are expecting to work very hard to resuscitate victims as they are brought here and brought to other hospitals.

I know that through the night, I have been told by OEM and FDNY that other major hospitals in Manhattan have been similar to ourselves in that we have really decompressed the emergency department. So we're prepared for the major injuries, major trauma, as we have had throughout the day.

ACKERMANN: I'd like to note a couple of important things. We want to, first, thank all New Yorkers and people from literally throughout the world who came to the hospital yesterday to volunteer their services -- doctors, nurses, just people off the street. We had over 800 people in line at one point in time to give blood. The mayor's office was kind enough to provide buses so we could bring them to other sites to donate that blood.

Today, we are still in need of blood, all of New York is in need of blood donations. You should go to the New York Blood Center or the Red Cross, and we will provide those addresses to you.

We can't stress enough the thanks to all of the volunteers, our neighborhood residents here in Greenwich Village. Off to -- behind my left, there are still tables set up where neighborhood residents are making sandwiches, bringing food. It's truly unbelievable the outpouring of New Yorkers and the help that they have been. If anyone wants to give blood, we will provide that information to you.

We have also received an inordinate amount of clothing through the night. We are very grateful for that, but we are really not in any need of anymore of that right now, so we would just like to thank folks for that.

It is very important to note that the trauma of this from a psychological perspective is going to be hitting New Yorkers more and more today. We particularly encourage parents to talk with their children. I went home for a few hours last night, and I have to tell you, at 2:00 o'clock in the morning, my teenage children and younger needed to talk. And it's very important that we encourage all parents to do that.

In an effort to help with that, we have three mental health hotlines that are manned 24 hours a day. We will provide you with those numbers as well. There are many mental health crisis lines. We encourage all New Yorkers to take advantage of this. We have all suffered a terrible trauma in this city. We need to understand it, and our feelings and to talk about it. So we encourage New Yorkers to take advantage of these. We have facilities in Westchester, Manhattan and Staten Island that are manned 24 hours a day for this.

We can take questions.


ACKERMANN: There were no additional survivors brought here during the night. We did receive a number of firefighters, police officers and paramedics, again, mostly with the corneal abrasions and literally lacerations on their hands.


ACKERMANN: I don't know exactly what time it was, but during the night we did receive the firefighters and paramedics.


ACKERMANN: Yes, I'll let Dr. Westphal speak to that.


WESTPHAL: Well, I don't know about any implication (ph), but to provide additional medical care, we had about two crews of about a dozen doctors that went down through there to assist with treating patients. We also had a group, I believe, of about four physicians that went up to the Javits Center very late in the night to treat additional patients that were brought there, because they had requested help.


WESTPHAL: I cannot speak to that. I am not aware.


WESTPHAL: Speaking for our paramedics who had been there during the day along with FDNY's paramedics and all other hospitals' paramedics. And if I could just echo what Mr. Ackermann said, I can't believe the number of hundreds of vehicles and ambulances that have responded from the tri-state area and all of the metropolitan areas. I have seen Jersey, Connecticut. I have seen Westchester ambulances have all come.

The thing I would mention (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but I think from the very beginning, they have been working in the areas around the Trade Center and have not been inhibited. Obviously for periods of times, our paramedics, I think all paramedics were kept away from the buildings that they had a judgment that they were going to be coming down. So that was inhibited, but all through the night, they were assisting firefighters and other crews that were trying to extricate patients and then make judgments as to where they would bring them for care that was appropriate.


WESTPHAL: Well, I think we would expect to see the victims that we would get today would probably have a number of problems besides the trauma and the injuries that they have had, which will probably be more severe. We expect to see dehydrations and other complications of that having been, you know, underneath for probably almost 24 hours right now.


WESTPHAL: Well, our staff, from the standpoint of our trauma team here, ourselves...






WESTPHAL: Our administrative staff, nurses and physicians have been assisted all throughout the 24 hours by our department of psychiatry, by our pastoral care, by our priests and sisters that have been down there, not just for the patients, but for our staff entirely. And you know, we've had a couple of individuals that have needed time to sit down and talk with them and to cry with them, and that's happened throughout the day.

I think it's just important to know, too, that a number of our nurses and physicians are married to firefighters and police officers. And they worked throughout the day yesterday and the night not knowing where their loved ones were. We are very grateful that all of our paramedics that were at the scene and physicians and nurses are OK. We did lose an ambulance. One of our ambulances was crushed in the debris, but our hearts certainly go out to our colleagues in the fire department and in the police department and all of the other victims.


WESTPHAL: Just one at a time, please. One more, and then we'll go.


WESTPHAL: We have not gotten any information about new victims coming to us.


WESTPHAL: Sure. We have in our system -- entire system, 2,600 beds throughout the city. Yesterday, we were able to transfer some of our patients to other sites, discharge patients appropriately, and then we opened up as many beds as possible here. We still have bed availability here.


WESTPHAL: Sure. Yes. Of the patients who came in, again, over 361 -- right. We had, again as was mentioned, we had five patients expire, two who came in in what we call traumatic arrest from the injury needing CPR coming in the door. Those patients both expired in the emergency department. A firefighter came in with major injuries and chest pain and went to the operating room and expired there. And then we had another individual come in during the night -- no, excuse me -- during the morning hours with severe burns, who ended up expiring upstairs in the -- in our surgical ICU. A fifth person, as Mr. Ackermann mentioned, was brought to Staten Island St. Vincent's and expired there.

I could tell you, we had 50 major traumas and major injuries. And I can tell you, unfortunately I happened to be here in '93, when we had the other World Trade Center disaster. I can tell you then throughout the city, there were 10 deaths from that disaster, and here we had the first victim -- at that time we had one death the entire time. And you know, you folks know better than I the hundreds and perhaps thousands of people that may die from this.

VINCE CELLINI, CNN ANCHOR: So that is the word from St. Vincent's Hospital to this point, and we are looking again at these live pictures from ground zero basically. And I'm wonder if we can possibly find some of these workers, whether they are firefighters or otherwise and maybe we can pan down there just to give people some idea of the scale of this tremendous debris that's been left behind. There you go. And just the massive undertaking that this will be.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Right. Massive in the sense that St. Vincent's is saying that they received more than 400 patients at not only their hospital, but their associated hospitals. Five people out of that have passed away -- five people have passed away. But what they clearly are doing is bracing for many, many more people. They have more than 2,500 beds available. They are not full yet.

And they are saying that this is an internal family crisis for them -- that many of their nurses and paramedics are married to firefighters. That 300 firefighters are still unaccounted for. So while they're trying to treat hundreds of people who have been victimized by the terrorist attack, they also are worrying about their own and waiting to hear word about their husbands and wives who may be trapped in that rubble as we look at it there.

CELLINI: Now, they have gone to triple staff there, and again, seeking blood. They want blood donors...

LIN: Right.

CELLINI: ... to help in that -- in that New York City area.

LIN: And they talked about a huge outpouring. They had 800 people standing in line yesterday offering to donate blood. And they are saying that they have information there at St. Vincent's for people to go to the New York Blood Center or to go to the Red Cross. They do need more blood donations. They do not need any more clothing donations, but I think it's just a sense of New Yorkers wanting to try to help and contribute during this time of crisis.

CELLINI: And that was duly noted...

LIN: Duly noted.

CELLINI: ... in the press conference.

LIN: Yes.



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