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Plane Crashes in Queens Neighborhood

Aired November 12, 2001 - 10:00   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Paula, thank you.

More information on the Airbus 300. Basically designed for medium-range routes. First flown in 1972 and if anyone has followed aviation history in the engineering and manufacturing, you know that this is built through a consortium of companies, mostly in Europe. The A-300 wide-body plane, much like the 767 that we were talking about 30 minutes ago. Seats 330 people, in most of the configurations right now for the A-300.

As we watch this scene, Paula, want to go back to the telephone and talk with Phyllis this morning. Phyllis, can you hear me?

All right, Phyllis, if you could, please, speak up just a little louder.

PHYLLIS PAUL, EYEWITNESS : Yes, hi.

HEMMER: Good morning to you.

PAUL: Good morning.

HEMMER: You are in Queens?

PAUL: Yes, I live on 131st Street, between Cronstant (ph) Avenue and Newport Avenue and I was sitting having breakfast and I heard the engine very loud, and it gave me a chill. And I looked out the window, and I saw something fall behind my house. Several blocks away, could see the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I was wondering why I didn't hear a cra -- a loud noise or explosion. And then less than a minute later, I heard the explosion in front of the house.

So I yelled for my son to come down the stairs, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And I just grabbed a coat, we're in our pajamas because the kids are off today. They went out the door. I could see black smoke, the plane was out on the corner, apparently. We -- I couldn't see the plane all I saw was the black smoke and flames were enormous and we got -- I got in the car and left.

HEMMER: Phyllis, when it comes to an investigation of an airline crash, many times the investigators will go straight to people like you. Based on what you saw and what you heard, recap for us though, first the engine aspect. You say distinctively you heard the engine? PAUL: Very, very loud, yes. They were loud and low. And, because of what happened September 11, it gave me a chill. And I said, " Oh God, I hate when they fly so low." And it was getting louder and louder, so I looked out the window to see, you know, if I could see where it was. And then I saw big, kind of silvery piece of metal falling from the sky. And behind my house, several blocks away, it wasn't in my backyard, but I could see it come down since the sky is clear. It's beautiful day outside.

And then I yelled to my son, I didn't know if I was going to -- I was waiting to hear an explosion, that's why I thought I had a minute -- let's get out of the house, quick. And -- and then I heard the explosion in front of the house and we just got the keys and a coat. And you could see the black smoke, it was horrifying. I just could not believe this would happen here.

HEMMER: Phyllis, the explosion you are describing to us, was that upon impact, do you believe, or was there an explosion before the plane hit the ground?

PAUL: I didn't hear an explosion. I'm sorry. I have so many phones ringing at the same time.

HEMMER: Not a problem, take your time.

PAUL: I didn't hear an explosion at first, when I saw the metal falling. It was just less than a minute later, I heard an explosion, a big bang, boom. In front of the house.

HEMMER: Phyllis, hang with me for just a second here. Getting new information from the Port Authority.

That Airbus 300 apparently had 246 passengers on board. And also nine crew members. Again, an American Airlines flight, 587, bound from JFK in New York for Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. That is what we are seeing right now in the Borough of Queens.

Phyllis, from your vantage point right now, what are you seeing?

PAUL: Well, I had to leave. I got in the car and left. I'm no longer in Bell Harbor. When I came over the bridge, the bridge was still open. I believe they've closed the Reed Parkway Bridge after that. And I'm in my parents home, because I was in fear for my life and my son's life.

HEMMER: All right.

PAUL: People were screaming, running out of their houses. Cars were going all which ways. There was panic, just panic.

HEMMER: Stay strong. Okay, Phyllis Paul, an eyewitness there in New York City.

Momentarily, we're going to show what we're seeing by way of the Internet. The airline traffic in the northeastern part of the country is quite revealing, how a number of planes have been rerouted and basically thrown into reverse at this point, told to go into a different direction, again, with the three major airports, JFK, LaGuardia and Newark in the New York City area now being closed.

For more, back to New York and Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Bill, as you were speaking, CNN now has been able to -- to narrow the distance from the crash site to JFK. CNN is reporting now that it's, in fact, five miles from JFK.

Bill, I'm going to repeat some of what you just said that's coming to us from the Port Authority. Because it's the freshest information we have. They are now confirming that there were 246 passengers on board, in addition to a nine-member crew. This was an American Airlines Airbus A-300 that crashed into the Borough of Queens here in New York City. JFK International Airport, of course, was its destination point.

The plane was headed from, like I said, Santo Domingo to -- from New York to the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We can also confirm that the New York Fire Department has dispatched some 44 fire trucks and 200 firefighters to the scene.

I want to go to Bob Franken now, who joins us from the Pentagon, to. clear up some confusion here. One advisory, Bob, said the FAA was ruling out terrorism. I'm reading here another advisory that says -- quote -- "asked if terrorism was suspected, FAA Spokesman Bill Schuman said all options are open at this time. We have very little information."

Bob, what are you hearing?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Pentagon, Paula, has been unable to really clear that up, but here's what they have been able to say thus far.

Defense officials say that while combat jets were flying over the New York skies as part of the routine, that has become routine, ever since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, there were no reports of irregularities preceding the crash. No distress calls, nothing like that. Now, Paula, this is preliminary information. There are probably some discussions here at the Pentagon concerning security, but we have had no indications that they have ramped up security, that we've been able to see, to protect the Pentagon, which, of course, was also the target of one of those attacks on September 11th.

As far as the combat operationss are concerned, as we know, jets have been flying over New York City routinely. They were flying routinely. They had in no way tried to in fact move in on that particular area, according the airstrikes. Again, it's important to point out, there have been no indications, at least in the investigation the Pentagon has done thus far, that there were any reports of irregularities, no distress calls, anything like that. Paula?

ZAHN: Bob, do we have any idea how often these surveillance flights are flown?

FRANKEN: We don't. They keep that type of thing quite secret. You've heard them answer a million times about not discussing operational details. But we do know there's a fairly significant presence now of armed forces jets that fly over New York and Washington. The scream of those jets has become fairly routine, regrettably, since September 11.

ZAHN: And Bob, while you continue to stand by, I was going to quickly remind everybody that's watching us that all the area airports are closed and flights rerouted that were heading to either JFK International, LaGuardia or Newark International. In addition to that, Bob, all the bridges and tunnels coming into New York City have been closed. Is there anything we should be reading into that?

FRANKEN: Well, this is obviously everybody is expecting or preparing for the worst. Even though at this particular point, we have received no indications that there is anything that is connected to the September 11 attacks. But the nation, of course, is intensely sensitive to that type of thing right now. So all of these are the type of reaction you might expect, at least, until people are able to figure out, if in fact, this was anything besides a terrible accident.

ZAHN: Bob, once again, the FAA Spokesman Bill Schuman saying all options are open at this time. He has very little information. But I think we probably do need to point out that this crash happened exactly two months and one day after the September 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center.

Bob, if you would stand by, I going to quickly check in with Jason Carroll, who now has made his way into the perimeter area surrounding the crash site with a great deal of effort. Jason, where -- what you can see from where you're standing.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, I'm standing on Newport Avenue at about 129th Street. There are numerous emergency vehicles out here. What I can see from my vantage point is a lot of black, grayish smoke. It appears to be coming from either an apartment building or a residential home. I'm being moved around -- moved on the side here. From either an apartment building or residential home here on the ground.

Right now, we've got the New York City Fire Department, the police department, out here trying to move everyone back, including us. Trying to move us into a position where they say they can get their work done. So we're going to move over on the side here just a bit. We have a lot of people standing here, out on the sidewalk, faces covered with napkins and -- handkerchiefs, because the smoke is so heavy from where we are standing, and the smell is so heavy.

At this point, everyone is looking for information. Based on what we know, this has been a -- an American Airlines Airbus A-300, it was leaving from JFK for the Dominican Republic, at about 9:15. Some witnesses on the ground are telling us that, as the plane was heading in, it appeared as if there was some sort of fire or explosion on the right side of the aircraft, and then all of a sudden the plane went down.

According to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, there are two crash sites. One where the engine hit the ground, the other where the plane hit the ground. Now, from our vantage point, it is hard it tell, because of where we are standing, if we are looking at where the engine came down or where the plane came -- came down.

At this point, the cause of the crash is unknown, and what we are doing is waiting here. Try get information from either someone from the New York City Fire Department or the police department, but at this point, what we are relying on is information from eyewitnesses. Paula?

ZAHN: So, Jason, I think what you're saying helps us better understand why there's been such a variance in the crash site. Because we've heard reports that it spreads anywhere from 117th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard up to 129th Street. So, once again, let's repeat what you just said Jason, because this is brand new...

CARROLL: Right, I'm...

ZAHN: ...that eyewitnesses have reported seeing an explosion on the right side of the aircraft. The mayor confirming now, that there are actually two crash sites, one where the engine hit and one where the plane actually hit the ground.

CARROLL: That's according to Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Once again, to let you know where I am. I'm in the far west -- far Rockaway sections of Queens. I'm on Newport Avenue about 128th, 129th Street from -- as best we can tell, the -- the fire is probably about two more blocks or -- from where we are. There is an eyewitness who's just walked up to me, she -- she's in tears right now. Perhaps I can get a little bit more information from her if you just can hold for just one quick second.

Can you tell me what you saw? Very quickly, I know -- I know this has been very tough for you. What did you see?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I...

CARROLL: Let me -- I'm going to put her on the phone with you, Paula, if you can just hold for one moment.

ZAHN: Certainly.

CARROLL: This is Paula Zahn. If you can you just tell her what you saw. Are you okay?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I'm okay...

CARROLL: Okay, just one moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello??

ZAHN: Hi, yes. What -- I know this is very tough for you. Please describe to us what you saw.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in my kitchen making an egg and I saw the plane hit the house right behind my house. Actually it was really, a huge loud sound, and it seemed so low. So I was like ducking almost. And then it blew up into a huge fireball. And I jumped off the second floor to my house. It was horrible.

ZAHN: You are so lucky. How far did you have to run to get away from the fireball?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we ran right across the street first, we just were in shock, everybody. And then we had to evacuate. Like ten streets away. It's -- it's unbelievable. It is horrible.

ZAHN: I know it was so shocking to hear what you heard. Did you -- besides the deafening loud sound of the explosion, did you hear anything before that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just heard -- it sounded like two planes, but I guess it was just one. And it was really, -- we thought it was like the Concorde. You know, and it was flying too low or something. And then it just hit, it was like a bomb exploding.

ZAHN: And, and I know that Jason, who you just met, was describing that some witnesses actually saw an explosion on the right side of the aircraft before the plane went down. So they clearly heard two separate explosions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah...

ZAHN: Can you sort that out, right now? Because I know, I know it's got to be a complete blur to you at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the plane -- I think it just hit exactly the house behind me. It must have exploded into pieces. And you know, and they just fell in different areas of the neighborhood.

ZAHN: You said you jumped out of the -- the second floor window of your home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I went over the deck in my front of my house because the back was so hot -- with fire.

ZAHN: Did you get injured?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I -- I mean, my back hurts and my, my rear hurts, but I can't think about that right now.

ZAHN: Describe to us what's going on in the neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uncontrolled...

ZAHN: Were people fleeing...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Utter terror here. Everybody is so distraught and upset. And in shock, pretty much. It's just hard to believe. It's just, I -- you know, you never think it's going to hit this close to home, but obviously it does.

ZAHN: Some -- some kids are out of school today for post Veteran's Day remembrances. Are you seeing many kids out on the street or actually were home, who unfortunately have to deal with the trauma of seeing this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of the children aren't in the street. It's mostly adults that I see here. I think all of the children are safe at home.

ZAHN: Well, you are very lucky. And I know...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very, very lucky, yes. Thank you.

ZAHN: ...how tough this is to talk. Thank you very much for helping us better understand what went on down here at that crash site.

Before I hand it back to my colleague, Bill Hemmer, once again for those of you who are just joining us, I want to bring you quickly up to date with what we know at this hour, which is not a whole lot.

The American Airlines passenger jet ban -- bound for Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic, crashed at about 9:17 this morning. These are some of the first ground shots we have seen of the crash site. There has been a tremendous amount of confusion exactly what has gone down at this crash site.

Jason Carroll illuminating us, explaining that Mayor Giuliani is confirming that one engine hit the ground, and that represents one crash site. And then there's another crash site representing where the plane actually hit the ground. Eyewitnesses telling Jason Carroll that they actually saw an explosion on the right side of this aircraft, which was an A-300 Airbus, which a plane -- is a plane that can carry as many as 275 passengers. The Port Authority of New York confirming that there were 246 passengers on board, nine crew members.

You continue to see the smoke billow from the neighborhood surrounding the crash site. We don't have a lot of solid information on how many homes might be involved. WCBS, who is one of our affiliates, reports that at least four buildings are involved. Meanwhile, the city of New York has declared a Level 1 Alert. That means as many emergency personnel that can get themselves to the area are being asked to do so. The Fire Department of New York has dispatched 44 fire trucks, 200 firefighters to the scene.

Bob Franken reporting that the Pentagon had surveillance flights going on in the area. Nothing unusual was spotted. He said that the Pentagon told him that there were no reports of any irregularities before this Airbus A-300 went down, no distress calls.

But, Bill, I think it might be important to point out, once again, we are talking about a crystal clear day here in New York City. So, one just using good common sense could rule out weather as any sort of factor in this crash. The FAA, in one advisory, saying they -- they ruled out terrorism. But in the most recent one saying, that they just have too little to go on to figure out what the cause of this crash was -- Bill.

HEMMER: And yesterday, Paula, we recognized the veterans in this country. Today, a carry-over holiday of Veteran's Day this year, and certainly it was a holiday that drew special significance, given the military activity overseas.

You mentioned a few things with Bob Franken and also Jason Carroll and the eyewitnesses we've been talking to. I want to show you, by way of the Internet right now -- this is flighttracker.com. Our viewers may be familiar with this service, going back to the events of 9/11, when we tracked a number of airlines and the activity in the air after the World Trade Center site was hit.

We can show you a few things -- quite revealing. This is American Airlines Flight 587 -- up here -- from JFK bound for Santo Domingo. At the bottom, the arrival time was expected at 12:32 Eastern Standard time. The departure time, 9:15 a.m., last reported at 9:16 a.m., just a minute prior to that. Clearly what that tell us and shows us is that there was a problem on board this aircraft right after take-off.

In the skies, at this point, Paula, this may be clear to some and a bit more difficult to figure out for others. But what we can tell you and show you, is that the airplanes that we're seeing and the aircraft have now basically reversed direction and gone out in a number of different areas as the air space over New York, and specifically, if we can call it up right here. We'll bring that up in a moment here. But over the airport of JFK, that area has been quite cleared out.

As we look at the live picture here, this is in the area of Queens. Clearly, a U.S. fighter jet is patrolling that area. But again, as the Pentagon and Bob Franken pointing out, there were surveillance planes in the area at the time, but they picked up no word and no indication as to whether or not there is any reason to believe, at that point, that there might have been problems in the area. And quickly, if I could go -- just back at the computer quickly right now -- this is the area of JFK and clearly the planes and the aircraft have cleared out.

Jason Carroll, back on the streets by telephone, now joining us. Jason, what more do you have?

CARROLL: Bill, I have moved locations here. I've walked over just about a block from where I was originally. And as we looked up, we noticed that there are several fighter jets in the area patrolling the area. Perhaps this is some of which you are talking about, perhaps doing it as some sort of a precautionary measure.

One of the witnesses telling me now that we were unsure, from our vantage point, if the buildings that were on fire were apartment buildings. I am being told now that they are homes, several homes in the area. Also, Mayor Giuliani saying that according to his information at this point, and realize when something like this happens, sometimes these numbers tend to fluctuate. But he was saying that at least 12 buildings on the ground were affected. He did not indicate if the buildings were homes, if they were apartments, if they were businesses. But we can tell you, at least in this neighborhood, the buildings that seem to be affected are residential homes -- Bill:

HEMMER: Jason, we are seeing a live picture with smoke billowing in the air. It appears to be mostly lighter smoke, there are some shades of darker. But how close are you to what we are seeing right now?

CARROLL: I'm just about two blocks from where this accident has happened, just about two blocks. From our vantage point, the smoke is very acrid. It is a light-grayish type of smoke. But it changes at some points.

You know, when we first got here, it appeared as if the smoke was much darker. Now it appears much lighter. But once again, the information that I wanted to make sure that we got out is the fact that I am being told that the buildings that are being affected, at least here in this neighborhood of Rockaway, Queens, they are homes, several homes.

Once again, the mayor is saying that, according to his information at this point, at least 12 buildings on the ground have been affected.

HEMMER: Jason, are people being moved out of that area? Are you able to penetrate quite easily?

CARROLL: Yes.

What they've done is -- fire department, police department have come in. They've quarantined off several blocks. They are trying to keep people out. They are trying to keep people out of the area. We are being pushed back. And I'm sure that we will be pushed back even more as more fire and police crews arrive on the scene.

But once again, as I'm standing here, I'm looking at some of the people who live in the neighborhood, trying to get back. Obviously, some had left for work. Now some are trying to come home. They're trying to find their loved ones, trying to figure out -- trying to get information, Bill, as we all are, about what is happening just two blocks from where I'm standing.

HEMMER: All right, Jason, stand by one moment. Paula has a question as well -- Paula.

ZAHN: Yes, Jason, I know you described earlier that one eyewitness told you that he actually saw what appeared to be some sort of explosion coming from the right side of the aircraft. Has anybody else reported seeing that same thing to you?

CARROLL: No one else. And once again, he wasn't sure if it was an explosion or some sort of a fire coming from the right side of the aircraft. That is according to this one eyewitness.

I want to make sure that we make that clear, just because, you know, when something like this happens, maybe it's the right side, maybe it's the left side. But, according to him, it was the right side of the plane. It appeared to be either an explosion or a fire on the right side, I believe he said near the engine. And then he said, all of a sudden, that the plane just simply went down.

ZAHN: Jason, as you speak, we have just heard an F-15 overhead, which I guess is the continuation of the surveillance flight that you reported just about a minute and a half ago, explains the speeds over which they can fly here.

Jason, if you would stand by. I want to get David Saliro on the telephone, a man who also witnessed this crash. David, can you hear me?

DAVID SALIRO, EYEWITNESS: Hello?

ZAHN: Hello, David. Can you describe to us where you are and what you have seen so far?

SALIRO: We were getting on the on-ramp on Cross Bay Bridge. And we saw, we looked up, we saw the plane -- fire coming from the left- hand side. It could have been an explosion or it could have been that the engine was on fire. We're not exactly sure.

ZAHN: Now, are you convinced it was the left side because another eyewitness just told Jason Carroll he believed he saw a fire or some kind of explosion coming from the right side of the aircraft.

SALIRO: No, it was definitely the left side because we were exactly getting on to the bridge, on Cross Bay Bridge, which is maybe not even five miles from JFK Airport and it flew right over us. And then what happened is we had started to veer to the left and then it veered back right. And we could actually see that the plane went on fire on the left-hand side.

ZAHN: David, as we have been reporting all morning, that the plane was taking off from JFK. How low was it at the point where you saw it?

SALIRO: Very low. I was actually scared that it was going to veer, you know, towards us and maybe hit us. We stopped dead in our tracks. And I was actually in the car with my brother and we were both shaking. We didn't know what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we actually reversed off -- tried to get off the bridge, get off the exit before, you know -- we reversed to get away...

SALIRO: ... before the plane came towards us. But, it was very low, we seen something fly off the plane. It could have been an explosion. It could have been the engine on fire, but it was definitely on fire. It was in flames when it was heading down. ZAHN: So, David, did you actually -- obviously you couldn't see the plane when it went down. When you saw something break off or you said something flew off the airplane, there -- Mayor Giuliani now is confirming that there are two crash sites because an engine apparently broke off. It hit the ground in one area and then the rest of the plane hit the ground in other area. Is that possibly what you saw?

SALIRO: It could possibly be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire that we saw could have been the motor that came off because the wing was definitely on fire on the left side, definitely.

ZAHN: Did you hear an explosion, David, before you saw the plane going down?

SALIRO: No, we didn't hear any explosion. But, there was definitely fire and there was definitely debris coming off the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he was coming at a flat trajectory, straight down flat. He wasn't pointed down or anything, just coming straight down, like out of control.

ZAHN: And to put this into context, how far away would you say you were from where the plane eventually went down?

SALIRO: We were exactly maybe less than five miles from it. We were on Beach 102nd Street and it probably hit 117th -- so about 20 blocks from where the plane actually went down.

ZAHN: I know you just described to us how terrifying it was and how you wanted to get off that exit. Thank you for sharing a little bit of what you saw with us this morning. Good luck, David, thank you.

SALIRO: Thank you.

ZAHN: Right now, I am going to check in with Peter Viles, one of our correspondents who is on location, I am told, not far from where the engine came down. Peter, describe to you us where you are and what you see from your vantage point.

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, we are on 128th street, 128, which is several blocks from the larger fire. And what is believed to have happened here is one of the engines or a portion of one of the engines literally fell in the backyard of a house here. It fell into a boat that was parked in the driveway. About two dozen firefighters on the scene -- now they appear to have this under control. We are told the family got out of the house.

I want to put on, if I can, one of the volunteer firefighters who is here fighting this fire. Hold one second, Paula, please, I'm going to put on the firefighter.

ZAHN: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: Hello.

ZAHN: Hello, sir, thank you for being with us. Can you describe to us...

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: No problem. I can only give you a couple of minutes.

ZAHN: OK, just tell us what you are doing right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: Basically, as we responded over, we came across a house fire. Basically, a plane engine fell from the sky on fire, crashed into this house, ignited a three-story Queen Anne style house on fire, also the garage, a vehicle in the garage and a boat.

At this time, you know, we pretty much knocked the fire down. We still have a lot of aircraft fuel burning from the boat and the garage. Luckily, there was nobody inside the house. And we basically assisted the city units that were here that were, you know, stretched to their, you know, abilities all the fires all over the place.

We're from the Broad Channel vollies. We assisted the city units and there were also volunteer units from Rockaway Point that assisted here. But we seem to have...

ZAHN: Sir, you...

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: Go ahead.

ZAHN: Oh, sorry, you said that fuel is still burning. Do you believe that the fire is just contained in the area where you are or are they...

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: No, this is the -- I'm probably at the smallest fire, if you want it call it the smallest fire. There are fires burning all over the Rockaway Peninsula.

ZAHN: Okay, let's quickly break away to the mayor and what he knows at this hour.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: ... the airplanes that are up there. The airports have been closed for a while. And I talked to the governor, and just as a precaution, we're going to close the bridges and tunnels for an hour or two and see if this is an isolated incident, which is what we hope it is. And now we should really focus all our efforts on trying to see if we can find survivors.

The rest of the city is on high alert. The police are protecting lots of other areas. So, at this point, we have no reason to believe that it will be anything else but this. But, at the same time, we're sensible and we understand what happened before. So for a while the city is going to be on an even higher state of security.

QUESTION: What's the first thing that went through your mind when you heard?

GIULIANI: Oh my God. The first thing that went through my mind is "oh my God." And I just passed a church in which I've been to, I think, 10 funerals here. Rockaway was particularly hard hit. The disproportionate number of the people we lost, not just the police and fire, but even the workers at the World Trade Center, were from Rockaway and Staten Island. And I've been here probably 20 times for funerals and wakes.

And so the idea that Rockaway was the victim of this -- I mean, any place it happened, obviously, is awful -- but it had a special significance to it. But we'll do everything we can to help these people, everything. And the president is on top of it. They're alert. They are watching everything else all over the country. So I think people should remain absolutely calm. This can be handled and we're just being tested one more time and we're going to pass this test too.

QUESTION: Are they -- the firefighters, they must be so keyed to...

GIULIANI: Firefighters do this -- the firefighters and police officers in New York City do this better than anybody else in the whole world, and we couldn't be in better hands.

Thank you.

ZAHN: All right, you just heard Mayor Giuliani describing what he knows at this hour, making the poignant point that many of the firefighters lost on September 11 actually were from the Rockaway area where the jet engine has gone down into a boat, we are told, that was sitting not far from a three-story home.

The most recent fire official we spoke with said that he believes, at least, that part of the fire is contained where the engine broke off. As I speak, I continue to hear an F-15 fly overhead. Those surveillance flights continue at this hour. The Pentagon telling us that these are routine combat jets flying. No reports of any irregularities issued before this plane went down.

Jamaica Hospital, which is the area closest to the crash site, is waiting for the injured. The mayor's office confirming so far, we believe, that 12 buildings on the ground have been affected. No one has been able to sort through whether these are homes or apartment buildings or businesses. But as you see from these pictures, you are really looking at the heart of a residential area.

And Queens Boulevard, as we mentioned, which is one of the access points -- excuse me, 122nd Street -- one of the access points here that we are talking about at the crash site is an area where people shop a great deal.

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