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America Under Attack

Aired September 11, 2001 - 11:00   ET



AARON: Patty, Patty, I'm going to interrupt you for a second.

We told you there was a second plane that went down, this one around 80 miles or so southeast of Pittsburgh. We will try to connect with KDKA TV, in Pittsburgh.

So much for planning. We tried. We will try again.

Again, we have reports that a plane has crashed in the Pittsburgh area, southeast of Pittsburgh about 80 miles, and at varying times we have heard this was a 767 or a 747; I'm not sure it matters which it is. What matters is that a plane has crashed in Pittsburgh area.

The Pentagon continues to monitor reports that another plane, a hijacked plane, is headed for that area. All flights have been canceled around the country, international flights heading towards United States are being diverted into Canada this morning.

Patty, let me go back to you as we look at some tape from the ground. Patty, why don't you go ahead and continue.

PATTY: Aaron, I'm now in the main building of Pace University, which is inside the fallout zone of all the debris from the two building collapses. At the time of the first building collapse, I was at Broadway and Park Place. It was a huge cloud of smoke, and it overcame the crowd. People were stampeding. Literally, the debris was so thick you could you not see your hand in front of your face.

I ducked around into a building that was on Park Place and Beekman Street. When I was in there, people were coming in; they were crying, they were wailing. You couldn't see anything outside.

After the smoke had cleared a little bit, I came outside. The scene was like a ghost town in the financial district -- very eerie. You saw people being wheeled on guernseys away from the site of the explosion. People coming out with masks over their face, anything they can put over their face because the air was still very thick with debris. The ash on the ground is at least two inches thick, it's more like snow cover, a very eerie snow cover blanketing downtown Manhattan right now.

Now, at the time I was back on the corner again of Broadway and Park Place, at that time, the police started running toward us telling everybody to move, who was left on the street. I looked up, and that's when I heard the explosion, that's when the second tower came down. Again, whoever was left on street started stampeding. I'm in the office -- right now, I'm in the main building of Pace University; people are crying, they have gas masks on their face. Authorities are make people go towards the basement. They're just doing anything that they can to move people away from the financial district. But, again, it is a very horrifying scene down here, very eerie like...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Patty -- Patty, let me interrupt you.

Mayor Giuliani is on the telephone, is part of New York 1's coverage. We join our affiliate for that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor Giuliani, since we have New Yorkers listening, and obviously their thoughts with people who are down there.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, NEW YORK CITY: Again, I would urge them to remain calm, to remain at home or to remain at their place of business, unless they're in lower Manhattan. By that I mean south of Canal Street. If you're south of Canal Street, get out, walk, and walk slowly, carefully, there are plenty of police around, but just walk directly -- if you can't figure out what else to do just walk directly north; that will get you out of the dangerous smoke area; it will also do us a big favor, it will open up those streets, because we're going to moving a large number of ambulances and emergency personnel in and out of there all day.

I've talked to the governor, he is putting the National Guard on alert so that they can relieve our police officers and our firefighters later this afternoon. And we have asked the federal government for help, from the -- Urban Search and Rescue Team.

So, right now, we are using all of or police and firefighters and emergency personnel to help the people down there. Later on we're probably going to need reinforcement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor Giuliani, I realize that it must be more than a chaotic situation, particularly since the bunker has been compromised and cordoned off, but can you give us any sense, there are so many people watching now who must have loved ones down in that area and are concerned of the systematic...

GIULIANI: My heart goes out to them. I've never seen anything like this. I was there from shortly after it happened and saw people jumping out of the World Trade Center. it's a horrible, horrible situation. And all that I can tell them is that every resource that we have is attempting to rescue as many people as possible. And the end result is going to be some horrendous number of lives lost. I don't think we know yet, but right now we have to just focus on saving as many people as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you giving as you sense of, if there is in fact some system implemented, what that system is and what where people are being taken? GIULIANI: People -- we're triageing. People are being taken to every area hospital possible, even virtually within minutes of -- I drove down right past Saint Vincent's hospital, and I could see them actually on street ready to take people, and that was within minutes of the first airplane hitting the World Trade Center. So the hospitals are ready. We'll be moving them to all different area hospitals, triageing them.

The main thing is having those streets open so we can get people in and out of the southern part of Manhattan as quickly as possible so that we can move them, you know, to the hospitals all over city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Mayor Giuliani, we'll let you...

GIULIANI: ... they're doing it. We just need the cooperation of people in getting out of there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll let you get back to the operations there, and we do appreciate you taking the time for us here.

GIULIANI: Once again, the only thing to do now is to remain calm and try to assist in the rescue effort.


GIULIANI: Let's pray all of us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is New York's mayor, Rudy Giuliani, talking to a CNN affiliate New York 1 here, saying that clearly there's going to be tremendous number of lives lost on these attackings here in New York, urging people to stay calm and to leave the area calmly. The area is in the southern part of Manhattan, way down on tip of Manhattan island. The mayor urging people to calmly move north.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre is at the Pentagon.

Jamie, why don't you start, if you can, at the beginning here as we try and put some order to all of this. What happened?

MCINTYRE: Well, let me just describe the scene that we have here and I will back up a little bit, but right now, I'm looking at the charred facade of the Pentagon, a huge gaping hole on the side where the Pentagon heliport is located, the side that faces Arlington Cemetery.

In front of me is a long line of rescue personnel with backboards; they're just waiting for victims to be brought out so they can rush them to nearby medical facilities. I see a few victims being treated on the grass outside the Pentagon.

Firefighters continue to pour streams of water on to side of the building and a huge black cloud of smoke continues to billow out. It is a scene of utter destruction here. I'm sure it pales in comparison to the World Trade Center, but I have never seen anything like this myself in the history of the Pentagon. There's been nothing like this.

Again, a huge gaping hole. You can see exposed five floors of the Pentagon offices just ripped apart.

Our report is that an aircraft of some kind, and at least in one witness identified it as a civilian aircraft, hit the side of the building, shortly after those -- the incident at the World Trade Center this morning. People who were in their offices nearby reported hearing huge explosions, seeing charred shrapnel come by their window. The entire Pentagon has been evacuated.

A short time after this attack there were urgent announcements made over the loudspeakers telling people to quickly get away from the building because they had reports of a second plane heading this way just two minutes away. F-16 jets were scrambled over the Pentagon. I saw several of them go by, but no second plane ever materialized. And the building remains completely evacuated as firefighters continue to pour columns of water on the devastated side of the Pentagon and rescue personnel continue to whisk victims away.

We have no report at this time of how many casualties. Clearly, dozens and dozens of people have been hurt and we presume that there have been some deaths as well. It's hard to imagine otherwise considering the extent of the damage to that side of the building.

And I can see just some of the windows -- a stretch of the building perhaps, about perhaps 40 or 50 feed wide, it just looks like it has collapsed under the weight of the impact -- Aaron.


So we have planes hitting the Pentagon or a plane hitting the Pentagon, two planes hitting the World Trade Center towers in New York.

Alan Dodds Frank joins on the phone in lower Manhattan -- Alan?

FRANK: Aaron, just two or three minutes ago there was yet another collapse or explosion. I'm now out of sight, Good Samaritan has taken me in on Duane Street (ph).

But at a quarter to 11:00 there was another collapse or explosion following the 10:30 collapse of the second tower. And a firefighter who rushed by us estimated that 50 stories went down. The street filled with smoke. It was like a forest fire roaring down a canyon.

Now, as I think Patty (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and others have told you, all of Manhattan is covered -- downtown Manhattan is covered with thick white ash and building material. The ambulances have been coming now from as far as Long Island. All the rescue workers are being equipped with gas or face-filter masks. And firefighter have been arriving even by pick-up truck. Otherwise the streets are now deserted.

Alan, thank you.

Alan Dodds Frank in Manhattan.

A little more on this plane crash which is the fourth incident, if you will. There was the plane crash at the Pentagon, crashing into the Pentagon. There were the two planes that hit the World Trade Center here in New York. And we don't know whether this fourth one is related or not. But the report is that a 747 en route from Chicago to New York City crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles to the southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That's the incident. That's what we are hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm standing next to a fireman and he said, yes, they just bombed the Pentagon too.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: Our colleague Jeff -- well, we have a little more sound here from witnesses.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The doorman goes to me, wow, I never seen a plane flying so low. And we looked out it, all of a sudden, boom, it seemed like it wasn't even real. And we came running over here closer to the place, and all of a sudden we saw the other explosion. I don't know. I don't know.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in B Tower -- A Tower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What floor were you on?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened? Tell me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big explosion happened. Some guy came out, his skin was all off. I helped him out, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). There's people jumping out of windows. I seen at least 14 people jumping out of windows. It's horrific. I can't believe this is happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything else that you saw? Where you there for the second hit?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. After -- about 10 minutes later the second building went off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I saw it. It just blew up, a big explosion, people started running. It was just chaos everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where you there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I was right there. I was in the -- I was down in the basement, came down, all of a sudden the elevator blew up, smoke. I dragged a guy out. His skin was hanging off, and I helped him into the ambulance.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: The words of some of the witnesses here in Manhattan this morning, and the pictures of what will I suspect before this is over go down as one of the most horrific days in our lifetime.

We're joined by our colleague, CNN's Jeff Greenfield.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, you know, in 1993, when terrorist bombed the World Trade Center, their plan was to knock one of the towers into the other, bringing them both down. That disaster was averted, and bad as that was, in a sense, America has been lucky.

Another terrorist attack in the planning was interrupted to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel and submerge dozens, maybe hundreds of people.

At the eve of the millennium, a suspected terrorist was intercepted at the Canadian border on his way to Seattle. And I know that not so long ago that former President Clinton in a private talk to a group ruminated how lucky the United States has been over the years, to -- with the combination of luck and the skill of antiterrorist people, to avoid such thing.

What we see now is nothing less than the worst nightmare that one could imagine come to life, probably worse than anyone could have imagined. You may remember that Tom Clancy wrote a novel that ends with a terrorist hijacker crashing into the Capitol. The worst act of terrorist on American soil, the Oklahoma City Bombing, killed fewer than 200 people. All we know today is that tens of thousand of people work in that complex that has been destroyed, and I hate to say it this way, but this may be the day that America's luck ran out.


When you look out here, and see the Statue of Liberty to the right, the buildings off to the left, the attacks on Washington. We don't know a lot about who is behind this or what this is all about. But the symbolism of these attacks is extraordinary. It's extraordinary.

CNN's David Ensor is in Washington and he joins us -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, I'm talking to U.S. officials who are obviously working on who is responsible for this. They're working thesis is that this is overseas terrorism, not domestic. They cannot rule out additional attacks yet to come. In terms of claims of responsibility so far, there is an Agion (ph), France press report, in which a group with a word Palestine in the name claims responsibility. There is a also a report quoting personnel close to Osama bin Laden. The fugitive Saudi accused terrorist denying that that group was involved.

But again, U.S. officials say they can't add -- shed any light on whether these reports are correct or incorrect. Usually when this kind of attack occurs, you have claims of responsibility from all sorts of people who have nothing to do with it. So it's a very fluid situation at this point. But the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States has been evacuated from its headquarters in Langley, Virginia. There are some key personnel in the headquarters, but the operations center has been moved elsewhere. U.S. officials say they don't want to talk about where exactly the headquarters staff and operations staff has been moved to.

But staff now has been focusing on trying to find any shred of information that could help the U.S. government figure out who is doing this and how to put a stop to it -- Aaron.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: David, as a -- tell me if I'm right or wrong here. As a practical matter, there are not a whole lot of groups that the United States government knows about that are sophisticated enough and the kind of money and resources to pull off something like this, fair enough?

ENSOR: That's absolutely true. And, obviously, despite the denial, attention will quickly turn to the bin Laden group, because it has long tentacles, has connections with all sorts of other groups. We saw at the millennium, a group of Algerians apparently involved in trying to arrange bombing in the United States, and now there is evidence being produced in court sessions that those Algerians were working for the bin Laden group. So that group certainly will come under immediate suspicion. There are very few others that could have pulled this off.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: All right, just because of the enormity of it all, and the sophistication required to stage these multiple attacks, this is not something some small cell can pull off. This is obviously a group or groups well-financed and extraordinarily well organized...

ENSOR: That's correct. Now another thing you will notice is that the you remember the attack on USS Cole in the Yemen harbor. That's the first time that kind of attack with small boats and bombs has been used against an American warship. It worked once. Now the U.S. Navy has taken steps to make that much more difficult to do. Officials saying this may work once, they will now have to take measures to make sure this can't be done again. But these are apparently hijacking of civilian aircraft. So it was a sort of modus operandi that was dreamed up in some evil terrorists mind and done on a massive scale here today -- Aaron.


CNN's David Ensor, our national security correspondent, on what he is hearing, what he knows, what the reports are, as we approach 11:20 Eastern Time.

For those of you just joining us, and as you can see on your screen, the Taliban, the government in Afghanistan, expected to make a statement soon, and we will monitor that for you.

For those of you just joining us, let me try to put as many of these pieces together as I can as we stand here in New York. At about 8:45 Eastern Standard Daylight Time this morning, the first of the trade center towers was hit by a plane. It crashed into the south side of the tower. About a half an hour later, a second plane came from the right, and you can see it coming behind the first tower, and then it hits the tower, and you will see the flame and smoke coming out, I guess three-quarters maybe a little bit more up the tower. That's where this all began. About a half hour after that, the first of that tower that is now you see inflamed in that shot, collapsed. The top collapsed. And there was an enormous -- I don't want to say explosion, but there was an enormous plume of smoke, sparks as we looked over from where we are standing.

And then a little bit after that, and I want to be careful on time, because it seemed perhaps 10 or so minutes, but I'm not sure, the second tower, which in fact was the first one hit, collapsed as well, and that's what you are about to see. Our reporters in the area say they heard loud noises when that happened. It is unclear to them and to us whether those were explosions going on in the building, or if it was simply the sound of the collapse of the buildings as they collapsed, making these huge noises as they came down.

But as we look back, the smoke now, which has gone from white to kind of gray clearing away, we are -- I guess Jeff -- as -- I don't -- I want to know what's behind the smoke. But I have the worst feeling is that very little.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And the fact is that we've already been hearing from even the fragmentary reports from people on the ground stories beyond horror, people jumping out of windows, because of the flames. The fact that this happened shortly before 9:00, and then the second hit shortly after 9:00, means that most of the people were either right in the vicinity or actually at their desks. So one doesn't want to be overly grim, but the fact is, there were large -- thousands of people were in these buildings.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: You get 50,000 people come to work in those buildings. Many thousands more pass through those buildings every day. There are retail shops on the lower floors of the trade center.

GREENFIELD: It's where the packed trains from New Jersey come in.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Correct. It is where the commuter trains come in from the other side of river, from New Jersey, come in and drop off, and pick up their passengers. So it is an extraordinarily busy area. It is also an area, for a number of reasons, rich in symbolism to this city and to the country. You can see from where we are the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor in the pictures. So that's what happened in New York.

At about the same time -- and again, I don't want to put times on much of this yet -- after one of the hijacked planes hit the Trade Center in New York, events started to unfold in Washington. A plane hit the Pentagon. And then there was a major fire at the Pentagon and the Pentagon has now been evacuated. The State Department has been evacuated. The president who was in Florida, went before cameras to denounce, as you would expect, and as we would expect, this terrorist attack, promising to hunt down those responsible.

It was the president himself who first used, at least as I heard the story, the word "terrorism." There was no doubt in his mind, at least. The president now has -- is heading back.

We are now getting a report that American Airlines say one of its flights, a flight from Boston to, I believe, Los Angeles -- correct me if I'm wrong -- is down. Or at least they've lost contact with it -- 81 people on board. This would be the second of American Airlines' flights involved, presumably, in this event. Another flight, this one from Dulles to Los Angeles is down, with 54 passengers on board.

So again, there are two American airlines: one Dulles, Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, the other Boston to Los Angeles. Both American Airlines planes are reported by the airline to be down. It is also believed that an American Airlines plane, a 767, was involved in one of the hits on the Trade Center as well.

We don't know if there's a reason why it's American and not any other. We won't speculate as to whether there is or not. We will tell you what the facts are as we get them, and that's what we have. American says two of its planes are down. And I assume that is two other than the one that hit the Trade Center -- and you guys check that out to make sure I'm right.

GREENFIELD: We have a report of a crash in Somerset county, outside of Pittsburgh.

AARON (ph): Right, I believe, a 767, though we are getting reports it's perhaps a 747, which doesn't quite fit into what we believe flies Chicago to New York, is also down, and I do not know the airline involved there. Let me go back -- OK, I do now: It's a United Airlines plane.

So we have a number of planes down, a number of planes involved in these attacks.

The Boston to Atlanta, if I'm reading the notes correctly, had an American 767, with 81 passengers on board, and nine fights attendants and two pilots.

GREENFIELD: Flight 11.

AARON: That's American Airlines Flight 11. And American Airlines Flight 7, which is a 757 jetliner, from Dulles Airport, outside of Washington, to Los Angeles International, with 58 passengers on board, four flight attendants, two pilots; it's also reported down. And then there is this united airlines jet, which crashed about 80 miles to the southeast of Pittsburgh.

GREENFIELD: We should also mention, I think, Aaron, that, inevitably, some of these early fragmentary reports are going to be needing correction, and that will be done as soon as possible. We had a report of a second hijacked plane on the way to Washington. Capitol police were reporting there have been no signs of that plane. We simply, at this point in this awful story, have just to tell our viewers we will do everything we can to report this accurately. If fragmentary reports need amending or correcting, that will be done immediately.

AARON: I think in fairness, there is, in a number of places right now -- perhaps four or five -- chaos, and numbers that come out are not necessarily going to hold up, and in our reporting, we will be a bit conservative on some of this until we track it down. There is no point in allowing this thing to seem worse than it is; it is already horrendous, and we don't need to make it worse by misstating numbers, and we want you to keep that in mind.

CNN Medical Unit reports that the Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta, is preparing bioterrorism teams to respond to the incidents. This, we are told, is simply precautionary. We have absolutely no reports and no evidence that there is any bioterrorism going on. Clearly, what is happening in every department of the United States government -- and I suspect in every department of most major cities right now -- the plan, the plan that they hope they never have to implement, the plan that they spent years preparing, is now in effect -- not just here, not just in Washington, but around the country, because no one knows precisely where this is going.