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Revisiting 9/11, Reworking 911


The 9/11 Commission's Report on Emergency Response, with links to testimony of 13 witnesses in the hearing.

Testimony, Questions and Answers:
Michael Bloomberg
Rudolph Giuliani
former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, former Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, former Office of Emergency Management Director Richard Sheirer

Related Article:
Emergency Communications Systems And Equipment by Laura Forlano

Just days before the 9/11 Commission came to New York to examine how the city responds to emergencies, smoke began to rise before dawn from the subway station at Bowling Green, not far from Ground Zero.

Soon the sounds of sirens and helicopters broke the early Sunday morning calm, as hundreds of rescue workers strapped oxygen tanks on their backs and dashed into the station, responding to a report that there had been two explosions. Police officers stalked the streets with automatic weapons and dogs; firefighters rushed people from the station into waiting ambulances.

This was only a drill. But two things happened that had not been planned for -- and that inadvertently illustrate some of the core challenges facing the city's system of emergency response: A fight reportedly broke out between a firefighter and a police officer. And an actual suspicious package was found in the subway.

The call went out: Stop the drill. Police officers from the bomb squad investigated what turned out to be a pile of old clothes.

Almost three years after New York City suffered the worst attack in American history, some basic questions remain unsettled: Could some of the death and destruction have been avoided? Will anything be different if and when there is another emergency of such magnitude?


rudy.184.1.650b"Catastrophic emergencies and attacks have acts of great heroism attached to them. They have acts of ingenious creativity attached to them and they have mistakes that happen." — Rudolph Giuliani, 9/11 Commission testimony, 5/18/04

The answer former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani gave to the first question, when he testified in front of the 9/11 Commission, was no. He began his testimony by asking the commissioners not to blame anyone for the deaths on September 11 but the people he said were solely responsible for them -- Al Qaeda, the terrorists.

Yes, the mayor conceded, mistakes happened, as they would in any catastrophe, but his testimony, which was largely an account of his personal experience on September 11, sought to emphasize the heroism of the rescue workers. His eloquence neutralized the commissioners, whose subsequent questioning veered toward the reverential.

This did not sit well with some family members of firefighters killed on 9/11 who were in the audience at the New School. Several people, offended that the commission wasn't being tough enough on Giuliani, jumped to their feet and began yelling, interrupting the hearing.

There was some irony in this. The hearings the previous day had elicited the exact opposite response, critics saying the 9/11 Commission had been too combative, when it harshly grilled three of Giuliani's former commissioners.

One of the members of the 9/11 Commission, John Lehman, called the city's system of emergency response "dysfunctional," "a scandal," "not worthy of the Boy Scouts, let alone this great city." Another member, Timothy Roemer, asked how the Office Of Emergency Management could possibly have been put in the World Trade Center itself,"where the terrorists had struck in 1993. Why put it in one of the most likely places [for terrorists to] come back and hit us again?"

"We have to ask hard questions," a third member, Jamie Gorelick, said, "...because if we don't we cannot ensure greater safety from this day forward."

It is hard to detach from the emotional recollections of the past in order to piece together a hard-nosed assessment of what went wrong on 9/11, determine how well those problems have been fixed in the three years since, and thus predict whether or not New York is better prepared for another large-scale emergency.

Based on the reports and testimony from the 9/11 Commission, as well as testimony, investigations and critiques over the past three years, there are four areas most in need of attention:

1. How effective are skyscraper evacuation plans?

2. How well do emergency response agencies in New York coordinate with one another?

3. Have barriers to communication between rescue workers been eliminated?

4. How can New York get adequate funding to prepare itself for future emergencies?


For fires and other catastrophic events in skyscrapers, common practice has long been to tell people elsewhere in the building to stay where they are. The reason for this is that, in the past, evacuations often wound up injuring more people than the fire itself. The disorderly evacuation of the World Trade Center in 1993 after it had been bombed by terrorists was just such a case.

9/11: Evacuation Plans For The Twin Towers

After 1993, the Port Authority looked to improve its drilling and evacuation procedures at the World Trade Center. It enjoyed a certain amount of success: most people interviewed by the 9/11 Commission said they felt more prepared for an emergency in 2001 than they had been in 1993.

On 9/11, people in the World Trade Center were told to stay put. Others who had begun to evacuate were ordered to return to their desks.

But the emergency plan for the World Trade Center had several gaps. In the 1993 bombing, a helicopter had rescued people from the roof of the towers. New York City’s rescue workers, however, had ruled out such rooftop rescues in the future. The problem was -- nobody ever told the occupants of this change in procedure.

Those who were trapped above the fire on September 11th may have headed towards the roof, only to find the doors locked. And while the Port Authority had ruled out rooftop rescue, it did not have an alternative for those who were trapped on the floors above where the planes hit.

It is unclear that any emergency plan could have prevented many deaths in a situation as severe as 9/11. But several members of the 9/11 Commission lamented that, because federal intelligence agencies didn't communicate the threat of an airborne attack to those planning safety measures for New York City's high-rises, no one even attempted to find a way to deal with such an event.

SINCE 9/11: In Evacuation Plans, Little Has Changed

Allan Reiss of the Port Authority testified (pdf format) that little had changed in nationally accepted evacuation standards. He complained that standard evacuation plans throughout the country still do not advise skyscraper tenants never to flee towards the roof in an emergency.

For emergencies smaller than the three five-alarm fires that burned in the World Trade Center on September 11, it still makes the most sense to have people stay at their desks, according to several of those who testified last week.

But Reiss said that watching the Twin Towers collapse had made people react differently to all emergencies. Evacuations plans should take into account how people will realistically react in an emergency situation, he said. And the collapse of the Twin Towers has changed that.

“Everyone including myself, and we’ve had a couple of fires in the building that I’m now a tenant in; that fire alarm goes off and you smell smoke you’re down those stairs instantaneously,” he said. “The codes need to recognize it.”


The ‘Battle of the Badges’– the rivalry between New York City’s Fire and Police Departments – has existed for decades.

The heads of the departments have tried to explain the rift as nothing more than isolated conflicts between individual “knuckleheads” at emergency scenes. The occasional fistfight, they insist, does not indicate a larger dispute between the agencies themselves.

But others concede that a power struggle between the fire and police departments has hampered emergency operations in the past. The police department’s Emergency Services Unit, which carries out functions that in other cities would be handled by the fire department, has increasingly encroached on the fire’s department’s ground.

Jerome Hauer (testimony in pdf format)was appointed by Mayor Giuliani as the first commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management, established largely to find a way to solve battles between the police and fire departments. The office was credited for other programs, but it did not manage to create a way to bring the two agencies together.

9/11: Separate Command Posts

The Office of Emergency Management faced an immediate, and ultimately insurmountable, obstacle on September 11: its headquarters on the 23 floor of Seven World Trade Center had to be evacuated. The building later collapsed. Largely as a result, the newly homeless agency was ineffectual during the rescue at the Twin Towers.

But it is unclear whether the Office of Emergency Management was prepared to play a significant coordinating role on 9/11, even if had not been sidelined by the destruction of its headquarters.

Nor were police and fire departments willing to work within such a structure. Indeed, the police and fire departments set up separate command posts on September 11, and operated largely independently of one another. Lead officials from each agency insisted that, while technical problems at times hampered communications, the lack of coordination had no concrete effect on 9/11.

Still, the lack of an effective way for rescue agencies to work together on major emergencies has been singled out by members of the commission and experts in the field as the major shortcoming in the city’s emergency response.

SINCE 9/11: A New Attempt At Unified Emergency Response

Eight years after the creation of the Office of Emergency Management – and four days before the 9/11 Commission arrived in New York – Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented his plan for coordinating the emergency response efforts of fire, police and other rescue agencies.(in pdf format).

For small incidents, the plan designates a lead agency. For larger emergencies, it lists several agencies that will work together. Instead of naming one agency to take the lead, it calls on each one to focus on its “core competency.”

Critics have complained that this plan ducks the real issue that needs to be resolved: who is in charge in a large-scale rescue effort? Additionally, it lessens the power of the Office of Emergency Management to make the decision when agencies disagree over who should do what.

Many have described the plan as incomplete.

“They obviously didn’t want to sit at the commission and say ‘we still don’t have one,” said Peter Vallone, head of the City Council’s public safety committee. “That’s a large part of why they got it done [now], and I hope it’s a work in progress.”

Vallone has called for City Council hearings to review the plan on June 2.

SINCE 9/11: Persisting Overlaps in Jurisdiction

The reason that the city has not been able to decide how to divide control over large emergencies is that the police department and the fire department are competing to carry out the same tasks, according to many experts. In this regard, New York is unique among large American cities.

Until this is resolved, they say, the city will not be able to accomplish the kind of sensible command system that Mayor Bloomberg had hoped to create with his recent plan.

“It’s a large problem because when you have two different agencies doing the same things, it is certainly not efficient, and not cost effective,” said Glenn Corbett professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “And more importantly, it’s an impediment to a really well-defined incident command structure.”

Corbett, and Hauer, among others, agree that the best way to resolve this problem is to strengthen the Office of Emergency Management so that it can dictate to the competing agencies exactly which tasks fall into whose jurisdiction. Others have suggested creating a public safety czar with similar powers.

Dennis Smith (testimony in pdf format), author of Report from Ground Zero, told the commission that he believes the conflict between fire and police has become unmanageable without more drastic action. He suggests removing the rescue functions from both agencies and creating a separate Rescue Emergency Services Department.


In large rescues, different agencies come together with crowds of civilians. Being able to communicate is critical. Communications between rescue workers, and between rescue workers and civilians, were hampered both by inadequate technology and by problems in the way that communication for emergencies was planned.

9/11: Rescue Workers Didn't Communicate Well With 911 Dispatchers

When they arrived at the Twin Towers on 9/11, rescue workers decided to evacuate the buildings almost immediately. Because intercoms in the buildings were disabled from the impact of the planes, firefighters and police officers in the lobby could not communicate directly with people on upper floors. As a result, the only way that many people in the towers could get information was by calling 911.

Dispatchers, unaware of the evacuation plan, told callers to stay put, keeping in line with the pre-existing evacuation plan. Firefighters and police officers on the scene did not contact dispatchers to let them know of the evacuation plans; dispatchers did not grasp the unique nature of the situation.

SINCE 9/11: Better Links For Dispatchers, But Still Just One-Way Communication

911 dispatchers have also been brought closer to rescue teams: Police commissioner Raymond Kelly testified (testimony in .pdf format) that today, a platoon commander monitors information from various sources and instructs dispatchers how to respond.

As several commissioners pointed out during the hearings, the dispatchers could have also received valuable information from those calling 911 about the situation on floors high in the towers. Because there was no plan to use 911 to collect information, rescue workers did not know what was happening above them.

The commissioner’s goal of using 911 as an interactive communication source, however, has not been realized.

9/11: Rescue Workers Couldn't Receive Information

Rescue workers, notably firefighters in the North Tower, said they had no idea of what was going on around them.

“People watching on TV certainly had more knowledge of what was happening a hundred floors above us than we did in the lobby,” said Joseph Pfeifer, an assistant deputy fire chief working in the North Tower.

Rescue workers faced several challenges in getting information:

  • Overworked Radios – Radios were overwhelmed with the volume of calls being made. While both police and fire experienced problems, it was the firefighters who had the most problems.
  • The “Repeater Channel” – The Port Authority installed an extra radio channel especially for the Twin Towers after firefighters had faced overloaded radio frequencies in 1993. But the fire department was unable to use this “repeater” channel. Although the channel was working, Pfeifer’s team mistakenly believed it was not, and turned it off. It is not clear what led to this mistake.
  • Lack of Interagency Communication – A police helicopter warned police officers that the North Tower was going to collapse 18 minutes before it did. Because the interagency radios were not working, firefighters did not receive the warning; 121 died when the building fell.

SINCE 9/11: Communication Improvements

Since 9/11, the fire and police departments have worked to close the gaps in the communications, and to upgrade the technology that failed on 9/11. (See also Gotham Gazette's tech topic page update looking atemergency communications systems and equipment)

Structural Changes to Improve Communication Across Agency Lines

Today, an FDNY battalion chief reports every day to police headquarters, and a firefighter flies with each police helicopter. Similarly, a police captain spends his days at the Fire Department.

Technical Upgrades

Firefighters have received new radios that allow for higher call volume; police officers have installed video feeds in their helicopters to allow people on the ground to observe their own situations from a wider perspective.

The city also recently tested a computer-based interagency radio, which will allow all city agencies to communicate on the same frequency. While his agency has only recently begun to use the radios, Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Bruno said that they seem to work well.


When testifying at the commission, current New York officials took pains to direct the panel’s attention to an issue that did not exist on 9/11: Homeland Security Funding.

New York State receives less Homeland Security funding per capita than every state but California; the amount of money that New York City receives is set to drop from $188 million in fiscal year 2003 to $96 million in fiscal year 2004.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg reminded commissioners that New York State received $5.47 per capita in homeland security grants last year. Wyoming received $38.31, and American Samoa brought in over $100 per person.

Mayor Bloomberg described this as “the kind of shortsighted ‘me first’ nonsense that gives Washington a bad name. It unfortunately has the effect of aiding and abetting those who hate us and plot against us.”

New York has fared so poorly in relation to other areas of the country because only 20 percent of the funding available is given out according to the threat that a specific area is under. Originally, New York was one of seven cities in the high threat program; it received about one quarter of funding with that program. Since then, the number of cities has grown to 50, and 30 transportation systems have been added. Now New York receives less than 7 percent of the total.

Changing the Formula

Several efforts to change the way Homeland Security grants are given are in the works, including a bill in the House of Representativesand the president’s proposed budget for 2005 that would distribute more than half of Homeland Security Funds according to threat levels.

But Bloomberg and other city officials do not think that this is enough; they believe that diluting this money among 80 recipients automatically means that New York will receive too little.

One commissioner, Bob Kerrey, agrees that New York City may not be able to ever get the resources it needs through Department of Homeland Security programs that take the entire country into account.

The former Senator noted that it might be time to give New York special treatment because it is the country’s primary target; he spoke of having Congress allocate a portion of the nation’s budget directly to a fund for New York’s public safety.


The 9/11 Commission has returned to Washington. In July, it will include what it has learned last week in its final report.

Meanwhile, the city continues to drill. Its police and fire departments cooperate or clash, depending on whom you ask; the Office of Emergency Management is still testing the city's new radio capabilities, and refining its coordinated emergency response plan.

After its headquarters in the World Trade Center were destroyed on 9/11, the emergency agency has moved to new headquarters, under the Brooklyn Bridge. The police department uncovered a plot to destroy that bridge last year. But officials say this is not a sign that nothing has been learned. They have backup headquarters in an undisclosed location, they say, and they intend to move the headquarters of the Office of Emergency Management into a new permanent location, in Brooklyn's Cadman Plaza...in late 2005.

Testimony by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg





Governor Kean and members of the Commission: Welcome back to New York, and thank you for asking me to testify before you today.

Over the last two days, these hearings have explored, in thorough and often painful detail, what the City endured on September 11th, 2001. The images have been vivid, the memories have been heart- wrenching, and the questions have been pointed. I know that for the families who lost loved ones, these hearings have undoubtedly re-opened the wounds. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Understanding what happened on 9/11 is crucial to our success in winning the war against terror and to explaining to those families why so many were lost. That's why you have been empowered to make these inquiries. This investigation is also a measure of our society's inherent strength and confidence. The willingness to openly examine our institutions in order to improve them demonstrates why, as former Mayor Giuliani has pointed out, democracies are strong, and why free people will prevail over terror.

Our Administration has shown a similar willingness to thoroughly and openly examine the events of 9/11. Shortly after taking office, we asked the management-consulting firm of McKinsey & Company to critically analyze how the Police and Fire Departments responded that day. We made the results of that study public, and we have turned them over to the staff of this Commission.

That's because we, like you, are determined to learn from this tragedy. I was sworn in less than four months after those savage attacks. After the ceremony, the smoke was still rising as I watched members of the Fire Department pull the body of one of their brothers out of the rubble. It was clear to me and to my Administration that it was our job to make sure the City learned the lessons of 9/11, so it would be better prepared in the future.

We have worked hard to do just that-to build on the proud traditions of service and sacrifice that have characterized our Police and Fire Departments since their founding in the 19th century, and that still animate those who protect our city today.

Yesterday you reviewed once again the heroic actions of our City's firefighters and police officers on 9/11, many of whom gave their lives in the greatest rescue effort in our history. The bravery and professionalism they demonstrated never cease to amaze and inspire us. And the firm leadership Mayor Giuliani showed that day and in the days that followed gave us all the strength to endure, and the will to prevail.

Building on their achievements and example, our task now is to achieve a new level of preparedness and teamwork at all levels of government. I am happy to say that President Bush, Governor George Pataki and their Administrations have established just such a spirit of cooperation with our city.

Today, almost 14 months after my first appearance before this Commission, I want to describe what our Administration is doing to keep New York City safe and free. I also want to urge this Commission in its final report to recommend desperately needed reforms in the nation's system of funding homeland security. It is a system that was irrational the first time I testified. It remains tragically misguided today, creating grave hazards not just for New Yorkers, but for all Americans.

There is no need for me to repeat in detail the testimony you heard yesterday from Commissioners Kelly, Scoppetta, and Bruno. Suffice it to say that today, New York is the safest big city in the nation, better prepared than at any time in its history to prevent and respond to any danger, no matter what its source.

Building on Mayor Giuliani's eight years of success, crime in New York is nearly 16% lower than it was at this time three years ago. Fire fatalities are at levels not seen since the 1930s. We've achieved these results despite a fiscal crisis, despite the need to divert precious resources to anti-terrorist activities, and despite the need to protect the civil liberties of everyone who lives and works in our city, even as we remain vigilant against terror. That's as it must be, because the freedom to express our views, pursue our dreams, and worship God as each sees fit is fundamental to our democracy. Sacrificing those liberties-or making us fearful and keeping us in our homes-would give the terrorists a victory without their firing a shot. That's a victory we will never grant them.

All the agencies that protect our city are as well-led today as they have ever been.

Yesterday, Commissioner Kelly described the threats against this City, and the outstanding work of the New York Police Department in counteracting and deterring them. Likewise, Commissioner Scoppetta testified about the Fire Department's success in rebuilding from the devastation of 9/11.

Yesterday's testimony also presented the steps we have taken to improve communications within and between the Police and Fire Departments. The Fire Department, for example, has new and more powerful radios that permit more traffic during incidents, and enable Fire Department officials to communicate directly with their Police counterparts. Detailed new management policies and protocols have improved cooperation between these departments.

Our ongoing counter-terrorism efforts also include a broad range of other agencies, including our Departments of Health and Environmental Protection. And many other City agencies, including but not limited to the Departments of Sanitation, Transportation, Design and Construction, have played instrumental roles in helping New York City recover and rebuild since 9/11, and would be called on again should we be attacked.

Multi-agency training exercises also take place on a regular basis. On Sunday, for example, we conducted "Operation Transit Safe," an exercise involving more than 20 public agencies and private partners. It tested our response to a simulated terrorist incident in the City's subway system. The terrorist attack in Madrid on March 11th underscored the vital importance of protecting a mass transit system used by seven million riders each day.

Our Administration also has adopted a Citywide Incident Management System, or "CIMS," that is consistent with Federal guidelines. It provides a framework of action for emergency responders and enhances interagency decision-making and communication.

We all seek clarity in complex situations. But that doesn't mean we should seek simplistic solutions to complex situations. CIMS establishes clear-cut lead agencies in the more day-to-day emergency situations. Extraordinary catastrophes, such as explosions and plane crashes, require robust responses with more than one primary agency. By setting up unified command posts staffed by top-level chiefs, we can ensure that the responses of all agencies are coordinated and effective, and that each agency's core competency will be fully utilized. This sets up a structure that requires inter-agency cooperation and coordination without sacrificing the intra-agency chains of command that are crucial to any emergency operations.

CIMS builds on a system promulgated under Mayor Giuliani, and integrates lessons learned from 9/11 and its aftermath. In many respects, it formalizes and improves the type of emergency response that New York City has engaged in for many years, exemplified on 9/11. On that day, the Fire Department took the lead in fighting the fires in the towers and effecting the heroic rescue of civilians. The Police Department addressed security concerns downtown and throughout the City. Other agencies understood their responsibilities, and executed them very well.

Perhaps the most impressive and comforting statistic is that on 9/11, while 25,000 people were being evacuated from the World Trade Center towers and many thousands more were being directed out of Lower Manhattan to safety, response times by the police and firefighters to calls elsewhere in the five boroughs were barely affected. If that isn't a testament to organization, capability, training, communication, dedication, creativity, and bravery-I don't know what is.

In the two years and eight months since 9/11, New York City has had a number of emergencies-a fuel barge explosion on Staten Island, a chemical explosion at a warehouse here in Manhattan, and others. On each occasion, the relevant agencies successfully worked together to protect New Yorkers-evidence of their training and professionalism.

When the city was blacked out last August, City agencies performed superbly. More than 132,000 calls were logged into 911 during the outage, almost three times more than average. Emergency Medical Services personnel responded to more than 5,000 calls for help on August 14th, a record for one 24-hour period and 60% more than usual. Firefighters put out 60 serious fires-six times the expected number on a summer night. Because of their skill and cooperation, order and safety were maintained under extraordinarily difficult conditions. And after the blackout, I directed a full evaluation of the events of those days, just as was the case with the McKinsey reports following 9/11, so that we could learn what we could have done better. Like the McKinsey reports, that report was made public when completed.

The armchair quarterbacks forget that New York City Police Officers and Firefighters work together hundreds of times a day on such incidents as building collapses, fires, and traffic accidents. Although much has been made of the so-called "battle of the badges," these are isolated episodes that are the result of individual, low-level breakdowns in discipline. They are not the product of systemic problems and don't occur higher up where it would jeopardize the mission of each agency. Even the shortcomings that the have been identified by the Commission in the City's response to 9/11 were the result of problems in communications, not the result of any battle of the badges.

Certainly any system can be improved. CIMS is no exception. We will be constantly evaluating and monitoring CIMS in order to do just that. There will be extensive, on-going training to ensure its success. We will adopt new technologies, match resources to changes in population density and other conditions, and reduce duplicative services.

Several weeks ago, in my Executive Budget for the next fiscal year, I set aside $1 billion in capital funds for a comprehensive overhaul of the City's 911 dispatch system. What was the cutting edge system of the 70s is now obsolescent. We will take advantage of new technology to centralize dispatch of our Police, Fire and EMS departments. By using new technologies such as GPS, we will be able to better track our assets and their deployment across agencies. This will make them more efficient, eliminate duplication, and do a better job of protecting the public. But even now, as we are improving the dispatching system, 911 operators now have the ability, training, and supervision to disseminate relevant rescue information to 911 callers.

We have taken, and will take, all of these measures because we recognize that New York faces far greater risk of terrorist attack than any other City, other than perhaps our nation's capital. Senator Kerrey, you asked Police Commissioner Kelly why NYC is different. Let me add to what he said yesterday.

We are indeed "in the crosshairs." To people around the world, New York City embodies what makes this nation great. That's a function of our status as the world's financial capital, driven not only by Wall Street but our international prominence in such fields as broadcasting, the arts, entertainment and medicine. Such is New York's importance that, to a great extent, as goes its economy, so goes the country's. If Wall Street is destroyed, Main Street will suffer.

Beyond that, New York's embrace of intellectual and religious freedom and cultural diversity makes us truly the World's Second Home. We are a magnet for the talented and ambitious from every corner of the globe. In short we embody the strengths of America's freedom-and that makes us an inevitable target of those who hate our nation and what we stand for.

New York City has already been targeted by terrorists six times since 1993. Yet inexplicably, today New York State ranks 49th among the 50 states in per capita Homeland Security funding.

During Fiscal Year 2004, New York State received $5.47 per capita in Homeland Security grants. Nebraska got $14.33 per capita; North Dakota $30.42; Wyoming $38.31; and American Samoa $101.43.

The same problem plagues the distribution of bio-terror preparedness funding provided by the Department of Health and Human Services to local hospitals and public health systems. In Fiscal Year 2003, New York City received $4.19 per capita and New York State $4.16 per capita, making them 45th and 46th respectively of the 50 states and four local jurisdictions eligible for funding.

By comparison, Nebraska got $7.03 per capita and Wyoming $15.69.

And what does it say of our national resolve to combat terrorism that after everything this Commission has learned in the past year, our City has been advised that Congress has reduced our proposed Homeland Security funding for Fiscal 2004 by nearly half-from $188 million to

$96 million?

This is pork barrel politics at its worse. It's the kind of shortsighted "me first" nonsense that gives Washington a bad name. It also, unfortunately, has the effect of aiding and abetting those who hate us and plot against us.

In the budget for Fiscal 2005 submitted to Congress, President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Ridge took steps to put Homeland Security footing on a fair and rational basis, discarding per capita distribution in favor of allocations based on actual risk and threat. In addition, that proposed budget would increase to 54% the percentage of Homeland Security funds distributed on a high-threat basis. But even the distribution system based on threat analysis is being undermined as more areas and cities are added. So far, the number of high-threat areas has mushroomed from seven to 80.

We cannot allow this to continue or we will be back where we started.

This Commission must challenge Congress to follow the Bush Administration's lead, and stop treating Homeland Security and bio-terror preparedness funding as political pork. They should be allocated on the basis of the real risks that we face. I urge this Commission to recommend that in the strongest possible way. Any other formula defies logic and undermines the seriousness of the country's counter-terrorism efforts.

Washington has the whole Federal government protecting it. We need to make sure that New York City, the economic engine that drives the entire region, and arguably the country, has the resources it needs to protect itself. As a nation, we must come to each other's aid in a manner that protects us all.

The September 11th attacks took an enormous economic toll on New York and New Yorkers. They contributed to a decline in City tax revenues totaling almost $3 billion in fiscal years 2002 and 2003. The Bush Administration and Congress responded with assurances of approximately $20 billion in aid to help us rebuild. Because of that assistance, and because of the hardiness and intrepid spirit of the eight million people of New York, our economy is now growing again.

New Yorkers are grateful for the Federal assistance we have received. We will never forget how the rest of the nation stood by us. Yet there is still much to be done. So in addition to revising the allocation of Homeland Security and bio-terror preparedness funding, there are several additional recommendations. They would benefit any city that suffers a terrorist attack. I would like to quickly summarize them for the committee. I know your staff has been briefed on these previously, but I believe their importance warrants my reviewing them now.

Amendments to the Stafford Act-the law that governs FEMA's ability to reimburse localities-must be made to help cities that may be confronted with the fiscal consequences of terrorist attacks in the future. The amendments we have suggested would permit the reimbursement of local expenditures associated with a response to terrorist activities, which is not the case under present law. These include overtime costs for emergency responders who are not at the actual site of an attack, including those providing increased security at airports, bridges, tunnels, and rail lines. The process for citizens to obtain various forms of financial assistance must be streamlined so as to avoid the long waits that occurred after 9/11. Increased funding over a longer period of time for local mental health treatment must also be provided.

As we learned in New York, there can also be astronomical litigation costs associated with the response to a terrorist attack. Fortunately for New York and the private contractors who assisted us, the Federal government ultimately funded an insurance program providing coverage for claims brought by workers at Ground Zero who were not eligible for the Victim Compensation Fund.

Such protection must be formalized rather than done on an ad hoc basis. Congress should pass legislation now creating insurance that will protect both employers and employees who someday may be asked to provide their assistance in response to a terrorist attack. An incredible public/private partnership at Ground Zero enabled so much to be done so well and so swiftly. We must not deter such a similar response in the future. That means ensuring that those who selflessly come forward to provide their assistance after such attacks know they will be adequately protected by insurance.

I want to commend the Commission for its assiduous efforts in analyzing what led up to the attacks of September 11th, the response to those attacks, and what needs to be done in light of them.

I know your staff has spent thousands of hours interviewing well over a hundred members of our Fire and Police departments and the Office of Emergency Management in an effort to get a complete picture of the day's events, and of our current needs.

Like you, New York City has learned, and continues to learn, the lessons of 9/11. To protect us, we clearly need well-trained and equipped uniformed services, managed by experienced, intelligent and innovative leaders. We must plan, and train, study and learn.

But we must also recognize that no matter how exhaustive our efforts, or how realistic our simulations, the dynamics affecting the next real world incident-the time of day or night, extremes of weather conditions, and myriad other factors-will be different from what we've experienced before.

Using hindsight, self-styled experts will always be able to say that we should have done things differently. But in the real world, you experience "the fog of war"-with sirens wailing, communications systems overloaded, and rumors of all sorts flying about. It is easy to make decisions when you know all the facts; the challenge is making decisions when you don't have the facts. Those are the dynamics I bear in mind when I conclude that on 9/11, it is amazing how well everyone performed.

The world is a far more dangerous place that we thought it was on September 10th, 2001.

But we were not defenseless then, nor are we now. From Mayor Giuliani on down, those in charge on in our city on 9/11 showed us what must be done. Following their example-and showing the willingness at the local and national levels to put aside parochial interests in the service of our common good-can and will keep us safe and free.

I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

Testimony by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani




RUDOLPH GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Mr. Chairman, members of the commission, were all hurt, were all damaged, were all very angry, and were all feeling a lose of heroes that we loved. There is probably no one in this city, and many in this country that have been personally touched, sometimes many fold by the loses on September 11, 2001. But we have to channel our anger to do anything to prevent and emulate and future attack, because by all prediction further attacks are going to come. Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists that murdered our loved ones, and continue to offer a threat to our security, safety, and survival. We had great unity after September 11, 2001. IĂ•ve never seen this country more united. I remember driving up West Street with President Bush and Governor Pataki and the three gentlemen you questioned yesterday, Commissioner Sheirer, Commissioner Von Essen, Commissioner Kerick. All of whom, a few days earlier had almost lost their own lives trying to protect the people of the city, and some of whom were suffering from a loss, not just from a friend or friends, but hundreds of them. Our spirits were low, and we were very emotional. As we drove up West Street, West street was lined with ten thousand, fifth teen thousand, Twenty thousand people holding American flags, waving to the president, waving to us, telling the president they loved him and they were together as New Yorkers.

I did note for the president that none of the people had voted for him or me or Governor Pataki. But that's the point. They were all united as Americans because we understood who our enemy was. Our enemy is not each other.

Catastrophic emergencies and attacks have acts of great heroism attached to them. They have acts of ingenious creativity attached to them and they mistakes that happen. Hopefully this commission will assess that correctly, with compassion and with understanding. And then the next one will be done a little bit better. But the next one, unfortunately, is probably going to be a mix of exactly those same things -- acts of great heroism, many, many creative and brilliant things done and some terrible mistakes that were made. Because when human beings are put under this condition, that's what happens.

So our anger should clearly be directed and the blame should clearly be directed at one source and one source alone -- the terrorists who killed our loved ones.

For each other...


GIULIANI: For each other, there really should be compassion, understanding and support, because we're all suffering.

The attacks of September 11,2001 were the worst attacks in the history of our country. Nothing like that had ever happened to us before. Hopefully they'll remain the worst attacks in the history of our country, even if there may be others.

I believed then, I believe now, that the terrorists had two purposes in attacking us. One purpose was to kill many, many people to make some kind of, in their words, spectacular demonstration. And the other was to break our will, because they were convinced we were a weak people, that we would become disunited, that we would start fighting with each other, that there would be tremendous chaos and confusion.

And I believe today, I believed then because I observed it and was part of it, and I believe it because I knew so many of these men and women that it was their initial heroism that thwarted the objectives of the terrorists by going into the building, by standing their ground, by interrupting an evacuation order the way a brave rescue worker would interpret an evacuation order, which is to first get the civilians out and then get yourself out.

By doing that, they thwarted the objective that the terrorists had. The terrorists killed too many people -- almost 3,000. But the first number that I was given in less than one hour of the collapse of the two buildings was that over 12,000 people had died. And, in fact, at another point, I was given a figure of 15,000 people. That was the calculation made by the Port Authority and at others of the number of people that had been in the building at the time of the attack, which may have been close to 22,000 to 25,000, and the number of people you could conceivably have gotten out in the amount of time that the rescue workers had to get people out. And their calculation was 12,000 to 15,000 people.

When I said to the people of New York and the people of America that the losses were too much for us to bear, that was the number that was in my mind. They were too much for us to bear, even what it turned out to be. But the reason that you have that difference between the 12,000 to 15,000 originally estimated and the less than 3,000 that actually took place is the way in which a combination of the rescue workers and the civilians themselves conducted this evacuation and not flawless, not without mistakes and not with some terrible tragedies attached to it, but overall maybe 8,000 people more, maybe 9,000 people more than anyone could rightfully expect evacuated from that building because firefighters were walking upstairs while civilians were walking downstairs.

I can't tell you how many civilians come up to me, no matter where I go, and say to me, I want you to thank your fire department. I want you to thank them. And I'll say why. And they'll say because I was walking down or my brother was or my sister or my father and I saw one of your firefighters walking up while we were rushing down. And I said well, what did that do? And they'll say that made me calmer, that made me feel confident, that made me continue to walk in the right direction.

What we avoided was exactly what any novelist would have written about in an attack like this, had it been written the day before. He would have written that the evacuation, the exit from the building would cause more casualties than the actual attack.

It's happened. I don't want to mention the emergencies -- I know them, you know them -- in which more people are killed trying to get out of the building than are actually killed in the fire or the attack.

People exited this building carefully. They exited this building quickly. They exited this building without harming or hurting each other. And the credit for that goes to Pete Gancy and Bill Feehan and Terry Hatten and Patty Brown and Michael Judge. And I wish I could mention all of the firefighters and the police officers. Those happen to be the ones that I saw that morning right before they died. And that's the reason why they were thwarted in their ambition of sort of breaking our will.

Maybe it would be helpful if I just outlined quickly what I did in the first hour or two that morning, why I did it and then, you know, whatever questions that you have.

The morning of September 11,2001 was primary day in the City of New York. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party were voting to select the next mayor of the city. And I was having breakfast that morning at the Peninsula Hotel on 55th Street with two old friends and colleagues, Dennisan Young, who was my counsel, and Bill Simon, who was my assistant United States attorney, who had worked with me.

As we finished breakfast, the police notified Denny -- the two police officers that were on my detail that morning were notified and then they notified Denny Young, my counsel, and Denny walked up to me and he said the following, that it's been reported that a twin engine plane has crashed into the North Tower and there's a terrible fire there.

So I left immediately, walked out into the street and as I walked out into the street, Denny and I looked up in the sky. And what we saw was a beautiful clear day, about as clear as we had had in a long time, and came to the immediate conclusion that it could not have been an accident, that it had to have been an attack.

But we weren't sure whether it was a planned terrorist attack or maybe some kind of act of individual anger or insanity or some person angry at some business in the building or whatever. But we knew it was an attack.

We began to proceed south as quickly as we could. And maybe this is helpful on the telephone contact. We started to make telephone contact in order to get more information. I tried to reach all the people that you -- the mayor would generally be in contact with at that point, including we attempted to reach the White House and the governor's office.

I was successful in speaking with the police commissioner. I was able to get through to him on the phone. He gave me an initial briefing. I was able to speak to some members of my staff that gave me information. I was not able to reach the fire commissioner. I was not able to reach the head of emergency services, Mr. Shirer (ph). We were not able to make a call outside the city to the White House, which led me to believe that we had to have hard lines available in order to do that.

As we were coming down very, very close to this building, just a few blocks from this building on Sixth Avenue, on Sixth, we passed St. Vincent's Hospital. And I looked outside and I saw outside many, many doctors and nurses and stretchers. And it registered in my mind that we were looking at a war zone, not a normal emergency. That was probably the first thing that said to me we're into something beyond anything we've handled before.

A little below St. Vincent's Hospital, we could see the fire in the Tower. But we saw a big explosion. And we didn't know what it was. We probably concluded that it was just an after effect of the original attack. But within seconds of seeing it, we received a phone call from the police and were notified that a second plane had hit, and realized at that point that obviously it was a terrorist attack.

We then proceeded another half mile. We were about a half mile to a mile away when that happened, got to about Barclay Street, where we could go no further. I got out of the van and I was approached by Police Commissioner Kerik and my deputy mayor for operations, Joe Lhota. And they had a group of people behind them.

Commissioner Kerik walked up to me, explained to me -- and so did Deputy Mayor Lhota -- how terrible the situation was. The deputy mayor pointed to the sky and said people were jumping from the buildings. And I looked up and I thought he was wrong. I thought I was seeing -- I thought I saw debris.

And then the police commissioner pointed to an emergency truck that was pulling up to in front of 70 Barclay Street and he said, "That will be our command post. We're attaching hard lines into this building and we're taking over this building." And they were literally taking people out of 75 Barclay Street and setting up a command post.

And I said, "Is that going to be our main command post?"

And he said, "Yes, that'll be our command post. We'll operate out of there. We've evacuated Seven World Trade Center."

I said, "OK." I said, "Where is the, where is the fire department set up? Where are they fighting the fire?"

He said, "Over on West Street."

So we began to walk and talk going toward West Street, which a block and a half to two blocks away. As, what we talked about at that point was the commissioner pointing out to me the other things that he was then doing. He went off -- he went over a checklist of we've closed the bridges and tunnels to stop people from coming into the city. We're letting people out; no one is coming in. That came off a protocol that we had and really the intelligence that we had available was that was probably the most likely way in which we would be attacked -- the bridges and tunnels of New York City, because they would be, plans for that would be found very, very often when terrorists were arrested.

He then went through a list of buildings that he was covering. "We're covering the Empire State Building, we're covering the stock exchange, we're covering" -- he went through a whole list of -- and he said, "I have brought back the entire force. They're all reporting back for duty."

We arrived, as we got very, very close to the World Trade Center, one of my police officers said to me, and all of us, "Keep looking up, keep looking up." Because things were falling down around us and I imagine that was for our own safety. But when I looked up at that point, I realized that I saw a man -- it wasn't debris -- that I saw a man hurling himself out of the 102nd, 103rd, 104th floor. And I stopped, probably for two seconds, but it seems like a minute or two. And I was in shock.

I mean I said, I said, I said to the police commissioner that we're in uncharted territory, we've never gone through anything like this before and we're just going to have to do the best that we can to keep everybody together and keep them focused.

And the commissioner said, "That's right, Mayor. That's right."

At that -- that was the last thing I saw when I approached Pete Ganci. His operations center, his command center was set up outdoors on West Street in a position where he could see both towers, where he'd get a view of both towers, which is typically the way a fire is fought in New York City. You set up an outside command post, at least as the advanced command post, where you can get the best view available of the fire. And he was there and he was in charge and he was -- he had the board in front of him. The board is an attempt to try to figure out where resources are located.

He was accompanied by Deputy Commissioner Bill Feehan. Between the two of them, they had 80 years of firefighting experience and they were the two best. And then off to the corner -- I didn't get a chance to talk to him -- was Ray Downey, who was the head of our search and rescue effort. And Ray was the best in the country. He trained most of the search and rescue teams and handled a lot of the search and rescue at Oklahoma City.

So we had the very best people there.

My first question to Chief Ganci, maybe because of what I had just seen, was, "Can we get helicopters up to the roof and help any of those people?" Because I could see people hanging out the windows. And I thought I saw people on the roof. I didn't, I don't think, because I don't think there were any people on the roof. But at least my observation was there were people near the top of the building.

And Pete pointed to a big flame that was shooting out of the North Tower at the time. And he said to me, "My guys can save everybody below the fire. But I can't put a helicopter above the fire." And he didn't say the rest of it, which was, do you see the flame? The helicopter would explode. But by pointing, I knew what he was saying. He was saying if I put a helicopter near there, these flames are coming out unpredictably and the helicopter could just blow. And he did say it would be too dangerous and it would not accomplish the result.

I then asked him if he had everything that he needed and he said, "Yes."

And he had a conversation with the police commissioner, who went over with him how to do evacuations. His concern was to get people out of the area for two reasons, and then he reiterated that to me. He said to me, "Whatever you do, tell people to go north, get 'em out of here."

And then he pointed to south and you could see, while he was pointing, that things were falling off the building and hitting people. And you could see other bodies that were coming down that also posed a danger to other people that were on the ground. And it seemed to me that his major concern at the time was that it was very, very dangerous to exit the buildings and that it had to be done carefully and it had to be done to the north, because it appeared as if the way the debris was falling, that more of the damage was going to happen to the south and to the west.

And then he wished us well and I told him I was going to communicate this and that I would be back. And I shook his hand and I said, "God bless you," and he said the same.

I then walked up with, at this point, the police commissioner, the deputy police commissioner, the chief of the department. I asked my chief of staff, who was now with me, to get the fire commissioner. He told me the fire commissioner was in the advanced command post inside one of the buildings. I don't remember which one. I said, "It's really important that we all be together at the command post so that we can make decisions. Get him and bring him to us."

And then we proceeded up West Street two and a half blocks again, back to where we had originally been. On the way up, I saw Father Judge and that was the last time I saw him. And I asked him to pray for us, which he assured me that he was doing. And I shook hands with him.

And then I walked to 75 Barclay Street. I was really brought inside 75 Barclay Street and told this would be our command post. It was set up. It was set up with telephones. There were police on the phones. And I was brought into a, like a cubicle inner office and told that we had reached the White House.

I had already been informed by my chief of staff that he had reached the White House and by the police commissioner, who I think had reached the Defense Department. I'm not sure exactly. But both of them had assured me that we had gotten air support, because that's why I wanted to reach the White House. I wanted to make sure that we had air defense for the city.

And my chief of staff told me that he was informed by the White House that there were seven planes that were unaccounted for. And at this point, I knew of two, and I had heard reports that the Pentagon had been attacked, that the Sears Tower had been attacked and several other buildings.

So I got through to the White House. Chris Henick was on the phone, who was the, who was then the deputy political director to President Bush. And I said to him, "Chris, was the Pentagon attacked?"

And he said, "Confirmed."

And then I asked him if we had air support. I said, "Have you -- do we have air support? Do you have jets out, because I think we're going to get hit again?"

He said, "The jets were dispatched 12 minutes ago and they should be there very shortly, and they should be able to defend you against further attack." And then he said, "We've evacuating the White House and the vice president will call you back very, very shortly."

And I put down the phone and within seconds got a call in another room from the vice president. I walked over to that room, picked up the phone. The White House operator was on the phone and said, "Mr. Mayor, the vice president will be on in a moment."

And at that point, I heard a click. The desk started to shake and I heard next Chief Esposito, who was the uniformed head of the police department. I'm sure it was his voice. I heard him say, "The tower is down. The tower has come down."

And my first thought was that one of the radio towers from the top of the World Trade Center had come down. I did not conceive of the entire tower coming down.

But as he was saying that, I could see the desks shaking and I could see people in the outer office going under desks. And then all of a sudden I could see outside a tremendous amount of debris and it looked -- it first felt like an earthquake and then it looked like a nuclear, a nuclear cloud.

So we realized very shortly that we were in danger in the building, that the building could come down. It had been damaged. It was shaking.

So the police commissioner and I and the deputy police commissioner, we jointly decided that we had to try to get everyone out of the building. So we went downstairs into the basement. We tried two or three exits, could not get out. I don't know if they were locked or blocked or -- but we couldn't get out.

We went back up to the main floor to see if we could go out the main entrance, but at that point things were worse. There had been more damage done and it was blocked. And then two gentlemen, I believe janitors, came up to us and said there's a way out through the basement through 100 Church Street. And I knew 100 Church Street, because that's where the law department was located. And we agreed that we would go with him.

So we all went downstairs. We walked through the hallway. We got to the door that he had selected. He opened the door and there was sort of sigh of relief. And when we walked outside, we were in the lobby of 100 Church Street. And then we wondered if we hadn't gone from bad to worse, because when you looked outside at 100 Church Street, what you saw, again, was a tremendous cloud, debris flying through the streets and people being injured.

And one of our, one of our deputy commissioners and one of my former security people were brought in at that point injured, bloodied and injured, and obviously in a state of shock from what had happened to them, having been hit by debris.

So the commissioner and I had to make a quick decision -- do we remain in the building and use that as a place to hold a press conference to give people information -- because there was some press right there? Do we remain here and operate here for a while, until the cloud passes, or do we go outside?

And the choice that we made was to go outside. And the choice that we made to go outside was because we felt we had, you know, a core of New York City government together at this point -- the police commissioner, the head of emergency services, three of the four deputy mayors, the commissioner of public health -- and that if we went outside, we had a better chance of more people surviving than if we stayed in the building, where, if something happened and the building crashed, you could virtually have all of city government gone.

So we -- and we could communicate better from outside, hopefully be able to get through on radio or on television.

So we went outside, grabbed a member of the press. I remember Andrew Kurtzman was the reporter that was there. And I said, you know, "Come with us."

And we began making telephone calls as we were marching up, asking people to remain calm and asking people to go north, which were the instructions that Pete Gancy had given me.

And as I was doing that, I would stop and look at how people were reacting. Here I was asking them to remain calm. I was asking them to go north. I wanted to see how were they evacuating the building. And what I saw was very, very inspiring. I saw people running. I saw people fleeing, which is exactly what we wanted them to do. I wanted to get them out of the area. But I didn't see people knocking each other over. I didn't see people in chaos. I didn't see people in panic. I didn't see people hurting each other, which you also would expect might happen. And I actually saw acts of people helping each other.

Somebody would be running, you'd see somebody fall down, stop and pick somebody up. And the commissioner and I did that for one man who was having trouble and put him in the commissioner's car.

We were able to get through and now the sequence gets very, very foggy in my own recollection. I'm not sure what happened in sequence, but very shortly after, maybe two or three blocks north of that, we heard another tremendous noise, realized that the second building had now come down and saw the cloud from the second building come up the streets.

And we're trying to determine at this point whether to return to city hall or to set up operations of city government at the police academy. And we thought of several other sites. The police commissioner recommended that we use the police academy as our command center, because it had all of the communications equipment and it could be outfitted in minutes to be a command center. And my chief of staff told me that city hall had been abandoned because it had been hit very, very hard by debris.

So we selected the police academy as our command center. We actually, Senator Kerry discussed New School as a place to come because we walked right -- we walked right past here. But because the communications equipment was already there, the police commissioner decided on the police academy.

We walked up to the fire house on Houston Street, which is a few blocks north of here, and decided we'd stop there so we could make telephone calls. The police department broke in, not indicating any rivalry between the police department and the fire department. It was the right thing to do. They were not trying to destroy fire department property. They broke in and I was able to get through on the telephone now, first to Governor Pataki, who expressed his concern for us, because he had heard that we were missing and thought we had been killed; and then said what, you know, "What help do you need?"

I said, "Well, we need all the help we can get. I mean this is beyond anything that we've ever dealt with before, George."

And he said, "I've brought out the National Guard. Do you want me to deploy them? Do you need them?"

And I, as the mayor of New York City, I think I had always resisted having the National Guard, I mean for reasons that the urban environment is so complex, so difficult -- it's difficult enough to police with trained police officers. You really don't want the National Guard, not because they aren't terrific at what they do, but this isn't what they do.

But we were in such need at the time I said, "Absolutely. I need the National Guard and everything else you can send us."

And we agreed that they would deploy on Randall's Island so that the police department could train them and deploy them properly and, in essence, they could relive our police officers in the right places.

And then the governor said, you know, "I'll meet you. Where do you want to -- where are you setting up?"

And I said, "We're going to set up at the police academy. We'll be there in about 15 minutes."

And we agreed on something at that point that was very, very helpful. We agreed that we would put our governments together. We agreed that we would, in essence, sit in the same room, in the same place, my commissioners, his commissioners, everybody had to approve things and we would sit in one room and run the emergency together, and that we would do it at the police academy.

And at that point, I was able to reach the White House and the Defense Department again. I was able to make several other telephone calls to the stock exchange, because we had thought they had been attacked. I reached Dick Grasso to find out if they had been attacked.

We tried to -- we had had a number of false rumors of places that were attacked. And the police commissioner was able to make sure that he had deployed his resources to the other places that we assumed we would have secondary attacks.

From our briefings, intelligence and protocols, we had a group of targets coming out of 10 years of analysis of what the terrorists might do. So it was off that list that the police commissioner was deploying resources, including ultimately the National Guard.

We then arrived at the police academy and set up a command center at the police academy. And the command center at the police academy was complete with everything that we needed -- all of the facilities -- and were able to have a press conference there about 2:30 in the afternoon in which we could explain to people how the whole thing would be managed from there on in.

Our number two backup command center would have been the police department. Seven World Trade Center was the primary one. The backup was the police academy. The number three would have been MetroTech in Brooklyn, which is fully equipped to be a command center.

We made the decision to use the policy academy because we didn't want to leave this island. We didn't want to leave Manhattan. We thought it would be a terrible statement if the city government left the island of Manhattan. But then we realized pretty shortly that the police academy was too small, and we selected Pier 92 as our command center.

And the reason Pier 92 was selected as the command center was because on the next day, on September 12, Pier 92 was going to have a drill. It had hundreds of people here from FEMA, from the federal government, from the state, from the State Emergency Management Office, and they were getting ready for a drill for a biochemical attack. So that was going to be the place they were going to have the drill.

The equipment was already there. So we were able to establish a command center there within three days that was two and a half to three times bigger than the command center that we had lost at 7 World Trade Center. And it was from there that the rest of the search and rescue effort was completed.

One other point, and then I'll turn to questions.

When you evaluate the performance of the firefighters and the police officers, in addition to the bravery and the heroics that they demonstrated at the time of initial attack by standing their ground, and rather than giving us a story of men, uniform men fleeing while civilians were left behind, which would have been devastating to the morale of this country, rather than an Andrea Doria, if you remember that, they gave us an example of very, very brave men and women in uniform who stand their ground to protect civilians. Instead of that, we got a story of heroism and we got a story of pride and we got a story of support that helped get us through.

The second thing that they were able to help carry out, through I believe a superb command structure, going from Chief Gansey (ph) on down, was a recovery effort that was beyond any expectation that anybody could possibly have. If you had asked me the night of September 11, 2001 how many lives we would lose in the recovery effort at ground zero, I probably wouldn't have told you the number, but I would have said to myself, at least a doesen people.

We can't put up a building in this city without losing four or five people. And not because they're careless, but because it's exceedingly dangerous. Well, the site at the World Trade Center for four, five, six months, was the most dangerous recovery site probably in the history of this country.

There were fires of 200 degrees Fahrenheit below the ground. I could be standing here and you could be standing there, and I could be describing to you, Governor, the site, and then a fire would break out in between us, and it was just by luck or the design of god that we weren't killed.

They carried out the motion under great emotion, under great stress, flawlessly. And that's because they have a superb command and structure, and a structure in which they know how to deal with emergencies.

So I would urge you in evaluating their performance to put it in the context of, no one has ever encountered an attack like this. No one ever has ever had to have dealt with a recovery and search effort, or anywhere near this dimension. Not to mention the family center that had to be created, which no one had ever even heard of before, a family center which the Office of Emergency Management had developed with the relief of the people at Flight 800. The family center that they developed and the things that OEM provided for this city.

So I will -- maybe I'll make a comment at the end, but I think I covered most of the things that I want to say. And I thank you very, very much for your attention.

THOMAS KEAN, CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: Mayor, thank you very, very much.

The questioning will be lead this morning by Commissioner Ben- Veniste, followed by Commissioner Thompson.


GIULIANI: Good morning.

BEN-VENISTE: On Labor Day, September 2001, I took my wife and younger daughter to see the Statue of Liberty and the twin towers. After September 11, I, like tens of thousands, maybe millions of others, said, "There but for the grace of god go I." And we are the lucky ones, the survivors, who must do better in the future to protect our loved ones and our institutions.

You and I became friends at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the early '70s, prosecuting organized crime, labor racketeering, official corruption cases. The world seemed a much simpler place then.

I have followed your career since then with admiration. And while sometimes disagreeing with your decisions, never questioned your unwavering dedication to New York City.

On September 11, 2001, the city of New York showed what it was made of: the heroism of the firemen and the police officers who risked and in previously unimaginable numbers gave their lives in the quest for saving the lives of others. And your leadership on that day and in the days following gave the rest of the nation and, indeed, the world, in an unvarnished view, of the indomitable spirit and humanity of this great city. And for that I salute you.


BEN-VENISTE: There is no question but that on that day thousands of lives were saved by the heroic actions of the first responders in evacuating the towers and the surrounding areas. Among the most significant of the problems we have seen we're ones that reflect barriers between the effective communications between and among the first responders because of equipment that had not been standardized.

The country had seen a previous analogy to this in connection with its armed forces, which into the '80s did not have standardized communication equipment, ammunition, and other things that made communication between the Army and the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines an option during times of emergency. These were barriers which had grown up in these services which were proud, individual, and important sectors of our armed forces.

It took strong leadership to butt heads together and require standardization, to require that we be able to communicate between and among the services. So my first question to you is, given the fact that you were no shrinking violet, and given the fact that the differences in the equipment that were used and the radios and other communication technology over the years made it obvious that there could not be easy interagency communication, what barrier was there that prevented you from ordering standardization?

GIULIANI: No barrier, the technology. And that's the reason why there isn't standardization today. And the difference in mission between the fire department and the police department.

If I can explain that the way in which -- the way in which the fire department and the police department communicate is different because generally they have different missions. The fire department communicates, opts for a radio that allows for much less range of communication, but much more accurate communication in a small area, where more people can be on the line. Because when they're managing an emergency, they need to have as many people on the line as possible, because they're deploying a number of different companies, they're putting them in different places, they have to be able to communicate with each other.

The police department communicates by essentially simplifying it, basically police officer to headquarters, or police officer to dispatcher, because you're largely dealing with a one-on-one mission, rather than a major emergency mission. So the general way in which a police department communicates is different than the general way in which a fire department communicates. And when they're in the same emergency, they really have to get on the same frequency in order to be able to communicate with each other.

We have purchased for the fire department radios. I believe the radios came in early 2001. I think it was early 2001. I don't remember the exact date, but the radios had come in well before September 11, 2001.

We had purchased for them new radios. They had attempted to use them and found them too complicated to use and had withdrawn them, and were training people in how to use the new radios. That has proven to be so complex and so difficult that, until a few weeks ago, they haven't been able to do it.

So there are significant differences in the way in which the two of them communicate. And the best answer is to create an interoperable system so that the police radio can be switched over and be used the same way, again, simplifying it somewhat.

Generally, a police radio and a fire radio should operate differently because 90 percent of the time, 95 percent of the time they're doing different things. Police officers are chasing criminals; firefighters are dealing in mass emergencies. But they should have radios that are interoperable so that in an emergency both of them can be switched onto the same channel.

BEN-VENISTE: But in the interim...

GIULIANI: Those radios do not exist today.

BEN-VENISTE: In the interim, would you not suggest that there has to be in place some kind of system where communications can be synthesized, that even if the radios are not interoperable, that there has to be a level of communication which was not in place on 9/11?

GIULIANI: Well, it was in place. There are -- there were...

BNE-VENISTE: It didn't operate effectively on 9/11.

GIULIANI: It may not have operated, but they all had -- they all had a radio system that would have allowed them to communicate with each other. But they decided that they couldn't use it, that it wasn't operable, that they weren't able to get through. And part of the problem that you'll face, even when you create an interoperable system, is that if too many people are trying to communicate at the same time in any channel, they will begin to interfere with each other.

BEN-VENISTE: But at the very top there's got to be some coordination. That's my own point.

GIULIANI: Yes, absolutely.

BEN-VENISTE: Let me move to a second area which we think there has got to be some movement in change, and that is in the area of the 9/11 emergency response. In the case of 9/11, individuals who were trapped in the building called 911, searching for answers to their immediate distress. And we found that those operators were not in a position to do anything other than receive information.

It wasn't an interactive loop, which obviously was called for in circumstances of this kind of dire emergency. Had you considered prior to 9/11 the possibility in a disaster of this kind where people could go for information and receive it?

GIULIANI: I would have to say in -- you know, seeing what you've observed, or even going through some of this over the last year or two, 911 was overwhelmed. And should it have been larger, should it have been anticipated? Yes, it probably should have. But it wasn't.

It was not one of those things that was not anticipated. 911 volume -- my numbers may be slightly off, but just for purposes of illustration, 911 on any given day does about 30,000, 35,000 calls. When they get up to 50,000 to 55,000, they are at capacity or beyond capacity. And I think they were well over 55,000 that day.

And I don't think anyone ever anticipated that they would have to deal with an emergency of this kind. So some of the things that have now emerged, that they should have had more information, that there should have been updates, I suspect what was happening was they were so overwhelmed with calls, just getting to the next call and getting to the next call and getting to the next call, even the supervisors didn't have the time to impart information.

Number one, they weren't trained that way. They should have been, but they weren't. And number two, even if that would have been their instinct, they were so overwhelmed that they weren't able to do it.

BEN-VENISTE: Well, this is an area that we feel there can be and there should be a solution.

GIULIANI: Absolutely.

BEN-VENISTE: Final question, Rudy. When you and I were prosecutors and dealt with both the FBI and the New York PD, we saw that there was a level of, for want of a better word, arrogance at the FBI. It was a one-way street. They did not interact. They were happy to receive information, but didn't give it.

Things have changed somewhat now. In the world that we live in now, facing the potential of other terrorist attacks, it seems a no- brainer that as a force multiplier the FBI needs to trust more, it needs to disseminate more, and it needs to utilize the vast resources of police departments such as the city of New York. I'd like to get your comments on that.

GIULIANI: There's no question about that. The FBI would be even more effective. Or, to the extent that the FBI utilizes state and local law enforcement, the FBI takes what is a relatively small law enforcement organization and multiplies it dramatically.

The New York Police Department is larger than FBI. It's a larger police agency than the FBI. So if you want to know about New York City, you have got to work with the New York Police Department.

Now, the FBI learned that lesson after we left the United States Attorney's Office, but some -- a long time ago, long before I was the mayor or United States attorney, when they established a joint terrorism task force, which is by no means, again, perfect, but a lot better than many other cities and States have available to them, and is a concept that should be replicated else where. Other cities that are under threat -- and, you know, we believe the threat is largest in New York or greatest, but the threat is everywhere -- should have a joint terrorism task force. And the FBI should be sharing information with the local police and the state police.

And even -- and the resistance is a fear, because I've heard this expressed, including at times when I was trying to get information from the FBI for myself and for my police commissioner -- and this was after September 11 and during the time of heightened emergency -- I was told that if we give the information to the police then it will be leaked. Well, every once in a while the FBI leaks.

BEN-VENISTE: I'm shocked, shocked.

GIULIANI: You know, I don't want to say anything, but every once in a while, you know -- so my response was, "Either give it to me now or I'll read it in The New York Times in two or three days." But let's share it with state -- we don't -- we've got to trust our state and local police.

The FBI is a great law enforcement organization. The New York Police Department is a great law enforcement organization. The Chicago Police are a great law enforcement organization. They've got to have information to operate.

And the dispute there, which was not so much not being alerted. We would get alerted. But what I wanted was the information.

The question was, give us the words, because I need the words. I need to know what you know because I don't need to know it as the mayor, but my police commissioner needs to know it. And his 50 guys that do terrorist work need to know it, because they may be able to see in a word something that says "bridge" to them or "tunnel" or -- if I may, I'll give you the illustration.

It was several -- and I think I shared this with Bob Kerrey when he visited with me and John Lehman. It was several weeks after the attack, and it was after the anthrax attack, which followed the first attack. And the country was put on a higher -- on a much higher alert.

And the police commissioner and I were sitting in my office and we were trying to figure out what to do now that we were on a higher alert. We were on the highest alert we could think of being on. So I called and asked, "Could you give me the words that provoked this higher alert so that my police commissioner and I can make some choices? Because we can't cover everything." But maybe we can make some calculated risks, which we realized was always a risk.

And after about four, five hours of going back and forth and getting a further clearance, they gave the information directly from the CIA to our police commissioner, who was able, with his staff, to make choices about what we should emphasize. Should we put more people at subways? Did it sound like if there was going to be an attack it was going to be a subway attack, a tunnel attack? Did it sound like it was going to be another building attack? Did it sound like it was going to be an attack on a synagogue or a church?

These people are experts at this. And the more the FBI shares this information, and the more we break down this fear that somebody is going to get credit or somebody is going to -- somebody is going to leak something, we really shouldn't worry about the leak part. It comes out anywhere. So might as well give it to law enforcement earlier.


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you very much, Rudy.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

KEAN: Governor Thompson.

JAMES THOMPSON, 9/11 COMMISSIONER: Mayor Giuliani, I would like to associate myself, and I think probably every member of the panel does, with Commissioner Ben-Veniste's opening remarks considering your extraordinary leadership not only for the city of New York during crisis, but for the national as well in setting an example for all of us. And I would like to take up on your opening statement and simply express my opinion that we here on this commission are not engaged in a search for blame. We're not engaged in a search for villains.

We're engaged in two things. One, what actually happened as best we can determine it? And two, what lessons can we learn from what happened and the response to it that hopefully will lessen the chance that it will happen again, or in such great numbers?

All of us realize that it will happen again in some fashion somewhere, probably not in the same way. As we observed yesterday, the enemy is versatile, smart, entrepreneurial, and they don't fight the same war twice, as we sometimes do. We can't do that and carry the country with us in support of reform if we're seen as people who judge solely in hindsight, second-guessing decisions of people who stood in the thick of battle with debris and bodies falling from the hundredth floor and had to make split-second decisions on rescuing and helping as many people as possible.

In my view, it would dishonor the memory of those who died on September 11 if we don't learn those lessons and teach them to the country and hope for their support.


THOMPSON: I would rather honor the memory of those who died by moving forward and helping save other Americans.

Now, could you give us a description of the particular kinds of information you either did or did not receive from the FBI during the summer of 1991, with particular reference -- and the commission has devoted many hours to this -- information that was received or not received about Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda during this period of extraordinary high chatter that the FBI and the CIA have previously testified about during that summer that proceeded September 11, 2001?

GIULIANI: The information that I received in the summer, or in the period, you know, leading up to September 11, 2001, would be not terribly different than the information that I received over the maybe two or three years prior -- prior to that, going back to '97, '98, with the terrorist bombing case and the terrorists that were brought to New York to be prosecuted in the southern district of New York. From that point on, we would receive fairly regular briefings that the city was on alert, that there were dangers, that there were risks.

Most of my briefings would come from the police. And most of them would occur during the regular meeting I had each week with the police commissioner, which included a written report and an oral presentation either from the commissioner or from the deputy commissioner or one of the people that was an expert on this.

And then every once in a while -- but I can't remember this increasing particularly in 2001 -- but every once in a while it would include a briefing by John O'Neil (ph) from the FBI, who would come over after having maybe told the police department he wanted to reiterate something of importance that he would tell me. And sometimes it would come from Louis Freeh, who would call me from Washington to say they wanted to brief me on something.

But that was not particularly different in 2001 than it was in '98, '99, 2000. And beginning back then, we would continuously get alerts and advice about things that we should do, like to close down the area around the courthouse because there was a fear that there would be a bombing at the courthouse in retaliation for holding the terrorists in the Metropolitan Correction Center. So we did that. We closed the streets around the courthouse and put up barricades.

And then specific warnings about the stock exchange and about city hall. And we put up barriers around all of those places. And then sometimes there would be an arrest that would be made, and during the arrest things were seized from the terrorists. And the things seized from the terrorists would include plans that sometimes would be the plans of New York City subways, New York City tunnels. Very often it would be the stock exchange, public buildings at city hall, or whatever.

So those were thought of as the primary -- those were thought of as the primary target. And it seemed to me that information, that protocol that the FBI and police developed, came largely from what they were seizing from terrorists or suspected terrorists. And I assume, because I wasn't privy to this part of it -- and I assume from what they were hearing on their interceptions.

But there was no -- we were on high alert from about '97, '98 on. Probably the most briefings I received and the most information came in the build up to the millennium celebration in 2000, where I received four or five separate briefings about possible terrorist plans to attack that celebration. And we went through drills and exercises and deployed thousands of police officers and did background checks because there was a question about whether to cancel it or not.

I think the one in Seattle was canceled. And we decided to go forward with it, but with some real risk attached to it. But there was nothing particular in that summer of 2001 that was any different than the four, five years before.

THOMPSON: You've faced many decisions as the chief executive, and you understand how chief executives function. We've heard in these hearings, and even more in our private interviews, about the difficulty of chief executives, whether President Clinton or President Bush or President Reagan or President Bush, again, getting briefings on every conceivable subject that falls within a president's jurisdiction and having to sort of prioritize the issues of the day and make decisions on those.

We've heard about the August 6 PDB that President Bush received, and we've heard about the PDBs that President Clinton was privy to and decisions that were made on the basis of intelligence. Can you give us just a perspective as a former chief executive on the difficulties or challenges that chief executives face in dealing with everything at once every day?

GIULIANI: Well, I think that -- now, when you go back over a report, and you know the end of the story, which is a horrible one, but you know the end of the story, the reports that are relevant become much more obvious than before you know the end of it. And part of the reason for that is you're given so much information at all different levels.

I mean, the FBI and the CIA and the other intelligence agencies collect enormous amounts of information. Then they distill that information and they pass on a smaller amount, but even still an even enormous amount of information.

As the mayor of New York City, I was probably warned about threats to New York City. I can't give you like an accurate or a scientific number. I'll give you one for rhetorical impact. Once a day, or five times a week, or -- it was not unusual for me to receive a phone call from Police Commissioner Brattin (ph) or Police Commissioner Safer (ph) or Police Commissioner Caric (ph) and say, "I have to talk with you on a secure phone," or "I need to meet with you." And to give me a warning about a threat, something that was going to happen to the city.

So I imagine with the president it would multiply that out many, many times. So now that we hear the word "threat" and it is attached to something that appears to be connected to September 11, it jumps out at us. At the time, it has to have melded together with hundreds of other things that were of equal or more importance. So when I look at these reports, I don't -- they don't seem to me to be the kinds of things that would jump out at you to be so terribly unusual.

THOMPSON: Let's turn our attention to the FBI for a moment. I'm sure you're acquainted somewhat, at least, with the efforts that Director Mueller has made to reform the FBI and to change the focus of its mission from strictly law enforcement and law enforcement and intelligence, and to change the culture of the FBI to reward intelligence successes in the same way that they reward or have rewarded traditionally law enforcement successes in dealing with their agents.

Give us your assessment of how well you think he's done so far. But, also, give us your assessment of what structural changes we may need to recommend concerning the FBI, or the CIA, for that matter, because neither Director Tenet nor Director Mueller will, despite good intentions, always be there. And we need to tell the Congress and the American people how the collection and dissemination of intelligence for the defense of this nation should be handled in the future.

GIULIANI: Well, I think it would be very, very valuable to recommend the creation of joint terrorism task forces in all major cities in the country so that the FBI and the police are working together as partners. When Rick Ben-Veniste asked me that before, and I referred to the joint terrorism task force that was established in the late 1970s, the real benefit of it is that the police officer and police detective and the FBI agent are partners. They sit in the same office. They go out and investigate the same case.

So it doesn't mean you always get all the information that you want, and it doesn't mean that the director doesn't have to break down even barriers there. But at least you're dealing at a level of trust and cooperation that is beyond, you know, a lot of it throughout the United States. That would be an excellent mechanism to kind of assure that the information is flowing.

That also presents to the FBI in a compelling way the need for the two-way street of cooperation. There was a case -- I don't know if Commissioner Kerrey described this yesterday, but there was a case about a year, a year and a half before September 11, 2001, in which the joint terrorism task force foiled an attack on the New York City subways by terrorists when had plans for the subways, the tunnels, the bridges. That case happened because a citizen noticed something suspicious and went into a precinct and described it to a cop, who decided and evaluated what the citizens said that it was suspicious, and then brought in the joint terrorism task force.

But it happened because of good, old-fashioned police work. I don't know, it may have happened anyway, but I'm not sure it would have happened if you didn't have that joint terrorism connection, where the police worked very closely with the FBI. That would help a lot.

I think that the director has made great strides in opening the FBI up. And I think he's moving them in exactly the right direction.

And the only advice from my limited perspective that I can offer with regard to the CIA and intelligence gathering is -- and this a belief more than it is something I can prove. I think if we had more human intelligence and we didn't rely just on interceptions, but we had human intelligence to inform the vast mounds of information that we get, we'd better be able to interpret it and to figure out priorities.

When you asked me before about the amount of information that comes in to intelligence analysts, you can put it on -- it's this big. And it all says threat. And it all says bad people who want to do terrible things.

To figure out which one you should concentrate on, you need an interpreter. And the interpreter is human intelligence, somebody inside these organizations. That's the way we investigated organized crime, and that's the way we investigated drug operations. You infiltrate them and then the interceptions make sense to you.

I think we fell in love with our technology, and I think we felt we had so much technology that that made us secure. And we moved away. And I'm not talking about this president, or the last one, or the last one, but for some time we moved away from the tough, more difficult and dirty work of human infiltrating organizations.

And if you had infiltrated organizations, then maybe the communique -- you wouldn't just rely on a briefing. Somebody would point it out to you and say that's the important one.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

KEAN: Mr. Mayor, just one thought, one question. New York City on that terrible day, in a sense, was blessed because it had you as a leader. It had somebody who was a great, great leader to take charge of a terrible, terrible event.

You also had, as you told us, some of the best people in the country to call on who worked for you and worked for the city. This commission is judged with making recommendations for the nation, in a sense.

And the cities -- the rest of the cities in this country are not going to have a Mayor Giuliani. They may have a good man or woman, but they're not going to have you. They're not going to have the kind of people that you had to call on that day to help you in this city. And we've got to make recommendations that also affect them and can make their city safer.

Have you got any thoughts about what kind of recommendations we could make based on your experience that would be across the board so that we could tell mayors of other cities, who are good mayors, but not you, have great people, but not very great people?

GIULIANI: The other cities have equally effective mayors and police departments, and maybe more effective than me. And this isn't about particular individuals. It really isn't.

It's about people who seek out this work. And I think New Yorkers -- you know, I was very blessed to have an unbelievably capable fire department and police department. I mean, beyond anything I would ever be able to describe to you. There's no way I can describe to you how effective the New York City Fire Department, the New York City Police Department is.

And I'm not just talking about on September 11. I'm talking about the hundreds of times that I have been in hospitals or emergency rooms with their families, men and women who put their lives at risk to protect other people.

So I was very blessed to have terrifically effective people, and rested on their shoulders. It's not about me. And I think our people are special, and I think New Yorkers are special. So I can't help him that.

KEAN: You're a New Yorker.

GIULIANI: I can't help it. I'm a New Yorker. I think they're special, and I asked them that night when I was standing at the police academy, knowing that I had lost so many of my own friends and loved ones, and there would be more to come, I asked them to give the country and the world a demonstration of how people react to terrorism by emerging stronger.

And they've emerged even stronger. And Mayor Bloomberg has carried on everything I was doing and done even more. And so has Commissioner Kelly. And I think that all these American cities have -- you know, have -- certainly among their fire departments and police departments, they have extraordinary people.

I did worry, and do continue to worry, that maybe because of the resources we have and the size that we have, that it isn't the same way in a lot of other places. I mean, big cities -- and this would also be true of Chicago, it would be true of Los Angeles, it would be true of the big cities -- big cities are better prepared for this than smaller places, because we deal with emergencies all the time. And we're much better prepared for physical disaster because, while we were all sleeping after your hearing last night until this morning, the New York Fire Department probably saved dozens of people and put out 10 fires, and the police department were probably engaged in emergency missions.

They just -- while we talk about it and opine about it, they just do it. And they're terrific at it. And I think other...

KEAN: What I was looking for was systems, a change in systems that we could recommend to other places in the country based on your experience.

GIULIANI: I think the most important recommendation I would make and put on the top of the list is to have OEMs. That cities should have offices of emergency management.

The Office of Emergency Management that we established in '95, '96 was invaluable to us. We would not have gotten through -- when I say September 11, I don't just mean the day. I mean the months after that.

And then the anthrax attack that followed it, which people tend to forget about it. Within a month of September 11, we were attacked by anthrax. And then a month later we had a plane crash. That, in and of itself, would have been the worst catastrophe of the year.

Without the Office of Emergency Management, training us and doing drills, doing exercises, we would not -- even with a very good police department and fire department, we would have been able to handle all that. And I know Chicago initiated an Office of Emergency Management within months of September 11, 2001, because Mayor Daly thinks in terms of, how do I prepare my city?

And I would think that would be something, along with a joint terrorism task force. If cities had that, it would help them a lot in bringing together these resources. But even in a city like New York, as you found out, with a very large police department and a very large fire department, not everything can be coordinated.

KEAN: Thank you.

Congressman Roemer.

TIMOTHY ROEMER, 9/11 COMMISSIONER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I, too, want to join, Mayor, in thanking you for your time this morning, and particularly your brave and courageous leadership on September 11. When many of us -- I served in government in Washington, D.C., on that day, and we constantly saw the replaying of the planes crashing into the two towers. And that brought a potential sense of devastation and insecurity to many people.

At the same time, the people would see the video of you marching down the streets of New York City, showing calm and showing leadership, that I think had a ripple effect, not just in New York City, but to people, leaders in Washington and around the country. So, for that, we're very grateful, and we're very grateful to the leadership that other people here in this city showed.

Let me ask you a direct question. I hope it's fair, very direct, about something that this commission has spent a great deal of time on, and that's the presidential daily brief of August 6, 2001 to the president.

In this document, it says "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." And it's only about a page and a paragraph. And in this document, which we've agreed did not tell the president that something was going to happen in New York City or that there were going to be airplanes coming into the World Trade Center, it does mention New York City or the World Trade Center three times in this document.


ROEMER: It says that -- please. It says that bin Laden and his followers would follow the example of the World Trade Center bombing, or bomber Ramsey Yousef, and bring the fighting to America. It talks about a clandestine source in 1998 that a bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim American youth for attacks. And it says -- it mentions the recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York City.

Now, again, Mayor, nothing to say that you should have known about something happening on September the 11th. But it mentions New York. And we all know since 1993, or 1997, when you mentioned the incident then, that New York was something that was very precious to us and a target by the terrorists.

I want to know why the CIA and the FBI were not sharing more of this with you. Because you've said to us just this morning that you didn't get an increased warning from the CIA and FBI. It was pretty steady from '97 through the millennium, through the spring and summer of 2001. Pretty steady.

It was always pretty high. But we have people in Washington, the CIA director and others, saying their hair was on fire, that this was a spike in warning.

One, why didn't we get better communication of this spike in warning in the spring and summer with a likely target, New York, to help you a little bit more, if possible? And two, what specifically can we do in these instances in the spring and summer to try to fortify and protect and prepare, not knowing particularly ABC of when, where, and who's going to do it, but how do we try to prepare our people, our sites, and the city for something that happened that day and is probably going to happen again?

GIULIANI: I don't know that I can really answer the whole question. I'll try.

If that information had been given to us, or more warnings had been given in the summer of 2001, I can't honestly tell you we would have done anything differently. I mean, we were doing at the time all that we could think of that was consistent with the city being able to move and to protect the city.

In fact, for some time, we had been heavily criticized for doing too much, including closing down City Hall and closing some of the areas around public buildings. So some of that would have sounded a great deal like the information that we were getting already in '98 and '99 and 2000, that New York City was a target.

I have to say that in the briefings that I got -- and this is all now recollection more than anything else -- but I think the police plan reflects that. Probably, if we were to list the number one thing repeated as a target, it was the subways, tunnels and bridges, largely because when arrests were made, those were the things that would be seized. And then public buildings would be second.

So it may or may not have led to increased security at some of those buildings. But I do think -- and, again, this is hypothetical and it's an interpretation -- I do think that the interpretation would have been more in the direction of suicide bombings than aerial attack. Because in all the briefings that I received, the two areas that were emphasized were bombings, meaning suicide-type bombings, or an area that we haven't talked much about, but we should talk more about if we're looking towards the future, which is biological and chemical attack.

So I don't know that that -- I don't know what it is that we would have done differently if we had been given the information. But we weren't given it.

ROEMER: We heard -- OK. I will not be able to follow up on that. I appreciate your answer, but I think the chairman wants to move on to the next one. I have several follow-ups, but thank you, Mr. Chairman.

KEAN: Senator Kerrey.

BOB KERREY, 9/11 COMMISSIONER: Mayor, let me at the beginning respectfully disagree with two things you said at the start. And it may not be a disagreement, it may just be me seeing the world slightly different than you do.

First of all, I don't believe it's an either/or choice of being angry at those who perpetrated this crime and feeling anger at towards those with responsibility. And, at the same time, I think one of the most remarkable things that you did during this whole period of time was help us channel our own anger, because one of the problems with anger is that it becomes its evil twin in a hurry and becomes hatred.

And the thing that I believe unified us on that day, in addition to your words and your leadership, was that it was no longer us and others. I mean, it wasn't just Americans who died on the 11th of September. Some of the people that you pointed out was New York City strengths. Our immigrant community died on September 11, including, I guess it's fair to guess, undocumented people, as well.

It wasn't just Christians and Jews. It was Christians, Jews and Muslims. And dare I say it, people who probably didn't believe in god, who just came to work and were trying to do what people do when they do their job.

And all of a sudden -- for the rest of my life, I'll never be able to see port authority police, fire, or New York City Police Department, or, for that matter, police department and fire department and port authority people anywhere and see them any differently than I do now, which is they're special people. And strangers became different. All the obituaries that were in the newspapers and all the funerals that you went to, you personalized people that previously had been strangers. And that's, I think, where the unity came from.

We didn't see it as us versus them. We didn't see the other any longer. We saw the humanity.

We reflected and let our anger subside a bit to see the humanity in other people at the moment that we may even be disagreeing with them. And I do praise you highly, especially for going to all those funerals. That had to be a terrible pain to do that.

But you allowed us to grieve. And through grief, understand the full dimension of this loss. And to unify us as a nation.

I mean, the word "damn" got dropped from our Yankees for a short period of time because the country did no longer see New York City as a strange and alien place. They saw it as a part of their country, as a part of their world, indeed, because it was all over the world that people were feeling the humanity and the loss of humanity in New York City.

Yesterday, Mayor, we had three of your former commissioners. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Commissioner Caric (ph) said -- in his testimony said, "The city through OEM had conducted coordinated plans for many types of emergencies, including one simulating bio/chem attack, mass transit, actual emergencies like blackouts, building collapses, storms, plane crashes, et cetera."

And when I asked the question, was there a scenario analysis done for the possibility that a plane could hit one of these 1,350-foot towers, I got the answer, "No." And I'm not sure that's correct, but, like now, I had five minute to do it, so I didn't have a chance to follow. To the best of your knowledge, was there a scenario analysis done for the possibility that a plane taking off from one of the airports in this area could hit the World Trade Center accidentally?

GIULIANI: I don't recall one that would be done. I recall a number of field exercises and tabletop exercises.

There was one done involving an actual field exercise involving a plane crash in which state and local and different county organizations had to respond to it to see if we could work together with the Nassau County, the port authority. There was one done involving a sarin gas attack right near the World Trade Center that involved the port authority. And there were many done involving building attacks, building fires, building collapses. But I don't recall one involving an aerial strike on a building.

ROEMER: Among the eureka moments for me, whereby I discovered something on this commission, was listening to flight attendant Betty Hong (ph) on American Airlines Flight 11 when she was talking to the ground. People on the ground, American Airlines and federal officials, were surprised that the plane had been hijacked. In fact, tried -- argued with us, are you sure it isn't air rage?

Don't you think the FAA should have told the port authority at some point during this whole entire period -- I mean, take '98 through 2001, because our staff has concluded that at least the Counterterrorism Center at CIA should have done some scenario analysis about hijacking since it was mentioned in some of things that we picked up. No specific plan was detected, but don't you think that the FAA or somebody at the federal level should have engaged in some scenario analysis about the possibility of a hijacking and begin to think about that as a possible threat against the United States?

GIULIANI: I imagine in hindsight it would have helped, sure. I mean, it would have. But they didn't.

So I don't know how to evaluate how they make decisions on what it is they decide on. Sure, if somebody had said, this is a possibility, then there would have been an exercise done based on it. But no one thought of it, and we didn't think of it.

We thought of a lot of things. We had plans for anthrax, we had plans for smallpox, we had plans for terrorist bombings, we had plans for dirty bombs, airplane crashes. But -- in all that thinking that we did, we had never come up with the thought that there would be planes used as missiles attacking buildings.

Whether others should have done it, I don't know. I don't know if I can really judge that, Senator.

ROEMER: Thank you.

KEAN: Commissioner Lehman.


Mr. Mayor, there is no question that your leadership and your firm grip and presence in your movable command post made a huge difference on that day. There was no question to the world that the captain was on the bridge. But there is a tradition in the Navy learned over centuries that sometimes the captain's not on the bridge, and that there has to be a clear and unambiguous succession of command authority in the event the captain is ashore when the attack comes, or the captain is killed in the event, and particularly when there are multiple crises around a battle or a ship.

And one of the problems that our staff and we see in the new incident command system that has just been promulgated on Friday, that it's really a formula for negotiation between strong and powerful and heroic agencies as to who's going to be in charge at the time. And I think Ray Kelly yesterday explained it very well, that this is a system based on a very strong mayoral system. And, in a way, it's based -- it's modeled on you being on the bridge.

We have a very strong mayor now. There have been times in the past, in fact frequent times, when we have not had very strong mayors. And we've had -- many cities around the country do not have a mayoral -- a strong mayoral system, even if the incumbent is strong.

But more importantly than that, below the mayor there does not seem to be in a position -- in a situation like we are trying to plan for, they're coming back. And they may and probably plan to do multiple events to maximize confusion and maximize casualties.

The problem is, even with a strong captain on the bridge, this does not -- this plan does not provide clear unity of command. It's a negotiating document. And I would like your personal view on whether it's not time, given the increased level of the threat from a very sophisticated enemy, that New York break from its long and successful tradition of working together with independent agencies to adopt a more clearly defined and unambiguous control and command system up above.

I'm not saying within, although there are some issues there, but much less strong. But among the agencies, port authority, fire department and police.

GIULIANI: First of all, I believe that Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly and the commissioners you saw here yesterday, have done a lot, learning from the things that happened on September 11, 2001, to improve the readiness of the city. And, in fact, I think they've done exceptionally good work in doing that.

And I think this protocol, matrix, is an attempt to try to improve on the one that we did of the two or three years earlier. I've forgotten exactly when it was put out. But I went through so many drafts of that, that when I see it now, I can't remember which was the last draft and which -- it took us about three years to develop that.

First of all, the line of authority is clear. The mayor is in charge. All of these agencies are mayoral agencies. In the same way the president of the United States is commander in chief, the mayor is in charge. That's why people elect the mayor, so they get the choice of whether they get a strong captain or weak captain or a lieutenant or whatever. The people get the choice of who they select.

And maybe now in the new era that we're in, this will be something people think about when they make the choice. But at least they get the choice of who is in charge.

There is the deputy mayor, who succeeds the mayor immediately if the mayor is sick, injured, hurt or missing. And that deputy mayor is designated. In my case, it was Joe Lhota, who was there right at the scene. He was the second person to come up to me with the police commissioner at the time, and he was ready to take command if anything happened to me.

And then there's a line of succession after that. So there's never any -- and this was not true not only of my administration, but of Mayor Dinkin's administration, Mayor Koch. And I think...

LEHMAN: But suppose there were three other events simultaneously.

GIULIANI: Well, I mean, that -- if there were three other events simultaneously, then you have the best police department in the country, usually with a police commissioner who is among the three or four very best police professionals in the country. Because the New York City Police Department draws the best people.

I never had trouble finding a really great police commissioner. The only problem I had was selecting between the 10 that wanted to be police commissioner.

LEHMAN: But why shouldn't there be an automatic...

KEAN: This is the last.

LEHMAN: This is my final. I'm from New York, too. Why shouldn't there be a formula so that while before that can be arbitrated, there's an automatic system for who is going to be in charge until a decision otherwise on the scene? I'm not talking about at the top, but on the scene of multiple incidents.

GIULIANI: I think that because incidents are complex. That's why you need OEM, and that's why I created OEM.

LEHMAN: But it doesn't have the authority. That's the problem.

GIULIANI: Yes it does. It has...

LEHMAN: It can dictate who's going to be in charge?

GIULIANI: Yes. It has the authority to decide who's in charge until the mayor gets there. And then I guess somebody could argue it. That never happened.

The way the system was arranged -- and I know my system better, but I think this one is very similar -- most emergencies have a department that's in charge. A typical criminal case, the police are in charge. A typical fire, the fire department is in charge.

Where it gets complicated is, let's say -- and I remember where this emerged. It emerged from the sarin gas attack that we simulated near the World Trade Center. And the question was, this was a political rally attacked by Islamic terrorists sarin gas attack, a thousand people down. And the question was, who's in charge? The terrorists were in the crowd still releasing the sarin gas. Or the police department is in charge, while it's still a criminal case, a terrorist case.

Now, the terrorists are arrested; they're now out. And now you've got a thousand victims that have to be saved. The fire department is in charge. and OEM has to determine that decision. So, if there were an attack in this building right now, if something happened in this building, and the terrorists were in this building, or we were being held hostage or whatever, everybody would arrive. It would be clear that the police department was in charge, the chief of the police department would be outside and he would be directing the situation.

Once the terrorists or hostage takers were taken out and this building became a rescue mission, we had all been injured with biological attack or chemical attack, now the fire department would take over. And I've saw several hundred of these and they never proved to be a problem.

One thing, I know you're a New Yorker, I'm a New Yorker, I'll tell you one thing, you know this about New York. And Rick is. They handle big things brilliantly. There is never -- there was not a problem of coordination on September 11, 2001, because it was bigger than everybody involved in it. So, nobody was asserting ego. The fire department should take over, the police department; the mayor should be in charge. Everyone sublimated their ego to how big it was. They're terrific at big emergencies.

Where the problems occur that you reported and found, it's in the smaller situations, where they have time to debate who's better, who's more effective. I come from a family of four uncles who were police officers and one who was a fire firefighter. So, I know this from the time I was two years old. And if it's a big emergency, they will all be in there helping each other and assisting each other. If it's an extraction from a car, they're going to race to get there, because the police department feels they can do it better. and the fire department believes they can do it better. That's why you have an OEM.

You want to maintain this tremendous pride, like the Marine Corps has or the FBI has. At the same time, you want to be able to use it correctly and that's why you need -- I mean the only thing I would recommend, and I think the present mayor is doing this. Mayor Bloomberg is doing this. You have got to have a very strong OEM, so that if Jerry Hower who is going to be here later -- I had two OEM directors, one was Jerry Hower, the second one you saw yesterday was Ritchie Shearer. If they arrived at an emergency and there was any doubt, they had the authority to say fire department in charge, or police department in charge. I would usually arrive there or my deputy mayor if I was sick or wasn't around. And then if they had a problem with that, they could raise it with the deputy mayor. But he would always support the head of OEM. So that -- I mean that's -- I think that is the best way to handle it in New York.

Thank you.

KEAN: Senator Gordon.

GORDON: Mayor Giuliani, your graphic description of your day, you remarked on one incident that leads me to a series of thoughts on which I'd like to have your comment. You said that instantly when you arrived there and spoke to the fire chief in charge, you know, you said you got a helicopter up to the top and rescue anyone? And he said, no, look at the flames. We can rescue people, you know, below the impact area. Now, that reference, I guess, was to tower No. 1, but presumably exactly the same doctrine applied to tower No. 2. Four people did manage to get down. But there obviously wasn't any way for your first responders to get above that area and to save anyone.

That's the part of your narrative that caused me to this thought. Our chart shows that 2,602 people lost their lives in those two towers that day. Ten of them, of course, were hijackers. A hundred and forty-seven were passengers in the two airplanes, a horrendous 403 were either your firefighters, or police officers, or Port Authority police officers. And my arithmetic tells me that that means that 2,042 civilians who were in the towers at the time lost their lives. I'm not sure, but perhaps you can tell me whether or not there was any break down as to how many of those people were above the impact areas and how many were below.

My own estimate, and you can tell me if you think I'm wrong, is probably fewer than 100 of them were below the impact areas. In other words, the overwhelming majority, there was no way for you or your people to get at it all. Now, if I'm right on that, and if I'm right on the estimates that you've made that some 25,000 people were evacuated from those two towers, that tells me that your first responders, at the terrible price of 403 lives of their owns', saved or managed to saving of over 99.5 percent of the people they could conceivably have saved. Which is absolutely remarkable. Overwhelmingly remarkable, you know, no matter what kind of criticisms there are after the fact on the way in which it was merit.

Am I correct in that estimate? Would it be accurate to say that your people saved, at this cost of 403 of their own lives, 99.5 percent or more of the people that they could have conceivably have saved?

GUILIANI: I don't know if that would be the exact percentage, Senator. But the reality is, that they saved more lives than I think anyone had any right to expect that any human beings would able to do. Thou -- done differently with different people, and people maybe unwilling to be as bold as they were, you would have had a much more serious loss of life. And their willingness, the way I describe it, to stand their ground and not retreat. And even their interpretation of an evacuation order.

I know some of them, I know one firefighter whose family has explained this to me. He was in, he was in the north tower, he was evacuating people. He was given an evacuation order and he told his men to go and sent them down, he got out. But he was with a person in a wheelchair and an overweight person who were having a hard time getting down, so he stayed with them.

So how did he interpret that evacuation order? I will get all my men out but I'm going to stay here and help these people out. And the fact that so many of them interpreted it that way, kept a much calmer situation and a much better evacuation ...




GUILIANI: And these people...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk about the radios!

GUILIANI: ... these people...




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk about the radio!

KEAN: Would you please ask...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son was murdered! Murdered because of incompetence and the radios doesn't work.

KEAN: You are simply wasting time at this point that could be used for question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're wasting time.

KEAN: Please. Thank you.


GORDON: Thank you Mr. Mayor.

GUILIANI: It's an understandable...

GORDON: I think...

GUILIANI: Senator, it's an understandable.

GORDON: ... that record is absolutely extraordinary.

GUILIANI: And when you undergo the losses, it creates -- it's very understandable.


KEAN: Commissioner Gorelick, if you want to continue to remain...


KEAN: ... I would ask you please to be in order.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ask about Motorola.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ask about it. Ask about who's getting contracts from Motorola.

GORELICK: I have...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have one of us on that panel. Just one of us on that panel.

KEAN: I would ask you all, please...


KEAN: I understand your feelings. I also understand this hearing has to continue in an orderly manner. I would ask you to conduct yourselves that way. Please.

GORELICK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I actually -- the questions I have, Mr. Mayor -- and again, thank you for your appearance here today -- are to follow up on the questions that Commissioner Lehman was asking. I appreciate your overarching statement that there has been continuity between your administration and your successors. But you made two choices that are, in fact, different from your successor, that I would really like to explore and drill down on.

One is in this command matrix. The fact of the matter is, and however it took you to arrive at your matrix, when you issued it in 1996, it had to use the basketball vernacular, very few jump balls. You basically said in this type of incident "X" is going to be in the lead. Now, that may have changed in the course of an emergency. You note emergencies are dynamic; the role of the incident commander might change. But you have a presumptive leader in each situation. In the procedures that were issued last week, nearly every -- in fact, every significant incident has at least two and in some instances as many as five agencies listed as the primary agency. That's a difference.

Now, you -- in response to Commissioner Lehman you said, well, that's why you have OEM. But in fact, the second difference between your policies and your successors is that in your policies, the Office of Emergency Management is the on-scene interagency coordinator. And does have the capacity or did have the capacity that you described. In a "New York Times" op-ed piece, Jerry Hower who ran, as you noted, your OEM at that beginning says -- is highly critical of Mayor Bloomberg's decision to essentially downgrade and change the role of OEM from a highly operational element that's an extension of the mayor to, in his words, I and think here he's quoting Director Bruno to a think tank.

He says that -- I'm quoting Hower here, "Mayor Bloomberg continues to undermine the city's ability to deal with crises by weakening the role of the coordinator." And I won't quote at length, but you know, I know that you're going to be loathe to criticize your successor, but it's important for us to understand on the ground in a city like this, what the proper model should be because we will be making recommendations about this. And so, I would like to ask you whether -- whether you believe the policies and procedures you set out are better or not, and what your reasons might be.

GUILIANI: Well, I believe that the part of it that Jerry was incorrect about is that OEM still has the authority to make the choice, as to which agency is in charge. And that's critical. That's the critical part of it. Whether more agencies are selected as possible incident commanders because the situation is more complex, or because on analysis after they looked at all of this, they've decided that there are -- if you gave me a copy of it, it would probably help. If I could just see it.

GORELICK: Let me...

GUILIANI: Because I'm really not as familiar with that, obviously, as I am my own.

GORELICK: This is yours. I'm sorry. This is Mayor Bloomberg's. And this is yours.


GORELICK: And you can see the difference here.

OK. Well, the one thing that I would clarify in this is, is that OEM has the authority, meaning the new united command matrix, that OEM has the authority to make the decision, if there's any confusion about who's in charge. I mean the citywide public health emergency; it is possible that any one of those five agencies, depending on the kind of citywide emergency can be in charge of it. Whether it's HHC or NYPD, FDNY, the Department of Health, so OEM would have to make that choice. That's the thing I would clarify in this if there's any ambiguity.

GORELICK: Yes. Because I would note that in the -- in the procedures issued by Mayor Bloomberg, and frankly, it is consistent with the impression we were left with in the testimony yesterday. OEM responds to multi-agency incidents, participates in the command, coordinates resources from emergency support functions, relays information and supports logistic needs. It has, shall we say, rather less affirmative, aggressive, operational sense than it does in your more straightforward language. And maybe it is an issue of clarification, or maybe it is a choice.

GUILIANI: But in terms of my opinion of it, I would think that is the thing that would have to be clarified. Because when a power outage, NYPD, FDNY are the possible incident commanders. It really is going to depend if there is any suspicion of terrorism or criminal activity, or whether it is just a straight blackout that we're dealing with. And if there is any confusion between the police and the fire, and the mayor isn't available, then somebody has to decide that. That has to be...



GORELICK: So, to...

KEAN: Last question.

GORELICK: Yes, sir. So just to clarify; your concern is not with the listing of multiple agencies, which is different from the plan you put in place. But insuring there is a mechanism that is quite clear for determining who gets the lead if numerous agencies do show up, as listed in the protocol.

GUILIANI: Correct. The agencies that are listed as alternatives all make sense: aviation incident, police department, fire department or Port Authority. Depending on the aviation incident, it has to be one those running it. The real question is if there's any dispute, you want to know immediately who's in charge. And that has to be OEM's responsibility.

GORELICK: Thank you very much.

GUILIANI: Thank you.

KEAN: Commissioner Fielding.

FIELDING: Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Mayor Giuliani, as your friend of yours, I'm very pleased to join with my fellow commissioners and join in their words. And also, my own personal admiration for you over the years, not just for your public service over the years, but for the inspirational performance that you gave on that day after the attack as the symbol of resiliency, of not only New Yorkers, but all Americans. And I'm very pleased and proud to say that to you.

I think the clean up hitter here, so there are a couple of things I want to catch on. But first of all, there's some confusion in my mind and others as to the relationship between OEM and the Port Authority. For instance, if the Port Authority at Newark heard that there was a plane headed for Manhattan, could they communicate to the command center of OEM?

GUILIANI: Yes. Port Authority did have, and I'm sure continues to have direct communication with OEM, and frequent communication with OEM. We did exercises and drills with the Port Authority on a fairly frequent basis, including simulating a plane crash for this very reason, to make sure that the Port Authority, the police department, fire department, the Nassau County people could all respond correctly. So they have direct -- they have direct communication with OEM.

And the building, the World Trade Center, I think you'll have to check with others that know the statistics, I think it was the most responded to building in the city. So they were -- they were in -- the police, the fire and Port Authority were used to working together in that building. They do it like seven or eight times a day.

FIELDING: OK. Now, following up on something Governor Thompson asked you, my question is slightly different. Despite all of Bob Mueller's good efforts and he's really, you know, grasped the situation and is dealing with it in anybody's mind who observes him. From your background in law enforcement and as a mayor, and your various public services, do you think that given the role traditionally, culturally of the FBI and its strong emphasis on law enforcement that that's an organization that can, indeed, not only perform law enforcement, but also counterterrorism. Or would it be, in a perfect world, a better thing for us to consider putting that task and separating those tasks?

GUILIANI: That's a -- that's a very -- that's a debate that has pros and cons. And it's very difficult to decide which is a better way to do it.

FIELDING: But it's our messy debate. And we need your help.

GUILIANI: But you have to decide it. And I would say that there's probably more gain than loss by having it in the same agency. By having the criminal investigation and the counterintelligence for domestic purposes in the same agency. And that if we figure out how to have them communicating better, so that we don't have the wall, and we don't have the separation and we have, you know, sharing of information, we're probably going to gain a lot more from that.

If it were just a separate domestic counterintelligence agency, I think it would be kind of isolated, in terms of its ability to realistically pick up what's going on. When I was asked earlier by some of the other panel members about the work by the local police, the FBI, I'm sure the director understands this, has to think of the local police as arms of the FBI. Because very often they're the ones who can pick up the intelligence that's going trigger, you know, the possibility of an attack, like the one I mentioned. And they're probably, you know, half dozen others, where the initial information came about because of good street police work.

So, if you had just an intelligence agency that was separated from a law enforcement agency, I think it would tend to become even more isolated than the situation we've had with the FBI. The idea of having those relationships with police departments is a valuable part of their intelligence gathering.

FIELDING: OK. Thank you. One follow-up question -- one final question, excuse me. We haven't talked about the aftermath of 9/11, but I know that FEMA had a major role in this city. And I guess at one point there must have been some question as to whether there needed to be a federalization of the clean up effort. and we really could use your comments on what happened because we've had no information on that.

GUILIANI: Well, the reason the city of New York is such a remarkable place, and I have such strong feelings about all these people on the fire department and police department and OEM and else where, is they weren't attacked once. They were attack attacked in two months, three times. With attacks that would be considered historic in nature, in terms of proportion. First, the attacks of September 11, 2001, then anthrax in NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, the governor's office, my office, a number of places. A new component of first-time America ever had to deal with that.

And then just a month later we had an airplane crash, tragic horrible airplane crash in Rockaway. A tragic, horrible airplane crash that in at least in the initial moments appeared to be a terrorist attack. FEMA was remarkably helpful. And played exactly the right role. Joe Alba came here within 24 hours, he took over the Javits Convention Center, they deployed search and rescue operatives from Indianapolis, from Chicago, from Baltimore, from Phoenix Arizona.

We had -- we had -- Governor Thompson will appreciate this. We had Chicago police officers directing traffic in New York City. I don't know where they sent the people, but you know...


GIULIANI: But they were directing traffic in New York City. And we got tremendous help from FEMA. And could not have gotten through it without all of that help. and they made the right decision for New York. It might be a different decision some place else because you have all these resources. At that time, a 40,000 police department, and an 11,000 person fire department; even with the terrible losses, a massive fire department, all these emergency people, the Port Authority. The best role to play in New York is a supportive role. It would have been impossible for FEMA to take over the effort of -- they wouldn't have understood the intricacies of the city well enough to take over the effort. So they played the right role.

If they had moved into another place -- I was in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after the attacks, and went to the high school and the field where the plane came down. And my police commissioner was with me, Bernie Karik, and when we passed a local firehouse, both of us stopped for a moment. And were stun would the idea that it was a fire house with two trucks that had to respond to what maybe could have been another terrorist attack.

So, you know, that might have been a situation where FEMA would come in, and FEMA would have to help and assist, because the resources aren't there. In New York, or Chicago, or Los Angeles, these police organizations are going to be so big, you have got to kind of work with them instead of try to direct them.

FIELDING: OK. Thank you very much. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

KEAN: Vice Chairman Hamilton.

HAMILTON: Mayor, we're running about 25 or 30 minutes late because of the interest the commission has had in your questions, so -- and your answers. You'll be glad to know I will not ask any questions.

I did feel, however, important that I simply express to you my appreciation, not just for your leadership. You've heard that a lot this morning. But also because of the cooperation you've given this commission. And the candor, with which you responded this morning and in the previous interview, we're deeply appreciative of that. And we may very well want to ask you further questions as we finalize our report.

As Midwesterner, I might say to you, I have been impressed time and again with the pride you expressed in New York City. And I admire that greatly and I think...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 3,000 people are dead! They were not killed because he's a great leader. Three thousand people murdered does not mean leadership! He's a vacuum of leadership.

HAMILTON: So we thank you. Your help, your leadership and your cooperation to this commission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not asking real questions of the mayor. I will give you two minutes to rebut him.

HAMILTON: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two minutes to ask a couple of real questions! Don't arrest the whistleblower.

KEAN: Mr. Mayor, thank you very...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't arrest the whistleblower!

KEAN: ... very much for your appearance here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's ask a couple of real questions!


9/11 Commission Questions Bernard Kerik, Thomas Von Essen, and Richard Shrier



Individual Testimony (.pdf Format)

Bernard B. Kerik
Former Commissioner, New York Police Department (NYPD)
Submitted Testimony

Thomas Von Essen
Former Commissioner, Fire Department of New York (FDNY)
Submitted Testimony

Richard Sheirer
Former Director, New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM)
Submitted Testimony


Chair Thomas H. Kean: Thank you. The questioning is going to be led today by Senator Kerrey, followed by Senator Gorton.

Commissioner Bob Kerrey: Well, first of all Commissioner Sheirer let me agree with you. There is no way that we can thank all those who gave their lives and the thousands of others who rallied at the cause on the eleventh who, as all three of you have said, saved so many people that otherwise might have perished on that day. And to all of you, and to all who you known, to everyone who's involved, I do feel an enormous debt of gratitude and thanks.

I also agree, Commissioner Von Essen, that we ought to try to, that our work ought to be in the context of 9-11, which is why we try to recreate at least some of what happened on that day.

And with you, as well, Commissioner Kerik, who I'd like to begin with, I do believe your desire to make certain that we provide the resources, that you said the ammunition to fight the war, which I presume means resources altogether.

And I just say at the outset, one of the concerns that I've got is that I see that we're not doing that. I mean, for example, we all know on that day that in a horribly tragic and perverse way as a consequence of there not being a lot of live casualties our hospitals weren't over-taxed. And the American Hospital Association, the GAO is saying today that we're nowhere near close to being able to fight a biological war, deal with the aftermath of a biological - not even close.

So that there's evidence, and I could cite others, I'm sure you could as well, where we're talking but we're not ponying up the resources necessary to get the job done. We come to the wall and say, well, we can't do that and maybe we'll get lucky and they won't attack us again which is, I think, what got us, in many ways, in trouble before.

Let me ask you, Commissioner Kerik, in your, page 3, you talk about the City, through OEM, had coordinated plans for many types of emergencies and those plans were tested frequently. On the drills, exercises you talked about - Chem, Bio, mass transit, against a mass transit system, actual emergencies like blackouts, building collapses, storms, plane crashes. Noticeably absent on this list is any kind of table-talk exercise dealing with the potential of Al-Qaeda attacking New York City one more time. Is that - did you do a scenario analysis of what Al-Qaeda might do in New York City?

Former Commissioner of the New York Police Department Bernard B. Kerik: I think the overall - the tabletop exercise with regard to a biochemical attack may not have been dealt with solely with regard to al-Qaeda, but it was with regard to a terrorist attack, whether it's al-Qaeda or Answar al-Islam or some terrorist group by a different name. And they were, in all of the other things that we prepared and practiced for, were in the same vein, the same mindset.

Kerrey: When you're talking about a plane crash, you're talking about a plane crash in the city itself? Did you prepare - certainly where the building are 1350 feet high, with Newark and LaGuardia and Kennedy and commercial aviation in the area, that must have been on the list of possible tabletop scenarios that you evaluated.

Kerik: We did plan for and do tabletops and drills for plane crashes. I want to say, because I heard earlier some of the testimony, when it comes to crisis and it comes to preparation and planning, I'd just like to take a moment to explain to the commission. Unfortunately, how well we did this, because two months from the day the towers were attacked, Flight 587 dropped out of the sky over Queens, dropped in the middle of a community. It was the second largest airplane crash in US history. And unfortunately, we had gotten so good at doing our job, within 24 hours from the minute that that plane hit the ground, we had the community cleaned up, we had the bodies removed, we had the gas on, we had the electric on, we had the streets open, the water was on. And minus the devastation, minus the devastation and destruction and the death that it caused, minus that everything was back to normal within a period of 24 hours, unlike anywhere else in this country.

Kerrey: But did the feds come to you, did the FBI, CIA, and the joint task force that were being put together after the seventh of August 1998 or after the 12th of October 2000, in other words after East African embassy bombings and the Cole, and say al-Qaeda's in the United States of America. They obviously had tremendous and very sophisticated capability, far beyond what they demonstrated in February 1993, and we must do some scenario analysis to protect the people of New York City. Did that ever happen?

Kerik: I can't say that they volunteered or requested us to do scenario analysis, but what I can say, and I have said this consistently, I really personally, I didn't need anybody to come to me and tell me that al-Qaeda was here. If you look at interviews by bin Laden in '97 or '96, he said he was coming, he said he was going to send people. He said he despised this country. And, for those of you who do not know, I lived in Saudi Arabia from 1978 to 1980. I lived in Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 1984. I heard a lot of the same rhetoric from bin Laden that I heard and witnessed in Saudi Arabia. So, I understood the mentality, I understood his threat.

I also had a very positive relationship, and a good relationship with John O'Neill, who I consider one of the greatest investigators in US history when it comes to al-Qaeda, or when it comes to the radical holy war Muslims that want to devastate this country. And in the last few weeks, or the last few months I should say, as this commission has been ongoing, I personally, trying to sort of sort it out myself, I reached out to people like Murray Weiss, that wrote the book about John O'Neill, I reached out to other people that knew John even better than I did, and I said ÔWas there ever a time, maybe I missed something maybe I didn't get it, was there ever a time that John O'Neill said that they would come with planes? Did I not hear it? Was there something I missed?' And it just - it was never said.

Kerrey: But on the list of things that you indicate you do tabletop exercises are the possibility that a commercial airliner, undirected by al-Qaeda, could crash accidentally into a building in New York City. Is that not correct? Did I get that correct, in this paragraph you talk about plane crashes, do I presume correctly that plane crashes into building in New York City were among the things you did scenario analysis of, whether or not you prepared for it?

Kerik: We had a functional drill of a plane crash at Kennedy, we did not have a tabletop of a plane crash into a building. A plane crash into a building would be handled basically as a hi-rise fire which it would have caused. We received no information from anyone that I was aware of.

Kerrey: No, but, I mean, the only information needed is you've got a lot of planes taking off from LaGuardia and a lot of planes taking off from Kennedy and lot of planes taking off from Newark. Were among the things that you did as you did possible problems in New York City, say, one of these planes could crash into one of these 1350 feet places? A lot of us, when the first plane hit, thought it was an accident. And I presume that you look at a 1350 foot building and say, oh my god maybe a plane someday will hit it, and I wonder if you, did you do scenario analysis?

Kerik: We did not -

Kerrey: Did you analyze, is your communication system going to capable of handling this job, do you have a good evacuation system in place. The sorts of things that you've all talked about.

Kerik: They relate very closely. A plane crash into a hi-rise building would be, ultimately, a hi-rise fire. And all the agencies drill both functionally on tabletops and functional drills on hi-rise incidents. It was part of our All-Hazards plan, but whether we did specific tabletop incidents on a plane into a hi-rise building, no we did not. I just want to go back a little bit on terrorism.

In May of 2001 we did a tabletop exercise called Red X. Red X was an attack of bubonic plague in the city, a terrorist incident. It was conducted at OEM with about 70 different entities, agencies, and locales from the entire metropolitan area. Five minutes into that drill, everybody forgot it was a drill it became so intense. And as part of that drill, we quarantined Manhattan because we did not have enough information as to what we were dealing with. That drill, the second part of that drill was scheduled for September 12th on Pier 92. And that was the point of dispensing the medications in a biological attack.

Both those drills served as the basis for how we responded to the anthrax attacks in October of 2001. And we all had thought that the next area that we would be attacked would not be a chemical bomb, but would be chemical biological warfare, and we were really focused on preparing for that.

Kerrey: Help me on this one, I mean I've been living in the city for a little over three years and one of the things I know is that it's hard to figure out where everything is because the buildings are awfully tall. I've stopped looking up and rubbernecking all the time, and we heard Joe Morris earlier and we heard other people as well talk about how they could see what was happening as long as they were watching television, but the minute they got down to the site they didn't have the eyes to be able to tell what was going on and I'm wondering if you think as a consequence of that the city shouldn't have UAD's or some sort of eyes in the skies that give us the capability of doing that and I wonder if in your post-mortem analysis you haven't said maybe that's something we should have done after 1993.

Sheirer: I think that what we need to take a look at, on the technology side, is the communications issue. Critical issue. Has been, not from 9-11, but for decades. Public safety communications, a lack of spectrum for them, the ability - we fought for years even when I was in the Fire Department to get additional radio frequencies. There's much competition, as you know, for the limited spectrum space. Hopefully there will be a change in that. Public Safety needs that spectrum.

You heard Tom talk about the limited number of handy-talky frequencies they have to operate on. That's a product of spectrum. The technology that's available for command and control, much of the technology that the military's now using, I think the Department of Homeland Security, in their looking at new technology has to look at that and see how those applications can be used in our country.

We, in hindsight, looking from September 11th on, we have to think very differently. We can no longer think that acts of terrorism like this were simply something going to happen to other people not us. I lived through '93, in the pit of the World Trade Center. I lived through '97 when we had a small group of bombers that had planned to blow up the subway. We now know that the technology is there, the military uses it, we have to think about how we can use that technology to better equip the first responders to insure the quality of life and safety if another event like this happens.

And what usually happens as you plan for those catastrophic events, they help you in the smaller, the everyday emergencies. One of the things that enabled us to respond on the 9-11 and the days and weeks afterwards when we lost our entire infrastructure in lower Manhattan was our experience with water main breaks and power outages and telephone disruptions. We have to look at IT disruptions, what they can do to us in everyday life, and ask to be more focused on that.

Kean: Senator Gorton.

Comissioner Slade Gorton: Thanks. Mr. Sheirer, the phrase Office of Emergency Management is somewhat of a misnomer, is it not? You worked on training, on coordination and the like, but when you got to WTC One, you were not managing the incident, were you? You did not have command authority over the police or the Fire Department personnel there.

Sheirer: Absolutely not, absolutely not. And the office of emergency management serves a variety of roles, as you said. Planning, training, practicing. But there's also the execution role, and at the Trade Center it was my job and my responders at all the various command posts to make sure that the fire incident commander had everything that he needed. If he had a question he could turn to us and we could find out the information. The same with the police incident commander. And our job was to make sure that if they needed anything and it was a coordination issue we could do that. OEM should be invisible. OEM should be there so that the incident commander does not have to worry about extrinsic things beyond what their mission is during that mission.

Gorton: Well, in your testimony, however, you said that OEM is seldom the incident commander. Are there circumstances under which it is incident commander?

Sheirer: There are circumstances, very rarely and remotely. When you have a citywide or an area wide blackout the OEM emergency operations center becomes the central command center. The utilities are there, you are able to deal with them, the levels of different issues that you're dealing with is such that it spreads over all the agencies. Each individual agency is responsible for what they do, I would never ever consider that OEM would tell the Police Department you do it this way. What we would tell the Police Department Ôwe need this done.' And that's the role of OEM.

I'll give you an example: the major water main break. While we're not the incident commander, technically it's the Department of Environmental Protection, but the Department of Environmental Protection's expertise is shutting down the water and getting it restored. It's not getting the schools in the area relocated, it's not transportation, it's not in evacuation of buildings, it's not in perimeter in control. So in those instances, OEM would take that role as incident commander and work with the other agencies and each of them would do what they're supposed to do.

Gorton: And you think that the functions that you have outlined are the appropriate functions for OEM?

Sheirer: Absolutely. I think that - you have to remember my background. I spent 28 years in the Fire Department, starting as a dispatcher in communications. I spent four years at the Police Department. So I have a real wide breadth of knowledge and understanding, not only of what the departments do, but of the culture. And, you know you talk about the competition of police and fire, everybody who knows me, I always talk about my five sons. There are days that they're great together, you don't have to do anything, they're having a wonderful time. But there are days that they get that burr, that you don't know what's causing it but they can't deal with each other and it takes an outside person just to put them back on track and back out and get out of their way. I've seen that.

These are the proudest agencies of public safety in the world, they are the best agencies of public safety in the world. I've seen them literally walk through fire. I've seen guys like Joe Viggiano that Bernie spoke about who I know and I knew his father very well, John Viggiano, who's a retired fire captain. There's a lot of pride. But sometimes you get the occasional, as your staff said, the occasional knucklehead that can create a problem. And that's where OEM is very good. Low profile, neutral, able to get things back on course, back out of the way and get the job done.

Gorton: Thank you. Comissioner Kerik?

Kerik: Yes sir?

Gorton: One of the truly agonizing elements of the presentation this morning had to do with 911, the only way for many of the civilians, most of the civilians, to have any communication. And yet 911 didn't know what to tell them to do. I think some imaginative ones later on said yeah, do get out of the building, even though that wasn't policy. Was there anyone in September of 2001 in the Police Department in charge of having some kind of overall view of what was going on and communicating that with 911 people so that 911 people could provide up to date and valuable information to people who called in?

Kerik: There is a 911 supervisor that's on duty around the clock with each shift, or each tour, and I'm sure there was a 911 supervisor there that day. Whether there was communications from the field to that 911 supervisor, I personally don't know if there was communications, and I'm sure this is something your staff is looking at now.

Gorton: Do you know whether there's been any change since September 11th, 2001.

Kerik: No sir, I do not, and I think Commissioner Kelly could probably address that.

Gorton: Commissioner Von Essen, 911 was not a part of the Fire Department, but did the Fire Department on September 11th 2001 have any institutionalized way, any formal way of communicating what was going to the best of their knowledge with 911 so that 911 people could properly advise those who were calling in frantically asking for advice?

Former Commissioner of the Fire Department of New York Thomas Von Essen: Institutionally, I really don't know what you mean.

Gorton: Was there someone in the Fire Department whose duty it was to see that 911 was kept up to date?

Von Essen: The Fire Department dispatchers or 911? There's two different centers. You know, if you understand how -

Gorton: I just want to know whether there was someone in the Fire Department whose duty it was to tell 911 supervisors in another entity what was going on so that those 911 operators could properly advise people who called in. Is that a Fire Department function?

Von Essen: I would believe that the supervising dispatcher would be responsible for doing the best he could in that area.

Gorton: Do you know whether or not that kind of communication was in fact taking place on that morning?

Von Essen: I have no idea.

Kerik: Mr. Gorton, if I may, the one thing I left out, and I think this is something that should be looked at. There is a 911 supervisor on every tour, as I indicated. Those supervisors also monitor every frequency. So, for example, the special operations division frequency, which consists of the harbor unit, aviation, the emergency services personnel. That frequency is monitored by that supervisor that's on duty -

Gorton: Were they monitoring Fire Department frequencies, as well?

Kerik: I cannot say, sir.

Sheirer: I can tell you, sir, that normally they wouldn't. Coming from a communications background, the procedures within the fire dispatch center, fire dispatchers receive a significant amount of training on how to handle calls from persons in distress in a hi-rise fire. There were basic principles that they follow. 911 operators also have a standard procedure for giving information on a hi-rise fire, whether they had available to them immediate updates I couldn't -

Gorton: It seems to me you just told me, did you not, that the 911 supervisor would not normally be tuned into Fire Department frequencies.

Sheirer: No, you have to remember that they would be - the amount of activity, the frenetic activity in terms of communications both in the Police Department and in the Fire Department, was exponential from what normally happens. When you listen to those radio tapes the people in the field and the people in the communications offices were dealing with numbers of transmissions radio transmissions that in my years in public safety I have not heard. The sheer amount of activity, where people were stepping on each other. They're trying to deal with each agency's response and activities.

Gorton: I understand that, but I am more troubled now than when I began this series of questions. [Applause.] There is no one then or now at 911 who is just regularly assigned to listen to all or as many communications both from the Police Department and Fire Department as possible in order that the 911 operators can pass that information on to victims? Is that what you're saying? That no one has that duty?

Sheirer: I can't tell you. As Commissioner Kerik said, you'll have to ask Commissioner Kelly.

Kerik: Mr. Gorton, I think the answer for today is you have to ask Commissioner Kelly and Commissioner Scoppetta. You have to ask them what's going on today. I can't answer that.

Gorton: Alright, but I'm asking the two of you what was going on September 11th.


Kean: Please, we're going to run out of time if you continue.

Kerik: On September 11th, there was a supervisor in 911. That supervisor has the ability to monitor SOD's radios for the NYPD. Whether that supervisor was listening to the Fire Department radio, I cannot say. I know your investigators are looking at it, I cannot say.

Gorton: Okay. But that supervisor didn't have the do so? Only had the duty to be on police frequencies?

Kerik: That may be the case.

Gorton: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Kean: Commissioner Ben-Veniste.

Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste: Let me follow up on Senator Gorton's question, but before I do I would be remiss if I did not, as a native New Yorker, express my appreciation to the NYPD and the New York Fire Department for the extraordinary efforts that were made on 9-11. And while we hope to learn from the imperfections that existed systemically at that time and improve our ability to react to disasters and hope that New York as it has been for many many decades the beacon of cutting edge technology and practice for the rest of the country. At this point I can only say that I am humbled by the individual efforts of heroism that we have seen recounted time and time again, in looking at the history of 9-11.

Unknown: Thank you, Sir.

Ben-Veniste: With respect to the question that Senator Gorton asked, I think that a legitimate follow up is, not withstanding what was in place on September 11th, 2001, and recognizing that this is the place that we are all trained to go to to find out information and to report information, so it's an interactive process, when you call 911 if something bad happened, what do we do? The what do we do part was obviously lacking, as far as we can tell, on 9-11. So people who were calling in information which other people would benefit from knowing on that day were not having that information processed in an interactive effective way.

Going forward, does it not make sense, as Senator Gorton suggested, that a process be in place so that in circumstances of significant emergency, 911 becomes the go to place where not only you report information but you receive information? That the 911 supervisors become the contact point for receiving instructions, which should then be given to callers who call in in such circumstances.

Kerik: I think, sir, that that should be the case. There are two elements to 911. One is the operators. The second element is the dispatchers. There is a police supervisor that oversees them. I honestly don't believe that it should be that police supervisor that acts in the capacity that you're talking about at this point, but I think in an emergency such as this or a major crisis there has to be an element or should be an element possibly put in place that a command level police supervisor winds up in 911 to interact with the command level personnel in the field, and that way there's direct communications, command to command, and that information could be relayed down to the operators and the dispatchers, operators dealing with the people calling in, dispatchers dealing with the command and the field personnel in the field. I think that may be feasible, yes sir.

Ben-Veniste: And commissioner, should not that individual who would then be charged with synthesizing information, have authority to receive and should in fact be receiving multi-source information, not just from one department, at least under the current system, that can then be integrated and passed along to 911 operators so that they can provide effective information to people calling in?

Kerik: Yes, sir.

Ben-Veniste: Thank you. Mr. Sheirer?

Sheirer: I would just like to add to that. In a post 9-11 world, where the prospect of having these type of effects of this magnitude. I don't believe any time in our history did we have three five alarm fires plus additional two alarm fire in a sixteen acre area, with tens of thousands of people calling not only from within the complex but from miles and miles away. I don't know if there's any communication system in existence that could handle that kind of activity.

Ben-Veniste: Well, Mr. Sheirer -

Kean: This is the last question.

Ben-Veniste: It could be worse. It could be worse in the future. So that we need to plan for an emergency system that will be able to respond effectively to advising people, and it may be that there are other - going over emergency networks, radio networks, internet networks, a multi multi media response to providing information such as we have had in place in this country for a long time but it needs to be accessed and accessible, it seems to me.

Sheirer: I believe it's being worked upon, but you're absolutely correct. We need a way to get out mass information quickly, accurately, and if you can't talk to each individual person there has to be a way to try and make sure that you can convey the situation and what to do.

Ben-Veniste: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Gentlemen.

Kean: Commissioner Lehman.

Commissioner John F. Lehman: Thank you. Gentlemen, I'm aware of the history and of the traditions and of the politics that have shaped the public service agencies in this city over many many years. And I agree with you all that we certainly have the finest police and Fire Departments, port authority police, anywhere in the world. And as you said, Mr. Sheirer, they're the proudest. But pride runeth before the fall. And I think that the command and control and communications of this city's public service is a scandal.


Kean: I'll ask the audience; you're just taking time away from the hearing when you do that, so please, do not.

Lehman: It's not worthy of the Boy Scouts, let alone this great city. It's a scandal that you, as Emergency Preparedness Manager, did not have line authority to select - find the best technologies of radios and dictate what would be procured to solve these problems instead of being an auxiliary advisory service. I think it's a scandal that the fire commissioner has no line authority. It's a scandal that there's nobody that has clear line authority and accountability for a crisis of the magnitude that we're going to have to deal with in the years ahead. It's a scandal that after laboring for eight years the city comes up with a plan for incident management that simply puts in concrete this clearly dysfunctional system.

I would like to hear from each of you why there shouldn't be a commissioner of public safety with line authority, why there shouldn't be a procurement agency that can solve these inter-agency problems. It's not rocket science. It's just overruling the pride of the individual agencies. Why there can't be regional commanders, joint commanders, like the military has.

You already have it partially with the Port Authority. Something happens at LaGuardia, the Port Authority is the on-scene commander. Why can't you have the same thing so that you don't get into fistfights over who's in charge when it's an ambiguous situation. Whoever is in Tribeca is designated, whether it's the police chief or the fire chief or whether - on any incident, until it becomes clear, and then he makes clear line authority. Why do we have to live with this lack of line authority, and this hope that everybody is going to get along and work it out?

Kerik: Commissioner, if I may. I have to say, there is no lack of line authority in the New York City Police Department. If I tell one of my commanders to do something and he refuses, he will be terminated. The authority that the police commissioner has is very different than the fire commissioner, and I'll let Tom talk about that. That has a lot to do with the laws of New York City and the negotiations of unions and other things. In the New York City Police Department, I appoint every commander from captain up. From captain to deputy inspector, inspector, deputy chief, assistant chief, bureau chief, chief department, and first deputy.

Lehman: You missed my point. I'm not criticizing any of the agencies, I think they do have very fine line authority and accountability. I'm talking about, amongst the agencies, like in the war today in Iraq we have the Central command has the top line decision making about who's going to do each task. Most other big cities in this country have a public safety commissioner with line authority to say you're in charge of this. You don't have to read through and get a Talmudic scholar to interpret what the core competencies are in a given situation. It's not complex.

Kerik: Well, I would say this. I can't go through each individual ones, but I know most of the other big cities. They don't have public safety directives. Chicago does not, LA does not, Miami does not, New York City does not, and I think the reason being, from my perspective is, Line authority has to do with individual departments and we do two different very separate and apart jobs. When we have to respond to jobs that we're going to work on together, then there has to be a determination, what jobs each of us will handle. But we don't have line authority across the board because we're not the same type of agency.

It's not like the military. The military is all focusing on one operation. We're not, we don't do that. I don't do stuff that Fire Department does, I do other stuff. And the Fire Department does their thing. Well, if we have to work together, well then so be it and we come up with conclusion on what the specific things we will do with those functions. Such as the mayor's - the most recent order by Mayor Bloomberg and the 1997 order by Mayor Giuliani. Then, when those determinations are made, who's gonna do what, who's gonna act as the event or incident commander at the scene, I have a very simplistic rule. If my guys don't do what they're supposed to when they get there, then they'll answer to me. Period. That's command accountability, and that's the way that we operate.

Von Essen: I couldn't disagree with you more. I think that one of the criticisms of this committee has been statements like you just made, talking about scandalous procedures and scandalous operations and rules and everything else. There's nothing scandalous about the way that New York City handles its emergencies. We had strong leadership with the mayor, we had strong leadership with the fire commissioner, and the same with the police commissioner.

When you talk about line authority with the fire commissioner, I don't know what you mean. There's the chief of department that's responsible for the operations and the safety of the firefighters and all the chiefs at the scene. The fire commissioner's not in charge of that. He's in charge of everything else, he's in charge of deciding what money gets spend on resources, on what's available, decisions on procuring radios and getting money for training, building new firehouses, getting new equipment the best equipment we can get, getting new clothing, everything else. Those are the decision made by the fire commissioner with the interests and the conditions he has to deal with with the budget which a strong major decides what's going to be.

There's been talk about having a public safety commissioner in New York City in the past. We went on with that for years. People think you should, people think you shouldn't. That's a management decision that the mayor should decide whether he believes it's necessary. When you have a strong police commissioner, a strong fire commissioner, good fire chiefs, good police chiefs, you don't need that. You make it sound like everything was wrong about September 11th or the way we function. I think it's outrageous that you make a statement like that.

We operated, we had thousands of fires, thousands of fires, thousands of fires were operations work, where we worked together. Hundreds of collapses and operations where we worked together with the Police Department. Yes, were there isolated incidents where a police officer, an aggressive emergency services guy and an aggressive guy from our rescues is trying to take control of an incident, yes, and we worked all those out. OEM came in, OEM was that arbiter for issues like that. When we couldn't agree with OEM, OEM went to the mayor and the mayor made a decison. That was strength and that was leadership, and that's what we did. And we proudly did it, and it goes throughout both departments, from top to bottom.

Sheirer: I want to add several things. On September 11th, there was no more coordinated effort than there could have been . And with all the criticism that has been made, I have yet to hear a single instance where anybody shows me where the agencies did not work together and coordinate their efforts.

I strongly urge - I have a very strong background in communications, and I urge the commission to take a very close listen to the tapes on all the various agencies and very carefully listen to them. Because there's a lot of cross communications regarding relaying information, conferring with each other, that I haven't heard about until I sat down and listened for six hours. Because I keep hearing that we didn't do that.

In terms of radio systems, if you can find a way for us to get more spectrum, please do, because public safety has been fighting in this city since 1989 when I was in communications to get additional radio spectrum to allow for greater interactibility, to provide additional frequencies to meet the needs of the public in this city, to provide the Fire Department with additional fire ground handy-talkie channels for a changing world. And we were unsuccessful.

But it wasn't unsuccessful for a lack of trying, it was unsuccessful because the bureaucracy that awards those frequencies has chosen to give into media, has chosen to hold them away from public safety, has chosen not to address the issues, and hopefully now we're very close to seeing that addressed.

Right now - a few days ago this city had a drill and they used a piece of equipment called the TRP-1000. The TRP-1000 is there because we sought to find a way to have the Fire Department and the Police Department to be able to communicate. They are on ten different frequencies that you can't talk to each other. There is no way right now, with the exception of this new piece of equipment that was tested last week, for them to talk.

And it takes time to develop, it takes time to procure, and with the help with DOJ we did that. But to say that we haven't done that, that's just not true. There are very few incidents where the Police Department and the Fire Department have to turn to OEM as an arbiter. We had anthrax incidents day in and day out for a period of time. In one day we had 80 anthrax incidents. The Police Department and the Fire Department worked hand in hand where the FBI should have been the incident commander. But we handled that in the city, and they worked hand in hand.

There was no problem, and there was not necessarily a problem . It's an individual problem. We're no different from any other city, and if you think we are then you're really being foolish. But I think you should take a very good careful look on 9-11 and see what issues of coordination, or lack thereof, existed. Because I have yet to be shown a single concrete instance. I've heard rumor, I've heard speculation, but when you dig into facts, you find that is wrong.

Kean: Commissioner Gorelick.

Commissioner Jamie S. Gorelick: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me say this at the outset. Nearly half of this panel either lives in New York or was born here. Probably true of half the country. And we have affection for the city, and a passion about it. So I would start out by noting that the bravery and the courage of the men and women that you led in the face of unspeakable humanity and horror is - has been impressed upon us in a dozen ways. And what you saw this morning, what people here this morning saw, is just a small fraction of the information we have gathered about the bravery and selflessness of the people whom you led.

We have to ask hard questions, though, because if we don't we cannot ensure greater safety from this day forward. So the hard questions that we are asking are no way in deregation of the reality of that heroism and that bravery. And I just want you to understand that as we ask these hard questions.

In fact, our staff has found lots of miscommunication. Now, a lot of that is attributable to the sheer magnitude of these horrific acts and the targeted towers, which were so huge and concentrated. To be sure, extraordinary. But nevertheless, the staff has found fissures between stovepipes, just as we have in the federal government, but fissures between stovepipes within the New York City government that we need to explore, whether it is about the interoperability or lack therof of radios or the too-narowly construed role of the 911 operators, these are real problems.

Now, I want to drill down on one of them, which has to do with this notion of what is an incident commander. To a layperson, the notion that Mayor Giuliani designated who would be an incident commander in each situation suggests that he thought that where there was a emergency, one person would have the lead, even if it meant that they would have the lead over a different agency. Now, maybe that's not true, because, Mr. Sheirer you have talked about the incident commander for the firemen and the incident commander for the police, where I would have thought there would have been one.

So, I have really two questions for the panel. One, in the procedures promulgated by Mayor Giuliani, which seem to list one - one entity as the incident commander for each type of event, was it your understanding that one person should be the incident commander? And the second question I have is, if you look at the procedures promulgated last Friday by Mayor Bloomberg, instead of listing one for each type of incident, there's now a list of two or three or in some cases for or five lead incident commanders for a particular incident. And so my second question is, is this an improvement? Who would like to start?

Von Essen: I'll take part of it. Mayor Giuliani's work to coordinate all of those responses, all of those protocols, he would ask all of us what we thought when there was a question that came up. He would listen to my best argument, and I would bring with me the best chiefs that I had to make the argument, then he would throw me out and he would have Commissioner Safir or Commissioner Kerik come in with his best chiefs, and they would make their argument, then he would sit down with Jerry Hauer or Richie Sheirer, whatever the time was, and make a decision, and whatever the time was and whatever it was it worked.

Gorelick: He would make - let me interrupt so I can understand. He would do this in real time when there was an incident?

Von Essen: No, certainly not in an incident. He-

Gorelick: You're talking a policy -

Von Essen: These are when we're trying to work out the protocols that would be signed off, in place when you had situations. We talked before - you asked Joe Morris about plane crashes. The way we understood it, a plane crash on land the Fire Department was in charge, a plane crash in the water NYPD was in charge because NYPD had a much more sophisticated harbor unit, helicopters where they could drop divers into the water, a much greater scuba team, scuba operation than we had at FDNY.

Gorelick: Let me interrupt just for some clarity. So, it was your understanding prior to 9-11 if there was a plane crash on land, the incident commander would be the Fire Department. Is that correct?

Von Essen: Yes.

Gorelick: And, so why is it then there was a separate police incident commander on 9-11?

Von Essen: You have to remember how big an incident we had. The police mission on 9-11 - Bernie should talk about the police mission.

Kerik: Yeah, let me. There was a separate police incident commander, and the event commander for the NYPD was Joe Esposito, was the Chief of Department. He was not running the event or the incident, he was doing everything else that the police had to do. We had to secure the scene, we had to create safety zones, we had to secure the rest of the frozen zone downtown, we had to deploy our troops. That's what the chief of department was doing. The incident commander for the event, the overall event, was the Fire Department.

Gorelick: So, when your ESU's, the special groups that went into the World Trade Center, were they supposed to report to the incident commander from the Fire Department and say Ôsir, here I am reporting for duty, what do I do, tell me what do to'?

Kerik: They would be deployed on the initial mobilization, I think you heard earlier today they talked about a level four mobilization. When that mobilization occurred, different units come from the five boroughs, including emergency services. When they get downtown, their commanders downtown will say, okay, emergency service truck 1, truck 2, whatever they are, you're going into the building. You three - you two teams are going over here. Well, the guys that's going to the building, they will report to the fire commander, whoever's in that building, and say we're here, what do you need. And that's the way they operate. And we saw, I saw video this morning where that occurred, They went into the building, reported to the fire commander. That's the way they're supposed to operate.

Gorelick: So, let me move on then, because I only have a very limited time.

Kean: This is the last question.

Gorelick: Yes, I'm only re=iterating my second question from before, Mr. Chair.

Kean: Accepted.

Gorelick: I'm not a New Yorker for nothing. [Laughter.] So, is it helpful then to go from a situation where there is at least facial clarity on which one of your departments would have been the lead commander for the incident in the World Trade Center to one in which there is a jump ball? Is that helpful to have people have to have a discussion when there's an aviation incident among the Police Department the Fire Department and augurs as to who's in command?

Kerik: Ms. Gorelick, I was the police commissioner from August of 2000 to December 31st of '01. In the time I was police commissioner I never had a problem with the protocols. So I've never worked under the new protocols. And I think those determinations by Commissioner Kelly and Commissioner Scoppetta in conjunction with the mayor, Mayor Bloomberg. They're the best one's to answer the question.

Gorelick: Anyone else want to answer the question? I guess not.

Sheirer : I want to add something. I'm going to jump into the pool without the water being in there.

Kean: That's a very fast jump, though.

Sheirer: It'll be a very fast jump, Governor. The only way that is unified command where agencies are very different functions and there can be this tension of who's in charge, the only way that works is if you have a very strong and empowered office of emergency management. If you don't, it won't, period.

Gorelick: Thank you very much.

Kean: Governor Thompson.

Commissioner James R. Thompson: Mr. Chairman, Commissioner Sheirer has earlier answered my questions.

Kean: You have none?

Thompson: Right.

Kean: Alright. Well, I'll just ask one final question, really just of Commissioner Kerik. We've learned in Washington that that summer before the tragedy occurred, there was a very high level of threat coming in, particularly in July, and intelligence agencies were full of talk of this threat and what it might mean. Was that communicated to you, that there was a heightened sense of insecurity, that sense in Washington. Somebody called you or called your department and said look, we don't know what it is but something going to happen, we're very worried, and you ought to be on high alert?

Kerik: This threat that you're talking about, was in the summer of '01, it was during the course of the time I think that I was revamping our intelligence division in the New York City Police Department and basically I think that intelligent base would serve as a model to the federal government and others on creating a central clearing house for intelligence, taking every federal database and putting it into one centralized center. Well, that's what we were doing in the NYPD and during that course of time I had met with and attended a terrorism meeting with the International Association of Chiefs in Washington. John O'Neill was at that meeting so we had a long discussion.

He basically said then there's an enormous amount of chatter, there's something that's going to happen, it's going to be big, it's going to be enormous. His assumption at the time, and what he told me personally, and what I heard sort of you know through others, I trusted his insight, they honestly believed whatever was going to happen was going to happen outside this country. And regardless, whether they thought it was outside or inside, it doesn't take away the alertness or the awareness that we had, dating back to 1997 and 1998 when the mayor closed down City Hall and implemented different steps to raise our alert status to Bravo in the city in anticipation of a problem. But I did hear, I just didn't hear it was about New York.

Kean: No, I was just interested in how the communication worked from the Federal level to your level. I'm glad there was some communication. Last question from Congressman Roemer.

Commissioner Timothy Roemer: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm not a native New Yorker, and I certainly have a great deal of respect for the great citizens, first citizens of this citizens who were first responders in many ways and helped save tens and dozens and hundreds of lives, I have a lot of respect for the three of you who as commissioners showed heroic actions towards your fellow citizens and helped save people's lives as well. And I'll never forget reading the eulogy delivered by a father of a firefighter who happened to be his son. And the last words in this eulogy given by the father about his son was Ă’He is now in good hands. I wish he were in my hands.Ă“ I'll never forget that.

And one of our missions is to try to make sure that while you helped save thousand and thousands of lives, if we can save a hundred with our recommendations the next time, if we can save fifty, if we can save a dozen, or one, we want to do it. And we're not here to blame the three of you or anybody else, but to find answers. Learn and fix it. Because we know they're coming and we know they might be coming back to New York City.

So, along those lines, Mr. Sheirer, I've got a question for you and a question for the other two commissioners. They'll be very brief. For you, Commissioner Sheirer, there was a decision made to locate the Office of Emergency Management at the World Trade Center building 7, right in the nest of where the terrorists had struck in 1993. Why put it in one of the most likely places ,where people are going to come back and hit us again, and where it could be knocked out and not help us save lives. That's the first question.

Sheirer: First I want to make a quick comment. I think I speak for all of us that you're speaking to the choir. We lived through this, we know these families, we lost friends and colleagues. Nobody here feels as strongly about this, other than the people behind us that lost their loved ones, than we three do. On the issue of the location of OEM. I was not involved with that decision.

Roemer: Did you agree with it?

Sheirer: You're going to have the opportunity to ask the person who's most responsible for that questions about it tomorrow. I did not agree with it. I will tell you why I did not agree with it.

I did not agree with it for the very reasons that you said. I did not agree with it simply because it was on the 23rd floor of a building, and do I look like a guy that wants to walk up 23 flights? And tell me that the elevator's going to work - yeah, Murphy was an optimist. It'll work. It won't work the time I'm walking up 23 flights. OEM should be located in a hardened and secured location. I understand the reasoning for putting it there. To get it there quickly. It was the most technologically advanced center.

When I became director, I will tell you, there was no better emergency operations center. None. None in the world. The military came there, everybody came there. I have to give Jerry a lot of credit. That center was the most technologically advanced, it allowed us to deal with anything. The only problem is it had to be available to us when we really need it. And you really have to think beyond that simple location to that simple date. It's not simply 9-11, it's much further than that. It's every city in this country when they locate them in a common office building and don't think of what they're doing, because, well, they just need a little office space. You need to make the commitment to understand this is a vital, vital facility. It should be in a hardened and a secured facility, where people can walk up if there's no power, that people can get to in the event of weather, that nothing should impede your ability to use.

Roemer: Thank you, Commissioner. I wish that wisdom had prevailed. Commissioner Von Essen, you had, according to the interview you conducted with the 9-11 staff, one of the last conservations with Ray Downy, and expert, very very respected expert on building collapse. And he says something to you along the lines of ÔBoss, I think these buildings could collapse.' How does that inform your decision making, or your communication with other people, and what is the context of this remark?

Von Essen: He said that to me, it was right after the second tower was hit, we were still in the lobby. We all heard a rumbling, we didn't know what it was, then it was confirmed that it was the second tower. It was also confirmed that the Sears tower was hit, that the Mall of America was hit, that the Pentagon was hit, and that there was another plane that wasn't accounted for. So you couldn't really go by confirmations.

You know, misinformation in the heat of battle like that is common. But we knew that the south tower had been hit, and Ray said to me, just in, and what always gave me strength afterwards was that he was so knowledgeable, and if there was a person in the country that you would go to to ask for advice in a situation like this it would be him. Of all the hundreds of phenomenal fire chiefs in the country, Ray was top of the line when it came to special operations and collapses and things like that. So for him to say to me, so matter of factly, just looking at me and saying ÔBoss, these buildings can collapse,' and it wasn't, you know like he would say to me in a different situation ÔTommy, get everybody out of here, you know, make sure the mayor knows, make sure Gancy knows, you got to getÉ' it wasn't like that. It was, ÔThese buildings can collapse.' Which gave me the sense that there was a lot of time that he É.

Roemer: Égalvanize this community to really do something about this issue. Commissioner Sheirer said, about an hour ago, the problem's still not fixed. We still have problems trying to get the dedicated broadwidth in the spectrum. What can galvanize this community to talk about one of the basic problems in trying to make sure the next one doesn't result in thousands of people dying, and that's improved communications. I would hope we could all gather together to address this. Is there some way you could lay out an answer and get some of the people in office now to address this issue?

Kerik: Well, I think it is something that's being looked at, and has been looked at, and has been looked at and continually looked at since 9-11, particularly with all the focus on it. But I just want to remind the commissioners: on 9-11, there were major communications problems. But the people behind me and the people in the public and the people on this commission, they should also know that they weren't necessarily problems - a lot of those problems didn't occur from radio frequencies.

You know, when the towers went down, the cell sites were lost. I had communications with the mayor on the way to the scene, when I got there, they were gone. As the cell sites dropped, so did the communications. We operated on Nextel, the Nextel dropped. Then they came back up. You know, and the thing with the walkie-talkies, listen. I'm not an expert, but I can tell you this. Go to any of the communications companies out there. Go to the best. Go to Motorola, go to the best there is.

Show me one radio, show me one radio that they will guarantee you this radio will go through that metal, it will go through the debris, it will go through the dust. You will have 100% communications 100% of the time. There is none. It's been two and a half years. Show me one today, everybody's looking at it. There is none. So there's a number of issues. But it is something that people are looking at.

Roemer: Thank you, Commissioner. I just think we really have to solve that. We can't go year after year after year saying we're close. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Kean: Thank you. I would ask now if my guests in the audience would remain seated just a moment so that our panel can leave.

The 9/11 Commission's Report on Emergency Response

Also Available in .pdf format from the 9/11 commission's website.


Emergency Preparedness and Response

Staff Statement No. 13

Individual Testimony (.pdf Format)

Alan Reiss
Former Director, World Trade Department, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Submitted Testimony

Joseph Morris
Former Chief, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department
Submitted Testimony

Bernard B. Kerik
Former Commissioner, New York Police Department (NYPD)
Submitted Testimony

Thomas Von Essen
Former Commissioner, Fire Department of New York (FDNY)
Submitted Testimony

Richard Sheirer
Former Director, New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM)
Submitted Testimony

Raymond W. Kelly
Commissioner, New York Police Department (NYPD)
Submitted Testimony

Nicholas Scoppetta
Commissioner, Fire Department of New York (FDNY)
Submitted Testimony

Joseph F. Bruno
Commissioner, New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM)
Submitted Testimony

Dennis Smith
Author, ÒReport from Ground ZeroÓ
Submitted Testimony

Jerome M. Hauer
Former Director, New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM)
Submitted Testimony

Edward P. Plaugher
Chief, Arlington County Fire Department
Submitted Testimony

The Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg
Mayor, City of New York
Submitted Testimony

The Honorable Thomas J. Ridge
Secretary of Homeland Security
Submitted Testimony

Members of the Commission, with your help, your staff is prepared to report its preliminary findings regarding the emergency response in New York City on September 11, 2001. These initial findings may help frame some of the issues for this hearing and the development of your judgments and recommendations.

This report represents a summary of our work to date. We remain ready to revise our current understanding in light of new information as our work continues. We encourage those whose understanding differs from ours to come forward. Sam Caspersen, George Delgrosso, Jim Miller, Madeleine Blot, Cate Taylor, Joseph McBride, Emily Walker, and John Farmer conducted most of the investigative work reflected in this statement, and Allison Prince assisted with the audio-visual components.

Much of this work was conducted in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is studying the building performance issues. We are indebted to NIST for its cooperation. We have also received cooperation from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and from the City of New York.

We have spoken with hundreds of people about the most painful moments of their lives. We thank them for their willingness to help us. As we have relived their stories, and the records left by those who no longer can help us, we have joined in the mourning for all those who were lost that day.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the last best hope for the community of people working in or visiting the World Trade Centerrested not with national policymakers but with private firms and local public servants, especially the first responders: fire, police, and emergency medical service professionals.

As we therefore focus on the choices they made on the morning of 9/11, we will not offer much commentary. We will offer more analysis and suggest some lessons that emerge for the future in Staff Statement No. 14, which we will present tomorrow. Today we concentrate just on presenting a reliable summary of what happened, to explain the day in its complexity without replicating its chaos.

We wish to advise the public that the details we will be presenting may be painful for you to see and hear. Please consider whether you wish to continue viewing.

Building Preparedness on 9/11

Emergency response is a product of preparedness. We begin with a brief discussion of measures taken to enhance safety and security at the World Trade Center after the 1993 bombing.

The World Trade Center (WTC) complex was built for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Construction began in 1967, and tenants began to occupy its space in 1970. The Twin Towers came to occupy a unique and symbolic place in the culture of New York City and America.

The WTC actually consisted of seven buildings, including one hotel, spread across 16 acres of land. The buildings were connected by an underground mall one level below the plaza area. The Twin Towers (“1 WTC” or the “North Tower,” and “2 WTC” or the “South Tower”) were the signature structures, containing 10.4 million square feet of office space. On any given work day up to 50,000 office workers occupied the towers, and 40,000 visitors passed through the complex.

Both towers had 110 stories and were about 1,350 feet high. Both were square; each wall measured 208 feet in length. The outside of each tower was covered by a frame of 14-inch-wide steel columns; the centers of the steel columns were 40 inches apart. These exterior walls bore the majority of the weight of the building.

The interior core of the buildings was a hollow steel shaft, in which elevators and stairwells were grouped. Each tower contained three central stairwells, which ran essentially from top to bottom, and 99 elevators. Generally, elevators originating in the lobby ran to “sky lobbies” on upper floors, where further elevators carried passengers to the tops of the buildings.

Stairwells A and C ran from the 110th floor to the mezzanine level and Stairwell B ran from the 107th floor to level B6. All three stairwells ran essentially straight up and down, except for two deviations in Stairwells A and C where the staircase jutted out toward the perimeter of the building. These deviations were necessary because of the placement of heavy elevators and machine rooms. These areas were located between the 42nd and 48th floors and the 76th and 82nd floors in both towers.

On the upper and lower boundaries of these deviations were “transfer” hallways contained within the stairwell proper. Each hallway contained “smoke doors” to prevent smoke from rising from lower to upper portions of the building. Smoke doors were kept closed but not locked. Other than these slight deviations in Stairwells A and C, the stairs ran straight up and down.

Doors leading to the roof were kept locked. The Port Authority told us that this was because of structural and radiation hazards, and for security reasons. To access the roof in either towers required passing through three doors: one leading from the stairwell onto the 110th floor, and two leading from the floor onto the roof itself. There was no rooftop evacuation plan. The roof was a cluttered surface that would be a challenging helipad even in good conditions and, in a fire, smoke from the building would travel upward.

Unlike most of America, both New York City and the World Trade Center had been the target of terrorist attacks before 9/11. On February 26, 1993, a 1,500-pound bomb stashed in a rental van was detonated on a parking garage ramp beneath the Twin Towers. The explosion killed six people, injured 1,000 more, and exposed vulnerabilities in the World Trade Center’s and the City’s emergency preparedness.

The towers lost power and communications capability. Generators had to be shut down to assure safety. Elevators stopped. The public address system and emergency lighting systems failed. The unlit stairwells filled with smoke and were so dark as to be impassable. Rescue efforts by the Fire Department of New York were hampered by the inability of its radios to function in buildings as large as the Twin Towers. The 9-1-1 emergency call system was overwhelmed. The explosion occurred at 12:17 p.m.; the last person was evacuated nearly ten hours later in a helicopter rescue by the New York Police Department.

To address the problems encountered during the response to the 1993 bombing, the Port Authority implemented $100 million in physical, structural, and technological changes to the WTC. In addition, the Port Authority enhanced its fire safety plan.

The Port Authority added battery-powered emergency lighting to the stairwells and back-up power to its alarm system. Other upgrades included glow-in-the-dark signs and markings. Upgrades to the elevator system included a redesign of each building’s lobby command board to enable it to monitor all of the elevators.

To aid communications the Port Authority installed a “repeater system” for use by the Fire Department of New York. The “repeater” used an antenna on the top of 5 WTC to “repeat” and greatly amplify the wave strength of radio communications, so they could be heard more effectively by firefighters operating many floors apart.

The Port Authority also sought to prepare civilians better for future emergencies. Deputy fire safety directors conducted biannual fire drills, with advance notice to tenants. During a fire drill, designated fire wardens were instructed to lead people in their respective areas to the center of the floor where they would use an emergency intercom phone to obtain specific information on how to proceed.

Civilians were taught basic procedures such as to evacuate by the stairs and to check doors for heat before proceeding. Civilians who evacuated in both 1993 and 2001 have told us that they were better prepared in 2001.

Civilians were not, however, directed into the stairwells during these drills. Civilians were not provided with information about the configuration of the stairwells and the existence of transfer hallways or smoke doors. Neither full nor partial evacuation drills were held. Participation in the drills that were held, moreover, varied greatly from tenant to tenant.

Civilians were never instructed not to evacuate up. The standard fire drill instructions advised participants that in the event of an actual emergency, they would be directed to descend to at least two floors below the fire. Most civilians recall simply being taught to await instructions which would be provided at the time of an emergency.

Civilians were not informed that rooftop evacuations were not part of the Port Authority’s evacuation plan. They were not informed that access to the roof required a key. The Port Authority acknowledges that it had no protocol for rescuing people trapped above a fire in the towers.

Preparedness of First Responders on 9/11

On 9/11, the principal first responders were from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), the New York Police Department (NYPD), the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), and the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

The 40,000-officer New York Police Department consisted of three primary divisions: operations, intelligence, and administration. The Special Operations Division supervised units critical in responding to a major event. This division included the aviation unit, which provided helicopters for the purpose of survey and/or rescue, and the Emergency Service Units (ESU), or rescue teams, which carried out specialized missions.

The NYPD had standard operating procedures for the dispatch of officers to an incident. Gradations in response were called “mobilization” levels and went from 1 (lowest) to 4 (highest). Level 3 and 4 mobilizations could not be ordered by someone below the rank of captain.

The NYPD ran the City’s 9-1-1 emergency call center. 9-1-1 operators were civilians trained in the rudiments of emergency response. Fire emergencies were transferred to the FDNY dispatch center.

The 11,000-member Fire Department of New York was headed by a Fire Commissioner, who, unlike the Police Commissioner, lacked operational authority. Operations were controlled by the Chief of Department.

Basic operating units included ladder companies, to conduct standard rescue operations, and engine companies, to put out fires. The Department’s Specialized Operations Command contained specialized units, including five rescue companies, to perform specialized and highly risky rescue operations, and one HAZMAT team.

The logistics of fire operations were coordinated by Fire Dispatch Operations division. 9-1-1 calls concerning fire emergencies were transferred to this division.

Alarm levels escalated from first(lowest) to fifth (highest) with a pre-established number of units associated with each. Prior to 9/11, it was common FDNY practice for units to arrive with extra personnel, and for off-duty firefighters to respond to major incidents.

The years leading up to 9/11 were successful ones for the FDNY. In 2000, fewer people died from fires in New York City—107—than in any year since 1946. Firefighter deaths—22 during the 1990s—compared favorably with the best periods in FDNY history. The FDNY had fought 153,000 fires in 1976; in 1999, that number had been reduced to 60,000.

In July 2001, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani signed a directive entitled “Direction and Control of Emergencies in the City of New York.” Its purpose was “to ensure the optimum use of agency resources while … eliminating potential conflict among responding agencies which may have areas of overlapping expertise and responsibility.”

The directive designated, for different types of emergencies, an appropriate agency as “Incident Commander.” The Incident Commander would be “responsible for the management of the City’s response to the emergency.” The role of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management was supportive, to “coordinate the participation of all city agencies in resolving the event,” and to “assist the Incident Commander in his/her efforts in the development and implementation of the strategy for resolving the event.”

The Mayor’s creation of the Office of Emergency Management and the issuance of his Incident Command Directive were attempts to address the long-standing rivalry between the NYPD and the FDNY. This rivalry has been acknowledged by every witness we have asked about it. Some characterized the more extreme manifestations of the rivalry—fistfights at the scenes of emergencies, for instance—as the actions of “a few knuckleheads.” Some described the rivalry as the result of healthy organizational pride and competition. Others told us that the problem has escalated over time and has hampered the ability of the City to respond well in emergency situations.

The NYPD and the FDNY were two of the preeminent emergency response organizations in the United States. But each considered itself operationally autonomous. Each was accustomed to responding independently to emergencies. By September 11 neither had demonstrated the readiness to respond to an “Incident Commander” if that commander was an official outside of their Department. The Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management had not overcome this problem.

As we turn to the events of September 11, we will try to describe what happened in the following one hundred minutes:

-- The 17 minutes from the crash of hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 into World Trade Center 1 (the North Tower) at 8:46 a.m. until the South Tower was hit

-- The 56 minutes from the crash of hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 into World Trade Center 2 (the South Tower) at 9:03 a.m. until the collapse of the South Tower

-- The 27 minutes from the collapse of the South Tower at 9:59 a.m. until the collapse of the North Tower at 10:26 a.m.

From 8:46 until 9:03 a.m.

At 8:46:40 a.m. the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the upper portion of the North Tower.

Video: AA 11 hits North Tower.

The plane cut through floors 93/94 to 98/99 of the building. All three of the building’s stairwells became impassable from the 92nd floor up. Hundreds of civilians were killed instantly by the impact. Hundreds more remained alive but trapped.

A jet fuel fireball erupted upon impact, and shot down at least one bank of elevators. The fireball exploded onto numerous lower floors, including the 77th, 50th, 22nd, West Street lobby level, and the B4 level, four stories below ground. The burning jet fuel immediately created thick, black smoke which enveloped the upper floors and roof of the North Tower. The roof of the South Tower was also engulfed in smoke because of prevailing light winds from the north.

Within minutes, New York City’s 9-1-1 system was flooded with eyewitness accounts of the event. Most callers correctly identified the target of the attack. Some identified the plane as a commercial airliner.

The first response came from private firms and individuals—the people and companies in the building. Everything that would happen to them during the next few minutes would turn on their circumstances and their preparedness, assisted by building personnel on site.

Because all of the building’s stairwells were destroyed in the impact zone, the hundreds of survivors trapped on or above the 92nd floor gathered in large and small groups, primarily between the 103rd and 106th floors. A large group was reported on the 92nd floor, technically below the impact but trapped by debris. Civilians were also reported trapped below the impact zone, mostly on floors in the eighties, though also on at least the 47th and 22nd floors, as well as in a number of elevators.

Because of damage to the building’s systems, civilians did not receive instructions on how to proceed over the public address system. Many were unable to use the emergency intercom phones as instructed in fire drills. Many called 9-1-1.

9-1-1 operators and FDNY dispatchers had no information about either the location or magnitude of the impact zone and were therefore unable to provide information as fundamental as whether callers were above or below the fire. 9-1-1 operators were also not given any information about the feasibility of rooftop rescues. In most instances, 9-1-1 operators and FDNY dispatchers, to whom the 9-1-1 calls were transferred, therefore relied on standard operating procedure for high-rise fires. Those procedures are to advise civilians to stay low, remain where they are, and wait for emergency personnel to reach them. This advice was given to callers from the North Tower for locations both above and below the impact.

The protocol of advising against evacuation, of telling people to stay where they were, was one of the lessons learned from the 1993 bombing. Fire chiefs told us that the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from skyscrapers can create many new problems, especially for disabled individuals or those in poor health. Many of the injuries after the 1993 bombing occurred during the evacuation. Evacuees also may complicate the movements and work of firefighters and other emergency workers.

Although the default guidance to stay in place may seem understandable in cases of conventional high rise fires, all the emergency officials that morning quickly judged that the North Tower should be evacuated. The acting fire safety director in the North Tower immediately ordered everyone to evacuate that building, but the public address system was damaged and no one apparently heard the announcement.

Hence, one of the few ways to communicate to people in the building was through calls to the 9-1-1 or other emergency operators. We found no protocol for communicating updated evacuation guidance to the 9-1-1 operators who were receiving calls for help. Improvising as they learned information from callers, some operators advised callers that they could break windows. Some operators were advising callers to evacuate if they could.

Below the impact zone in the North Tower, those civilians who could began evacuating down the stairs almost immediately.

Claire McIntyre, Manager, Administration Services, American Bureau of Shipping: After going out into the hallway and yelling down that everyone get out, I went into my office to get my pocketbook and also I grabbed the flashlight and my whistle. The flashlight was useful for the first couple of flights going down because it was completely dark, and there was water flowing down so it was dangerous too, and there was some debris, even on the landings. The air quality wasn’t too bad, there was some smoke, light, it was never heavy smoke, where you couldn’t breathe. And the lights in the stairwells worked all the way down except for the first two or three flights.

Civilians who called the Port Authority police desk at 5 WTC were advised to leave if they could. Most civilians began evacuating without waiting to obtain instructions over the intercom system. Some had trouble reaching the exits because of damage caused by the impact. While evacuating, they were confused by deviations in the increasingly crowded stairwells, and impeded by doors which were locked or jammed as a result of the impact. Despite these obstacles, the evacuation was relatively calm and orderly.

Ms. McIntyre: We never really heard any announcements or received any information all the way down. It got more and more congested as we went further down. For some reason we had to go down a long hallway and then when we got to the end of it, it was a locked door. So, we couldn’t go any further; so we went back and went back up to 78 because we knew that that was a sky lobby.

Within ten minutes of impact, smoke was beginning to rise to the upper floors in debilitating volumes and isolated fires were reported, although there were some pockets of refuge. Faced with insufferable heat, smoke, and fire, and no prospect for relief, some jumped or fell from the building.

Many civilians in the South Tower were unaware initially of what happened in the other tower.

Brian Clark, President, Euro Brokers Relief Fund: I heard a loud boom. The lights in my office buzzed and I glanced up at them and then my peripheral vision, behind me, caught something and I spun in my chair, and just two yards from me outside the glass, 84 floors in the air, was swirling flames. I assumed that there had been an explosion upstairs.

Richard Fern, Vice President, Facilities, Euro Brokers: When I was entering the trading floor, I noticed all of the brokers clamoring on the building side where One World Trade Center is. And they were just screaming that a bomb went off.

Many people decided to leave. Some were advised to do so by fire wardens. In addition, some entire companies, including Morgan Stanley, which occupied over 20 floors of the South Tower, were evacuated by company security officials.


The evacuation standard operating procedures did not provide a specific protocol for when to evacuate one tower in the event of a major explosion in the other. At 8:49 a.m. the deputy fire safety director in the North Tower spoke with his counterpart in the South Tower. They agreed to wait for the FDNY to arrive before determining whether to evacuate the South Tower. According to one fire chief, it was unimaginable, “beyond our consciousness,” that another plane might hit the the adjacent tower.

In the meantime, an announcement came over the public address system in the South Tower urging people to stay in place.

Mr. Clark: Strobe lights flashed, the siren gave its little “whoop whoop.” And I heard a familiar voice say: “Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen, Building 2 is secure. There is no need to evacuate Building 2. If you are in the midst of evacuation, you may use the re-entry doors and the elevators to return to your office. Repeat, Building 2 is secure.” And then the announcement was repeated.

Indeed, evacuees in the sky lobbies and the main lobby were advised by building personnel to return to their offices. The Port Authority told us that the advice may have been prompted by the safety hazard posed by falling debris and victims outside the building. Similar advice was given by security officials in the sky lobby of the South Tower. We do not know the reason for this advice, in part because the on-duty deputy fire safety director in charge of the South Tower perished in the tower’s collapse.

As a result of the announcement, many civilians in the South Tower remained on their floors. Othersreversed their evacuation and went back up.

Mr. Fern: After the first announcement, for the Port Authority or the PA system not evacuate the floor, I guess I kinda felt comfortable to stay on the floor.

Mr. Clark: At three minutes after 9:00, at the time of impact, I was talking to a gentleman who said he had gone down half a dozen or ten floors and had come back up because of that announcement.

Stanley Praimnath, Assistant Vice President, Administration, Mizvho Corp. Bank: As we were about to exit the building through the turnstile first, the security guard looks at me and say, “Where are you going?” I said, “Well, I am going home.” “Why?” “I saw fireballs coming down.” “No, your building is safe and secure. Go back to your office.”


The Port Authority Police desk in 5 WTC gave conflicting advice to people in the South Tower about whether to evacuate.

We have been fortunate, in learning about the FDNY’s emergency response, to have had the cooperation of two of the principal commanders in the North Tower on 9/11, Joseph Pfeifer and Peter Hayden. The chiefs were filmed throughout the morning by Jules Naudet, a French filmmaker preparing a documentary about firefighters. We have reviewed Naudet’s unedited footage and also filmed Chiefs Pfeifer and Hayden as they viewed the footage, commenting on events as they relived them.

The FDNY response began immediately after the crash.

Joseph Pfeifer, Deputy Assistant Chief, FDNY: Right from the beginning, before we even arrived at the Trade Center, what you see is the beginning of an Incident Command System, where things are placed in order, and command is taken immediately.

Mr. Pfeifer (on 9/11): “We have a number of floors on fire, it looks like the plane was aiming towards the building. Transmit a Third Alarm. We will have a staging area. Vesey and West Street—have the Third Alarm assignment go into that area—Second Alarm assignment report to the building.”

Mr. Pfeifer: So from the bullet point when the plane hit the building, we started our Incident Command System.


Chief Pfeifer and four companies arrived at about 8:52 a.m. As they entered the lobby, they immediately encountered badly burned civilians who had been caught in the path of the fireball.

The initial FDNY incident commanders were briefed on building systems by building personnel.

Peter Hayden, Assistant Chief, FDNY: When I entered the lobby here, Joe had already assumed command and I came in. I was receiving a briefing from Chief Pfeifer here, and he was giving me a status of the—what was the building systems. He was informing me that the elevators were not working at the time and that they had a report from the Fire Safety Director that the plane had crashed in around the 78th floor and Joe had started units up and had then report to the 78th floor. Here we’re convening with the Fire Safety Director and the Port Authority personnel. Our main concern at this time was evacuation of the building. And we wanted to get everyone out of the building.

Units began mobilizing in the increasingly crowded lobby.

Mr. Pfeifer: You have to understand that in the Trade Center that we had ninety-nine elevators in each of the towers, and those had to be checked to see if they were operating. Without elevators, it meant that the firefighters carrying a hundred pounds of equipment would have to climb some ninety floors just to get to where we could start a rescue operation for people trapped above the damaged area.

Mr. Hayden: These are units coming in and they’re awaiting assignment and, as I said, we’re trying to get elevators working. We are conferring with the Port Authority personnel there—and this took a period of time for them to come back to and confirm to us that we had no elevators operating. Once we realized that we didn’t have elevators operating, we began giving instruction to members to start ascending the stairs by way of the B Stairwell.


It was challenging for the chiefs to keep track of arriving units. They were frustrated by the absence of working building systems and elevators.

Mr. Hayden: My aide had arrived and he was setting up the Command Board. As you can see him in on the background, he was setting up the Board, which accounts for the units as they come in. Once they are given an assignment they are entered in on the Command Board. That’s the way we keep track of the individuals.

Mr. Hayden: I am walking down off to the right here—left now— waiving my radio trying to get the Port Authority personnel and the chief fire to come with me off a little bit to have a private discussion regarding the building systems and particularly the elevators. That was a primary concern of ours at the time. That we didn’t have the elevators available to us. You can see the damage that the planes caused. You can see the tiles on the floor there. Right now we are seeing more units come in.


Shortly before 9:00 a.m., FDNY chiefs advised building personnel and a Port Authority Police Department officer to evacuate the adjacent South Tower. Impressed by the magnitude of the catastrophe, fire chiefs had decided to clear the whole WTC complex, including the South Tower.


By 9:00 a.m., many senior FDNY leaders, including seven of the eleven most highly ranked chiefs in the department, had begun responding from headquarters in Brooklyn. The Chief of Department and the Chief of Operations called a 5th alarm, which would bring additional engine and ladder companies; they also called two more FDNY Rescue teams. The Chief of Department arrived at approximately 9:00 a.m. He established an overall Incident Command Post on the median of the West Side Highway.

Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel were directed to one of four triage areasaround the perimeter of the WTC. In addition, many private hospital ambulances were rushing to the WTC complex.

In the North Tower lobby, the chiefs quickly made the decision that the fire in the North Tower could not be fought.

Mr. Hayden: Well, we realized that because of the impact of the plane that there was some structural damage to the building, and most likely that the fire suppression systems within the building were most likely damaged and possibly inoperable. We mad that conclusion. We knew that at the height of the day there was as many as fifty thousand people in this building. We had a large volume of fire on the upper floors. Each floor was approximately an acre in size. Several floors of fire would have been beyond the fire extinguishing capability of the forces that we had on hand. So we determined very early on that this was going to be strictly a rescue mission. We were going to evacuate the building, get everybody out, and then we were going to get out.

The chiefs decided to concentrate on evacuating civilians from the North Tower, although they held various views about whether anyone at or above the impact zone could be saved.

As of 9:00 a.m., if only those units dispatched had responded, and if those dispatched units were not “riding heavy” with extra men, 235 firefighters would be at the scene or en route. The vast majority of these would be expected to enter the North Tower.

Mr. Hayden: This is rescue one entering the lobby now. And at this time we were starting to get a number of distress calls coming in, particularly from the 9-1-1 and from Port Authority personnel of people in distress on various floors. As we got the information coming in, we would give the assignments out to the companies. If we had a report of people trapped in elevators we would send a company up to that specific floor. We had reports at one point in time of people in wheelchairs and we gave out assignments to go up and get the people out from on whatever particular floor they were calling from. These were difficult assignments. I had a strong inner sense throughout this entire operation that we were going to lose people this day.

Mr. Pfeifer: What we did know was that thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, were in their greatest moment of need and the firefighters came in and they received orders from our Command staff, and they turned around and they picked up their hose, and they picked up their tools, and they went upstairs. What you see here is, this footage, is actually my brother going upstairs. As so many other firefighters, this was the last time we saw them.


The NYPD response also began seconds after the crash. At 8:47 a.m. the NYPD ordered a Level 3 Mobilization. An initial mobilization point for patrol officers was established on the west side of the intersection of West and Liberty Streets. NYPD rescue teamswere directed to mobilize at the intersection of Church and Vesey Streets. The first of these officers arrived at Church and Vesey at 8:56 a.m. At 8:50 a.m., the aviation unit of the NYPD dispatched two helicopters to the WTC to report on conditions and assess the feasibility of a rooftop landing or special rescue operations.


Within ten minutes of the crash, NYPD and Port Authority Police personnel were assisting with theevacuation of civilians.

At 8:58 a.m., a helicopter pilot reported on rooftop conditions.

James Ciccone, Police Officer, NYPD Aviation Unit: On the morning of September 11th, as I arrived at World Trade Tower 1, I was accessing the damage on the north side of the building, and the rooftop area for the possibility of rooftop extraction from one of our heavier lift helicopter. And at that point, a few passes, and slow passes, we made a determination that we didn’t see anybody up on the roof, but more so we had problems with the heat and the smoke from the building. The heat actually made it difficult for us to hold the helicopters because it would interfere with the rotor system.

At 8:58 a.m., while en route, the Chief of the NYPD raised the department’s mobilization to Level 4—its highest level—which would result in the dispatch of approximately 30 lieutenants, 100 sergeants, and 800 police officers, in addition to rescue teams, which were already at the scene. The Chief of Department arrived at Church and Vesey at 9:00 a.m.

At 9:01 a.m., the NYPD patrol mobilization point at West and Liberty was moved to West and Vesey, in order to handle the greater number of patrol officers who would be responding to the Level 4 mobilization. These officers would be stationed around the perimeter of the complex to assist with evacuation and crowd control.

Around the city, the NYPD cleared routes alongmajor thoroughfares for emergency vehicles responding to the WTC. The NYPD and Port Authority police coordinated the closing of bridges, subways, PATH trains, and tunnels into Manhattan.


The Port Authority’s on-site commanding police officer was standing in the concourse when a fireball exploded out of the North Tower lobby, causing him to dive for cover. Within minutes of impact Port Authority police from bridge, tunnel, and airport commands began responding to the WTC. Officers from the WTC command began assisting in evacuating civilians. The Port Authority Police Department lacked clear standard operating procedures to guide personnel responding from one command to another during a major incident.

The fire safety director in charge of the complex arrived in the North Tower lobby at approximately 8:52 a.m. and was informed by the deputy fire safety director there that evacuation instructions had been announced over the public address system within one minute of impact. As mentioned earlier, to our knowledge, because the public address system had been damaged upon impact, no civilians heard that announcement.

At 9:00 a.m., the Port Authority Police commanding officer ordered an evacuation of civilians inthe World Trade Center complex because of the danger posed by highly flammable jet fuel from Flight 11. The order was issued, however, over a radio channel which could be heard only by officers on the Port Authority WTC command channel. There is no evidence that this order was communicated to officers in other Port Authority Police commands orto members of other responding agencies. At 9:00 a.m., the Port Authority Police Superintendent and Chief of Department arrived together at the WTC complex, and made their way to the North Tower lobby. Some Port Authority officers immediately began climbing the stairs and assisting civilians.

David Lim, Port Authority Police Department: I went up the B Staircase now, and so I proceeded up one that one. While people were coming down on that staircase, there were some people that were burnt and injured—required assistance. So, I could have taken one person and brought that person down I guess, but I thought the greater good would be to get to the 44th floor and assist more people. So I assigned the people that were uninjured to help carry this person down. There is a triage area downstairs, and that seemed to work out. People were more than happy to help each other out.

Officials in the Office of Emergency Management’s headquarters at 7 WTC began to activate its emergency operation center immediately after the North Tower was hit. At approximately 8:50 a.m. a senior representative from that office arrived in the lobby of the North Tower and beganto act as its field responder.


In the 17-minute period between 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. on September 11, New York City and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had mobilized the largest rescue operation in the City’s history. Well over one thousand first responders had been deployed, evacuations had begun, and the critical decision that the fire could not be fought had been made.

The decision was made to evacuate the South Tower as well. At 9:02 a.m., a further announcement in the South Tower advised civilians to begin an orderly evacuation if conditions warranted.

One minute later, a plane hit the South Tower.

From 9:03 until 9:59 a.m.

At 9:03 a.m., the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 hit 2 WTC (the South Tower) from the south, crashing through the 78th to 84th floors.

Video: UA 175 hits South Tower.

What had been the largest and most complicated rescue operation in city history instantly doubled in magnitude.

The plane banked as it hit the building, leaving portions of the building undamaged on impact floors. As a consequence—and in contrast to the situation in the North Tower—one of the stairwells (Stairwell A) initially remained passable from top to bottom.

Mr. Praimnath: I am looking to the direction of the Statue of Liberty, and I am looking at an airplane coming, eye level, eye contact, towards me—giant grey airplane. I am still seeing the letter “U” on its tail, and the plane is bearing down on me. I dropped the phone and I screamed and I dove under my desk. It was the most ear-shattering sound ever. The plane just crashed into the building. The bottom wing sliced right through the office and it stuck in my office door twenty feet from where I am huddled under my desk.

At the lowest point of impact, the 78th floor sky lobby, hundreds had been waiting to evacuate when the plane hit. Many were killed or injured severely; others were relatively unaffected. We know of at least one civilian who seized the initiative and shouted that anyone who could walk should walk to the stairs, and anyone who could help should help others in need of assistance. At least two small groups of civilians descended from that floor.

Others remained alive in the impact zone above the 78th floor, though conditions on these floors began to deteriorate within ten minutes.

Mr. Praimnath: Upon impact, the ceiling caved in, part of the 82nd floor collapsed. I am trapped under a steel desk. The only desk that stood firm, everything else is broken up. It looked like a demolition crew came and just knocked everything. Every wall was broken up. Computers were broken up—everything.

As in the North Tower, civilians became first responders.

Mr. Clark: We went down the hallway on the 84th floor, and I happened to turn left to Stairway A. We descended only three floors, to the 81st floor—the group of seven of us—when we met a very heavy-set woman and she just emphatically told our group, “Stop, stop! We have just come off a floor in flames and we’ve got to get above the flames and smoke.” That’s about all I heard of her conversation because I heard somebody inside the 81st floor banging on the wall and screaming, “Help, help! I am buried. Is anyone there? Help, I can’t breathe!” And, I noticed that my workmates, the heavy-set woman and her traveling companion were starting to go up the stairs. And that day they all perished unfortunately. But they were dealing with the information they had. None of us really had known what had happened or what was about to happen.

Mr. Praimnath: I am watching the plane, I am watching the floor, and somebody heard me scream on the other end. The person had a flashlight.

Mr. Clark: This person was directing me. This person who was trapped, saying, “You turn left, right,” and I kept moving with my flashlight.

Mr. Praimnath: The man says,“Knock on the wall and I will know exactly where you are.”

Mr. Clark: Somehow I grabbed him under the arms, or around the neck, pulled him up and over this, and what, as I say latter, I learned was a wall. I didn’t know what it was at the time. And we fell in a heap on the floor.

Mr. Praimnath: And Brian put his hand around my neck and said, “Come on, let’s go home.”

Some civilians ascended the stairs and others remained on affected floors to assist colleagues.

Although Stairwell A in the South Tower remained passable from above the impact zone to the lobby, conditions were difficult and deteriorating.

Mr. Fern: Upon entering Stairway A, I started to run down the stairs. The conditions in the stairs were smoky. There were no lights in the stairway, there was a glow strip on the floor in the center of the stairs. There was also a glow strip on the handrail.

Mr. Praimnath: Brian knew we had to take the Stairwell A, but there was so much rubble. I don’t remember much. I think we just slid right from the 81st floor to the 80th floor. Because of all that sheet rock and ceiling tiles that was one there. We actually tried to walk, and we slid right down.

Mr. Clark: There was smoke, there was a lot of water flowing under foot. And in a couple of places, I’m guessing around the 78th, 77th floor, there was only one layer of dry wall left that was cracked, and the flames were licking up the other side of the wall.


Many ascended in search of clearer air or to attempt to reach the roof. Those attempting to reach the roof were thwarted by locked doors. Others attempting to descend were frustrated by jammed or locked doors in stairwells or confused by the structure of the stairwell deviations.

Mr. Clark: As we descended the stairways, one strange thing that I recalled happening is that the Stairway A at least, and I learned later that Stairway C is the same, the stairway just doesn’t go back and forth all the way down. As you descend a few floors, you come to a situation where you must traverse down a hallway. You go down a hallway, you make a turn, the stairway continues, there’s another transfer later. A bit of confusion, especially in the darkness. And especially when that was the distress area.


By 9:35 a.m., the West Street lobby level of the South Tower was becoming overwhelmed by injured who had descended to the lobby but were having difficulty continuing.

Within 15 minutes after the impact, debilitating smoke had reached at least one location on the 100th floor, and severe smoke conditions were reported throughout floors in the nineties and hundreds over the course of the following half hour. By 9:30 a.m. a number of civilians who had failed to reach the roof and could not descend because of intensifying smoke became trapped on the 105th floor. There were reports of tremendous smoke in most areas of that floor, but at least one area remained less affected until shortly before the building collapsed.

Still, there were several areas between the impact zone and the uppermost floors where conditions were better. At least a hundred people remained alive on the 88th and 89th floors, in some cases calling 9-1-1 for direction. The 9-1-1 system remained plagued by the operators’ lack of awareness of what was occurring and by the sheer volume of emergency calls.

Mr. Clark: I had a very frustrating experience calling 9-1-1. It was, I am sure, over three minutes in duration my conversation with them. Not five minutes, but certainly over three minutes where I told them when they answered the phone, where I was, that I had passed somebody on the 44th floor, injured—they need to get a medic and a stretcher to this floor, and described the situation in brief, and the person then asked for my phone number, or something, and they said—they put me on hold. “You gotta talk to one of my supervisors”—and suddenly I was on hold. And so I waited a considerable amount of time. Somebody else came back on the phone, I repeated the story. And then it happened again. I was on hold a second time, and needed to repeat the story for a third time. But I told the third person that I am only telling you once. I am getting out of the building, here are the details, write it down, and do what you should do, and put the phone down. Stanley and I went back to the stairs, we continued all the way down to the plaza level.


No one in the first responder community knew that Stairwell A remained potentially passable. No callers were advised that helicopter rescues were not feasible. Civilians below the impact were also generally advised to remain where they were by 9-1-1 or FDNY dispatch operators.

Back in the North Tower, evacuation generally continued. Thousands of civilians continued to descend in an orderly manner. On the 91st floor, the highest floor with stairway access, all but one were uninjured and able to descend.

At 9:11 a.m., Port Authority workers at the 64th floor of the North Tower were told by the Port Authority Police desk in Jersey City to stay near the stairwells and wait for assistance. These workers eventually began to descend anyway, but most of them died in the collapse of the North Tower.

Those who descended Stairwell B of the North Tower exited between the elevator banks in the lobby. Those who descended the Stairwells A and C exited at the raised mezzanine level, where the smoky air was causing respiratory problems. All civilians were directed into the concourse at lobby level. Officers from the Port Authority and New York Police Departments continued to assist with the evacuation of civilians, for example, guiding them through the concourse in order to shelter the evacuees from falling debris and victims.

Ms. McIntyre: When we went down into the concourse, it was just people trying to get out. The security or rescue people just still directing us to keep moving and go out towards Borders and then go out.


By 9:55 a.m., those few civilians who were still evacuating consisted primarily of injured, handicapped, elderly, or severely overweight individuals.

Calls to 9-1-1 reflect that others remained alive above and below the impact zone, reporting increasingly desperate conditions.

Immediately after the second plane hit, the FDNY Chief of Department called a second 5th alarm. While nine Brooklyn units had been staged on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Battery tunnel at 8:53 a.m., these units were not dispatched to the scene at this time.  Instead, units from further away were dispatched.

Just after the South Tower impact, chiefs in the North Tower lobby huddled to discuss strategy for the operations and communication in the two towers.

At 9:05 a.m., two FDNY chiefs tested the WTC complex’s repeater system. This was the system installed after the 1993 bombing in order to enable firefighters operating on upper floors to maintain consistent radio communication with the lobby command. The system had been activated for use on portable radios at 8:54 a.m., but a second button which would have enabled the master hand-set was not activated at that time. The chief testing the master handset at 9:05 a.m. did not realize that the master handset had not been activated. When he could not communicate, he concluded that the system was down. The system was working, however, and was used subsequently by firefighters in the South Tower.  

The FDNY Chief of Safety agreed with the consensus that the only choice was to let the fires “burn up and out.” The chiefs in the North Tower were forced to make decisions based on little or no information.

Mr. Pfeifer: One of the most critical things in a major operation like this is to have information. We didn’t have a lot of information coming in. We didn’t receive any reports of what was seen from the helicopters. It was impossible to know how much damage was done on the upper floors, whether the stairwells were in tact or not. A matter of fact, what you saw on TV, we didn’t have that information.

Mr. Hayden: People watching on TV certainly had more knowledge of what was happening a hundred floors above us than we did in the lobby. Certainly without any information, without critical information coming in, the cumulative effect of the information coming in, it’s very difficult to make informed critical decisions without that information. And it didn’t exist that day. Our communication systems were down. Our building suppression systems were down, the elevators. We had no video capability throughout the entire operation.


Climbing up the stairwells carrying heavy equipment was a laborious task even for physically fit firefighters. Though the lobby command post did not know it, one battalion chief in the North Tower found a working elevator, which he took to the 16th floor before beginning to climb. Just prior to 10:00 a.m., about an hour after firefighters first began streaming into the North Tower, at least two companies of firefighters had climbed to the sky lobby on the 44th floor of the North Tower. Numerous units were located between the 5th and 37th floors in the North Tower.

At approximately 9:07 a.m., two chiefs commenced operations in the South Tower lobby. Almost immediately they were joined by an Office of Emergency Management field responder. They were not immediately joined by a sizable number of fire companies, as most, if not all units which had been in the North Tower lobby remained there. One chief and a ladder company found a working elevator to the 40th floor. From there they proceeded to climb Stairwell B. One member of the ladder company stayed behind to operate the elevator.

Unlike the commanders in the North Tower lobby, these chiefs in the South Tower kept their radios on the repeater channel. For the first 15 minutes of the operations in the South Tower, communications among them and the ladder company which ascended with the chief worked well. Upon learning from a company security official that the impact zone began at the 78th floor, a ladder company transmitted this information, and the chief directed an engine company on the 40th floor to attempt to find an elevator to reach that upper level.

Unfortunately, no FDNY chiefs outside the South Tower realized that the repeater channel was functioning and being used by units in the South Tower. Chiefs in the North Tower lobby and outside were unable to reach the South Tower lobby command post initially.

Communications also began to break down within the South Tower. Those units responding to the South Tower were advised to use tactical channel 3. From approximately 9:21 a.m. on, the ascending chief was unable to reach the South Tower lobby command post. The lobby chief ceased to transmit on repeater channel 7 at that time.

The first FDNY fatality of the day occurred at approximately 9:25 a.m. when a civilian landed on a fireman on West Street.

By 9:30 a.m., few of the units dispatched to the South Tower had arrived at their staging area. Many units were unfamiliar with the complex and could not enter the South Tower because of the danger of victims and debris falling on Liberty Street. Some units entered the Marriott Hotel and were given assignments there; others mistakenly responded to the North Tower. An additional 2nd alarm was requested at 9:37 a.m. because so few units had reported. At this time, units which had been staged on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel were sent, and many of them arrived at the WTC by 9:55 a.m.

At 9:50 a.m., a ladder company had made its way up to the 70th floor of the South Tower. There they encountered many seriously injured people. At 9:53 a.m. a group of civilians were found trapped in an elevator on the 78th floor sky lobby. By 9:58 a.m., the ascending chief had reached the 78th floor on Stairwell A, and reported that it looked open to the 79th floor. He reported numerous civilian fatalities in the area. A ladder company on the 78th floor was preparing to use hoses to fight the fire when the South Tower collapsed.

So far we have concentrated on the Fire Department’s command set-up in the North and South Towers. The overall incident command was just outside the WTC complex. At approximately 9:10 a.m., because of the danger of falling debris, this command post was moved from the middle of West Street to its western edge by the parking garage in front of 2 World Financial Center. The overall command post’s ability to track all FDNY units was extremely limited.

At approximately 9:20 a.m., the Mayor and the NYPD Commissioner reached the FDNY overall command post. The FDNY Chief of Department briefed the Mayor on operations and stated that this was a rescue mission of civilians. He stated that he believed they could save everyone below the impact zones. He also advised that, in his opinion, rooftop rescue operations would be impossible. None of the chiefs present believed a total collapse of either tower was possible. Later, after the Mayor had left, one senior chief present did articulate his concern that upper floors could begin to collapse in a few hours, and so he said that firefighters thus should not ascend above floors in the sixties.

By 9:20 a.m., significantly more firemen than were dispatched were at the WTC complex or en route. Many off-duty firemen were given permission by company officers to “ride heavy.” Others found alternative transportation and responded. In one case an entire company of off-duty firefighters managed to congregate and come to the WTC as a complete team, in addition to the on-duty team which already had been dispatched to the scene. Numerous fire marshals also reported to the WTC.

At 9:46 a.m., the Chief of Department called a third 5th alarm. This meant that over one-third of all of the FDNY units in New York City were at or en route to the WTC.

The Police Department was also responding massively after the attack on the South Tower. Almost 2,000 officers had been called to the scene. In addition, the Chief of the Department called for Operation Omega, to evacuate and secure sensitive locations around the city. At 9:06 a.m. the NYPD Chief of Department instructed that no units were to land on the roof of either tower.

An NYPD rescue team in the North Tower lobby prepared to climb at approximately 9:15 a.m. They attempted to check in with the FDNY chiefs present, but were rebuffed. Office of Emergency Management personnel present did not intercede. The team went to work anyway, climbing Stairwell B in order to set up a triage center on upper floors for victims who could not walk. Later, a second rescue team arrived in the North Tower and did not attempt to check-in with the FDNY command post.

NYPD rescue teams also entered the South Tower. The Office of Emergency Management field responder present ensured that they check-in with the lobby chief. In this case, both agreed that the rescue team would ascend in support of FDNY personnel. By 9:15 a.m., two more of these teams were preparing to leave the Church and Vesey mobilization point in order to enter the towers.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. one of the helicopters present advised that a rooftop evacuation still would not be possible.

Mr. Ciccone: After the Second Tower was hit, we tried to make our way towards that area, but the smoke from the first building, Tower 1, obscured the rooftop of Tower 2. It was the first hour-and-a-half that was critical for these observations—for rooftop rescue. We flew a horseshoe pattern—in that horseshoe pattern—for over a pattern of about an hour-and-a-half before the buildings collapsed. That, the same observations were made. There was no one on the roof. Our ability to get in that type position was still factored in by the heat, and made it difficult to even, to make it plausible, to get on the roof.

At 9:37 a.m., a civilian on the 106th floor of the South Tower reported to a

9-1-1 operator that a lower floor—“90-something floor”—was collapsing. This information was conveyed incorrectly by the 9-1-1 operator to an NYPD dispatcher. The NYPD dispatcher further confused the substance of the 9-1-1 call in conveying at 9:52 a.m. to NYPD officers that “the 106th floor is crumbling.”

By 9:58 a.m., there were two NYPD rescue teams in each of the two towers, another approaching the North Tower, and approximately ten other NYPD officers climbing in the towers.

David Norman, Police Officer, NYPD Emergency Service Unit: We went up to the 31st floor where we triaged probably, somewhere around six to a half dozen to a dozen firefighters for a random number of things, chest pains, difficulty breathing, things like that. Prior to that, we would notice that the amount of civilians had dwindled down to almost none. At that point, while we were continuing, or conducting this triage, the South Tower collapsed.

In addition, there were numerous NYPD officers on the ground floors throughout the complex, assisting with evacuation, and patrolling and securing the WTC perimeter. A greater number of NYPD officers were staged throughout lower Manhattan, assisting in civilian evacuation, keeping roads clear, and conducting other operations in response to the attacks.

Prior to 9:59 a.m., no NYPD helicopter transmission predicted that either tower would collapse.

Initial responders from outside Port Authority Police commands proceeded to the police desk in 5 WTC or to the fire safety desk in the North Tower lobby. Officers were assigned to assist in stairwell evacuations and to expedite evacuation in the plaza, concourse, and PATH station. As reports of trapped civilians were received, Port Authority Police officers also started climbing stairs for rescue efforts. Others, including the Port Authority Police Superintendent, began climbing toward the impact zone in the North Tower. The Port Authority Police Chief and other senior officers began climbing in the North Tower with the purpose of reaching the Windows of the World restaurant on the 106th floor, where there were at least 100 people trapped.

The Port Authority Police Department lacked clear standard operating procedures for coordinating a multi-command response to the same incident. It also lacked a radio channel that all commands could access. Many officers remained on their local command channels, which did not work once they were outside the immediate geographic area of their respective commands.

Many Port Authority Police officers from different commands responded on their own initiative. By 9:30 a.m. the Port Authority’s central police desk requested that responding officers meet at West and Vesey and await further instructions. In the absence of pre-determined leadership roles for an incident of this magnitude, a number of Port Authority inspectors, captains, and lieutenants stepped forward at West and Vesey to formulate an on-site response plan. They were hampered by not knowing how many officers were responding to the site and where those officers were operating. Many of the officers who responded to this command post lacked suitable protective equipment to enter the complex.

By 9:58 a.m., one Port Authority Police officer had reached the sky lobby on the 44th floor of the North Tower. Also in the North Tower, two Port Authority teams had reached floors in the upper and lower twenties. Numerous officers also were climbing in the South Tower, including the Port Authority rescue team. Many also were on the ground floors of the complex assisting with evacuation, manning the Port Authority Police desk in 5 WTC, or supporting lobby command posts.

Sue Keane, Port Authority Police Department: When I got up to Stairwell C in the Mezzanine area, I was the only Port Authority police officer there at the time. There were two civilians there, one Port Authority employee, and there was a Secret Service Agent there. Afterwards, some NYPD officers showed up, and at that time everybody just basically worked together. There was no standard operating procedure. We just did whatever we had to do to guide people out of the stairwell.



The emergency response effort escalated with the crash of United 175 into the South Tower. With that escalation, communications and command-and-control became increasingly critical and increasingly difficult. First responders assisted thousands of civilians in evacuating the towers, even as incident commanders from responding agencies lacked knowledge of what other agencies and, in some cases, their own responders were doing.

Then the South Tower collapsed.

From 9:59 until 10:26 a.m.

At 9:59 a.m., the South Tower collapsed in ten seconds.

Video: South Tower collapses.

We believe that all of the people still inside the tower were killed, as well as a number of individuals—both first responders and civilians—in the concourse, the Marriott, and on neighboring streets.

The next emergency issue was to decide what to do in the North Tower, once the South Tower had collapsed. In the North Tower, 9-1-1 calls placed from above the impact zone grew increasingly desperate. The only civilians still evacuating above the 10th floor were those who were injured or handicapped. First responders were assisting those people in evacuating.

Every FDNY command post ceased to operate upon the collapse of the South Tower.

Mr. Pfeifer: We were in the North Tower communicating with some of our people, and all of a sudden we hear this load roar. And, we were able to go into a small alcove. Immediately to our left, just adjacent to the passageway to 6 World Trade Center. And as you see, everything goes black. And what we thought at this point is that we were the ones in trouble, that something happened, something fell off of the building and crashed into the lobby—that we in the lobby—or maybe the elevators had blown out. But we thought we were the guys in trouble. And when we couldn’t maintain our command post in the lobby, we made a decision that we needed to regroup and pull people out of the building.

Mr. Hayden: We were completely unaware that the South Tower had collapsed. I don’t ever think it was in our realm of thought. We knew some significant event had occurred, whether it was another plane or a bomb, or one of the elevators crashing into the lobby. But certainly it was not in our thought process that the South Tower had collapsed.


Lacking awareness of the South Tower’s collapse, the chiefs in the North Tower nonetheless ordered an evacuation of the building.

Mr. Pfeifer: I got on the radio and I said, “Command to all units in Tower 1, evacuate the building.” And I heard that message relayed up. And then a little later I repeated it: “Evacuate the building.” At that point, we had firefighters many floors above, and it takes some time to come down. What we didn’t know at that point was that we were running out of time.


An FDNY marine unit radioed immediately that the South Tower had collapsed. To our knowledge, this information did not reach the chiefs at the scene.

Within minutes some firefighters began to hear evacuation orders over tactical 1, the channel being used in the North Tower. Some FDNY personnel also gave the evacuation instruction on command channel 2, which was much less crowded, as only chiefs were using it. Two battalion chiefs on upper floors heard the instruction on Command 2 and repeated it to everyone they encountered. At least one of them also repeated the evacuation order on tactical 1.

Other firefighters did not receive the transmissions. The reasons varied. Some FDNY radios may not have picked up the transmission in the difficult high-rise environment. The difficulty of that environment was compounded by the numerous communications all attempted on tactical 1 after the South Tower collapsed; the channel was overwhelmed, and evacuation orders may have been lost. Some of the firefighters in the North Tower were among those who had responded even though they were off-duty, and they did not have their radios. Finally, some of the firefighters in the North Tower were supposed to have gone to the South Tower and were using the tactical channel assigned to that Tower.

Many firefighters who did receive the evacuation order delayed their evacuation in order to assist victims who could not move on their own. Many perished.

Many chiefs on the scene were unaware that the South Tower collapsed.  To our knowledge, none of the evacuation orders given to units in the North Tower followed the specific protocols—which would include stating “mayday, mayday, mayday”—to be given for the most urgent building evacuation.  To our knowledge none of the evacuation orders mentioned that the South Tower had collapsed.  Firefighters who received these orders lacked a uniform sense of urgency in their evacuation.

Mr. Hayden: Even with the order to evacuate, the firefighters themselves on the upper floors were not aware that the building had collapsed. They didn’t realize the tremendous amount of danger they were in at that time.

Mr. Pfeifer: I didn’t know, even at this point, that the entire South Tower collapsed. What we were doing here was regrouping, and the firefighters were coming down, and they were coming down with people. And they were helping more people to get out of the building. Like us, they didn’t know the building fell down.


The Police Department had a better understanding of the situation. The South Tower’s collapse disrupted the NYPD rescue team command post at Church and Vesey. Nonetheless, the NYPD command structure gave vital help to its units.

Kenneth Winkler, Detective, NYPD Emergency Service Unit: There was this tremendous roar—tremendous. I looked up and the South Tower was imploding. I got behind a vehicle and it went from white to grey to black, and then back again. As this was happening, I was calling units out of the North Tower. The units in the North Tower did not know that the South Tower had collapsed.

Mr. Norman: We at that point—because we were in an area where there were no windows—didn’t exactly know what was going on. Our building obviously violently shook. The noise from the collapse was heard by us, but we didn’t know exactly what we were going through.

Mr. Winkler: The building was shaking, the ceiling tiles were falling, but we did not know why—this was the result of the South Tower collapsing.

Mr. Norman: As soon as that subsided somewhat, we were communicated from Officer Winkler, who was our command post operator, that the South Tower had completely collapsed and we were being called out of the building. At first, we kinda didn’t understand it, that transmission. We clearly understood it, but to think that a building of one hundred and some stories was like, you know, almost, not believable at that moment. So we asked for him to confirm that and to repeat his message. He then explained that there was no South Tower, that it was absolutely gone, and our building was in imminent danger of collapse, and that we should come out of the building immediately.

Mr. Winkler: They descended down in a controlled manner, still checking the floors on the way down. They didn’t rush out. As they got down and they got across West Street, the North Tower collapsed.

Many NYPD radio frequencies became overwhelmed with transmissions relating to injured, trapped, or missing officers. By 10:10 a.m., the NYPD rescue team advised that they were moving their command post north and began moving vehicles in that direction.

NYPD Aviation radioed in immediately that the South Tower had collapsed. At 10:08 a.m., an aviation helicopter pilot advised that he did not believe the North Tower would last much longer. There was no ready way to relay this information to the fire chiefs in the North Tower.

Both NYPD rescue teams in the North Tower knew that the South Tower had collapsed and evacuated the building. One remained in the complex near 5 and 6 WTC in order to keep searching for people who needed help. A majority of these officers died.

At the time of the South Tower’s collapse, a number of NYPD and Port Authority Police officers, as well as some FDNY personnel, were operating in different groups in the North Tower mezzanine, the WTC plaza, and the concourse, as well as on the neighboring streets. Many of these officers were thrown into the air and were enveloped in the total darkness of the debris cloud. Within minutes of the South Tower collapse, these officers began to regroup in the darkness and to lead the remaining civilians and injured officers out of the complex. Many of these officers continued rescue operations in the immediate vicinity of the North Tower and remained there until the North Tower collapsed. Many lost their lives.

The collapse of the South Tower also forced the evacuation of the Port Authority Police command post on West and Vesey, forcing its officers to move north. There is no evidence that Port Authority Police officers from outside the WTC command ever heard an evacuation order on their radios. Some of these officers in the North Tower determined to evacuate, either on their own, or in consultation with other first responders they came across. One Port Authority Police officer from the WTC command reported that he heard an urgent evacuation instruction on his radio soon after the South Tower collapsed.

Mr. Lim: I remember stopping on the floors now, from forty-four down, to check the floors to see if there was anybody left behind. There were some people that were, I guess, elderly, or that required assistance, that were just starting to come down now, so I just gathered them. There was no time to wait for anyone. I felt that time was of essence. And I collected them, and with my party, we started going down.


Other Port Authority police stayed in the WTC complex, assisting with the evacuation.

Ms. Keane: You can see into the plaza, but it’s almost like an alley way between Tower One and I believe it was 6 the Immigrations Department, because I could see the Immigrations sign still. So I knew at that point where I was and that we could actually follow that wall down and go into 5. I had a clear view to look up and I would look up to see whether or not things were falling. You couldn’t see too high up. It wasn’t like I could—you could hear things. It was strange. You could hear whistling. You could almost tell when things were coming down. And if things were kinda quiet then I would holler, “send two over,” and they would come across. And we probably got another ten or so people out. I honestly don’t know what the count was.


The North Tower collapsed at 10:26 a.m.

The FDNY Chief of Department and the Port Authority Police Department Superintendent and many of their senior staff were killed. The Fire Department of New York suffered the largest loss of life of any emergency response agency in U.S. history. The Port Authority Police Department suffered the largest loss of life of any American police force in history. The New York Police Department suffered the second largest loss of life of any police force in U.S. history, exceeded only by the loss of Port Authority police the same day.

The nation suffered the largest loss of civilian life on its soil as a result of a domestic attack in its history.

Mr. Pfeifer: At this point, we heard a load roar again and someone yelled that the building was collapsing. And, we started to run. With bunker gear, you can’t run too far, especially when a building is a quarter mile high. And what happened inside the building now happened outside. This beautiful sunny day now turned completely black. We were unable to see the hand in front of our face. And there was an eerie sound of silence. That day we lost 2,752 people at the World Trade Center; 343 were firefighters. But we also saved 25,000 people. And that’s what people should remember because firefighters and rescuers went in and they knew it was dangerous, but they went in to save people. And they saved many.

Ground Zero as a Political Backdrop


Bush campaign ad featuring footage from Ground Zero cleanup.

Also: New York and the 9/11 Commission

When the Republican National Convention comes to New York City in late August, George W. Bush will descend upon Ground Zero in a helicopter, turning the site into a grand backdrop for his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination. This carefully planned event will top off four days of celebration of the president's response to September 11.

Actually, this scenario is not going to happen, says Rori Smith, who works as a spokesman for the Republican National Convention, but it is what many New Yorkers seem to believe. Smith spends much of her day refuting a steady stream of such baseless rumors. She and the other convention planners insist that they will stay completely away from downtown; they vigorously deny that Ground Zero will play any role in the convention.

Some are skeptical, especially since the site of the 9/11 attacks has already been playing a role in the presidential campaign.

In early March, the Bush/Cheney campaign broadcast television ads with images of the site in the days after the attacks.

The ad was too much for Adele Welty, whose son Timothy was a firefighter killed on 9/11. "Using footage of one of the brothers being carried out of the wreckage and not knowing who it was - it could have been my son - it is an affront to me," she said.

Many, like Welty, believe that Ground Zero's existence illustrates government failure, not success, and should be left out of the political campaign entirely.

Others, however, argue that 9/11 and the city's and nation's response to it are legitimate symbols of patriotism and resilience and so are appropriate things for voters to keep in mind on Election Day.

As the federal 9/11 Commission moves its hearings from Washington, D.C. to New York City in May (See: New York and the 9/11 Commission) and the Republican convention comes to New York this summer, the debate over what Ground Zero symbolizes and how it should - or should not - be used in politics is sure to heat up.


September 11, 2001 has presented a tricky political issue for local elected officials, forcing them to walk a fine line between celebrating heroism and exploitation.

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani became a national hero after September 11, and was even named Time magazine's 2001 "Man of the Year." However, when 2001 Democratic candidate mayoral candidate Mark Green said he thought he would have done as good a job or better if he had been mayor - a comment he made to reassure voters - many New Yorkers were appalled.

Governor George Pataki, who often mentioned Ground Zero and the rebuilding efforts during his 2002 reelection campaign, was careful not to run any TV ad that specifically mentioned the attack or showed footage of Ground Zero. However, after winning reelection to his third term, the governor was forced to defend himself when it was reported that he hoped to lay the cornerstone of the proposed World Trade Center tower during the Republican National Convention. The next day, a Pataki spokesperson said the idea had been scrapped.

"There is one clear lesson nationally that everyone should take from New York on 9/11, which is tread very carefully on this issue because you won't know you've crossed the line until you've crossed it," Robert Bellafiore, an advisor to Governor Pataki told the New York Times. "That line separates talking about it as a legitimate issue and exploitation, and that line shifts over time."


Some political analysts would argue that George W. Bush's presidency was defined by the day in September 2001 when he visited Ground Zero for the first time, and so it is perfectly appropriate to campaign on the terrorist attacks.

"This campaign is ultimately about the choice voters are going to face and who will lead during the extraordinary times we live in," said Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager. "And obviously 9/11 was the defining moment of these times and because of that day, America has been at war and still is."

In March, the Bush campaign aired a TV ad picturing an American flag flying in front of the ruins of the World Trade Center. With somber music playing, this image fades into a scene of five firefighters carrying a flag-draped stretcher, presumably carrying remains of a body.

For many, the two or three seconds that Ground Zero appeared on screen were offensive.

"In his first campaign commercial, George Bush reached down and molested the dead," wrote Jimmy Breslin in Newsday.

A group of family members of 9/11 victims and firefighters reacted immediately, calling the ads offensive, and sparking a heated, if brief, controversy. Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry soon joined the chorus of critics, while another group of family members released an “Open Letter to America” defending Bush's decision to run them. Newspapers carried stories for several days covering the reactions to the ads.

The publicity inspired a negative reaction nationwide. A week after the advertisements first aired, registered voters found the ads inappropriate by a margin of 54 percent to 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll.

However, when one compares Bush's use of an attack on America to what politicians have done in the past, some argue that the administration is being cautious.

Franklin D. Roosevelt didn't step carefully in his treatment of the attacks on Pearl Harbor in his 1944 presidential campaign, the last election when a foreign attack on U.S. soil could have been used as an election issue. Roosevelt didn't show up at the Democratic convention in Chicago, opting instead to give his acceptance speech via radio from the San Diego Naval Station, because, in his words, "the war waits for no elections." Then he flew to Pearl Harbor to kick off his campaign from the deck of the destroyer Baltimore.

"If you accept President Bush's premise that this nation is at war with terrorism," wrote David Broder in the Washington Post, a week after the Bush ads ran, "then you have to applaud the restraint his campaign has shown so far in exploiting the attack that began that war."


But the Bush ads may be risky for another reason. As recent events showed, Americans' views of 9/11 continue to change in response to events that the campaigners have no control over.

Scores of American troops have been dying in Iraq in April, as widespread uprisings have proven difficult to bring under control. Large bombings continue to underscore fears that the military is failing to halt chaos throughout the country. Meanwhile, the federal commission investigating the 9/11 attacks has raised serious questions about whether the Bush administration was sufficiently vigilant in its counterterrorism efforts before the attacks. The White House's reluctance to allow Condoleezza Rice to testify, and the bickering over the deadline for the commission's final report, have left some convinced that the Bush administration has been less than cooperative.

On May 18 and 19, the 9/11 Commission will bring its hearings to New York, and provide a more local angle to the federal investigation. Former Mayor Giuliani, a supporter of President Bush, is expected to testify, as are other emergency response officials.

Revisiting the government's successes - but also its missteps - may raise additional problems for Republicans who are coming to New York City for the national convention this summer.

"If the convention was this week, I would say it was a terrible idea," said Norman Adler, a political consultant for both Republicans and Democrats, in April. "[But] the electorate has a memory that usually lasts about one and three quarter days. The events in April may not resonate in September."


Claims by Republican National Convention planners that Ground Zero did not draw them to New York have been met with much skepticism, largely because the 2004 convention is such an exception.

The convention's start date is the latest of any political convention in modern history, with it closing a week before the third anniversary of 9/11. The 2004 gathering will be the first Republican convention to take place in New York City in the 150 years that the party has existed. By coming to what many Republicans regard as hostile territory, the GOP is bucking the trend of convening in friendly or contested states.

There are good reasons for this, which have nothing to do with 9/11, insist Republicans. Mark Pfeifle, communications director of the Republican National Convention, claims New York City as a Republican success story. The city has done well under the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, he said, just as the state has done well under Republican Governor Pataki. Brushing aside suspicions that the convention was timed to correspond with the third anniversary of 9/11, Pfeifle and other planners say that they simply wanted to avoid competing for airtime with the Democratic National Convention in late July or the Olympics in early August.

Besides, they add, New York City gave the Republicans such a sweet deal that they couldn't afford to refuse it.

"There wasn't any outright sense that the convention planners or organizers had factored in that horrific moment in our history," said Paul Elliott, communications director of the NYC Host Committee. "The mayor was clear that this was an agreement largely based on both parties being able to serve one another's interest [financially]."

Many others have found it easier to explain the Republican's unusual choice by factoring in the emotional resonance of 9/11.

"The president sees the war on terror being the main issue confronting our country for the next generation," said Peter King, a Republican Congressmember from Long Island. "New York, and New York City in particular, symbolize the courage and determination that we need to win that war. New York has really become the symbol of fighting back. To that extent, it really serves a purpose."

Many New Yorkers are wary of the Republicans' intentions and are dubious of claims that the convention won't incorporate Ground Zero into its agenda. This could prove a risky political situation.

"New Yorkers aren't [their] audience, but I do think they that they are the backdrop," said Adler. "If you go someplace and the audience is cheering wildly, that's what everybody sees. If you go someplace and the audience isn't cheering wildly, it doesn't look good."

How much cheering the Republicans get, it seems, will depend on two things; first, how issues like the 9/11 Commission and the war in Iraq look; and second, how successful the Republicans are in coming to New York and holding an enormous party days before the anniversary of 9/11 without offending too many people.

"They're going to have to not seem like they're taking advantage of [9/11]," said political consultant Joseph Mercurio, "while they're taking advantage of it."

New York and the 9/11 Commission


Bush campaign ad featuring footage from Ground Zero cleanup.

Also: Ground Zero as a Political Backdrop

Theresa McGovern, whose mother was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, was bothered when she heard about Bush/Cheney campaign ads featuring images of Ground Zero. But several weeks later, when the 9/11 Commission began to raise serious questions about how the administration had performed before the attacks, she was beside herself.

"I feel even worse about it because they’re making a commercial about it and they didn’t really handle it very well," said McGovern, after traveling to Washington to hear the testimony of national security advisor Condoleezza Rice.

For some of those who lost family members on 9/11, possible intelligence failures leading up to the attack have grabbed their attention since the day of the attacks. As the last round of the commission’s hearings showed, these are issues that can provoke wide public interest; some have already begun to talk about how the hearings outcomes could affect the way that 9/11 plays out as a campaign issue. (see Ground Zero as a Political Backdrop)

The next stop for the commission is New York, where the drama that has lulled since the last round of hearings may be reignited.


The existence of an independent 9/11 Commission owes much to the work of a group of several women from New Jersey whose husbands were killed on September 11.

These women lobbied hard for the establishment of the commission after being unsatisfied with the lack of answers that came from the congressional investigation, the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry.

They were praised by the commission’s members in its first meeting, which took place last March at the Alexander Hamilton Customs House in downtown Manhattan. Congressman Tim Roemer credited the women with forcing the commission into existence; the New York Observer quoted him saying "at a time when many Americans don’t even take the opportunity to cast a ballot, you folks went out and made the legislative system work."

The panel’s establishment was not the end of the story, however. In the year since, controversy has flared on several occasions – over access to documents, about who will testify, and about when the commission’s work will end.


In January, the commission asked for a two-month extension on the May 27 deadline for its final report. After initially opposing it to keep the final report from being published in the middle of the presidential campaign, Republican officials agreed. The deadline was moved to the end of July.

Disagreements over who would testify, whose testimony would be public, and who would take an oath before giving their testimony was not resolved so easily. The commission wanted Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush to testify in public, as well as vice presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney. Clinton and Gore eventually testified in private; Bush agreed to meet with the commission only in the presence of Cheney. This meeting has not yet happened.

The Bush administration also opposed the commission’s request that its national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, testify in public and under oath. Rice met privately with the commission in February; to do any more, argued the administration, would break the constitutional right of a president to meet privately with his advisors.

But the administration’s stance changed after it came under intense pressure when Richard Clarke, anti-terror chief under both Clinton and Bush, said that the Bush administration had been lax on terror before 9/11 (in pdf format). Clarke apologized for failing the families of 9/11’s victims – something that no government official had done before.

This set off a bitter debate, with Bush’s allies attacking Clarke’s credibility and Bush’s critics attacking the president for not being forthcoming about Clarke’s charges. It ended with Condoleezza Rice addressing the commission in public and under oath in a special session televised by every major television network. Rice blamed the lack of communication between intelligence agencies, required by law, for the failure to prevent 9/11.

The White House also declassified an August 6, 2001 presidential briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US". Critics of the Bush administration said the briefing proved that the administration had ignored the clues it had; the administration described the briefing as "historical."

In the next week, reports on the failures of the CIA, the FBI, and another contentious round of hearings dominated newspaper headlines.


This has died down – for now. But the next round of commission hearings deals with another issue with its share of firewalls and communication failures – the emergency response to 9/11. And it will take place in downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of the World Trade Center site.

Rudolph Giuliani and other city and federal officials who were involved in the emergency response to the 9/11 attacks will testify on May 18 and 19 in New York City. The hearings will examine how agencies reacted in the days after September 11, and how they had prepared for such an event in the years before the attacks.

While the hearings in Washington have dealt with what happened elsewhere in the country and the world, this next round of hearings will hit close to home, sparking a completely different set of questions.

Emergency response agencies have their own history of faulty communication and a failure to cooperate. The New York fire and police departments and the city’s Office of Emergency Management have been unable to come up with an agreement on what roles each will play in any future emergencies; the Department of Homeland Security is considering withholding funding if no agreement is reached by October.

Other problems – like faulty radio communications – have been blamed for the deaths of about 120 firefighters.

"The main thing that went wrong on that day was no cooperation between the police and fire department, and the radios," said Jimmy Boyle, former head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. "That’s going to be a story unto itself."

A Year With Libeskind


hudson river 2003


Related Article:
Thinking Big Again by Joshua Brustein

One year ago, Daniel Libeskind won a competition to design the former World Trade Center site. Some would hesitate to continue to describe him as a winner today.

Libeskind's plan has been changed significantly in the past year, as has his perceived role in the development of the site. But because it was never clear what Libeskind's role was in the first place, there is now disagreement as to whether these changes constitute the plan's evolution or its betrayal.


Even when the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation first invited Studio Libeskind and six other architectural firms downtown, it was not clear what the corporation wanted from them. The public had rejected the original plans that architects Beyer Blinder Belle had produced for the site, and new ideas were needed. So the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation launched a 'design study' to gather ideas from the world's leading architects. It insisted that the study was not a competition, and would not result in a winner being chosen as the site's master planner.

Several months later, Libeskind was declared the winner of the non-competition, and was named the master planner for the site, largely because the Governor was inspired by his vision for a building he was not contracted to design. With that, Libeskind’s plan became the plan for Ground Zero.

But nobody really knew what that meant.

Officials began speaking about his design as if he would not only determine the size and shape of the buildings, streets and open spaces – as a master planner normally does – but also that the appearance of the structures built on Ground Zero would follow "the Libeskind vision."

Civic associations, like the Civic Alliance, New York New Visions and Rebuild Downtown Our Town, have been in favor of granting Libeskind a lofty mandate, because his plan had been chosen after intense public discussion that they helped organize. Civic groups have often been the loudest advocates of the inherent value of keeping each individual element closely in line with Libeskind's plan.

Despite the supposed support of public officials and civic groups, though, the plan has gone through major changes over its first year in existence.


Libeskind's original plan divided the former superblock of the World Trade Center into four smaller blocks by extending Fulton and Greenwich streets through the site. It envisioned a sunken memorial site on the spot where the Twin Towers stood, surrounded by irregularly shaped towers, the tallest of which was a 1,776-foot skyscraper with an asymmetrical spire that Governor George Pataki has dubbed the Freedom Tower.

Since then, the plan for the site has changed significantly.

  • Memorial designer Michael Arad pulled the sunken memorial site up to ground level
  • Architect David Childs altered the shape and size of Libeskind’s Freedom Tower.
  • The irregularly shaped buildings now look more conventional to make them more viable commercially.
  • The plan has been expanded to include the site where the damaged Deutsche Bank building now stands, replacing it with a smaller building and a park, and underground parking.

Changes to the plan were made at four points throughout the year.

Revised Plan

Libeskind presented a revised version of his master plan in September. The buildings forming the spiral around the memorial site became slimmer, taller, and squarer, providing more office space but a lessening the dramatic spiraling effect that Libeskind intended to create. The Deutsche bank building site was added to the plan, reducing density on the site and providing a place to provide additional underground infrastructure.

Freedom Tower

The Freedom Tower, which won over Governor Pataki, played a key role in Libeskind’s selection as the master planner for Ground Zero. The architect obviously wanted to play a major role in its design. But when Larry Silverstein appointed his own architect, David Childs, to work on the building, Libeskind was given the vague role of collaborating architect. What followed turned into a messy power struggle between the two architects.

In December, Libeskind and Childs presented the Freedom Tower -- essentially a building designed by Childs. The twisting tower was larger and heavier than Libeskind had wanted. Its major gesture to Libeskind’s original design, the asymmetrical spire, was generally viewed as a badly integrated afterthought.


The most significant change to the plan was made this January when the memorial jury selected Michael Arad and Peter Walker's 'Reflecting Absence' as the winner in the memorial.

Michael Arad's original design was the memorial finalist that changed the Libeskind plan the most. It eliminated the sunken pit for the memorial, and removed Libeskind’s proposed cultural buildings from the memorial site. The revisions that Arad and Walker made to the plan in the two weeks after it was picked as the winner brought it slightly closer to the plan, mainly by replacing the cultural buildings with smaller ones in the same location. But it still erased what had been the defining feature of Libeskind’s original design.

Jury members later said that they made their decision with the conscious intention of eliminating the sunken memorial, which they felt was the weakest part of Libeskind’s design.

Transportation Hub

While the architects of the Freedom Tower and the memorial strayed from the Libeskind plan, Santiago Calatrava, who designed the transportation hub, took one of Libeskind’s more fanciful ideas and used it as the basis for his building.

From the beginning, skeptics have singled out Libeskind’s 'wedge of light,' as a weak point in his plan. Many questioned whether Libeskind’s idea for the plaza – designed to be shadow-less on September 11 of each year between 8:46 AM, when the first plane hit the first of the Twin Towers, to 10:28 AM, when the second tower collapsed – was plausible. But Calatrava focused on it; the steel-and-glass train station he presented in January centered itself to allow the wedge of light to run between its two huge 'wings.'

Calatrava’s station did change the plan slightly. Because the station was a different shape than the one that Libeskind had planned, it created a plaza on one side.


At Ground Zero, the master plan’s influence was limited by the fact that it was never really finished. Usually if a master plan were to include a sense of how the buildings in the area should relate to one another visually – what might be described here as the "Libeskind vision" – the planner would make clear design guidelines for the architects to follow. But because of the swift pace of the site’s development, such guidelines were not produced before architects designed the defining features of the plan.

Still, some feel that Libeskind’s appointment implied the right to control each element of his plan.

"It was clearly my impression that they were dealing with a concept as well as a master plan," said Beverly Willis, head of civic group Rebuild Downtown Our Town. “If the public, the city government and the state government debate a series of proposed plans by the world’s greatest architects, and they decide on one, that decision should be final."

The question of whether the changes to the Libeskind plan represent its evolution or its erosion is most difficult in terms of its relationship to the memorial. Officials and civic organizations have found it particularly challenging to reconcile their views on two processes they supported: the public dialogue which endorsed a strong role for a master plan, and an independent jury process that selected a memorial that changes that plan significantly.

"A jury decided to pick a scheme that didn’t seem to work well with the master plan,” said Mark Ginsberg of civic group New York New Visions. "We're now in a position where we’ve done two things very well that have to be resolved."


Without a clear role, Libeskind's job has never seemed sure of what his job was. He fought bitterly to design the Freedom Tower, but praised highly a memorial that made much more significant changes to his plan. Today, Libeskind seems to see himself playing a much different role than he did a year ago. He now seems eager to cede responsibility for key projects to those architects who have been out in front on them.

After Arad and Walker presented their revised memorial to the public, Libeskind met with a group of downtown residents to discuss his plan. He deflected all questions about the elements of his plan that had been designed by others, and spoke of himself taking on the long-term task of organizing “the great complex puzzle of elements” at Ground Zero, not designing the individual parts:

"Long after the politicians are gone, long after architects have finished designing, long after people have moved on to other things, I’ll still be here."

Thinking Big Again


Related Article:
A Year With Libeskind by Joshua Brustein

When the governor announced last Friday that the Deutsche Bank building, shrouded in an enormous black veil on the edge of Ground Zero, would be bought and then razed to make room for, among other things, a park, he also proclaimed it the last remaining piece of business having to do with the "clean-up" of Ground Zero after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. From here on in, it is all rebuilding.

Though the governor made no mention of it, his announcement was made a year to the day after architect Daniel Libeskind's "Memory Foundations" was selected from nine finalists as the plan to replace the World Trade Center.

Much has changed in the past year. Certainly the plans for Ground Zero have changed, though there is a debate as to whether the changes represent a natural evolution or a betrayal of the original design. (See "A Year With Libeskind" )

But those with ambitious ideas are not limiting themselves to Lower Manhattan. At least in part because of the excitement created by the redevelopment of the World Trade Center, there is now more long-term urban planning and large-scale development on the table that at any time since the Lindsay administration in the 1960s created a master plan for the city.


Before 9/11, Dick Netzer, a professor of public administration at New York University, lamented the lost ability of New York City to tackle large-scale projects. The sense of urgency that had propelled big projects in the past, he wrote, was gone.

The attacks of September 11 clearly created that urgency for one 16-acre site downtown; development at Ground Zero has moved forward rapidly. The major elements of that plan – the Freedom Tower, the memorial, and a transportation hub – have been designed in the year since Libeskind’s plan was chosen.

But that urgency seems to have spread throughout the city, where new projects are coming from a variety of sources. The City Planning Department, besides working to limit development in some areas, is promoting the development of three central business districts:

It has also developed an agency strategic plan, to examine its citywide goals.

Other public agencies have also come up with big plans, or have breathed new life into existing ideas. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Port Authority, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation are all eyeing large-scale transportation initiatives.

Private developers are also involved. Developer Bruce Ratner recently presented a plan for retail, commercial and residential development centered on an arena for the Nets in Brooklyn. The New York Jets have designed a stadium for the Far West Side.

The interest in planning and development projects, say planners, is coming largely from City Hall, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems determined to leave his legacy in physical form.

“We see the city out in front in promoting these projects,” said Robert Yaro, head of the Regional Plan Association. “Some of them are relatively modest…and some of them are really the biggest development projects in the history of the city.”


While most of New York focused on using the development at Ground Zero to revive downtown as the model of a functional urban neighborhood, city planning officials were quietly planning a much larger project several miles uptown. Starting in late 2001, the department began laying out a comprehensive plan for the Hudson Yards, (also known as the Far West Side or Midtown West), one of the largest planning projects in New York in decades.

At 360 acres, the Hudson Yards – the area between 8th Avenue and the Hudson River, from 28th Street on the south to 43rd Street on the north – is more than 22 times the size of Ground Zero. The city hopes to encourage residential and commercial development in the area, turning it into a western expansion of Midtown. The plan’s proposed stadium on the Hudson River, an idea that has been put forth before in several forms, is also a major part of New York’s bid for the 2012 Olympics.

The city will not do much building itself on the Hudson Yards. Instead, it hopes to install the infrastructure, including a costly extension of the 7-train, and the zoning that will encourage private sector development in the decades ahead.

Two major buildings are central to the plan. The first is the Javits Convention Center, which is slated to be enlarged; the second is a proposed football stadium for the New York Jets that would connect to the convention center as a further extension. The stadium’s design has titillated architects, but like previous stadium plans for the site has run into opposition.

The Jets and the city would split the cost of paying for the stadium. For the area as a whole, Doctoroff has proposed a funding strategy where the city will pay for the development by issuing bonds against future revenue, a plan that skeptics do not think will work.

Of all the aspects of the enormous plan, the Jets Stadium and the Javits Center have drawn the most fire. Critics describe the Javits Center extension as unnecessary, the Jets stadium as too expensive, and the plan to connect the two as unlikely to attract conventioneers.

In the plan’s defense(in pdf format), supporters have said that while the stadium has become the public symbol of the West Side development plan, it is the infrastructure investment and the rezoning that will make the greatest difference to the city and the region.


This January, the real estate developer Bruce Ratner presented a plan to develop the area near Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, centered on a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets, a team which he now owns. The plan proposes 2.1 million square feet of commercial office space, 4.4 million square feet of mixed-income residences adding 4,500 homes to the area, and 300,000 square feet of retail for the 21-acre site on the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

Like the Ground Zero and Hudson Yards plans, Ratner’s plan uses architecture as a way to sell a larger development project. Frank Gehry, who designed the famous Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain – and who also envisioned a huge museum on the waterfront in downtown Manhattan that was never built – drew up preliminary plans for a wavy, glass-and-metal building that looks nothing like a conventional stadium.

Sports arenas have the reputation of sucking up public money, rarely producing the promised payoffs. This one, though, has won the support of many local politicians. Even some who regularly criticize such projects said that this one has promise because of access to public transportation – nine subways and several commuter trains meet at the site.

"The numbers work," Mark Rosentraub, a sports economist who regularly criticizes sports arenas, told the New York Times. "You'll have the best arena in the country to service a market of more than 6.3 million people."

Such arguments have not convinced those who will be directly affected, and local residents and businesses are opposing the plan intensely, skeptical of the plausibility of its financial promises, and reluctant to make the sacrifice that Ratner is asking them to make.

The major controversy surrounding the plan is Ratner’s intention to condemn four city blocks, displacing up to 1,000 people and businesses providing 200 jobs. Some have suggested that Ratner instead raze Atlantic Center, a shopping center across the street which he owns, to avoid using eminent domain.

While some worry about the plan because they may have to find new places to live, others are concerned that the public will have little to say as this plan – still in its preliminary stages – moves forward. If land is condemened and placed under the control of the state - as the plan calls for - the arena itself would avoid the city's land use review process, the major opportunity for public input.


After September 11th, the federal government gave New York $4.55 billion for transportation, about 60 percent of what state and city officials had asked for. Projects directly related to downtown Manhattan such as the new train station and the South Ferry subway station renovation have taken a large proportion of that money. Governor Pataki intends to spend about $900,000,000 more on burying a section of West Street, not leaving enough for another large initiative.

Other agencies have continued to make big plans as well, most looking for other sources of funding. It would take over $50 billion to complete all the transportation improvements currently being planned around the city.

The Second Avenue Subway

The Second Avenue Subway is not a new idea. It was first proposed in the 1920s. The plan was tabled because of the Great Depression, and was not acted upon until the 1970s, when several miles of track were actually laid. The project stalled again because of the fiscal crisis.

The plan has re-emerged, complete with $1 billion written into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital budget. In its entirety, the idea envisions a subway running from 125th Street to Hanover Square, an undertaking that would cost $12.5 billion and take 17 years to build. A scaled-down version of the plan, estimated to cost about $4 billion and take about 7 years, is also being formulated.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority claims that it will begin construction on the project at the end of this year.

The 7 Train, Penn Station, and the Hudson Yards

The city planning department’s plan for the Hudson Yards depends on a one mile extension of the 7 Train to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, a move that would cost $2 billion. By connecting the Long Island Railroad and Metro North to that site as well, the planning department wants to create a major transportation hub to spur development in the area.

Construction on the 7-train extension is slated to begin in the spring of 2005, and to be completed in five years.

The Empire State Development Corporation and Amtrak are promoting another idea for a transportation hub in the area, a five-year project to bring Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road passengers into the Farley Post Office, across from Penn Station, that would cost another $1 billion.

East Side Access – Long Island Rail Road Link to Grand Central

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has already begun work in both Queens and Manhattan, constructing track to connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal through the existing 63rd Street tunnel. Besides creating better access to the East Side for commuters from Long Island, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority expects the plan to take stress off of commuter trains currently traveling between Long Island and Penn Station.

To fund the project, the agency is seeking $2.6 billion in “New Starts” funding from the federal government. In January, the Federal Transportation Authority has recommended that Congress allocate money for the project in the next fiscal year.

The project is slated to be completed in 2011, at an expected total cost of $6 billion.

Direct Rail Link from Lower Manhattan to JFK, Long Island

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chair Peter Kalikow also said that it would help pay for a direct rail link between lower Manhattan, Long Island, and JFK, a project which the authority is collaborating on with the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. In February, the groups presented four ways to pull off their project.

The plans differed in how they would get under the East River. Three called for use of existing tunnels, something commuter groups say would be impossible without causing serious inconvenience to straphangers. The fourth would construct a new tunnel, much more expensive but possibly less disruptive. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation said that a decision would come in April.

While its presenters were deliberately vague in talking about funding options last month, the direct-rail line has another supporter in Senator Chuck Schumer. Schumer said that 9/11 rebuilding money should be directed towards this project, instead of using federal funds to bury West Street.

Competition for funds

While optimistic officials say that it is possible to build everything they have proposed, planners acknowledge that there are too many transportation projects vying for a limited amount of resources. Somehow, they say, the list will be narrowed down.

Several independent organizations are trying to assess which projects are the most deserving of funding, and have issued competing studies. The Partnership for New York City, a group made of business leaders, found that transportation hubs, like the one at Ground Zero and a new Penn Station, offer the best benefits as a percentage of costs (in pdf format), while concluding that the Second Avenue Subway was the least beneficial of the New York City projects on the table.

The Regional Plan Association released a study the following month which reached the absolute opposite conclusion – that the Second Avenue Subway must be the top priority (in pdf format).

But as Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, a subway riders advocacy group, points out, there is a long-term project that, while less exciting, is more important -- basic repair. Repairs to the city’s existing transportation systems will cost about $2 billion, and are generally paid for with the same federal money that some have eyed for the new projects.

“If we were force to chose, we would abandon all these projects,” Russianoff said. “Because the top priority has to be fixing the existing system we have.”


Last month, a large group of New Yorkers from all walks of life gathered in a room to talk about urban planning. The event was the inaugural meeting of New York 2050, a project encouraging people to envision the city’s future. Its organizers were many of the same people who established the public forums to discuss the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.

The meeting looked like many of the meetings held to discuss Lower Manhattan, but the conversation sounded much different. It did not focus on specifics of a single project. Instead, the group encouraged regular New Yorkers to think about long term urban planning for the city, in the hopes of establishing a comprehensive vision for the region as a whole.

Expecting many people to participate in such a project would have seemed far-fetched before 9/11

”People are talking about planning now in ways that they haven’t before, in part because people are ready for it,” said Shiffman. “What Lower Manhattan did was unleash a torrent of imagination.”

The Nine New Plans


The nine new plans for Ground Zero include four that feature what would be the tallest buildings in the world, and two that create 16 acres of roof-top parks.

Seven design teams, made up of some of the best-known architects in the world, each went beyond the instructions to design a land-use plan, and created specific buildings and memorial spaces. Daniel Libeskind designed a 1,776-foot tower with public gardens, a building that he called "a park standing vertically." The United Architects group designed a group of five buildings that connect on the 60th floor to create a public skyway with gardens, shopping, a sports center and other places.

Where the first round of plans released by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in July were panned for all appearing the same, the new plans are aesthetically so different from each other--or at least presented in such different formats--that it is difficult to find points of comparison. "It's overwhelming," said Albert Capsouto, a member of the local community board.

Officials will use the nine new plans, as well as proposals by the mayor and the Port Authority, to determine a master plan by January 31.

Each of the plans adds to the city's skyline and sets aside the physical space where the Twin Towers stood, called the "footprints," for a memorial--one building reflective pools, another an amphitheater in the space. "It is no accident that every plan respects the footprints and restores the skyline," said development corporation president Lou Tomson. Many people had called for these two elements after seeing the first plans.

Each plan includes about the same amount of office and retail space that existed on the World Trade Center site before the attack, said Bob Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association. "We're basically looking at nice architecture wrapped around the same program," he said. "We need to see some plans based on other uses."

Rick Bell, executive director of the American Institute of Architecture, answered questions about the new plans.

Gardens of the World
Studio Daniel Libeskind

World Square
Foster and Partners

Memorial Square
Richard Meier & Partners Architects, Eisenman Architects et. al.

Urban Circle
Peterson/Littenberg Architecture and Urban Design

Vertical City
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill et. al.

Sky Memorial
United Architects

Sky Park

The Great Room

World Cutural Center

Ground Zero Finalists


Gardens of the World
Gardens of the World by Studio Daniel Libeskind

The World Cultural Center
The World Cultural Center by THINK


On February 4, rebuilding officials narrowed the nine plans for the World Trade Center site down to two.

The committee chose architect Daniel Libeskind, whose plan exposes the Twin Towers' original foundations and leaves the hole at Ground Zero for a memorial, and the THINK team of architects led by Rafael Vinoly and Frederic Schwartz. Their World Cultural Center plan includes two open steel latticework towers with a museum, an amphitheater and other cultural spaces at different heights.

In a four-hour meeting the night before, a selection committee with representatives from the city, the state, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority selected the finalists.

Lower Manhattan Development Corporation head planner Alex Garvin said the two plans were chosen because they create inspiring places for the memorial and a cultural district. Both designs also re-connect streets through the site in keeping with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's vision for lower Manhattan. And they both, said Garvin, create spaces that work well for private development.

During the next three weeks, the two design teams will modify their plans based on discussions with rebuilding officials and other key players -- including World Trade Center lease-holder Larry Silverstein, who has said that he doesn't approve of the designs. Officials will then select one finalist. "These plans must be adjusted to reality," said Garvin. "We understand that and so do the designers."

After the final design is selected, Garvin and Port Authority consultant Stanton Eckstut will combine it with transportation, infrastructure and land-use details to create a master plan.

According to Roland Betts, a development corporation board member, the architectural vision that is selected will undergo many changes as it is incorporated into the master plan, but its "core idea" will not be compromised. For example, Betts said, the central vision of the Libeskind design incorporates the original foundations or "slurry walls" of the towers to create a sunken memorial space; this concept would be preserved for the final plan.

"Over time, the best parts of the design will survive," said Port Authority Executive Director Joe Seymour.

The designs by Libeskind and the THINK team will remain on exhibit at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center until the end of the month. Visitors can submit comments about the plans both at the exhibit and on the development corporation's website.

Gotham Gazette held online chats with THINK team architect Rafael Viñoly and fellow finalist Daniel Libeskind.
Click on the names above for a transcript of each discussion.

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