Skip to main content /transcript




America Under Attack: Rains Hurting Rescue Operations

Aired September 14, 2001 - 01:38   ET


JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: We want to bring you up to date. Now some of the latest developments. Beginning with the continued rescue operations. In New York City, workers there digging through the mammoth pile of rubble created by the collapse of the World Trade Center. They are hoping to find survivors but with each passing hour those hopes are fading. No new survivors were found on Thursday. Mayor Rudolph Guiliani says around 4,700 people are still missing.

People all across the country are mourning and remembering the victims with candlelight vigils and special services. Friday has been designated as a national day of prayer and remembrance.

Tensions remain high in New York City. Police received more than 90 false bomb threats by noon on Thursday. Also authorities have arrested at least eight people at the city's two major airports. Authorities say that four of those arrested were seen at one of the airports the day of the attacks. Law enforcement sources tell CNN the four fled as they were challenged at the ticket counter.

For more now on the situation in New York, let's turn once again to CNN's Garrick Utley. Garrick.

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes Jim, and perhaps a footnote about this tragedy, the fact that New York when they would be the target of a terrorist attack, was not really a surprise although it was a surprise that it happened when it did on Tuesday morning.

Now what I mean by that is that for years the city government here lead by New York City's various mayors has known that terrorists who have it in for the United States would look at New York, its landmarks, some of which now lie in rubble, as a promising metabolizing target. So what they did is that they went ahead and built an emergency command operation or control center, a bunker if you will, just in case, the worst would happen.

Well, the worst has happened now and where did the city planners put that emergency control center -- in the World Trade Center. How's that for planning? Fortunately, the senior officials including Mayor Giuliani were not there when those towers came down. And now because they're down the search continues.

And Gary Tuchman is down in the area in lower Manhattan giving us the latest, after quite a rainstorm swept through town. Gary? GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right Garrick, it's now thundering, lightening, and just a short time ago it started pouring and that will not help the search effort one bit. Behind me the rooms are still smoldering. It cast an eerie light in the rainy sky. That smoke has now been going for two and a half days.

There are workers out there 24 hours a day. The only time the emergency workers haven't been out there is when there have been evacuation orders, concerns over three buildings in the area, concerns they're structurally unsound and they could collapse on the workers. So they have had to evacuate them a few times, but otherwise they've been out there 24 hours a day.

However, some of them have left now because about five minutes ago, it was pouring very heavily, like a monsoon. It's let up a little bit, so hopefully they will come back in a short time and continue their work looking for survivors. It's very hard for us to believe that those 110-story structures are gone. When you used to come down the street, whether you were driving or jogging, there's a beautiful path along the Hudson River here. You saw the two 110-story towers. They were landmarks. They are now completely gone. It's hard to believe.

But what's even harder to believe is the fact that there may be as many as 4700 bodies in the rubble just a few blocks away from us. Now some emergency officials are telling us that despite the fact that no survivors were found today, they are still hopeful that there are pockets there, pockets in which they will find people who are still alive, but it hasn't happened.

There was an exciting moment today. Police officials and hospital officials told us that five firefighters were pulled out of the rubble alive, after being there since these buildings collapsed. But it was because of confusion that it was reported like that. These fire officials were rescued and rescue workers saw them and said this to the police and to the hospital officials. However, it turned out that these firemen got trapped today while they were participating in the rescue also. So, they were rescued and that's good news, but they weren't in there since Tuesday.

Now, we've met up with many rescue workers throughout this endeavor over the last two and a half days and we've seen rescue workers for years covering disasters all over the country and all over the world. But what's different about this particular time is the fact that none of the people we've spoken with have ever seen anything like this before the magnitude of this, and they tell us they hope never to see anything like this again.

Garrick, back to you.

UTLEY: OK Gary, let's just take a moment. We've been talking about rescue workers in some generic way. But obviously they have all kinds of skills. Give us a sense, for all of us, as to who these people are. They are -- some are firemen perhaps. There must be -- we heard there are people from ConEd, the gas company, structural specialists. Who are these people?

TUCHMAN: That's right, you have people from all walks of life. First of all you have New York City policemen and New York City firemen who are participating in it, and that's one of the reasons that we have so many firemen and policemen. Also Port Authority policemen, the Port Authority is the agency that owned the World Trade Center.

That's one reason why so many of them are missing because they were on the scene right away. But you also have people from other walks of life. You have people with the New York City Housing Department who are helping to clear the area. You also have volunteers who just came the first day, were allowed in when they needed help right away. People who really have little knowledge about this, but who are being given jobs when they got to the scene to help out.

So you have people from all walks of life participating in this and at times there are more than 2,000 people on the scene behind me helping out. And keep in mind, it's hard for you to grasp, especially if you haven't seen the World Trade Center before. But when you have 220 stories of two buildings that toppled, it's a huge area, and this area is10 blocks wide by 10 blocks long, roughly as you have debris.

So it's a huge area, and that's why there have to be so many people there helping out.

UTLEY: And they're doing 12-hour shifts, we understand, Gary. They have to be fed. Is food being brought in? This must be, what, 2,000 people there, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in this coming week.

This is massive logistical support effort, quite aside from the work they have to do there in the rubble.

TUCHMAN: Well Garrick, let me tell you about that. I spent some time with a paramedic yesterday. She was actually there for 31 hours straight, from the beginning of this, for 31 hours, and she took me with her to the site. I spent some time with her at the site. I just can't tell you how incredible being there was and I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

I had been here for a day and a half covering this from a few blocks away, and I was just totally stunned by the magnitude of this. But one thing I did notice that you're referring to among the workers -- yes, there's lots of food and lots of beverages, and you have people -- one type of person who's been helping out are people who pass out the drinks and the food.

And what they do is they walk around with trays and just hand it out to people as they go. Do you want some water? Do you want a soda? Do you want some food? So there's plenty of food and drinks for the people who are helping out.

UTLEY: Gary Tuchman, thank you very much. That kind of fuel and substance, if you will, for the rescue workers there in lower Manhattan.



Back to the top