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Search Continues
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 Center.

"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 survivors.

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 parts.

"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 cleanup.

"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 site.

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.

See also: The 9/11 WTC Collapses: An Audio-Video Analysis

What Really Happened

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