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America Under Attack: Rain Hinders NY Rescue Operations

Aired September 14, 2001 - 02:47   ET


JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, we want to go back to New York, once again live, to our own Garrick Utley. He's been standing by, there, taking the pulse of that city as it suffers through another day, a day waiting for word of survivors, hoping for the best and fearing the worst. Garrick.

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Jim, one of the paradoxes of this tragic week in New York City is that it's been perhaps one of the most beautifully, gorgeously beautiful weeks of the whole summer in terms of the weather. In fact, this week it was -- the highs were in the upper 70s, not a single cloud in the sky, even that morning, you'll recall, when the planes hit those towers, the twin towers in lower Manhattan, and it's an indication of the shock that, I mean, nobody I know in New York, would enjoy that good weather, could even look up in the blue sky and have a happy thought.

Well, now the weather has changed. A short while ago there were thundershowers and lightning storms coming through. It affected the work. We want to go back to Gary Tuchman, who's downtown, to give us not only the latest weather report, but how that's impacted on the work there. Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Garrick, it's still thundering and lightning, and the rain is starting to come down hard once again. It is getting colder, and it's very windy, and it's making a miserable scenario even more miserable for the searchers behind me.

That's the scene. You can see the floodlights, you can see the smoke continuing to billow, and when you get close to the scene, you see the huge mountains of rubble that are 75 feet tall, at some points, and you see that steam coming up, it really looks like a scene from Hell.

The number one goal of the 1,000 to 2,000 searchers and rescuers who are there at any given time is to find survivors, and unfortunately, today the news was not good. There were no survivors found in the rubble. There was some news earlier today that excited many people, and it's the anatomy of a story we want to tell you about. There was some confusion. Rescuers on the scene saw five firefighters, they say, being pulled out of the rubble. They assumed these were survivors from the Tuesday terrorism incident. Police and hospital officials confirmed the story. But as it turned out, it was confusion, because while people on the scene saw firefighters being pulled out, it turns out they had gotten trapped while participating in the rescue today.

There is so much rubble, there's lots of potential for that to happen. So what happened, was, these firefighters were rescued, but they were rescued from being trapped a few hours earlier. They had not been there since Tuesday.

To confirm the number of people, we can't even do that right now. It was between two and five firefighters found today, that had been trapped today. But once again, the were not there since Tuesday. And what's very frightening about this entire situation in addition to no survivors being found today, is that it's very likely that they're up to 4,700 bodies still buried in the rubble, just three blocks behind me.

Another concern for the people who are there on the scene. There are three buildings that are felt to be structurally unsound. There's a possibility, and we emphasize possibility -- it may not happen -- but there's a possibility they could come down. So there have been some times over the past two and a half days where all the people have been forced to evacuate the scene.

We've talked to many emergency and rescue workers since we've been here. One man I talked to, today, had a story to tell me. He said that he found some parts of the United and American Airlines planes. He found the parts, he turned them over to the FBI. But he said that wasn't the most important find he made today. He said he found a Raggedy Ann doll. And he said when he did that, it brought tears to his eyes. Garrick, back to you.

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Gary, just one question. A footnote, if you will. It may not -- it's certainly not the most important thing right now, but the workers who are there, are about 1,000 on each shift, we've been told, working these 12-hour shifts. Who's payroll are they on now? Course, some are city employees, the fire department members. But they're specialists from all kinds of private concerns, bringing their expertise to bear, there. Do their companies pay? Is this a contribution? Is the city going to pay it? Is the federal government going to come in and pick up the tab?

TUCHMAN: What's happening in most cases, Garrick, you do have your New York City Police Officers and Firemen, and you also have Police Officers and Firemen from other municipalities in the New York area. Their departments pay them. When you have people here, whose jobs have nothing to do with participating in a rescue like this, presumably, in most cases, their employers are still paying them to be here, participating in such an important venture like this one.

UTLEY: Thank you very much. Gary Tuchman, there, on the scene. Of course, what this shows us is that are many -- so many things in our daily lives we simply take for granted. For example, you flip a switch on the wall, and electric light comes on. You turn the faucet in your bathroom, and hot and cold running water comes pouring out. You have a fire in your home, and the Fire Department comes. Well, in New York City these days, New Yorkers no longer take that for granted. They've grown to appreciate the members of the New York City Fire Department for all they've done, and the sacrifices they have made. Here's Richard Blystone.


RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are the guys who run up the fire escape, when everybody else is running down. The men who will get you out of an inferno 50 stories in the air, or die trying. Thirty men from this midtown Manhattan firehouse may have died trying. They were among the first to reach the trade towers, Tuesday, and they haven't come back.

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: So as you can see, the neighborhoods have an outpouring of love for us.

BLYSTONE: Night and day they come, to leave a flower, light a candle.

UNIDENTIFIED RESIDENT: I felt like I did something. Yes, I felt like I did something.

BLYSTONE: Hard-boiled New Yorkers.

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: When I was sitting out on somebody's car over there in disbelief, I had my head in my hands, and I felt somebody just kind of give a little squeeze on my arm. I look up, and it was just somebody walking past.

BLYSTONE: Total strangers from Argentina, who says she had to come and touch the firemen.

"They're heroes," she says. "They gave their lives, poor things, to save other people. These students from Montreal were here on a night on the town, early Tuesday."

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We happened to walk by, they're smiling. We said, Hey, how's it going? Nice to meet you. We got on the truck, we had -- we took pictures, everybody was happy. And now we hear that -- that some of the people who we met might be missing.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: They were the first ones to go. It's just devastating. It's like, I can't believe we here, like, six hours before this, with those people.

BLYSTONE: You don't think much about firemen, until you need them. But people are making up for that, today. Not waiting for a memorial to be built, they've created one outside the fire house. More vibrant, more moving than anything a sculptor could carve out of stone.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Their courage and fearlessness just sets an example for the world. Very powerful. And I'm honored. I'm honored to know they're just down the street from me.

BLYSTONE: If your friends are missing, it's a hard wait. A small distraction in the words of support. The presence of food and flowers. And this present from Parsippany, New Jersey, to replace one of the station's five lost trucks. UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER FROM PARSIPPANY, NJ: Whatever you need it for, you got it. We just bought a new one, this is up for sale. You guys want it? You're more than welcome to it.

UNIDIENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: We're still in business. Guys are going out, do what we have to do. Protect the people, the city.

BLYSTONE: And so, those lucky enough to have done more than wait, go home for a rest. Because it's not over. And it would be nice to think, that in times to come, when the memories come flooding back, they will remember these, as well. Richard Blystone, CNN, New York.


UTLEY: A very well-deserved tribute there, from Richard Blystone. Also, this note on the political front in New York City. Last Tuesday was Primary day. There's an election for Mayor coming up the end of this year. Mayor Giuliani cannot succeed himself. He's already served his allowed two terms. The polls opened early. Many New Yorkers were out there doing their Democratic, or in this case, Republican duty, either party in the Primary election. Then, at 8:45, it happened. The planes began to strike the towers, elections were called off.

Well, now the city has rescheduled the Primary vote for September 25th, but if you voted last Tuesday, in those early morning hours, you're going to have to go back and vote again. Do it all over again. Which, at least, will give those New Yorkers who were out early casting their ballot, that very rare, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to vote twice in the same election, even if their ballot will be counted only once. Jim, back to you.

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Garrick Utley, as always, thank you for that.



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