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America's New War: Surviving the Attack

Aired September 17, 2001 - 06:46   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on the burn victims from those attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fireballs and hallways with nowhere to turn, temperatures soaring to 1,000 degrees, and burns, worse than you've ever seen before.

MANU DHINGRA, BURN VICTIM: All of a sudden, as I was walking down the hallway, I hear a door explode and just this big ball of fire just engulfed me. I just froze. I didn't do anything. I just stood there.

GUPTA: Just stood there, because he instantaneously sustained burns over 40 percent of his body, when a fireball tore through the 83rd floor of the World Trade Center's Tower 1.

DR. ROGER YURT, WEILL CORNELL BURN CENTER: You know, it must be 1,000 degrees or more. It takes about one second of temperature at 155 degrees to get a third-degree burn.

DHRINGRA: I ran into my office and screaming, "I'm burned, I'm burned, there's a bomb, bomb."

VASANA MUTUTANO, BURN VICTIM: All of a sudden the door, you know, it just flew open, and so I just run and with the fire chasing my back, and I fell down.

GUPTA: The fireball on the 73rd floor of Tower 1 then passed over Vasana Mututano. It burned the flesh over her entire back and legs.

LING YOUNG, BURN VICTIM: I was very fortunate I was in the back of the elevator. Just okay -- everybody in front of me either killed, no leg, no face. It was just disgusting. I tried to help her, but then I couldn't hold onto her. So I tried to do it. But then, I couldn't force over the bodies. OK?

GUPTA: Well, we found them, some of the last ones out of the World Trade Center.

YOUNG: Because I mean, I was in the nick of time. Within five minutes, I think the whole building collapsed. And I think I'm lucky, because I think I'm the last one out.

GUPTA: They are alive, but at great cost. They sustained nearly indescribable injuries.

YURT: We had a patient with 100 percent burn, total body, all third-degree burns. But what was more shocking was seeing so many of those big burns at the same time.

GUPTA: Many of the victims of Tuesday's attack probably didn't know the largest burn center in the country was just down the road.

MUNUTANO: I never know that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) burn unit before.

GUPTA: But now they credit Weill Cornell Burn Center and Dr. Roger Yurt with saving their lives, though he regrets the one that he couldn't save.

YURT: There is a possibility that a patient with 100 percent burn could survive, but it's very remote.

GUPTA: That patient?

YURT: The patient did not survive.

GUPTA: Many of the patients that did survive did so because of remarkable heroism.

DHINGRA: Somebody from the building maintenance, I'm sure they came up and they said, "We have to evacuate, we have to evacuate." And I'm thinking, how am I going to get down? You know, all my arms are burned, my back is burned, face. And some of my friends, they're like, Manu, you have to get out, you have to get out. You know, there's nobody here. You have to get out. So I just -- I don't know how. I just jumped up and just started running down the stairs, and people were very nice. They saw that I was burned, and they let me go in front of them.

GUPTA: Now, they consider themselves lucky and grateful.

MUNATANO: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know, there was just international faces around me. They come to me, they don't even know me.

DHINGRA: I'm just fortunate to be here right now.

GUPTA: But that luck comes at a price.

YOUNG: I am very, very, very lucky, but any of my friends up on the 78th floor they either got crushed or on the way down to the stairs, they never made it.

GUPTA: Ling Young lost all of her co-workers that day, except for one -- her best friend. Together they escaped, though they encountered separate fires along the way and made it to ground just in time. YOUNG: She said, I can't breath, I've got to get the hell out of here. And there's another one, we've got to wait for one more. And she said, if you don't let me get out of here, I'm not going to be able to make it. Finally, you know, I said okay. Let's go. After we turned around the corner, the whole building collapsed on us.

GUPTA: Surviving the attack took minutes, but surviving their burns may take months, but their traumatic memories will last a lifetime.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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