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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Terrorist Attack on United States

Aired September 11, 2001 - 08:48   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: This just in. You are looking at obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center, and have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

CNN Center right now is just beginning to work on this story, obviously calling our sources and trying to figure out exactly what happened. But clearly, something relatively devastating happening this morning there on the south end of the island Manhattan.

That is, once again, a picture of one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

VINCE CELLINI, CNN ANCHOR: We could see these pictures. It's obviously something devastating that has happened. And again, there are unconfirmed reports that a plane has crashed into one of the towers there. We are efforting more information on the subject as it becomes available to you.

LIN: Right now we've got Sean Murtagh -- he is a CNN producer -- on the telephone.

Sean, what can you tell us what about you know?

SEAN MURTAGH, CNN PRODUCER: This is Sean Murtagh. I just was standing on the vice president of the vice president of finance for CNN.

CELLINI: Shaun, we're on the air right now. What you can tell us about the situation?

MURTAGH: Hello?

CELLINI: Yes, Sean, you are on the air right now. Go ahead. What you can tell us?

MURTAGH: I just witnessed a plane that appeared to be cruising at slightly lower-than-normal altitude over New York City, and it appears to have crashed into -- I don't know which tower it is -- but it hit directly in the middle of one of the World Trade Center towers.

LIN: Sean, what kind of plane was it? Was it a small plane, a jet?

MURTAGH: It was a jet. It looked like a two-engine jet, maybe a 737.

LIN: You are talking about a large passenger commercial jet.

MURTAGH: A large passenger commercial jet.

LIN: Where were you when you saw this?

MURTAGH: I am on the 21st floor of 5 Penn Plaza.

LIN: Did it appear that the plane was having any difficulty flying?

MURTAGH: Yes, it did. It was teetering back and forth, wingtip to wingtip, and it looks like it crashed into, probably, 20 stories from the top of the World Trade Center, maybe the 80th to 85th floor. There is smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center.

LIN: Sean, what happened next? Does it appear to you that the plane is still inside the World Trade Center?

MURTAGH: From my angle -- I'm viewing south towards the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center. It looks like it has embedded in the building. I can't see, from my vantage point whether it has come out the other side.

CELLINI: Sean, what about on the ground or any debris that has hit down there?

MURTAGH: My vantage point is too far from the World Trade Center to make any determination of that.

LIN: Did you see any smoke, any flames coming out of engines of that plane?

MURTAGH: No, I did not. The plane just was coming in low, and the wingtips tilted back and forth, and it flattened out. It looks like it hit at a slight angle into the World Trade Center. I can see flames coming out of the side of the building, and smoke continues to billow.

CELLINI: Generally, is that a trafficked area in New York for aircraft?

MURTAGH: It is not a normal flight pattern. I'm a frequent traveler between Atlanta and New York for business, and it is not a normal flight pattern to come directly over Manhattan. Usually, they come up either over the Hudson River, heading north, and pass alongside, beyond Manhattan, or if they are taking off from LaGuardia, they usually take off over Shea Stadium and gain altitude around the island of Manhattan. It is rare you have a jet crossing directly over the island of Manhattan.

LIN: For our viewers who are just tuning in right now, you are looking at live picture of the World Trade Center tower, where, according to eyewitness Sean Murtagh -- he is the vice president of finance and eyewitness to what he describes as a twin-engine plane -- or possibly a 737 passenger jet -- flying into the World Trade Center. It appears to be still embedded inside the building.

Sean, are you in a position to hear whether any sirens are going, any ambulances, any response to this yet?

MURTAGH: Not from my vantage point. I am probably 1 1/2 to two miles from the World Trade Center.

LIN: It is a remarkable scene: flames still coming out of the windows, black smoke billowing from what appears to be all sides. Obviously, windows are shattered, and steel is jutting out from the structure right now.

CELLINI: Sean, we are looking at these pictures.

MURTAGH: I see them in my office. I have them on all my TVs.

CELLINI: And you are telling us you believe the plane remains embedded.

MURTAGH: I can't tell from my vantage point.

LIN: Sean , thank you so much for your eyewitness account there.

Right now, we want to go to our affiliate NYW, reporting on this as we speak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little girl in his arms?

JIM RYAN (ph), WNYW REPORTER: Did you see what happened, sir? Did you see what happened? What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in the PATH train, and there was a huge explosion sound; everyone came out. A large section of the building had blown out around the 80th floor.

RYAN: Was it hit by something, or was it something inside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was inside.

RYAN: It was inside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looked like everything was coming out. All the windows and the papers.

RYAN: What is on the sidewalk?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't see anything. I just ran, and everyone on the passenger train just ran. I don't know if anyone was hurt, but I assume they were because the windows were all blown out.

RYAN: Thank you.

You have to assume a very, very terrible situation if that is indeed the case, because I'm sure there were people up there.

We have lost -- again, our transmitter is on top of the World Trade Center. So we, apparently, have lost contact with Dick Oliver.

But we are on the phone with an eyewitness.

Rosa, can you hear me.

Is Rosa there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello?

RYAN: Rosa?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!

RYAN: This is Jim Ryan here in the studio. What is your last name, please?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cardona Rivera .

CELLINI: Again, you are looking at pictures now. We understand from a CNN vice president, Sean Murtagh, who was an eyewitness to this, that a commercial jet has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. You can see the smoke billowing out. There are flames billowing out there, a commercial jet crashing into one of these towers. At this point, we do not have official injury updates to bring you. We are only now beginning to put together the pieces of this horrible incident.

LIN: Just a few second ago, we were tuning into one of our affiliates in New York, WNYW.

We want to go to an eyewitness on the telephone right now.

Jeanne, what can you tell us what you saw?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can tell you that I was watching TV, and there was this sonic boom, and the TV went out. And I thought maybe the Concorde was back in service, because I've heard about that sonic boom. And I went to the window -- I live in Battery Park City, right next to the twin towers -- and I looked up, and the side of the World Trade Center exploded. At that point, debris started falling. I couldn't believe what I was watching.

LIN: Can you hear anything from your position now, ambulances, sirens?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. Positively. There are crowds of people downstairs in Battery Park City. Everybody's come out from the buildings. This is the financial area in Manhattan. There are a lot of fire engines; I can see them from my window.

LIN: Jeanne -- I don't know if you can tell which tower it is that is on fire, or the kinds of services that are inside that tower.

JEANNE YURMAN, WITNESS: I can't tell what is inside. It's the northern tower versus the southern tower, and it seems to be all sides of the building, from what I can tell. The west side, the south side, and it looks like smoke's coming from the east side as well.

CELLINI: Jeanne, can you see any of the debris currently on the ground area?

YURMAN: Absolutely. It's continuing to flutter down like leaflets, and at first there was tons of debris, and it continues to fall out. And it looks like these uppermost floors are definitely on fire.

CELLINI: Can you see any actual people in that area who may have been may have been hit by any of this debris or were not able to get out of way? Can you see any crowds that are maybe too close to where they should be? Anything like that?

YURMAN: No, I don't think so. It's not a highly trafficked area at the base of the World Trade Center. So that is one fortunate thing.

LIN: Jeanne, we are continuing to look at pictures of this devastating scene, according to Sean Murtagh, vice president of finance, who witnessed what he described as a twin-engine plane, possibly a 737. e was almost absolutely sure it was a large passenger jet that went into that.

Jeanne, you are saying you didn't see anything initially. You didn't see a plane approach the building?

YURMAN: I had no idea it was a plane. I just saw the entire top part of the World Trade Center explode. So I turned on the TV when I heard they said it was a plane. It was really strange.

LIN: Were you living in New York during the World Trade Center bombing?

YURMAN: No, I wasn't.

LIN: Fortunately so. When you say a sonic boom, did you feel anything? Were things shaking in your apartment?

YURMAN: Yes, you could feel it. It was a gigantic sonic boom. The TV went off for a second and went back on. And the windows -- you felt the vibrations on the windows.

CELLINI: You were saying it's not a highly trafficked area usually. You can guesstimate how many people may be in an area like that at this hour of the morning?

YURMAN: It would be hard to say. There is a huge courtyard between the two World Trade Center buildings, and the only issue might have been tourists or business people out in this courtyard area, and they possibly would have been hit. But the people that are immediately around the base of the World Trade Center, I would say, at any given time, you're talking about maybe 20 or 30 people at best.

CELLINI: We were talking with Sean Murtagh earlier, and he said this is not normally an area where you would see some sort of aircraft, certainly, obviously, that low. That is not a high-traffic area in terms of flights?

YURMAN: I don't know about flights. I have a balcony down here in Battery Park City, and they have that needle sticking out of the top of the World Trade Center, and I have always wondered if anyone would get too close to the building and accidentally bear into it.

CELLINI: Jeanne, tell us a little bit about that area and how emergency crews would be able to access that area. Would that be relatively difficult or easy to access for emergency people?

YURMAN: I would imagine it would be slightly difficult because to get around the base of the World Trade Center building there is really only the one street entrance. The other sides of the building are surrounded by other buildings in the court yard, and so it's just this westside highway, this one major street that runs up the west side of Manhattan that makes it accessible for the fire engines. And you know, it's amazing to sit here and watch this building on fire and you've got this tiny little fire engine that I'm watching.

CELLINI: That's all you see right now, is the one fire engine?

YURMAN: Well, where the fire engines are it's a little bit obscured by other buildings.

CELLINI: Right.

LIN: Jeanne, let me ask -- I know I'm asking you to be a bit of an expert on the World Trade Center, but there's a famous viewing deck for tourists on one of the towers. When you say that this is the North Tower, is this the one that services a lot of the tourists to get to the view and get to the restaurant at the top.

YURMAN: As a matter of fact it is. And, as I'm sure you can see, there's a ton of smoke coming out right now.

I'm just guessing, the fire seems to be worse on -- it looks like it's about 15 floors down from the top of the building.

LIN: Yes. One of the eyewitnesses, one of our affiliates I was talking to, said that she thought this was on the 80th floor. We know there is open-air deck 110 stories high and the glass-enclosed observatory is on the 107th floor. So there is the possibility that people may very well be trapped up there.

FURMAN: Yes.

LIN: All right, thank you so much, Jeanne Yurman...

YURMAN: You're very welcome.

LIN: ... eyewitness here to a loud sonic boom, she described, as she was sitting inside her apartment, and she looked up and saw the side of the World Trade Center exploded into flames and black smoke.

We are going to join another one of our New York affiliates, WABC for their live coverage. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... plane overhead, and then all of a sudden -- I thought it sounded kind of loud, and then I looked up and all of a sudden it smashed right dead into the center of the World Trade Center. A big flash of flame, fire coming out from all over, then all the bricks -- it's a huge hole right now. It almost Looks like the plane probably went through. I'm not sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winston (ph), can you see -- are you on the north side there where the plane made contact?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, when you say a huge hole, one of our earliest witnesses, Libby Clark (ph), said not much of the plane came down off the building, much of it went...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it went totally into the building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's in the building, from what you can see?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, can you see if there is a lot of debris downstairs, Winston?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, because it looks like it's inverted. With the impact everything went inside the building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inside?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only thing that came out was a little bit of the outside awning. But I'd say the huge -- the hole is -- let me just get a better look right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd say the whole takes about -- It looks like six, seven floors were taken out.

And there's more explosions right now -- hold on -- people are running, hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should hold on just a moment. We've got an explosion inside...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The building's exploding right now. You've got people running up the street.

Hold on, I'll tell you what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, just put Winston on pause there for just a moment...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, the whole building exploded some more, the whole top part. The building's still intact, people are running up the street. Am I still connected?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winston, this would support probably what Libby and you both said that perhaps the fuselage was in the building, that would cause a second explosion such as that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's what just happened then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would -- certainly...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are running up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are getting word that perhaps...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, hold on, there some people here -- everybody's panicing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Winston -- you know, let me put Winston on hold for just a moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. How much longer are we staying on? I'm inside of a diner right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Winston, you know what, if you could give us a call back. I just don't panic here on the air.

Let's just take some of our pictures from News Chopper 7.

Now, one of our producers said perhaps a second plane was involved, and let's not even speculate to the point, but at least put it out there that perhaps that may have happened.

The second explosion would certainly back the theory from a couple of eyewitness that the plane fuselage perhaps stayed in those upper buildings.

Now if you look at second building, there are two -- both twin towers now are on fire.

Now, this was not the case, am I correct, a couple of moment ago. This is the second twin tower now on fire. And we're going to check on the second flight, if perhaps that had happened.

This all began at about 8:48 this morning. Again, what we know in case you are just joining us, a small plane, not a Cessna-type or five or six seater, but instead, perhaps a passenger flight ran into the north side of the World Trade Center.

As you can see, the second explosion that you are looking at now in the second twin tower has spread much debris, much more debris than the first explosion of the first accident. If there is -- is Winston still on the line with us?

OK, he's not there.

But do we have -- I'll just talk to my producer. Do we have eyewitness that perhaps sees better than we do from the pictures?

Again you can see that there is debris falling off.

OK, we actually have an "Eyewitness News" reporter, Dr. J. Atlasberg (ph) who was downtown at the time and he is on the phone with us live.

Dr. J., what can you tell us?

DR. J. ATLASBERG (ph), REPORTER: Hello, Steve.

I'm actually uptown at 86th and Riverside. I can see the World Trade Center from about half the building up to the top. And about five minutes ago, as I was watching the smoke, a small plane -- I did -- it looked like a propeller plane, came in from the west. And about 20 or 25 stories below the top of the center, disappeared for a second, and then explode behind a water tower, so I couldn't tell whether it hit the building or not. But it was very visible, that a plane had come in at a low altitude and appeared to crash into the World Trade Center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. J, we're going to take a look at videotape just moment ago of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center.

That is spectacular pictures. I don't know if you could see the plane, and that too was a passenger plane, if perhaps some type of navigating system or some type of electronics would have put two planes into the World Trade Center within it looks like about 18 minutes of each other.

You want to go -- we have another copy. There is the second plane. Another passenger plane hitting the World Trade Center.

These pictures are frightening indeed. These are just minutes between each other. So naturally, you will guess, and you will speculate, and perhaps ask the question: If some type of navigating equipment is awry, the two commuter planes would run into the World Trade Center's at the same time.

Our director -- you are speaking in my ear at this point.

You are looking at live pictures right now of the World Trade Centers.

Again, we now have two passenger planes within 18 minutes of each other smashing into the World Trade Center.

Dr. J., are you still with us on the phone?

ATLASBERG: I'm still with you, Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. J, this is just frightening pictures indeed. And I would assume, or you would naturally think that...

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You have been listening to some of the coverage provided by affiliate WABC out of New York City.

Let's go now and check our other affiliate WNBC to get the latest -- I'm sorry, WNYW, WNYW, live coverage here of this amazing picture we're getting from lower Manhattan, two planes, one hitting each of the twin towers, at the World Trade Center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... very difficult too. They come by and they say, what happened, what happened? And you just got to say, something hit the building and then something hit both buildings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw clearly -- we didn't see the first one, but we saw clearly that a plane deliberately crashed into the -- one of the upper floors of the World Trade Center, that was the second plane. So two planes crashed into the upper floors of each of the World Trade Center towers. And I'm just -- I understand now that the Port Authority Headquarters are in one of those buildings somewhere near that location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jim, I don't know whether we've confirmed that this was an aircraft, or to be more specific, some people said they thought they saw a missile. I don't know how people could differentiate, but we might keep open the possibility that this was a missile attack on these buildings.

Ali (ph), I must say that we have an eyewitness who said it was a large plane that crashed first. And then as we were watching the live picture here in the studio, we saw a plane crash into the -- crash into the other tower of the World Trade Center. And again, let's to be sure, there it is. There it is, the plane went right through the other tower of the World Trade Center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is a very hard thing to watch.

HARRIS: These are incredible pictures that we're watching this morning, thanks to our affiliate WNYW in New York.

You are looking at this picture, it is the twin towers of the World Trade Center, both of them being damaged by impacts from planes. We saw one happen at about maybe nine minutes before the top of the hour, and just moment ago, so maybe 18 minutes after the first impact, the second tower was impacted with a -- by a another -- what appeared to be, another passenger plane. In fact, we've got some tape replay of that.

Do we have the tape available right now?

Here is the tape. You see the plane coming in from the east side and it goes into the building with the flames and the smoke billowing out the other side of the tower. It's hard for me to tell exactly which is the north side and which is the south side. But it appears it's coming out of south side there.

Incredible pictures. These happened just moments ago, and I believe we have someone with us on the line, Ira Furman? We have IRA Firmer, former NTSB Spokesman. You are watching these pictures as well with us, are you not? IRA FURMAN, FMR. NTSB SPOKESMAN: Yes, I'm with you on CNN.

HARRIS: What can you make of what we have seen, particularly with this replay we just saw moments ago?

FURMAN: That's absolutely inexplicable. There shouldn't be any aircraft in that area, much less something heading what looked like deliberately for the World Trade Center tower.

HARRIS: You don't think there is any this could be any kind of an accident, no kind of a navigational equipment failure or some sort of a navigational quirk by beacons or whatever?

FURMAN: No, you've got incredibly good visibility at this point, and no pilot is going to be relying on navigational equipment in such a circumstance that would cause them to crash into the World Trade Center.

HARRIS: How far out of way from an approach to either La Guardia or Kennedy would a plane have to be to hit the World Trade Center?

FURMAN: There are approach these come up along the Hudson River, which to the west of the World Trade Center, and those aircraft usually wind up going into La Guardia. So you can come within a mile owe two of the World Trade Center. But it is such a visible object as you are approaching New York City, that it's just not possible for a pilot during the daytime to have taken a course that would put it right into the World Trade Center. The second occurrence within a few minutes is beyond belief.

HARRIS: As you could see, there definitely is no weather problem. So weather would definitely be ruled out as a factor in this case?

FURMAN: Yes, the course is a normal course for commercial pilots coming into New York. It certainly appeared from the video on CNN, that the second aircraft was heading for the tower, and that it was a commercial-size aircraft.

HARRIS: Could you tell, have a better idea what size of plane was? It was kind of hard for me to tell. You are expert in the matters. Could you look at the tape and tell me what size the plane was?

FURMAN: It would have to be slowed down, and you need more than one angle on it, because you want see how many imagine engines are on it? The shape of the tail.

HARRIS: Guys, could we replay the tape right now? Do we have the tape right now of the second plane impacting. We're going to put that tape on in just a second. Here we are about to roll it now.

If you can, sir, I don't want you to speculate. But if you can, give us idea what you might think might be at play here, what kind of plane we're talking about, or at least what size, if we're talking about one that would hold say 100 people, one that would hold 300 people. From what you see -- back the tape up further than that, guys.

Here we go.

FURMAN: It's very hard to get a perspective on it. I don't know how far away we are with this. But that looks to me like it could be certainly a passenger jet and one of those aircraft that could hold 100 or more people. I caution you at this point to wonder whether or not that airplane was occupied by more than just a pilot or crew. We don't necessarily know that there were any passengers aboard that airplane.

HARRIS: Understood, understood.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn Kagan joining the conversation here. Sir, but there is no indication there would be any air traffic on purpose in the area of the World Trade Center at this time of day, or any time of day for that matter?

FURMAN: Not directly into the world trade center?

KAGAN: No, but even close to it? you.

FURMAN: You would be clearing the World Trade Center by a few miles. Normal operations. And when you are looking at the pictures that you see, with all this smoke and fire and all of that, it's just absolutely unbelievable to think that a flight crew that wouldn't ordinarily see the World Trade Center, wouldn't ordinarily be on course would not see this as flaming beacon to avoid.

KAGAN: Let me ask you this about the airspace. Given that it appears two airplanes have flown into the World Trade Center in 18 minutes, is it possible to shut down the airspace and keep another plane from doing something just like it?

FURMAN: I don't think that this represents an accident.

And so I don't think that we're talking about having to now keep other aircraft away. This picture that CNN is broadcasting live is probably from a range of a couple of miles away, and you can see that.

KAGAN: No, certainly that. But if there was somebody intentionally trying to do the same thing again, is there a way to shut down the airspace to keep things out?

FURMAN: You can't shut down the airspace. There is no gate, there is not fence in airspace. All you can do is broadcast that that airspace is closed. But if someone is intent on breaking through it, that happens with our military airspace all the time off the coast.

HARRIS: I want to bring up a couple points if I may. We have been told that President Bush has been informed of this incredible tragedy happening in New York. He did have an event scheduled at 9:00 this morning, which we were going to cover here, and he has just canceled that event. We expect he will have some comments fairly soon, and we will bring those to you live the moment that we understand he is available. But I'd like to ask you once again, Ira, if I can get to back asking you about this particular crash. Is it possible that those who are tracking planes, either at La Guardia, can give us some more information about exactly what happened here. Were these planes I guess using beacons to come in, or was there some sort of identification of these planes, as they approach the New York area?

FURMAN: Yes, there should be, if they were under air traffic control. You've got one eyewitness telling you that The first aircraft flew from Westchester and flew down through Manhattan, and directly into the World Trade Center, presumedly the north tower. And now you've got -- you're showing the other aircraft coming in, looks to me like it would be from the West, into the other tower.

Those planes could be, should be, normally would be under air- traffic control. But it is also entirely possible for aircraft to fly into, through or over New York, or in this case into a building in New York, without being under the control, and we use that word advisedly. All that means is information is what air traffic control is. And just operate and do whatever they want, if they don't follow the rules of air traffic control.

HARRIS: Ira Furman, we thank you very, very much for your insight. And the longer we talk, the less convinced many will become that this was an accident. We thank you very much for your insight.

KAGAN: More information on that just ahead.

Now we want to bring in Todd Harris (ph). Todd on the scene, saw what happened.

Todd are you with us?

TODD HARRIS: Yes, I had a perfect view, and the plane was coming in. I noticed it a second before it hit the building. It looked like it was moving slowly, and it lined itself up to hit the building directly.

KAGAN: Are you talking about the first plane or the second plane?

HARRIS: The first plane.

KAGAN: Now, Todd, tell us exactly where you are, where you had this great view.

HARRIS: I was on highway 278, like a dead-on view of the side that hit building.

KAGAN: All right, Todd, hang on, we're going to continue our conversation. Leon has something to jump in here with.

HARRIS: Yes, I'm checking the wires even as we speak. The Associated Press is reporting right now that the FBI in Washington is investigating reports that these two plane crashes the result of foul play. There is a report here by the Associated Press of a possible plane hijacking. They don't say two. But they say a possible plane hijacking.

Let's go to Kelli Arena who's on the phone right now from Washington -- Kelli.

Kelli Arena, are you there? .

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm here.

HARRIS: What have you learned?

ARENA: Hi there.

Well, an FBI official has told CNN that they are investigating, but they have not yet determined whether or not this was indeed a terrorist act. The official that I spoke to said that so far, there has been no communication, no one claiming responsibility for either of those crashes. There is an investigation under way. If there is anything to be said officially, it will come out of the New York City field office of the FBI, which is right now involved in that investigation to find out whether or not it was.

But I have to tell you, I repeat, right now the FBI has not determined whether or not this is a terrorist act, although they are investigating.

HARRIS: All right, thank you very much. Kelli Arena, we appreciate that.

Daryn, back to you.

KAGAN: All right, let's go ahead and bring back in Todd Harris. Todd, are you still with us?

We don't have Todd.

OK, once again, if you're just joining us, the breaking story that we're following out of New York City. Within the span of 18 minutes, two separate planes crashing into the World Trade Center. The rescue operations under way, not clear -- we will show you -- this is second plane, after first tower already on fire. Let the pictures tell the story. You saw it live here on CNN as it happened the plane crashed right into the side of World Trade Center, causing a huge explosion.

And we're showing you live pictures now. Smoke and fire taking place in both towers of the World Trade Center.

HARRIS: It appears that second plane that we actually did have on videotape actually turned. And I have to think, I'm not an expert in these things, so I don't know, but it would seem as though that move actually may have caused much more damage.

These are incredible pictures, as you can see here.

KAGAN: Let's keep the pictures here. Joe Tractsonburg (ph) joining us on the phone. Joe, are you with us?

JOE TRACTSONBURG: Yes, I am.

KAGAN: Can you tell us what your vantage point is and what you've seen so far?

TRACTSONBURG: Well, I heard on the radio that one of the towers was on fire. And we went to a high point in our building, which is on the 25th floor, and you had a clear view of the both World Trade Centers and the one that was smoking hard, and there was another plane that was flying low, and we just looked at it, and before we know it, it was just kamikaze, boom, right into the other tower, and mass explosion, windows flying. It was horrible. I'm still distraught looking at it.

KAGAN: Were you close enough to see or get a general idea of what kind of plane that was that flew in the second time?

TRACTSONBURG: Well, I'm not an expert on planes, but it didn't seem like a big passenger jet. It was smaller type plane, because it made some pretty radical turn, and flying low. And you're not used to seeing big planes flying over Manhattan, because I don't think you're allowed to. But it was pretty tough.

KAGAN: And explain to me again, what your vantage point is, where you are in the city looking at this?

TRACTSONBURG: We're in Chelsea. It's -- like 25th Street, 7th Avenue, it's clear looking all the way downtown, and you could see the building, you know, the whole downtown, because it's a clear day, and it's a disaster.

KAGAN: And once again, describe for us what you saw as that plane went into the second building.

TRACTSONBURG: That plane just flew straight into the second building on the downtown side it appears. It was just a huge explosion. And smoke just immediately, fire started immediately coming from the second tower as it hit, and there was glass flying everywhere.

KAGAN: Looks like we have a little bit of audio problems. So I'm going to say thanks to Joe Tractsonburg for talking to us and telling us what he saw.

We are watching it right here, live on CNN, as that plane went it. He had a closer vantage point, and as you can see, as you heard, Leon, he doesn't think it was a big jet, but a smaller plane, from where he could see it.

HARRIS: Well, we do have the tape of a recounting by another eyewitness. We want to go to some tape we're getting from our affiliate WABC in New York, where they interviewed an eyewitness who saw the second crash as it happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say the whole takes about -- we saw six, seven floors were taken out, and there's more explosions right now. Hold on, people are running! Hold on!

UNIDENTIFIED WABC REPORTER: Hold on just a moment. We've got an explosion inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The building is exploding right now. You've got people running up the street. Hold on, I'll tell you what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED WABC REPORTER: OK, just put Winston on pause there for just a moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole building just exploded some more, the whole top part. The building's still intact people are running up the street. Am I still connected?

UNIDENTIFIED WABC REPORTER: Winston, this would support probably what Libby and you both said, that perhaps the fuselage was in the building that would cause a second explosion, such as that. That's what just happened then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are running out.

UNIDENTIFIED WABC REPORTER: We are getting word that perhaps...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, hold the people here -- everybody here is panicking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Keep in mind the first plane hit about 8:48 a.m., so there had to already be a number of people at work inside the World Trade Center.

We're going to go right now and bring in Rose Arce, one of our producers here at CNN. She's with us on the phone, and has with her a number of people who have escaped the building -- Rose.

ROSE ARCE, CNN PRODUCER: Yes, there's a huge crowd out. There are hundreds of people on the streets that come from south to north. I mean literally thousands of people that have been running from inside these building. It's a very heavily trafficked area in downtown. Many of them are inside the building when they felt the explosion. And they say there was just pandemonium. There was no warning, no alarms, no anything.

Everyone just raced from their desks, ran downstairs and now there is a steady of stream of folks running away from the building. Some people fearing that there will be another explosion. And when they saw the second plane, convinced that this was dangerous. There is an actual flood of folks escaping downtown midtown Manhattan right now.

KAGAN: And, Rose, do you have anybody with you that could talk about being inside the World Trade Center when this happened?

ARCE: Right now, honestly, there scores of people literally running behind me. There is debris on the base of the building that has continued to fall. As you know, even as far as a block away from the building. And what's happened is everyone seems to have figured out that there's ongoing danger, and there's just a stream of folks running as quickly as they can uptown away from this.

KAGAN: Understandably. What about rescue efforts? I would imagine there is still a number of people inside those buildings.

ARCE: Right now. What you see right now, is there are trucks trying to get through. And people have actually jumped from the crowd and are trying to help direct traffic to try to get emergency vehicles there. There's no traffic going in the other direction, but because of the flow of people, it looks like some emergency vehicles are actually having trouble getting to the scene.

KAGAN: And from you are standing, is there any kind of command center, any place that people are being directed toward?

ARCE: Right now, what there is, is there is crush of emergency vehicles and rescue vehicles, but they don't seem to be quite organized in any direction. There's fire department vehicles on the one side, where you see the smoke coming out of the building.

On the other hand, you see groups of police officers trying to organize the crowd, and in more orderly fashion. I think there seems to be some fear on their part that such a huge crowd of people might injure each other on the way out.

KAGAN: All right, Rose Arce, on the ground there, near the World Trade Center. We continue our coverage live, with the live pictures as we go.

HARRIS: And we're just now getting word again from the Associated Press now, saying that the crash of these two aircraft into the towers, the World Trade Center in New York, appeared to be an act of terrorism. This, they are quoting a U.S. official. They did not say which department of this -- this U.S. official was speaking from, or the authority this official was actually carrying at this particular point. But they are saying that a U.S. official is now saying to the Associated Press, it is -- he is saying at least that these two aircraft crashes that we have seen into each of the towers of the World Trade Center are the act of terrorism.

We are just getting word now that President Bush is going to be coming out, and he's going to have comments momentarily, we understand. We are keeping an eye on the picture from Sarasota. He is going to be returning to Washington almost immediately, we understand -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And as you mentioned, President Bush is in Florida today. We're supposed to have an education event just minutes from now. That has canceled.

Our Major Garrett is traveling with the president.

Major, maybe you can tell us a little bit more on the president's immediate plans.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn.

President Bush, as you said, will make a statement here at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota at the catastrophe in the twin towers in New York. Following that statement, the president will board Air Force One and return immediately to Washington. We are told by White House officials traveling with the president in Sarasota that he was notified either shortly before 9:00 or shortly after. We don't have an exact moment of the notification of the president. We believe his chief of staff Andrew Card told him of the events in New York City. The president has been monitoring them as best as he can.

He was at one moment this morning sitting, reading a book to some of the elementary schoolchildren as scheduled. Reporters asked him if he was aware of the situation in New York. He nodded a bit gravely, and said he would have something to say about that shortly. We are expecting that statement any moment now. I can tell you here in Sarasota with those traveling with the president, they are trying to sift through all of the amazing and terrifying -- both pictures and details as they can get them from New York City. But no confirmation here from White House officials about what this in fact is, whether it's accident or terrorism. They are trying to gather information as best they can, give it to the president, and trying to keep thing on a very calm and even keel as possible.

KAGAN: And on that not, Major, it sounds like that exchange of questions with the president came at what would be a sensitive time if you were sitting in front of a bunch of schoolchildren and not wanting to scare the children.

GARRETT: Well, precisely. And the president has a way of letting reporters know that it's either an appropriate time or inappropriate time to take questions. He does that in many different environments, many different situations. Clearly this morning, with a crowd of children, he wanted to keep an even keel, keep the situation under control as best as possible. He just nodded and said -- we'll talk about this later.

KAGAN: So once again, we do expect to hear from the president soon. A timeframe on that?

GARRETT: Within the next 10 minutes or so. Again, things are very much in flux, things a bit confused. The event here, which is scheduled to talk about education reform, talk about the importance of reading, that has been scrubbed. And the president trying to gather whatever information, all the information he can from various White House sources, make a statement, and then get aboard Air Force One, and get back to Washington just as soon as he can.

KAGAN: Major Garrett traveling with the president in Sarasota, Florida. Major, thank you very much. And of course, As soon as the president begins to speaks, you will see those comments live here on CNN -- Leon.

HARRIS: I want to inform you we've just gotten word according to Reuter's news service, trading on the markets in New York have been postponed indefinitely, and we will try to keep an eye on that. We can't expect that to get under way anytime soon. You just heard Major Garrett moments ago this investigation -- we're just not getting reports from the Associated Press, saying that U.S. officials are saying this is an act of terrorism.

Let's go now to our David Ensor, who's on the phone right now, and give us some more information on what may be at stake there -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, I can just tell you that U.S. officials are also telling me that the -- this is clearly not an accident in their view, and they do believe that terrorism is at the root of this. They believe that this is a terrorist act.

However, they have very little other information. Obviously, law enforcement agencies will be taking a lead on this, trying to find out who is -- who was flying the planes, whether they in fact had turned away from their regular flights and so on, so very little information.

HARRIS: David, we're going to have to cut you off. President Bush is speaking.

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