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Crash of Flight 587: Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki Give News Conference

Aired November 13, 2001 - 11:03   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Rudy Giuliani now, the mayor of New York.


MYR. RUDY GIULIANI, NEW YORK CITY: ... the crew members, the families, the people of the Dominican Republic, the Dominican- Americans and Dominicans, people in Washington Heights and all over in the Dominican community that have been so horribly affected by this, to the people of Rockaway who, once again, have to undergo dealing with the trauma of a situation in which so many people are dead, a community that suffered so much because of the World Trade Center. And I want them to know that we're there to support them and to help them and to assist them in every single way that we can; the city is, the state is, the federal government. We're all trying to work together to make this as easy as a difficult situation like this can be.

Right now I'll give you my report. We have been able to find 262 bodies and 180 parts of bodies. We have five people that we now have reported missing in Rockaway, in addition to the 260 people on the airplane. So the count we're working with right now is 265. The five people missing are the official missing persons' reports of the police department.

It was the cockpit voice recorder that was recovered yesterday, not the flight data recorder. That has not been recovered yet and we'll do everything we can to try to find it.

And the family center that's now opened is a center that can help people with identifying their loved ones through DNA testing and other forms of identification. We have been able to recover a lot of the bodies and human remains, so we're hopeful that we'll be able to restore loved ones to their families as quickly as possible. We cannot, in anyway, guarantee that that will be in every case, but we'll strive to do the best that we can.

There's counseling available here, social services. There's assistance in getting visas to and from the Dominican Republic. And there are American Airlines care teams. And the number to call if there is a family that needs this information is 1800-245-0999.

Governor, thank you again. GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, NEW YORK: Thank you, Mayor.

Last night we held a candlelight vigil up in Washington Heights with leaders of the Dominican community and it was very moving and emotional, and there were a number of family members there who had lost loved ones on the American Airlines flight. And I can tell you I was just enormously impressed by the strength of those families and by the strength of the community rallying together to help people in their hour of need, but we can't just rely on the community.

The families of New York deserve the best and that's why the city and state, working together, have, again, transformed a significant part of the Javits Center into a family center so that families can come here and get the support and the counseling and the help and the assistance, whether it's with Social Services or travel arrangements or other needs, to make sure that they are cared for as well and as compassionately as can possibly be.

And I want to thank Jerry McQueen who runs the Javits Center here. Last night the space that they're in was just an empty shell and if you go there this morning, you'll see food and tables and rugs and carpets and rooms, the type of facilities necessary to comfort people in their hour of really desperate need.

And I want to thank Rosemary O'Keefe as well, who has been running the family center on Pier 94 and now has another one to run here at the Javits Center. Your leadership has been just tremendous, Rose, and it's an example of how the city and the state have worked just so well together to put the interests of the families and needs of those families before anything else.

The airports are getting back to normal. Newark and LaGuardia are at normal service. And the Port Authority advises me that as of this morning, Kennedy was operating at 65 to 70 percent of normalcy, but they expect by early afternoon it to be at 100 percent normal operations. People still should call in ahead of time if they have a flight out of Kennedy to make sure that it is operating as scheduled.

One of the emotional things yesterday evening, and there were a lot of them as we were talking with some of the families and trying to comfort them, a sister showed me a picture of her brother, who was from Washington Heights, who was a U.S. Navy sailor, and he had been on the Enterprise serving on active duty on the Enterprise for seven months and had just gotten back to New York, I believe it was two days ago, and was flying down to the Dominican Republic to see his parents and say hello and he was lost on that flight.

This is the type of tragedy that we're dealing with and it's just important that New Yorkers, the city, the state, all of us, the federal officials and American Airlines are and will continue to stand with these families throughout their times of need.

Also, we're in the Javits Center and we thought we had cleared it out and after the attack of September 11, we wouldn't need it for emergency operations again, but we do now need it again. But at the same time there's a hotel and motel convention here. Virtually, the entire Javits Center is filled with people from around the country coming here and enjoying New York and experiencing New York and seeing the greatness and the excitement of this city.

So, yes, we have experienced another tragedy. We will get through this. And the people of America, who are here in New York, again are seeing and appreciating the tremendous spirit, tremendous confidence and tremendous excitement that we have here in New York and will continue to have as we go forward.

Thank you.


GIULIANI: Well, the community of Rockaway and that particular area of Rockaway has been disproportionately affected by the World Trade Center. The church that was two blocks away from where the plane hit has, I think had over 30 funerals. I know I've been at probably 10 funerals, mostly for firefighters, police officers and then some of the people that worked at the World Trade Center. It's a beautiful community, if you know Rockaway. I mean, it's really an absolutely beautiful community. It's a community that feels a great source of strength in their cohesion as a community. It's a community of very, very strong religious faith. They're really wonderful people. So our hearts go out to them.

I remember going to a memorial service about four days after the World Trade Center in which about 4,000 or 5,000 in Rockaway showed up on a baseball field holding candles. So to have them hit again is really very, very difficult.

But the second thing that you have to know about the people of Rockaway, they're also the strongest people that you're ever going to meet because of their strong religious faith. So I expect them to somehow figure out a way to become stronger as a result of this in the way the rest of the city has to.


GIULIANI: People respond very differently to this. Some people respond in a way in which they're very, very upset and they're very emotional and a very, very difficult reaction for them. Some people don't; they don't show their grief. I've found from other experiences like this that there's no one way to characterize the way a human being responds to learning that their mother is dead or their father or their girlfriend or boyfriend or child. One man outside showed me the picture of his 4-year-old child. How do you respond to losing your 4-year-old child?

People are devastated by this and it's our job to try to make whatever we can as easy as possible for them, to remove some of the practical difficulties and then to try to give them help and support not just today, but as the governor indicated when he spoke to them, that we'll be there for them. The service that we put in place and the assistance will be there for them, you know, for as long as they need it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) this is not a terrorist attack?

GIULIANI: I don't think anybody is certain at this point. This is a matter that's under investigation. There will be hypotheses and theories, but I think we have to give it time to be investigated first before anybody can come to a conclusion or anybody can really say anything authoritative about it. Let's give them time to investigate it.

QUESTION: Mayor, right in the middle of a very aggressive tourism campaign that seemed to be going well, whether it's a terrorist act or an accident, it is affecting (OFF-MIKE). What do you anticipate the economic impact, the psychological...

GIULIANI: I anticipate people are going to still come; people are going to come in larger numbers. I think that, yes, there's all the things that you talked about. There's a second thing going on. There's a strong desire in America and in a lot of the rest of the world to show support for New York. I experience it every place that I go. People come up to me from all over America and all over the world and they tell me, "We're in New York because we want to make a point. We're in New York because we want to show support. We're in New York because we want to show that the terrorist can't stop us." And whether this incident turns out to be an accident or somehow connected to something, which we don't know the answer to yet, we can't let it psychologically get connected, and that's really the job for the American people. I mean, all of us. We have to learn psychologically how to deal with things like this in a way that it doesn't affect our ability to enjoy our lives. If we let it affect the ability to enjoy our lives, then they win and we lose and we're not going to let that happen.

I think New York is going to do fine. We're going to get through this. We're going to absorb it. We're going to give tremendous help to the people who need help, show them a great deal of love the way New Yorkers are capable of, but we're going to move on.

QUESTION: Mayor, is the plane going to be searched for the flight data recorder?

GIULIANI: Everything will be searched for it, sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea whether or not there's more of a chance that it might be on land verses being in the bay?


QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, could you speak in a little more detail the kind of support that you'll be offering these families long-term (OFF- MIKE)

GIULIANI: We're going to make sure they are given all the social services that exist at the city, state and federal level.

And then the governor and I have also talked about our jointly organizing a charitable effort for them. I'm sure there will be a lot of people that will want to donate to help them and assist them, and since we want to make sure that it's all channeled in the right way, the governor's office and my office will work today on developing a way in which people can properly make donations to assist them.

But there is a lot of help out there for them; city, state and federal, and part of the reason for this family center, as the family center for the World Trade Center, is to make sure that people understand what's available for them. Nobody involved in this should have the feeling that they are left alone. They're not going to be left alone. There will be a great deal of support for them, and now it's our job to hook them up with that support.

PATAKI: The mayor and I are going to be establishing jointly this charity to try to help the families that have economic need as well. I recall last night meeting a family -- meeting a young husband who had just seen his wife and 2-year-old son, I believe it was, off on the plane to the Dominican Republic where they were flying to so that the grandparents could see their son for the first time. And the husband had worked for two years and saved to be able to purchase those tickets. So it's not just the emotional stress. We're talking about families that are going to need economic assistance and economic help as well.

We saw after the September 11 attack an enormous outpouring of support and love and charity for the families and the victims of that attack, and we're confident that we'll see that same type of support from the community for the families that need our economic help as we go forward as well.

QUESTION: Governor, how long will the Javits Center be opened for these families? And are the families from the Rockaway welcomed to come and...

PATAKI: Yes. The center will be opened as long as is necessary. So far, I think, as of last night 142 families had registered of the more than 260, and this is to provide services to them. And whether they were lost on the plane or on the ground, the services are here and will be available and will continue to be available so long as they're needed.

QUESTION: A follow-up question to what you said before. (OFF- MIKE) tragedy establishes it's a terrorist attack, will the families be able to (OFF-MIKE)

PATAKI: I don't want to speculate as to what the cause might be. The NTSB is conducting its investigation. But we have things like the Crime Victims Assistance Fund which has been enormously helpful in getting emergency grants out to the victims of the World Trade Center attack. That is not available for the families of this because there is no indication at this point that a crime is involved. So that's why we need to look at other means to provide the emergency economic help and we'll be continuing to do that.


PATAKI: Well, it's obviously a very sad setting because the families are coming. Some have not seen the manifest and don't know whether or not their loved one was on the plane. Some have seen it, but refuse to accept the fact that even though their name was on the plane meant that they actually were there. So, on the other hand, you see people with tremendous courage, people who have lost most of their families who are just bearing up with tremendous strength inspiring and helping others. As always, you see the people from the city and from the state; the mental health professionals, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, who are there to provide the comfort and the technical assistance.

It really is amazing how this facility has been transformed literally overnight from last night to this morning into a place that is warm and welcoming despite the fact that there is enormous sadness.

QUESTION: Mayor, can you tell us about the (OFF-MIKE) fire department...

GIULIANI: Sure, I would be happy to talk about that.

Since September 11 there have been questions raised about the morale of the fire department and the police department. And I mean, I've seen them respond to fires and other law enforcement incidents in the same way they did yesterday. So I was never concerned about it.

But if anybody needs any reassurance that the morale of our fire department and our police department is maybe even higher than it was before September 11, they should have watched yesterday's response.

They responded within minutes. They took what could have been a much worse tragedy and -- you know, it's horrible to say this when you have so many people dead, but this tragedy could have even been worse. The plane could have come down differently and the fire might not have been contained as well.

They contained the fire very, very quickly. They got control of the situation. They got control of the other two fires that had broken out. And the response of the fire department and all of the police department and EMS, which was a coordinated joint response, was absolutely superb. And also, the response of the police department to the possibility that this was an attack. They have a whole plan they have to put into place if there's a possible attack and they got that plan in place within two minutes.

QUESTION: You even believe that (OFF-MIKE)

GIULIANI: Yes, this is a great community. I mean, this is a community in which I think everybody is a firefighter or a police officer. I mean, it's really amazing -- or they're related to a firefighter or a police office. I think they all know how to fight fires and arrest criminals. I mean, it's an unbelievable community. It's very, very strong. It's a great community and that's also true of our community in Washington Heights, which has been very affected by this.

We have two beautiful communities in New York City that don't deserve this kind of grief. But the thing about them you have to understand, these are two very strong communities with very strong religious faith.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) to hold back on the tourism campaign?

GIULIANI: No way. We're not going to hold back on anything. People should come to New York. They should enjoy it. This is a great city. This has no reflection on New York at all. This is something -- I don't think it's going to have any impact at all on tourism. It's going to have an impact on our feelings. You know, this is a city that -- I think I've been saying this to people for sometime -- we have to learn how to grieve and how to enjoy ourselves in the same day. Maybe that's a lesson for life, not just for now.

Thank you.

I have one other announcement I have to make and that is that there's a job fair that is taking place at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, November 15. That's to help people that were affected by the September 11 attack. We've had two of these and we were able to find jobs for thousands and thousands of people.

You should understand, we have right now more than enough jobs for people. We've just got to hook them up. I mean, there's plenty of jobs available. And we want to thank American Express, Bloomberg, LP -- that's the business, not the new mayor -- Bloomberg, LP -- but he was very helpful even before he was the new mayor. Mt. Sinai Medical Center, Barnes and Noble, CableVision, all of them have jobs. There are more than 15,000 jobs that are available and it will be at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, November 15.

Thank you.

HEMMER: Final word from the mayor and the governor there in New York. What a way to end his term for Mayor Giuliani. He'll depart his office at the end of this year. But what an amazing two months it has been for him and a test of his leadership. Also the governor George Pataki there in New York as well.

The key question is whether or not it was an accident that forced that plane down or act of terrorism. The mayor saying, give it some time. Nobody knows right now, give them time, "them" meaning investigators; give them time to investigate. He also added, this could have been worse, given the quick reaction from fire people on the ground there who helped extinguish that blaze yesterday. A bit of good news also, 260 people on the plane. We knew that. The number on the ground earlier was said to be nine. Now it has dropped to five. Five people reported missing on the ground there in that neighborhood of Queens.

And speaking of that neighborhood, Jason Carroll back there this morning reporting live again -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Bill.

I can tell you that right now, we're standing about two blocks from where the accident happened. If you look behind me, you can see some of those emergency crews that the mayor was talking about. They are still here, still very much hard at work. Most of the bodies at this point recovered. Much of the focus is on the investigation and cleaning up the neighborhood here. Also you heard the mayor talk about how so many people in this community have already suffered. Some 60 people who lived in this community were killed in the World Trade Center disaster, and now they're having to deal with this.

I can tell you that, when we were out here yesterday, it was a fiery scene. There was smoke just about everywhere that you looked here in this neighborhood. Nearly a dozen homes were damaged here yesterday. Four of them destroyed. And even though it's just been one day after what happened, the magnitude of what happened in this neighborhood is just starting to settle in.


PAMELA SHAPIRO, RESIDENT: They were just traumatized. They absolutely traumatized thought they wouldn't see their home again. They thought they would not see anything in their home again, including our six cats, but you try too tell them that it was an accident and thank God -- they're 99 percent sure that it was an accident, it wasn't an act of terror, and we just hope that we could get home, that the house would be still in one piece.


CARROLL: A lot of parents are going to be having some heart to heart with their children out here. That is for sure. Also want to talk a little bit more, Bill, if I can about what the mayor was saying about this community. A number of police officers and firefighters live in this community. He was saying how strong this community is. We spoke to someone this morning, a Patrick Sullivan. He is an ex- police officer. He has said that he has already lost his son in the World Trade Center disaster, and today he was telling us that he got up and he watched the sunrise, he said that he said, you know, it's another day and we will move on -- Bill.

Jason Carroll on the streets there in Queens the day after.

Jason, thanks to you.




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