Rescue Crew Peeling Away Debris; Grim Outlook
Sept. 18 Though
hopes are dimming, search and rescue workers continue
their grim, round-the-clock search for survivors in the
still smoldering wreckage of New York's World Trade
"We don't have a
substantial amount of hope to offer to people that there
is anyone alive there," New York City Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani said today. "We have to prepare people for
the overwhelming possibility that finding anyone alive is
very very small."
Still, the efforts at the World Trade Center site are
being called a rescue mission, Giuliani said. More than
1,200 firefighters worked through the darkness of night
with other rescue workers and continued to remove tons of
debris under a shock of floodlights.
One sign that officials have not given up all hope:
firefighters are not pouring water on the smoldering
debris out of concern about drowning any possible
Searchers also are looking to recover the black boxes of
the two aircraft, which struck the center's two towers,
to learn more about the circumstances of the attack.
Signs have been posted around the site, showing workers
what the boxes look like.
And in addition to the firefighters, police officers,
medical personnel, and other searchers, are telephone
technicians by the hundreds, trying to restore
communication in the area. One technician on the scene
says that could take months.
Refuse to Give Up Rescue
One firefighter who spent an entire day, almost 12 hours
in the rubble, said that rescuers around him found
"12, maybe 13 bodies total" and many more body
"There are people down there," he said. "I
just don't know where they are."
No survivors have been pulled out alive since Wednesday,
a day after two hijacked planes slammed into the towers
at New York's World Trade Center. According to officials,
5,422 people are missing and 218 are confirmed dead in
New York. So far, officials have identified 152 of those
confirmed dead. The list of those identified include 37
police officers, 32 firefighters, two emergency
technician workers, two Port Authority employees and one
New Jersey firefighter.
The list of missing includes 300 firefighters, 44 Port
Authority police, 23 police officers, an FBI agent, a
Secret Service officer and hundreds of foreign nationals.
The odor in the area is getting extremely hard to take
for rescue workers, who say they have recovered thousands
of body parts. Some 50,000 tons of debris have been
removed since the attacks last week.
At 8:48 a.m. workers participated in a national moment of
silence to commemorate the moment the first plane,
American Airlines Flight 11, struck Tower One of the
World Trade Center.
"It's almost too much to process with everything
going on and I try not to think about it and just keep
your eyes and your mind on the job at hand here,"
firefighter Scott Parkin said.
Firefighters are still clinging to hope but the mood has
become decidedly grim at "the pile," which
rescue workers have started calling the debris.
"We want everyone to prepare themselves for the
reality that we are not going to be able to recover
significant numbers of people," said. "We are
trying to recover human beings, and we haven't had
success since the second day in that effort."
Rescue workers, armed with only tiny picks and shovels
are peeling the rubble away layer by layer. Heavy cranes
have also been brought in to carry away large steel beams
of the now crushed World Trade Center towers. The debris
is taken to Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island where
investigators are sifting through the debris.
The temperature at the core of "the pile," is
near 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to fire
officials, who add that the fires are too deep for
firefighters to get to. As the rubble is removed, oxygen
causes the fires still smoldering to strengthen, making
the task more difficult.
There was some concern about the fires smoldering near a
stockpile of Freon that had been stored beneath the
towers. But Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman
Tina Kreisher said no leaks had been detected.
A shift from calling the effort a recovery rather than a
rescue would allow heavy equipment to be used in the
"If there's a hell, then that's it. It's just
horrible," Ken Simmons, a construction worker and
volunteer rescuer, said this morning after emerging from
hours of crawling deep into the wreckage.
Simmons and other workers at the site said they weren't
ready to give up hope, however, even though no one has
been pulled alive from the wreckage since Wednesday, the
day after two hijacked jetliners were crashed into the
twin towers. But workers say the instability of the
wreckage makes it difficult to get to lower levels of the
Workers finally cracked their way Monday to the lowest
underground level below the towers the PATH subway
station that runs to New Jersey.
In the station, searchers found some large air pockets,
but no one alive.
The FBI has been conducting a block-by-block "grid
search" through lower Manhattan, looking for the
voice and flight data recorders of the two aircraft flown
into the twin towers.
Investigators discovered the passport of Satam al Suqami,
one of the terrorists aboard American Airlines Flight 11.
Pentagon Officials Consider Recovery
At the Pentagon, where a hijacked American Airlines
Flight 77 crashed, shortly after the World Trade Center
attack, officials were considering calling their search
for survivors a recovery mission.
Crews pulled the remains of five more people from the
site overnight, leaving 188 people dead or missing. One
hundred and two bodies have been recovered from the site
since Tuesday, 97 of them have been transported to the
Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for identification.
Amid the daunting task, some good news emerged. The
section of the building hit by the plane was recently
bomb-proofed, and engineers said the renovations may have
saved several hundred lives.
On Friday, searchers at Pentagon found the flight data
and voice recorders the hijacked plane. On that same day
investigators found the cockpit voice recorder of the
hijacked plane that crashed near Shanksville, Pa.