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Six Months After 9/11, It's a Changed World

Aired March 11, 2002 - 11:02   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Six months after 9/11, it is a changed world. We are going to devote this hour to memorials and tears for the many people who died that late summer day. We are also going to look at the war on terror, and the U.S. troops who are still trying to strangle Al Qaeda.

We're going to get started at the Pentagon.

That's where we find our national correspondent Bob Franken.

Bob, good morning.


And it is so remarkable to come back exactly six months from that first day and night that we all watched as the Pentagon watched in horror as the Pentagon was burning, as the wall was caved in by American Airlines flight 77, and now looking back, you see a facade that has been put up, a wall that is put up of marble. They are literally ahead of schedule, which is something that is almost unheard of, when it comes to a military project, a construction project, and it is because, according to the construction manager, it is because of the motivation of the workers. They are the ones who have put up the signs that say, "God bless America," and "Let's Roll," the tribute of course to the flight that went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

They are the ones who have been working night and day, not even taking the breaks that they would be allowed to break. They are determined, determined that on September 11th of this year, the anniversary, of course, of the tragedy, that this place, this wing where the plane hit, will be operational, that people will be in their offices by then, doing their job, and of course there will be some inner-offices that are not completed, but that will be the symbolism that they are trying to project, and they've been working hard. The project of course is call "Project Phoenix" for the obvious reason, because it rose from the ashes, and is rising from the ashes, and meanwhile, inside the Pentagon, also remarkable is the fact that immediately, the work of the Pentagon resumed, and we've seen it manifested, of course, in the war effort that has been so tightly controlled inside that building, a building that was in the process of being repaired.

At the same time, the symbolism that is projected here is that the business of the United States was not stopped, and as a matter of fact, the U.S. is defiant in the face of terrorism -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Bob, you hear so much about what happened in New York and you hear about Shanksville, Pennsylvania because of the heroes onboard that flight. It seems sometimes, in all the coverage, that the Pentagon and the 184 people who lost lives there are overlooked. Is there a sense of that in the nation's capitol?

FRANKEN: Sometimes, yes, as a matter of fact, but there's also recognition that the numbers here were less, although people are quick to point out that this lesser number -- quote, unquote -- "is still more than the tragedy that happened in Oklahoma City," but of course the Pentagon story has also been -- the tragedy here is also been overshadowed sometimes by the fact that, as I mentioned, the business of the Pentagon has gone on, and the story quickly switched here to the war effort that very, very quickly resumed. General -- excuse me, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was seen at the moment of tragedy. He came out and was even taped helping some of the victims get out. But immediately, he went inside, of course, again. And he has become such a well-known figure as he's been the civilian leader of war effort going on from this building.

But in answer to your question, again, yes there is feeling sometimes that they've been overshadowed, but also an understanding of why.

KAGAN: And you make a good point. I mean, these day when we talk about going to the Pentagon, we think about the daily briefing, and you're right, that is a credit to how they picked themselves up and kept going, but it's certainly no slight on the 184 people who lost lives and those that were injured in the attacks six months ago.

Bob Franken, thank you so much -- Leon.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, about one hour ago, church bells tolled in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, for the victims of United Airlines flight 93, one of the four airliners hijacked six months ago today.

CNN's David Mattingly is standing by. He's at the crash site just outside Shanksville this morning.

Hello, David.


Ceremonies just about to get under way here in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at the temporary memorial for the victims of United flight 93. Folks here today say they just want to keep it simple. They'll be dedicated a plaque containing the names of all 40 people who were onboard when the plane went down here. The crash site is about a quarter of a mile away from here. You can see it just down there in that fenced-in area down here behind us. We were able to get much closer look at this area earlier, the ground zero of Shanksville, and we were able to get a sense into the challenge it presented to local officials at the scene.


MATTINGLY (on camera): On 9/11, when we first saw this, this was about as close as we could get.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Six months ago, this field was teeming with law enforcement, fire and rescue. Somerset County coroner Wallace Miller was among the first on the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plane came down over the hill right here, about right over that cross, came in like that, just started to turn, started, I guess, to bank to the right, until it got totally inverted, so actually, the right wing hit the ground first.

MATTINGLY: From our distant vantage point on September 11th, all that seemed to remain from United flight 93 was a shallow, charred pit. What we didn't know was, according to county officials at the scene, the cockpit and approximately a third of the airplane bounced off the ground and shattered, pieces scattering through the burning treeline across a 50-acre area. The rest collapsed on top of itself, buried into the burning pit.

WALLACE MILLER, SOMERSET COUNTRY CORONER: I had never actually witnessed an aircraft disaster prior to this. But what I've seen on TV, you see some of the big pieces of fuselage or engine, or something like that, but there was nothing like that. I've been told that it was due to the speed of the aircraft.

MATTINGLY: At an estimated 500 miles per hour on impact, the devastation was complete, compounding the delicate job of recovering remains of the passengers and crew.

MILLER: It was a really a very unusual site. You almost would've thought the passengers had been dropped off somewhere.

MATTINGLY: Partial remains of just 12 people could be identified from fingerprints and dental records. Identifying the rest on board depended on DNA testing on the few remains not incinerated in the crash or contaminated by jet fuel or flame retardant.

MILLER: Even by the standard model of an airplane crash, there was very little, even by those standards.

MATTINGLY: But it was enough to eventually identify everyone onboard. Remains of the passengers and crew began going back to the families shortly before Christmas, Coroner Miller sharing with them one inescapable conclusion.

MILLER: For all intents and purposes, the final resting place of their loved ones was at that particular site where the crash occurred.

MATTINGLY: Today, it's almost impossible to tell there was a crash here, the impact pit filled in, the area covered with topsoil and grass, surrounded by a fence, trees burned by the fireball removed. And the task begun on September 11th still incomplete. MILLER: We're going to go through here one more time here in the spring, and hopefully that'll be -- at some point, we have to say, we did the best we could.


MATTINGLY: Now behind me, just a little bit of crowd and the cameras that are gathering here for today's ceremonies. This spot, the temporary memorial, have truly been remarkable. Hundreds of people come here, Leon, every weekend, to connect with the crew and the passengers who gave their lives here, keeping this plane from reaching its target in Washington D.C.

Back to you.

HARRIS: David, what is the word on whether or not that area will ever be fully accessible. Will that fence ever come down?

MATTINGLY: That is going to be treated as a cemetery, and the public so far has been completely off limits. What may happen in the future is still a little bit up in the air. The family members have been able to get close to it, but as the general public, this is about as close as they're allowed to get.

HARRIS: David Mattingly, just outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Thank you very much. Appreciate that report -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Let's go to New York now, where people paused for a moment of silence at 8:46 this morning, and later again at 17 minutes later, in solemn tribute to the World Trade Center attack, to the victims.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is at the site for us this morning.

Gary, good morning.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, good morning to you.

And you said something interesting a few minutes ago, that it now looks like a construction site. Of course, if you knew nothing about this, you might think ground zero was construction site, but because we all know the context of it, it still takes your breath away when you turn around and see what's down there, where the World Trade Center complex used to stand. Seven buildings. Of course, we all know the first two World Trade Center, tower one and two, two 110- story buildings, the tallest in New York City, the third tallest in the world, but there are also four smaller office buildings and a Marriott Hotel. They are all now gone.

Now why it takes your breath away is because, despite the fact that 83 percent of the rubble has now been removed. There are still more than 2,000 victims whose remains have not been recovered. They certainly are still looking for victims. Just as a matter of fact, just a few days ago, they found more six more bodies, including two New York City police officers. But the fact is, that only 753 of 2,830 people who perished here have had their bodies recovered. We overlook the scene now, and our reminded of one of the things I saw on September 12th, the morning after we got here. There is a big, black building across the way, and you may be able to see the Brooks Brother sign on the bottom of it. I was taken by a medic inside that Brooks Brothers on September 12th, and I asked her why she was taking me inside there. She said because this is what we're using now as the temporary morgue. And it struck me, that just hours before, this was a store where the fashionable New Yorkers were shopping, and now it's where the dead were being brought to eventually be brought back to their relatives.

A short time ago, we talked with former head of the New York FBI office, who is now the current public security director in New York City. His name is James Kallstrom, and we talked to Mr. Kallstrom asked him about the changes over the last six months.


JAMES KALLSTROM, N.Y. PUBLIC SECURITY DIR.: In the last six months now, a lot of planning, a lot of people at every level of the government, I mean, from the little police department of upstate New York to the NYPD to the CIA to the FBI, all working together as a team, so we're a lot better off than we were six months ago.


TUCHMAN: It's still not positively decided what will happen to this site, ultimately or probably a combination of retail and office space and most importantly to many people a memorial.

KAGAN: Somewhere in there we lost Gary's microphone, or most of it. We will get back to him later in the day.

Gary Tuchman reporting to us from ground zero -- Leon.

HARRIS: Three-hundred and forty-three firefighters died on September 11th. Their colleagues at New York firehouses remember their tragic sacrifice every day.

CNN's Michael Okwu is standing by. He's with squad 252 in Brooklyn this morning.

Hello, Michael.

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, good morning to you.

As you can see, life goes on here. In fact, squad 252 just got a call, and they're off to go and try to fight yet another fire.

When you think about September 11th, and you consider New York City's fire department, there are 343 stories. Sadly, some of those stories will never be told. Of course 343 is a number of firefighters who lost lives on that day. And we had the opportunity to tell their story of at least six of them, six men from one squad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): September 11, 2001 it's 9:28 a.m., 37 minutes before the collapse of the World Trade Center South Tower and the last time all of these men would be photographed together alive. All six are about to die saving others.

ROB MCDERMOTT, SQUAD 252: I love being a fireman, but coming into the firehouse is -- it's just not the same. There's always that -- there will always be that emptiness here.

OKWU: They were all brothers in Brooklyn's Squad 252, Pat Lyons, Tarel Coleman, Pete Langone. They called Kevin Fryer (ph) Moe because that's what he called everybody. Thomas Kuveikis, they simply called TK. And then there was the lieutenant, Timothy Higgins.

RICH MYERS, SQUAD 252: I was on the crew for that day and Lieutenant Higgins said we're going in, well all of us would have followed him right in. Wherever he would have went, I would have gone -- no doubt.

OKWU: Squad 252 was among the first units to respond to the attacks on the World Trade Center. An elite company, they are specifically trained to free victims from confined spaces and to save other firefighters -- to be on hand even when a hero needs a hero.

JEFFREY CONVERSE, SQUAD 252: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Pete (ph) looks up and he sees both towers are going. We've got, you know, an immense fire situation in both towers. So you know it's about -- now we've got a long task in front of us.

OKWU: For all the loss, 25,000 people escaped from the Twin Towers. Eyewitnesses tell stories about men from Squad 252 rushing to the North Tower's 10th floor where civilians were trapped in an elevator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant Higgins, as was his personality, introduced himself to the people in the elevator to calm them down -- Lieutenant Higgins, we're here to help you. I'm going to get you out of here, and Lieutenant Higgins and Kevin Fryer (ph) forced the door open to the elevator, got all 12 people out, walked them down to the lobby.

OKWU: Back on ground level, they heard a May Day call from other firefighters on the 50th floor and so they went back up. An internal fire department fire review reportedly reveals that firefighters faced conditions even more dire than previously known. What remains unclear is whether more lives might have been spared had their communication system been working the way it normally would have.

CAPTAIN PETER GORMAN, UNIFORMED FIRE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: There certainly were communications problems on 9/11. The incident commanders in both towers had reported that it was difficult to get a confirmation that their messages were being received on some of the upper floors.

OKWU: The bodies of Timothy Higgins and Kevin Fryer (ph) were found 18 days later. The others are still missing, which is why since 9/11 somebody from Squad 252 is usually here at ground zero. Six months later for all firefighters, it is still a call to arms.

STERLING ALVES, SQUAD 252: It's a very unique situation. We're brought back to the same site, a battle as (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

OKWU: Six months later 200 firefighters are on leave due to respiratory problems. One hundred and three are out due to stress, and still there's guilt about having survived.

How would you characterize what these six months have been like psychologically?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they could do a study on us. And they could -- maybe they should. I can't really characterize it, but psychologically, a study should be done. Why we're able to continue or what makes us go on, I don't know, and I don't think anybody here knows.


OKWU: What they do know is that life since September 11th just has not been the same. Each fire seems a little bit more routine, and yet, very much a remembrance of what happened six months ago -- Leon.

HARRIS: That's totally understandable.

Michael Okwu, thank you very much -- Daryn.

KAGAN: I want to go to the nation's heartland now, the Pierce Manufacturing. It's in Wisconsin, and they build fire trucks and other fire fighting equipment there, and that's where we find our Jeff Flock talking with some of the workers about 9-11.

Jeff, good morning.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, good morning to you.

Perhaps you can see them in process here. This is the world's largest manufacturer of fire trucks, Pierce. It's part of the Osh- Kosh truck corporation. And we're trying to get some sense of heartland. This took place largely in the east, but it's fair to say this attack six months ago struck at the nation's already.

Joe has worked -- how long here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirteen years.

FLOCK: Six months later, how is your life different?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My life hasn't differed much at all. I've seen other people's differ. Personally, as far as I can see and what I talk to people around here wasn't changed that much at all.

FLOCK: Your support on the efforts going on half a world away, U.S. Military. Do you support that? Should it expand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I totally support it. I believe we're doing the right thing. We have to do this, obviously. But I feel we can definitely be more aggressive in what we do, because we are losing people now overseas, and this shouldn't be happening.

FLOCK: Joe, I appreciate your comments. I can tell you, here at Pierce Manufacturing, where they make the fire trucks, they've got one they are working on that is headed to New York to replace one of the many fire trucks that were lost there, and you've got headed all over this. This one looks like Redmond. You feeling a special kinship or perhaps loss based on happened on September 11th, based on what you do hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I very devastated when I heard the news. I was here at work and wasn't able to view anything until able I believe to go home for the day. But being my wife and I were expecting our last child, at the time, it was tough to take.

FLOCK: How is that -- what's the world that you've brought that child into now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's a world that there's hard times, there are sick people, but there are just as many good people also. As we've witnessed, so many volunteers have come forward, volunteers for both the fire department, EMTs, and also for the military. It's just constant.

FLOCK: We appreciate that. Thank you. I want to get one more fellow before we get away here, and it looks like he's right in the middle of his -- this is where the last checks take place before these fire trucks head out -- you are, not only do you work here, but you're a firefighter yourself, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm a volunteer for Greeneville Fire Department.

FLOCK: How has it changed the way you approach disaster when you go out to face it in the field, knowing what perhaps awaits you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's changed the way we respond to calls now, awareness. It's just made us more aware of a lot of things.

FLOCK: How do you feel about the way the U.S. has responded?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel President Bush has done a good job in retaliating. I wish they could have done something sooner, because this has been known about these people, and they know who they were, and they could have got them before this all happened.

FLOCK: We're going to leave it there. I appreciate it very much.

Thank you. We'll let you get back to the business of building fire trucks, which of course is what they do out here in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Daryn, that is the latest.

Some sense of the sentiment in the nation's heartland.

Back to you.

KAGAN: Jack, thank you very much. Important work indeed.




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