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America Under Attack

Aired September 11, 2001 - 10:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been frantic efforts to get people out of the tower. Now, this was, again, this is tape, and you can see now whether that was an explosion or exactly what happened that caused that second tower to collapse. We cannot tell you.

CNN's Kelly Wallace is on the phone with us.

Kelly, where are you? What can you tell us?.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, I am just about four blocks north of the location of the World Trade Center was standing. I was actually en route to the command center. People really starring in disbelief, and then, as you saw, of course, the pictures, watching that tower come down, people just couldn't believe their eyes.

Police have been pushing people immediately, people turning around and started running ways -- blocks away from the site. There is black smoke and this covering the air. You see people covering their mouths with some handkerchiefs and their coats, and basically, you know, it's an unbelievable scene.

Most of the people are gone. The police are really pushing people away. There are a lot of people, as I was make my way down, here, Aaron, people just starring, getting on the cell phone, crying, recounting stories where they (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know, basically had seen what happened earlier today, trying to get in touch with loved ones, very concerned. And then, of course, some people watching the other tower come down earlier, and then a group of people, then, watching this other tower coming down. A woman passing me covered in soot.

Basically, the sky is just black, you can't even see down to lower Manhattan from the vantage point right now. The police have cleared off all these streets, pushing people away. Police telling us if you have to get out of here to get out of here, pushing people away in garages. It's an unbelievable scene -- Aaron.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can see in this shot, our viewers can, a helicopter shot coming across the harbor, the Statue of Liberty prominent in the foreground and smoke and devastation and tragedy in the background. A tragedy that continues to unfold and one that still has many, many unanswered questions. We have a report now that a car bomb, a car bomb has exploded at the State Department. We are working to confirm that as well.

Howard Safer (ph) is a former New York City Police commissioner, the top police job here in the city, and he joins us for a few moments.

Mr. Safer, what do you see?

SAFER (ph): I see...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you look at that what do you see?

SAFER: I see something that is unimaginable. I see what is a police commissioner's worst nightmare.

This is the situation that, obviously, was well-planned, well- coordinated and, you know, the loss of life that is take place down there is just incredible and is going to go strain the emergency service of this city to the hilt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you -- are you hearing any specific information? Are you hearing anything about the number of injuries, the number of fatalities, the number of people in that building, those buildings, are you getting any information from your colleagues?

SAFER: Well, I know there are 50 thousand people who work in the World Trade Center. I know that every ambulance and fire company in the city and -- has been called in and dispatched there. It's unimaginable, but the loss of life is going to be huge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are as familiar with the city's plan or plans for these kinds of incidences as anyone in the city. In all honesty, does the plan cover the scope of what appears to have happened here?

SAFER: No. We have an office up in emergency management. The plans for responding to a disaster are probably as good as any in the world, but nobody ever would contemplate that we would lose the two world trade centers and in this manner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what is happening there, would you guess, in the sense that, what are police doing? What is the first thing that has to happen? Triage?

SAFER: The first thing is triage. The first thing is to identify who can be treated, who cannot be treated, to get those ambulances to hospitals, every hospital's emergency room is open and I'm sure working right now. And this is just a situation -- it's like a war zone, and you have to logistically treat it like a war zone. You have to have your front lines, you have to have your support, and you have to have people who are constantly in there doing something.

You know, I was also fire commissioner before I was the police commissioner, and it's no longer an initial, unfortanetly, but a high- rise fire like that is almost impossible to fight. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, has -- would you say that every police officer, and there are what, 40 thousand?

SAFER: There are 41 thousand police officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-one thousand police officers in the city have been called in?

SAFER: Every one of them. I know every firefighters has been called in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how many firefighters?

SAFER: There are 14 thousand firefighters, and I am sure we'll be getting help with equipment from our adjoining communities as well. I mean, this is a logistical exercise that makes the first attack on the World Trade Center, you know, relatively small.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of its scope?

SAFER: Because of its scope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's placed in the building itself, that it was high up in the building, does that complicate things?

SAFER: It does. Once you get up in the 10th floor in a fire -- it's almost impossible to fight a high-rise fire above the 10th floor, except by sending firefighters up there and using hose stands, and then you run into the water pressure problems.

I was just thinking about this not long after the Wworld Trade Center bombing, the engineer who designed the World Trade Center told me that the World Trade Center was designed to withstand a 707 direct impact. Well, obviously, that wasn't the case.


SAFER: We are getting reports and we are getting lots of reports and we want to be careful to tell you when we have confirmed them and not, but we have a report that a 747 is down in Pennsylvania, and that remains unconfirmed at this point. And so we will check on that.

I want to get back to the former commissioner in a moment, but, again, to briefly recap: You have buildings in Washington now evacuated, the White House, the Pentagon. We have a report that there has been a collapse, a collapse of part of the Pentagon itself; there was an explosion, you can see the Pentagon on the right side of your screen, and that is a live picture as well. And the left side of your screen, you see the situation here in lower Manhattan, in New York, where both of the World Trade Center towers have collapsed.

This morning, as people were coming to work -- all airports in the country have been shut down. International flights that were heading this way are being diverted to Canada.

The White House has been evacuated. The president was in Florida this morning, and he spoke briefly. And said, in truth, the kinds of things and about the only kinds of things that you can say in moments like this; that the government will do everything it can to hunt down whoever is responsible. This is, obviously, an extraordinary crisis for the president, and the first crisis, major crisis like it, that he has had to face -- compared to the plane that was -- the forced down in China, that seems small right now compared to what's going on here in New York and in Washington. And the president headed back on Air Force One from Florida to the White House.

The White House itself has been evacuated. We are trying, now, to figure out where the relevant players in Washington are. Where the vice president is, the national security team, where they are meeting. We are working very hard right now to find out what, both the FBI, what the CIA, what the Secret Service knows.

It is chaotic now in two cities. You have major buildings that have been evacuated. It's very difficult, obviously, to get phone calls through.

As you look at the Pentagon, and I suspect, we are also getting a report, as you look at these pictures of the Pentagon, and in all honesty, suspect, you see them a little more clearly than I do, but part of the building appears to me, as a look at it, to have collapsed. That's the Pentagon. And those pictures are live at 10:40 Eastern Time this morning. Though, we have a report now of a fourth explosion at the Trade Center.

And, Brian Palmer, our CNN Correspondent, is as close as he can get to the area.

Brian, what can you tell us?

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in fact as close says we can get. I'm not going to give you an exact timeframe. But several moments ago, we were standing in front of the United States courthouse, when we saw the second World Trade Center disappear from the skyline. It collapsed before our eyes, and again, in a plume of ash and debris. People rushed north. We had a New York City police department officer who witnessed the first collapse. But he actually had to dash off to duty. We have been watching people crying. Some people had relatives in the buildings. They are not sure whether they are being -- whether they've been evacuated, removed from the buildings or not.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Was there -- Brian, did it sound like there was an explosion before the second collapse, or was the noise the collapse itself.

PALMER: Well, from our distance, what -- I was not able to distinguish between an explosion and the collapse. We were several hundred yards away. But we clearly saw the building come down. I heard your report of a fourth explosion. I can't that. But we heard some boom, and then the building fold in on itself.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: We are told, Brian -- hang on. We are told that the secretary of defense is being evacuated from the Pentagon. The Pentagon portion of the Pentagon has collapsed, after -- I am not precisely sure on this, and I want to tell you when I am not precisely sure, but apparently, a plane or pentagon hit part of the pentagon itself, as you take a look at the pictures there. I must say every time we hear a plane coming up overhead, it gets a little nervous where we are.

Whatever is happening and whoever is responsible, we have no way of knowing if it is played out yet, or if it is just going on. So every time we hear a plane go by, we wonder what situation is and where it is -- headed. We are told by officials here. They believe that is a fighter jet. Federal office buildings around the country, is that correct, all over the country, have been closed, or just in Washington?

PALMER: Well, we are -- we were not allowed in to the federal courthouse here, where CNN maintains a workspace. The officers just said, we are now allowing you in. I think that's a security precaution.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Got it. Stay with me a little bit. All federal office buildings now, all federal office buildings in Washington, D.C. are being evacuated as we speak to you now.

There are a variety of reports, and it's important to try and put this in some kind of order, but the most important things to tell if you are just joined in is that what has all makings of an extraordinarily well planned terrorist attack on both Washington and New York has taken place this morning. The Trade Centers here in New York, the two World Trade Center towers, have collapsed, after being hit by a plane.

Maria Hinojosa joins us on the phone. She is in New York, down near the building.

Maria, what can you tell us?

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm actually at St. Vincent's Hospital right now, where at about 45 minutes, 40 to 45 minutes after the first explosion, they started seeing patients here. What I am hearing, and I have not been in the ER yet, is that they have at least 1-- patients or more, that several of those people were dealing with issues of smoke inhalation, many of them throwing up, that there were several people who went directly to the operating room, who were in very critical condition.

Outside the hospital, people are coming in, trying to help, to donate blood. Essentially, everybody here at this hospital is in a state of shock. I mean, I walked into the testing area, and the women who usually just draw blood are extraordinarily moved and shocked. They're moving in and out of the emergency room to try to help as many people as possible.

Now outside, about a block away from here, where you really had a bird eye's view of the two twin towers, which are the landmarks of New York City. People stopped, entire traffic has stopped. People have poured out of buildings and were watching, in fact, as one of the towers collapsed.

And then, you are really seeing lot of trying to move north, away from any place downtown, near the World Trade Center area. People are just walking. The subways are stopped entirely, all around the area of the World Trade Center. You can't get below 14th Street, and there it just feels like a massive exodus of people walking north to get a far away from the area as they possibly can.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Maria, I know Kitty Pilgrim is with you as well. Tell us what you have been able to report on.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm actually reporting from Kennedy Airport at the United terminal, and I was here this morning flying out, when they made an announcement about 20 of 10:00 that all flights were grounded. People just thought it was the normal course of airport business these days, and so not much reaction, and then the news started to trickle through. It was not official announcement, made over intercom.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Kitty, let me interrupt for just a second. The Associated Press is reporting that federal officials fear that a second hijacked plane or another hijacked plane is headed towards the Pentagon, and I'm looking for the time on this. We will continue to check that out.

Kitty, I apologize for interrupting. Why don't you continue?

Did we lose her?

PILGRIM: Everyone didn't react, but then the news came through. I have never seen Kennedy in this condition. I have been here many times. People are in absolute shock. No one is talking. They were just staring at each other with their arms dropped to sides. A pin could drop in United terminal. There were a couple hundred people there, and no one was saying anything.

After about 20 minutes, people rushed to phones. You cannot phone out. There is no real access back to city. People are trying to get back. They have unloaded the baggage from the planes. They have asked that everyone pick up their bag and take it, and take it out of the terminal, and take it home, and they are asking everyone to please leave. People are just finding it difficult to leave. They are not officially evacuating Kennedy Airport at this point, at least at the United terminal. The attendants have been asked to stay. Again, there are still several hundred people standing around, not knowing what to do. No one is even speaking.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: And again for people -- Kitty, thank you -- not familiar with New York, Kennedy is the major airport handling international flights into the city. It is also an enormous complex of seven, or eight or nine terminals.

PILGRIM: That is exactly right. And in fact, the baggage has been unloaded into a separate terminal from where I am, and they are asking people to walk over, pick up their bags, and take them out. It is virtually impossible to get from place to place at Kennedy, and of course bridges and tunnels into Manhattan are virtually inaccessible at this point. No one has anywhere to go.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Kitty, thank you. We'll get back to you. Chris Plante at the Pentagon has more. He joins us on the phone.

Chris, what you can tell us?

CHRIS PLANTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, this is Chris Plante at the Pentagon.


PLANTE: Can you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Chris, we hear you, go ahead.

PLANTE: All right, the area to the west of the Pentagon has been evacuated further back by law enforcement and military officials as they anticipate a second aircraft arriving at the Pentagon. It has been deemed to be threatening enough where I saw at least one F-16 fighter jet in the air over the Pentagon, headed to the west, where the plane was reportedly coming in from. Again, they are saying here a second aircraft is expected to arrive at the Pentagon sometime soon. They take it seriously enough that they have scrambled at least one fighter jet that I saw, probably either from D.C. Air National Guard or the Maryland Air National Guard, both of which fly F-16s.

The west front of the building of the Pentagon along Route 27 has now partially collapsed. About a 60-foot section of the building laterally has collapsed, the entire five stories. The building has obviously -- the fire has is scrambling inward in the building toward the courtyard, and this wedge, as they call it, of the Pentagon, the westernmost wedge, was just refurbished, and was in fact reinforced for terrorist attack, and for just this sort of thing.

I know that there were a significant number of injuries. I'm unaware of any numbers on fatalities at this point. People here who came from the building are suggest that surely there were fatalities, but I can not confirm any. I have spoken to a number of people that I know who've pulled people out of rubble. There were severe injuries, a number of helicopters here evacuating, injured people, and I'm told by one senior military source, that the plane in the side of the building has been tentatively identified as a Boeing 767, a full-sized airliner, Boeing 767. But that at this point, they are waiting for arrival of a possible second plane, which has been deemed to be a threat, and as I said, fighter jets have been scrambled to address that matter.