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America's New War: New York Rescue Operation Still Underway

Aired September 21, 2001 - 06:15   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.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We all know at this point what a tough job it is for the rescue and recovery teams out at the World Trade Center site. They're still trying to find any possibility of people being alive in this mess.

CNN's Brian Palmer is down there. And, Brian, I know these people are dealing with a lot of tough circumstances and they're getting a little moral support now.

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can -- we can just make out in the background, Carol, the strains of patriotic music from John Philip Sousa to Whitney Houston's rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner," but the rescue -- the rescue and recovery operation does continue around the clock.

The weather really, really making a mess of things, muddying up the site, making it kind of slippery, but what some of the workers have told us is at least it keeps the dust down. Some people have been pulling off their respirators.

But what we've also been told is that there's not -- there hasn't been a lot of that hands and knees kind of searching in the past few hours. They've moved in some of the steelworkers and ironworkers who are cutting the I-beams with torches and then they're moving those huge, huge hunks of steel out on the backs of trucks.

Now the last survivor was pulled out of that rubble on September 12. That's about 10 days ago. The numbers -- the same grim numbers have stayed the same, 241 bodies recovered out of 6,033 people reported missing. That number has actually been revised upward. It was previously around 5,400 but there were reports that some foreign nationals were missing that had not been accounted for. Carol.

LIN: And help us with what the objective is here now. They haven't officially said that this is no longer a rescue operation so what really is the goal at this point?

PALMER: Well, we haven't heard that the search and rescue phase is over yet. We have heard from some of -- some of the rescuers and from some of the steelworkers that the focus is more on rescue -- excuse me, more on recovery -- more on the sort of removal of those larger bits, but we still haven't heard word that the search part is over. LIN: Yes, I'm just wondering if what they're really trying to do is to find enough evidence at the site so that they can positively identify victims from what is left of their DNA so at least these families can have peace of mind?

PALMER: Carol, that seems to be precisely their goal at this point, recovering whatever remains that they can so that they can identify bodies, but that is obviously a terribly, terribly difficult task. If you've noticed, the numbers of recovered bodies really -- that number has not increased substantially in the past few days. It went up from 233 to 241 in the past 48 hours, that's 8 people. It's really, really, really not a huge number.

LIN: Right, yes, and it's only human that these families just want some sort of confirmation about the missing.

Thanks so much, Brian Palmer, on the scene where the World Trade Center once stood

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