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America's New War: Devastation in New York City

Aired September 14, 2001 - 18:43   ET


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Again, a live picture of Lower Manhattan at this hour. As we told you, 4,763 people remain unaccounted for from the World Trade Center's attack.

But there are some people who are beginning to talk about their experience -- survivors, who are speaking from their hospital beds. A short time ago, a victim who is now at Bellevue Hospital, treated at one of the very important emergency centers in New York City spoke with reporters. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The rescuers, they found me.

QUESTION: And how did they get you out? What did they do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they have moved the partition that was behind my back and they pulled me out by my arms, because I was facing in the other direction, so they pulled me out by arms and they put me on the stretcher.

You know, the last thing I knew is I was holding my coworker's hand, and that's when the building fell and we lost, you know, we went apart. I didn't hear anybody else. I didn't see anything else. That was the last thing I knew. The last thing, again, I heard somebody yell "help" twice, while I was stuck under the staircase.


CHEN: One of the survivors of the World Trade Center tragedy, speaking from her hospital bed at Bellevue Hospital in New York.

Now we want to return to New York City. Richard Roth, one of the correspondents covering the president's visit to New York, to Lower Manhattan this afternoon, and you see, the Statue of Liberty, still a beacon, shining bright over Lower Manhattan this evening. At this hour, Richard Roth, who has been following the president's tour there, joins us.

Richard, is the president still in town?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I believe so. Though, from our vantage point, he has clearly moved way out of range and in fact his helicopter landing in Lower Manhattan was also hidden by the skyscraper, the dark skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan.

But holding an American flag and wielding a bullhorn, President George Bush told rescue workers, a representative numbers of them, that USA is proud of them. He said, "I can hear you," which after he said, "can you hear me?" And the crowd of emergency workers cheered very loud, when he said "the rest of the world can hear you," and especially they cheered when he said, "the people who knocked down these buildings -- referring to the World Trade Center and surrounding support buildings -- will hear from George Bush and the U.S. soon."

He thanked all of the emergency workers for their hard work, said they made the nation proud, and he said the U.S. is sending its love and compassion to everybody who is here. After about 20 hours of gloomy skies, heavy driving rain, the sun actually came out shortly after President Bush set foot on Manhattan island. And there is a lot of sun now here.

But amazingly, this huge amount of dust and ash going up into the early evening sky here from the 10,000 and more tons of rubble there, left from the destruction of the two towers by passenger planes -- Joie.

CHEN: Richard Roth, standing by in Lower Manhattan at this hour -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Joie. Let's go back to our CNN's Martin Savidge. He's down near all of that rubble at ground zero in Lower Manhattan. Marty, tell us about some of the other buildings that are still up, those huge buildings, but they seem -- the windows are all out -- are those buildings going to be able to be renovated? Are they still going to survive this disaster?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, there are a number of them that are not going to survive the disaster. The big question that's being asked at this point is, will they come down on their own or will they be pulled down? And if they're pulled down, when and how is that going to happen? The concern is for actually three buildings, which are said to be so structurally unsound they could potentially collapse at any moment. It is something that has concerned the engineers tat have been watching over those buildings, because those buildings hang over the very people that are trying to rescue and search for any survivors.

So, it is a critical issue of the moment. It was very critical when the winds were blowing and the storms were in the New York area. As you can see, the skies have cleared, but the smoke continues to billow from Building #7 that's collapsed behind us here and the remains of the Twin Towers, a debris pile that now measures about 100 feet tall from buildings that used to stand 110 stories in the air.

As for the other buildings, they did sustain heavy damage. The difficult part here is that some of the buildings that look so heavily damaged may in fact be the ones that are more structurally sound. Yet the newer ones that didn't seem to suffer as much damage, or buildings that almost seem untouched have been told to us as being in danger of falling down. It's an unusual dichotomy here, and appearances are not what they seem. They watched the buildings, they hope to make repairs. Finding survivors is the first priority -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, Marty, what you are saying is that those hundreds of search and rescue people that are engaged in this operation right now and dealing with all the rubble, perhaps including the reporters like yourself who are there, there is still serious danger to all of them?

SAVIDGE: Well, there is a threat, they try to manage the danger. As I say, the engineers literally watching the back of these rescuers and they have gone into the building, continue to go into the building, monitoring the cracks, monitoring any change, listening for sounds of shifting, and so that is something that they will watch very carefully.

It is a danger, but they realize that the possibility of finding a survivor, at least in the minds of the rescuers that they tell us, is much greater than worrying about buildings coming down on them.

BLITZER: And I take it, Marty, that people are already looking ahead to some of those other buildings that were near the World Trade Center, some of those huge buildings, and we're looking at some of those pictures right now, of the necessity of having to implode them, the way we've seen old buildings around the country from time to time being imploded?

SAVIDGE: It's clear that some of these building -- I'm not going to mention specifically yet, because they're still trying to make determinations, but a number of these buildings will have to come down. They are just not safe enough to continue to be in this area.

So it's not just the Twin Towers, it's this whole area that will have to undergo a complete renovation. At last report, there were at least some 25,000 people that were made homeless as a result of the disaster that happened here. Of course, that is a minor difficult on top of the cataclysmic tragedy that many families have suffered.

BLITZER: And we've heard, Marty, of many family members trying to reach the rubble, even though it is, as you point out, very dangerous. What are the police and other law enforcement authorities doing to keep family members, loved ones, friends, who just are desperately searching for their loved ones, away from that scene?

SAVIDGE: Well, in fact, there are a number of family members that we have run across that are now acting as volunteers, that went into the debris. I talked yesterday to a man whose son is a New York City firefighter who is now missing. He showed up yesterday with the son's dog. He hopes with the dog and with himself that they can go and find his son. And then, there was another case of a young man, an engineer, who also showed up to volunteer to carry out by hand buckets of dirt.

He isn't there because of his engineering expertise, he's there because his brother was in one of those Twin Towers and is now missing. That's how the relatives come here to find their own.

BLITZER: One final question, Marty, before I let you go. Is there a need for more volunteers? I'm sure there are people not only in the New York City area but all over the country, perhaps around the world, who would be more than happy to come to New York and volunteer for that kind of work, if, in fact, there is a need.

SAVIDGE: Well, the need is a question that needs to be worked out. There are a lot of volunteers, a lot of professionals that have shown up from other communities. The question is, how long can they stay? Many of them will have to leave perhaps by the end of this weekend and begin returning to their own jobs and to their police or professional jobs that they have. So, who will come into to take their place?

It's being organized. In fact, for the first time today, one rescuer said, "we finally got it organized inside" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Marty Savidge, in Lower Manhattan, near the scene of all of that rubble.



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