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Rudolph Giuliani News Conference

Aired November 12, 2001 - 15:24   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: The mayor, along with the governor -- we see others there -- has just stepped to the microphones at the Ramada. So here's an afternoon briefing.


GIULIANI: ... our grief to all of the people that are involved in having lost their lives on this flight. The people on the flight, the crew, we have -- so far we have six people that are reported missing in Rockaway, to their families, and tell them we will do everything that we can to try to help them, try to assist them, and try to get through this as best we can -- Governor.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: This is a horrible tragedy for the families involved, the 255 people on the plane and those on the ground affected. Our hearts go out to them. A number of the families have already arrived here, where the grief counseling is in place.

Tragically, we've had experiences before in dealing with this, but it allows us to show the maximum level of compassion and support to those families. And we will continue to do that.

We are going to, as of tomorrow morning, be moving the family center from here to the Javits Center in Manhattan, so that families who are not arriving here this evening should look to go to the Javits Center tomorrow morning. We will continue to do everything we can, the city and the state working together, and work with the federal officials to support their efforts to investigate and come to a conclusion as quickly as possible.

Thank you.

GIULIANI: We have so far recovered 132 bodies. And as the governor said, there were 255 people and crew members that were listed on the manifest. And I want to again express my sympathy and condolences to everyone involved.

And I also would like to congratulate the fire department and the police department, and the Port Authority police department, all of whom have gone through a terrible, traumatic experience over the last two months, yet they responded in unbelievably quick period of time. The fire was raging when I first got there, and it was out in unbelievably short period of time. And I would have to say that, but for their very, very quick response, our casualties today would be far worse. So once again, we are in the debt of our fire fighters, our New York City police officers, and our Port Authority police officers, who did an absolutely magnificent job, and God bless them.

QUESTION: What can you say about the investigation at this point?

GIULIANI: The investigation is being handled by the NTSB. There is no definitive conclusion; there won't be for some time. But at this point, that's the way the federal government is doing it, and there's no evidence that would allow you to draw any definitive conclusion right now.

The plane split in a number of parts. Some in Jamaica Bay. The major portion of the plane, right in the middle of Rockaway, where 12 homes were hit, four destroyed, four seriously damaged. And then there was a major portion of an engine in a gas station, and then a smaller portion of an engine about four blocks away. And although there are some conflict in the witness reports, most of the witnesses seem to report seeing the plane separate and not seeing or hearing an explosion beforehand. There are a few contrary reports, but most of the witnesses seem to report that the plane split apart and then hit the ground at various places.

PATAKI: We have been advised that they believe, as part of the investigation, that the pilot did dump fuel over Jamaica Bay before the crash, which is consistent with the pilot having some belief that there was a significant mechanical failure on the plane.

But the investigation, obviously, is ongoing, and there is no conclusion that has been reached or that we expect will be reached in some time.

The flight data recorder has been recovered and, I believe, is in the possession of the NTSB, and I'm sure they'll be trying to get the information from that as quickly as possible.


GIULIANI: I don't know the answer to that at this point.

There are six people that are reported missing right now in Rockaway, and there are 161 bodies that have now been recovered.



QUESTION: Can you talk about that?

GIULIANI: No, I don't like to do that. This is a very private and personal thing to these families. We are trying to organize this in the most sensitive and the best way possible.

I don't like describing how families react to this. I think family members, as is appropriate and as they deem appropriate, will describe it to you themselves. It's not for me to describe it. QUESTION: Mayor, can you describe how you reacted?

QUESTION: Are there children among the six people that are reported missing?

GIULIANI: I don't have a description of the six people that are reported missing. I'll get that for you.


They're adults. I'm told they're adults.


GIULIANI: I think it's at least 60 families had registered as of about an hour ago, so it's probably higher than that now.


GIULIANI: There was a delay before it took off, but from what I was told before, the delay was a routine delay, just given the nature of all of the things that we check out nowadays.

No, I don't believe there was. But I don't know. Again, all of this information is very, very sketchy. And I've been given three different reports about that. But that's the final -- the last one.


GIULIANI: I don't know. I don't know when the plane was last inspected.

QUESTION: Could you describe the scene of the crash site, please, when you got there?

GIULIANI: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Describe the scene of the crash site when you got there.

GIULIANI: When I first got there, there was a tremendous amount of smoke and a tremendous amount of fire. And there was a cloud of smoke around the site.

But then, very, very quickly, the fire department -- the fire department had been there for some time, and they got the fire under control in a remarkably short period of time. It amazed me how quickly they were able to get the fire under control.

QUESTION: How many firefighters? How many units?

GIULIANI: Tommy, do you want to explain?

THOMAS VON ESSEN, NEW YORK FIRE COMMISSIONER: We actually had several different fires. We had a fifth alarm and a third alarm, so probably 150 people working at one; maybe 100 people working at another. So we were all over the place and they were going through all the backyards in a 10-block area looking for people who might have been injured or parts from the airplane.

QUESTION: Is that 150 and 130 you said?

VON ESSEN: Yes, 150, probably closer to 200, and maybe about 100 at the other fire.

QUESTION: And did you have to bring in departments from Nassau County (OFF-MIKE)

VON ESSEN: No, no.

QUESTION: The fact that the pilot may have dumped the fuel how could that explain the situation on the ground?

GIULIANI: I think he dumped the fuel in the bay -- in Jamaica Bay.

QUESTION: If he hadn't dumped the fuel, how much more would it have been?

GIULIANI: This is a very difficult thing to say because the consequences so far are catastrophic. The number of people lost in this crash appears like it's going to be even more than TWA Flight 800, so I don't mean in any way to minimize this. But it could have been far worse. There are any number of ways in which this could have been far worse, even the way in which the (inaudible) landed in one defined area.

When it was originally described to us and we were rushing out there, the police commissioner and I thought it would have been far worse than this. When we went up in the helicopter and saw it, it was amazing how the plane just landed in one small defined area, as opposed to hitting a number of homes. I don't know what happened, but it could have been far worse.

PATAKI: At the site, literally within five or 10 yards of where it appears the plane had its greatest impact, the telephone lines are still intact, so that it's clear that the plane did come down very much in a straight level, which was horrible for that particular site, but minimized what could have happened had the plane glided across the Rockaways.


GIULIANI: One hundred and sixty-one that have been recovered. There's no way of knowing that at this point.

QUESTION: Do we know how many people on the ground may have...

GIULIANI: We have six reported missing right now. Other than the 255 that were part of the plane, there were six additional people reported missing. And we've recovered 161 bodies.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) GIULIANI: It's impossible to determine that. I'm sure, though, a very, large percentage of them live in New York City and in the New York area.


GIULIANI: We don't know what's in the bay, but right now the only thing -- you don't see anything like that in the bay.


GIULIANI: At that point, we had already talked to the White House on two occasions, and the FBI, and the police department, and there was no intelligence suggesting that there was anything beyond this, and that it looked like it was going to be isolated to what happened here. And obviously you don't want to close the city down for any longer than it has to.


PATAKI: Yes, I have talked with President Bush, and Governor Ridge, and other federal officials, and we've got the most recent possible information from them before we made the decisions on the bridges and tunnels, and on the airports as well.


PATAKI: Kennedy will be open for incoming flights. Outgoing flights we're waiting another three or four hours. One of the areas that's being investigated is the fuel, to make sure that there was no contamination in the fuel. We have no reason to believe that, but they have to do a detailed check, and that check takes about six hours, so until that's been completed, outgoing flights from Kennedy are still suspended.

QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, could you describe your meetings with the families that were here, what you said to them?

GIULIANI: No, I'm not going to describe the meetings with the family members. I think that the family members should describe whatever they feel is appropriate about their grief and their sorrow. I don't think it's for me to describe my meetings with them, except to say that our hearts go out to them. We feel terrible for them. We want to do anything we can to help them and assistant them and make this as easy as this horrible and horrific circumstance can be.


GIULIANI: There are a number of mental health experts, there are grief counselors, volunteers from the city, from the state, from the Port Authority, and there will be a number of people from American Airlines that will be involved in this. Some are here already, and some will be arriving later tonight and tomorrow.


GIULIANI: Well, we've setup a temporary shelter for the people in Rockaway and, in fact, I'm going to go back there now.

QUESTION: Do you know how many people are displaced?

GIULIANI: I don't know yet, that's why I'm going to go back. I don't know.

QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, are we still under a high alert?

GIULIANI: The city has been under a high alert since September 11. The city is on the same alert that it was on yesterday, and the day before yesterday.

GIULIANI: It's not on any more of a high alert as a result of this crash.

For a period of time, for a couple of hours, we had closed the bridges and tunnels to incoming traffic. Then when it was determined that that wasn't necessary, we opened it again.

But the city is on high alert, but as a result of all the things you know about coming out of September 11.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) initial impression, do you think it was terrorism?

GIULIANI: Well, you know, you suspend judgment. I didn't think anything about what it was. I just wanted to focus on the circumstance itself. You don't know the answer to that until there's a full and complete investigation.

So you have to presume the worse, and hope for the best. And that's the way we handled it.

QUESTION: Given all that you (OFF-MIKE)

GIULIANI: It's a much bigger toll on the people that have lost lives and -- I think everybody is doing fine. If I could judge the morale of the city from the reaction of the police officers and the firefighters, and the -- the morale of the city is fine. They're just has heroic, just as dedicated, just as brave and just as professional as they've every been, maybe even more so. They were just terrific in the way they handled themselves today.

QUESTION: Governor Pataki, you said that the flight data recorder was recovered. Have they flown that back to Washington, do they intend to, or when?

PATAKI: I don't know. I assume that...


PATAKI: It's en route to Washington now.

QUESTION: Is there any information on how and where it was recovered? GIULIANI: They found it in a couple of hours -- you're absolutely right. They found it right away. They found it a couple of hours ago.

PATAKI: Right in the prime area of the site where the plane came down is where it was found.

QUESTION: Was it a firefighter or police officer who found it?

GIULIANI: We can't say.


GIULIANI: It appears to be in good condition.

QUESTION: Have they found the voice recorder, as well?

GIULIANI: They're not absolutely sure which one it is, but they think it's the instrument recorder. They're pretty sure it's the instrument recorder.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) pilot call the tower with any information about the plane?

GIULIANI: There were no suspicious or calls -- no unusual conversation that we know of. We were told that there was no unusual conversation.

PATAKI: Not that we're aware of.


GIULIANI: Someone saw it. Someone saw it.

STAFF: The Coast Guard.

GIULIANI: The Coast Guard.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) any survivors from the plane?

GIULIANI: I don't believe there is much hope that there are survivors from the plane.

STAFF: Last question, please.


GIULIANI: There is injured people on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very few. A number of civilians, a small number; a small number of firefighters and police officers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just dangerous work: falling, slipping, cutting. There's a lot of sharp material from the fuselage and everything.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) setback in terms of recovery?

GIULIANI: Look, the city has to keep going forward. The people of this city are the bravest, the strongest, the most determined. We're going to keep moving forward. And we're going to help the people who were injured. We're going to help the people that have had losses. And the president, when I spoke to him, said, "New York City is really being tested." And I said, "That's correct, it is. And New York City will pass the test."

PATAKI: One of the ironies of this is this is Veterans' Day and it's a holiday. But one of the things we can do is draw strength from the men and women -- you know, the greatest generation who fought World War II and the young men and women who are overseas now protecting our freedom.

We will get through this. We're a strong state, a strong city, a strong country and a strong people. And while this does test the city and test our resolve, we've always met those tests with flying colors and we're going to do it again this time.

GIULIANI: Thank you very much.

BROWN: New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Governor George Pataki, the police chief and police commissioner and fire commissioner also there.

Just -- reiterate two things: 161 bodies recovered already, that is some very quick work on the scene given how close we are still to the accident itself. Six people on the ground are still reported missing. These are not people who were on the plane. There is obviously considerable concern about how many people in the neighborhood, the Rockaway neighborhood, might have been impacted, either injured or killed in this. That is not precisely clear yet. Thirty others treated for minor injuries.




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