Return to Transcripts main page

Breaking News

America Under Attack: Terrorists Crash Hijacked Airliners Into World Trade Center, Pentagon

Aired September 11, 2001 - 19:31   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Wolf. I think all day long you have seen the images replayed of exactly what happened here in New York City, the city of victim of multiple attacks by hijacked commercial airlines.

Joining me right now is Matt Cornelius, who is in the unfortunate position of being mid-level in tower one, the north tower of the World Trade Center. Matt, thanks for joining us. What happened? Where were you?

MATT CORNELIUS, EMPLOYEE AT WORLD TRADE CENTER: I had just arrived at work probably about 8:40 a.m. I put my lunch away and was putting -- getting ready to start the day when all of a sudden, we heard this tremendous crash. It was a really loud sound, followed by a sharp jolt in the building. And then the floor kind of seemed to wave.

ZAHN: We are looking at this incredibly dramatic shot of the impact of the American Airlines hitting the north tower. You were not aware at all what could have caused this?

CORNELIUS: We had no idea. Obviously we knew something had struck the building. Somebody screamed out, "An airplane has hit the building." But I think that was just a guess. And when I thought about that, I thought probably a private plane. You often see them flying around the World Trade Center. No one could have ever thought that it was a commercial jet plane that have side.

ZAHN: And you immediate instinct, I suppose, was to get out of the building. Describe the evacuation.

CORNELIUS: Yeah. Because people hadn't really arrived at work yet, it wasn't organized. We basically...

ZAHN: That actually represents the second attack that happened 18 minutes after your building was struck.

CORNELIUS: So when we got struck, everyone basically started running for the stairways. And we went immediately to the stairways and started our way down.

ZAHN: Were people pushing and shoving or was it an orderly exit from the building? CORNELIUS: People were confused at first. Once we were in the stairway, people were very orderly.

ZAHN: How long did it take you to get out of the building?

CORNELIUS: About 45 minutes. Some people were upset. They had gone through the bomb in '93.

ZAHN: How can it take so long to get out of the building? You had 65 flights of stairs, you're a young man. One would think you could get out of there quicker.

CORNELIUS: We moved very quickly. Probably 15 minutes to the 40th floor. And then after that we got held up. There were firefighters coming up the stairs, police officers, I believe FBI agents. So they were coming up. And there were people, there was a man in a wheelchair who they were trying to assist. So we kind of had to hold for him.

But people remained calm throughout this and kept saying, we're going to take it one stair at a time. Everybody is going to get out. And I think -- we weren't aware of the situation. We thought it was an isolated event. I think had we known what was going on, it would have been a different story.

ZAHN: These pictures obviously show the unspeakable horror and tragedy, the fallout from which we're only just beginning to grasp. Once you got out of the building, at what point did you become aware of what had truly happened?

CORNELIUS: I would say the minute -- as we came out of the building, actually exited the complex, the police officers were screaming, "Don't look up, don't look back, just go." And of course, I looked back. And I saw that the second tower was on fire. And that's when it hit me that this was something major, this was a really catastrophic event.

Actually, when we came out of the stairs there was a lot of devastation in the lobby. And actually, the center of the complex, the plaza area, there was a lot of debris and some bodies. It was truly awful.

ZAHN: We have some shots now we'd like to show you of what some people have described almost as nuclear winter when they talked about the amount of soot coming down on those of you who were fleeing the buildings.

Now that you've been able to absorb what happened, what's going through your head tonight. You must feel like a very lucky man.

CORNELIUS: I feel very lucky. I'm so thankful to be alive. My heart goes out to those who don't know about their loved ones or have lost loved ones. It's -- it's still very surreal. I looked down behind us and can't believe that my office building that I go to every day is gone. ZAHN: Now, before you go any further, we were just looking at shots of the countless number of New York firefighters that were on the scene. We are just getting information from the union officials of some of the 400 firefighters that initially went into the area. 200 may have perished.

CORNELIUS: Oh, my God.

ZAHN: Matt, we appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us tonight on this incredibly tragic day of our American history. Let's go back to Wolf Blitzer.

Once again, Wolf, New York City officials are not confirming, nor is the Pentagon, exactly how many people were injured here or how many people died. I know Governor Pataki of New York was saying earlier this evening it will be many, many days before we have any of those numbers.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Those numbers are being collected, but I'm sure it's way too early, as you point out, Paula, to have even a rough guess how high that number will eventually go. Just to recap once again, President Bush preparing to address the nation in less than an hour or so, around 8:30 p.m. Eastern. An Oval Office address for President Bush from the White House.

CNN senior White House correspondent John King is back on the north lawn of the White House. John, you're back in the briefing room now. You were listening to that briefing when we went to the Capitol Hill Congressional leadership statements that were being made. Was there any hard news that came out of that briefing?

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed there was. Some details on the emergency responses taking place. The Department of Health & Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, other agencies taking steps to provide medical and other disaster relief personnel. Also from the Treasury Secretary Norman Mineta a glimpse what will be the near future for Americans now traveling around the country.

Mr. Mineta now saying as a result of this first and foremost that he will make the decision tomorrow if and when U.S. commercial air traffic can resume. All planes grounded at least through noon, he said. And when Americans do go an airport or a train station in the future, they are likely to see a much higher level of security.


NORMAN MINETA, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: To increase traveler security, travelers will indeed see increased security measures in our airports, train stations, and other key sites. There will be higher levels of surveillance, more astringent searches. Airport curbside luggage checking will no longer be allowed. There will be more security officers and random identification checks. Travelers may experience some inconveniences, but we ask for your patience.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Now the president is in the Oval Office with his national security team preparing for that address to the American people about 50 minutes from now. That address from the Oval Office. Four members of the president's Cabinet briefing here. They refused to take any questions, the White House saying that these Cabinet agencies want to gather more information. Attorney General John Ashcroft vowing, though, that perpetrators of these terrorist attacks, he said, would be discovered and punished.

Again, much of the information dealing with the relief effort underway over at the Pentagon and up in New York City. The Secretary of Health & Human Services Tommy Thompson urging Americans, no matter where they live, to donate blood. He said that is one urgent priority right now. Wolf?

BLITZER: OK, John King. We'll be back to you. But meanwhile I want to bring in the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who joins us here in our Washington bureau. Secretary Albright, do you have the sense -- you studied this situation four years at the United Nations, four years at the State Department. Who was responsible for this attack?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it's impossible to tell at this time, Wolf, and it's important to get all the facts straight. What is essential is that the countries of the world who believe in democracy and human rights stand together. And the statements that have come out, I think, from other world leaders are very important.

We all have to stand together. I ache for America tonight. But I know that we will rise to the challenge because we have the best system in the world.

BLITZER: Is there, given the earmarkings of this highly sophisticated, very coordinated attacks, that some sort of state sponsorship was behind it?

ALBRIGHT: I think it's tempting to speculate, Wolf, but I think that it's probably wrong at this time to make statements that point the finger. We need to look at the facts very carefully and then respond at a time and place of our choosing. We have the best military of the world. I have the greatest confidence in our military and I support President Bush. We are all waiting to hear what he has to say. I think the unity of this country is now essential.

BLITZER: But even at a time of unity, we've heard from many members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans today -- members of Congress lamenting what they say was an enormous intelligence and security failure. Intelligence in the sense that the U.S. apparently had no advance indication that this was about to happen, and a security failure that four planes could be hijacked simultaneously?

ALBRIGHT: I think we will have a lot of time for investigation and finger-pointing. I think today we need to offer our condolences to the families of the victims and the bravery of those who have rescued people. And remember that this country is country of laws, and those who oppose us are only countries that do not believe in a system of laws and democracy and the individual freedom.

BLITZER: You just heard the Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta say travel in the United States is not going to be as relatively easy as it's been. There's going much tight restrictions for Americans. They will have to endure what many Europeans have been enduring now several years, given the terrorist operations unfolding there and other parts of the world. It's going cause a reaction, as you well can understand, from the American public.

ALBRIGHT: I think that's the least of our problems. I know when I fly, I actually welcome it when I'm asked questions. And I think it is up to all of us to cooperate. But America can't be shut down. We have to remember that we thrive as an open society. And I think we have to take all the precautions and to try to find the balance between the freedom for which we are noted and the security which we need.

BLITZER: Once the United States learns conclusively who is responsible for this coordinated attack, what should the response be militarily and diplomatically/politically?

ALBRIGHT: I think militarily I will leave that to the defense people. I do know that we have the means to respond in whatever way we want to. We do have the best and strongest military. Diplomatically, I think it is essential to be in touch with our friends and allies to seek their unified support.

Terrorists know no boundaries, they know no limits. And this has been brought home to America this time, but other countries are being threatened and we need to all stand together. Terrorism can only be dealt with internationally.

BLITZER: You were the Secretary of State when the U.S. embassies in East Africa were bombed. Many Americans were killed, many other nationals were killed as well. The U.S., while were you Secretary of State, did bomb some bases in Afghanistan believed to be have been associated with Osama Bin Laden. A Sudanese factory was bombed. Clearly, if Osama Bin Laden was responsible for this current attack -- which has been widely speculated, of course -- the U.S. retaliatory strike at that time didn't appear to slow him down at all.

ALBRIGHT: Well, there's no way to prove that, and the truth is that my worst day as Secretary of State was when these embassies were bombed and when I brought the bodies home and met with the Kenyans and Tanzanians who had been injured. The United States has to respond. We have to respond on the basis of the facts we have, not on the basis of speculation. And I think that the important part is for us to all stand together and be supportive of President Bush.

BLITZER: We are going to be showing some pictures, Madam Secretary, of some U.S. warships. Recently were in Norfolk, moving out into the Atlantic Ocean, up the Atlantic coast to get out of port. We are taking a look at some destroyers and some frigates, now. These are pictures of U.S. Navy vessels leaving the largest U.S. naval facility in Virginia, in Norfolk. Clearly, perhaps, sending some sort of signal, some sort of sign to others who may be out there. What is that message?

ALBRIGHT: That America is strong and cannot be shut down. That we have the means to bring about some kind of a response to this and that we have the strongest military in the world and that we are proud of our military.

BLITZER: General Colin Powell, your successor at the State Department, returning tonight from a visit to South America from Lima, Peru. What should he be doing right now? What do we assume he is doing to generate international diplomatic support for the United States position and for perhaps some retaliatory U.S. response?

ALBRIGHT: I can understand that he must be very frustrated not to be in Washington, because I was not in Washington when the embassy bombings happened. I was in Rome, and I came back right away. And what I'm sure he is doing is being in touch with his counterparts and mustering the kind of international support that is necessary and I'm sure will be forthcoming from our friends and allies, because we are in all of this together.

BLITZER: Madam Secretary, it was good for you to join us on this horrible day in American history. Thank you so much.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Back to you in New York, Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Wolf. We are going to try to give you a better perspective of the state of paralysis here in New York City tonight. Once again, we cannot confirm the number of injured, the number of killed here today. But we have just gotten confirmation from the union representing New York City firefighters that as many as half of the 400 firefighters that were initially sent to the World Trade Center area are presumably dead tonight.

We have been told the victims have been transferred to some 70 area hospitals. There are pleas for donations of blood from New York City. Residents -- I in fact tried to donate blood today and there was as much as a five-hour line of volunteers all trying to heed this plea. Right now I'm going to check with Greg Clarkin, who joins us from St. Vincent's Hospital, where more than several hundred of the injured were taken. Greg, what can you tell us tonight?

GREG CLARKIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are about a block away from St. Vincent's Hospital in Lower Manhattan, one of the locations that has been set up as a triage unit since early this morning. Really an incredible scene at the hospital. What you see is dozens and dozens of hospital workers outfitted in their scrubs just basically awaiting victims to treat.

At this point, what we are hearing is that the pace has slowed down considerably. We have just been briefed by the president of St. Vincent's, David Campbell. He says at the moment there are 319 patients at St. Vincent's. Of that, 50 to 55 are listed in critical condition. He also confirmed that there were three deaths at St. Vincent's. Also, New York Governor George Pataki stopped by. He spoke to the doctors as well as the victims. One of the doctors overseeing the operations in the emergency room today described some of the injuries that they saw early on. He said at the very early stages of this tragedy, what they saw were severe burns, a lot of trauma and a lot of heart-related problems. He said the heart attacks and the cardiac arrests could be from preexisting heart conditions or possibly induced by the trauma that people saw at the World Trade Center today.

Tomorrow they expect to get a different type of injury. Right now the trade center is considered a hot zone. There are no rescue efforts underway. The doctors said that tomorrow they expect that hot zone to be lifted, rescue workers would go back in. What they would be expecting then is what they call crush injuries, and that could be broken bones, anything that happens by people being buried underneath rubble: kidney failure, dehydration and the like. They are expecting to see a whole different variety of injuries tomorrow. So again from St. Vincent's, which has been a triage unit throughout the day, the scene has slowed down a little bit but they do expect to it pick back up when the rescue efforts resume. Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Greg. During your report, I just got more information that the New York Police Department now confirms that there are 78 police officers on its force that are missing tonight.

Right now I am going to turn to Richard Holbrooke, former U.N. ambassador, to provide some sort of perspective for us this evening. Mr. Holbrooke, we have heard General Shelton describe today's vicious acts as "outrageous acts of barbaric terrorism." Senator Orrin Hatch called it an act of war. Senator John Warner calling it the most tragic hour of American history. What is your perspective on this this evening?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: First of all, Paula, as a New Yorker and somebody who had the honor of being guarded by the New York City police and working with the firemen, I am stricken beyond words at the information you've just mentioned about the death toll among the police and the firemen.

I used to work in that building, and was there next door during the previous attack, and as in the 1993 case New York City citizens have responded in this extraordinary way. Your description of the attempt to give blood is so emblematic, those lines. And I'm just heart broken about this.

In terms of your question, and having listened to your interview with Madeleine Albright, I just want to add something to what she said, and that is this: in the past Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists who do not represent national governments -- a distinction which is critically important -- but are sheltered in various countries in the world, including Afghanistan, sometimes North Korea, Iraq, Libya -- have played this shell game about where the government that shelters them and protects them says, "Well, we don't know where they are."

I think it is absolutely essential for the United States to lead an international effort now that makes clear that any country which shelters people is part of an act of war against the United States. The United States, Paula, cannot make the response alone. It is true, as Madeleine said, that we have the finest military force in the world. And I've been privileged to work with them for over 30 years in Vietnam, in Bosnia, and all over the world.

But I will tell you, that unless we have international, united front of the European allies, the Russians, the Chinese and -- and I want to stress this, the moderate Arab states which must close ranks to get the extremists who are behind this -- we are not going to be able to succeed.

This is the beginning. After we get through the rescue phase, after we find out how the security failure occurred that you referred to, that Wolf Blitzer referred to earlier, we are going to have to turn to an absolutely non-stop diplomatic effort to create the pressure behind which we can take the necessary military action against this act of war.

ZAHN: All right. I hear what you're saying, Ambassador, but it was Henry Kissinger who said earlier on today that we will be able to -- the United States, at least -- will be able to judge its friends by their level of support in trying to figure out who unleashed this fury today. What though, realistically, do you think will happen in terms of resistance from some of these countries?

HOLBROOKE: I'm sorry. I don't understand your question. I heard the interview with Henry Kissinger, and he and I are on full agreement on this. Any government which shelters the people who did this has to be held equally responsible for it as an act of war. And if any -- and we are going to have to mobilize an international coalition for that position, as we prepare to take the necessary military responses. And I know that Henry agreed with that, because I listened to the interview.

ZAHN: No, I don't think -- I'm not saying that anybody has misinterpreted the interview. But I think there has been some suggestion by other guests that you may not get complete support here.

HOLBROOKE: No, I'm not -- I don't know whether we will get complete support or not. The Taliban is denying any influence in this thing, but all the evidence seems to suggest that. John King and others on your excellent coverage have suggested that the administration is 90 percent sure it's Osama Bin Laden. If some countries don't participate, let them understand that they're joining a coalition of terrorists who have declared war on the United States.

The key nations involved are going to be the moderate Arab states, the Russians, and the Chinese, and other countries which must isolate the cause of this. Osama Bin Laden is not a government. But if he is indeed -- as the administration appears to believe -- behind this, anyone trafficking with him should be on notice that that is tantamount to an act of war by a government. And I talked this afternoon to the Secretary General of the U.N., Kofi Annan, who was trying to deal with the consequences for the U.N. He's going to have to decide whether to postpone or cancel some major U.N. meetings that are coming up in New York, a children's summit in 10 days. And he has been talking to Arab leaders, and I think he will be very supportive of this.

The U.N. will meet in general assembly tomorrow to start the condemnation process, and we are going to have to conduct diplomacy alongside rescue and finally, decide what the correct military response is.

ZAHN: Mr. Holbrooke, we are going to have to leave it there this evening. Thank you very much for your insights and some of your pointed thoughts on what it was like to have once worked in one of those buildings that no longer exist.

HOLBROOKE: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Joining me right now is Jeff Greenfield, who has some thoughts on the magnitude what was witnessed here today. I know Senator Dodd earlier today compared this to the equivalent of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Right. And you know, I don't think that overstates it. I think we may find out it will understate it. When Franklin Roosevelt told us that many American lives were lost on that December 8 speech, he was talking about 2400 American servicemen and women. Unless a miracle happens 21/2 miles south of here, we are looking at a death toll that could dwarf that. The largest act of violence in American history. Oklahoma City: 168 dead. More people than that died just in the planes.

And what -- you and I as New Yorkers look and we realize the landscape of New York has changed. The Empire State Building is once again the largest building. I would suggest to you the landscape of America has changed. We are going to wake up tomorrow in a different country. Our luck has run out. Six people died at the World Trade Center in '93. We have saved thousands more because the buildings didn't collapse. We averted terrorist acts in the past. Not today. And I think we will not get on an airplane the same way again, we will not feel the same way about security again.

I looked at some numbers, Paula. The largest number of American dead ever in one day in this country was Antietam, the Civil War battle in Maryland in 1862. 22,000 dead. I hope to God we don't approach that number when all is said and done, but we're going to be possibly in that ballpark. And I think tomorrow in some ways may even be a worse day than today, because the sheer magnitude of this event has kind of got everybody excited and wondering. Tomorrow the reality sets in.

ZAHN: I think you also talked earlier today how that reality turns from a sense of shock, and in some cases a sense of outrage.

GREENFIELD: We already heard -- absolutely. And one of the biggest issues we are going to be facing is drawing the line between a response that equals the horror of what was done, and strength. ZAHN: Got cut you off and go back quickly to Wolf Blitzer. I think Dick Armey is joining you?

BLITZER: Right, Paula. Just to remind viewers that in a little bit more than a half an hour from now, President Bush will be in the Oval Office to address the American public. He's preparing his remarks right now. But our Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl is up on Capitol Hill and he has the House Majority Leader Dick Armey with him -- Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, an amazing day up here. We just had about 200 members of Congress, Democrats, Republicans, senators and members of the House on the steps of the Capitol with a message. Now we have the Majority Leader Dick Armey, Republican leader in the House of Representatives. Mr. Armey, you were one of those in the top leadership of the Congress that were whisked away from the Capitol this morning to a classified location. What was it like in that room all day today?

REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: We had the bipartisan leadership of both the House and Senate. We were of course -- obviously, like everybody in America -- seeking information, trying to understand exactly what's happening. Where is it coming from? Who's responsible, and how do we respond? Measuring the threat to the nation, and preparing ourselves to bring the members of Congress back to work at the appropriate time under the right circumstances and make the point that I made earlier.

You may scar democracy, but you don't shut it down. We will be back to work tomorrow. We think this is a horrible criminal act. It is just inhumane. It's insane. And the American House and Senate, the Congress of this nation, as the president of this nation will address that tonight. We will address the nation's business this week, and we will continue the process of finding the people who are responsible and bringing them to justice.

KARL: Now, I understand that at least four times during the day the vice president briefed those leaders -- those members of the leadership that were in that room at that classified location. What did you learn about that fourth plane? The plane that landed in Western Pennsylvania?

ARMEY: Well we learned some things about that. At this point the information is classified. It is clear that we to have had a good investigation going forward. We are gathering information, there is a (AUDIO GAP) confidentiality on what we know, but we do know that this is a serious premeditated crime, and I can say without any doubt or hesitation it's an international crime. And we will be able to find the people responsible. And America, I believe -- with the cooperation of all civilized nations -- will bring these people to justice.

KARL: Now over the Capitol Police radios this morning, there was a report there was a plane headed for the Capitol building. What can you tell us about that? Was the Capitol in danger at any time during the day? ARMEY: I don't know. We have tried to distill exactly what that report might have been. It could have been somebody's interpretation of the heading of either the plane that went to the Pentagon or the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. But there was a concern about the Capitol that caused Capitol Police -- I think correctly and prudently -- to vacate the building.

KARL: Mr. Leader, I thank you very much for joining us. And Wolf, tomorrow both the House and Senate will reconvene. Very much the message that wants to be sent here is that terrorism will not the people's business, the work of the Congress from going forward.

BLITZER: Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill. Thank you very much and thank Mr. Armey as well. I want to bring in Senator Bob Graham of Florida. He's the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Of course, he has been receiving regular briefings throughout the day. We are hearing a lot of suspicions, Senator Graham, about who may have been responsible. Can you share what you know about that responsibility with our viewers?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I would agree with Madeleine Albright. It's premature at this point to be identifying who the prime suspect might be. The number of potential suspects, based on the complexity of this operation, is relatively small. And I think we will soon be able to identify who the culprit is, but tonight is not the night.

BLITZER: Has anybody definitively made any conclusions in the briefings and your colleagues about responsibility? Because as you know, a lot of finger pointing at Osama Bin Laden has been going on throughout the day.

GRAHAM: No. At this point there has not been a single primary suspect identified.

BLITZER: Given the nature of this operation, the highly coordinated hijacking of these four airliners, is there some suspicion as well in the U.S. intelligence community that perhaps some government may also have been involved?

GRAHAM: Again, it's premature to try to determine who did it and who there collaborators might have been. One thing we do know is that we are going to -- as a result of this and other incidents -- reassess our ability to identify and prevent this kind of event in the future. Right now, we're in the stage of responding to a horrendous event rather than where we should be, which is congratulating ourselves in the fact that we identified and were able to interdict the culprits before they were able to act.

BLITZER: One of your colleagues on the Intelligence Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, told us earlier today that as far as he had been informed, there was no advance warning whatever, that these attacks were about to take place. Is that what you're hearing as well?

GRAHAM: Yes. There had been a general heightening of concern about the potential of terrorism over this summer, but no operational information that would have allowed us to have taken interdictive action against this specific event.

BLITZER: Does that suggest to you, Senator Graham, that there was an enormous intelligence failure here, that the massive resources of the U.S. intelligence committee had no indication whatsoever about this highly sophisticated attack?

GRAHAM: Well, what we know is that there are several areas in which we have allowed our intelligence capability to degrade. We've allowed our human intelligence, spies, the people who can get inside the cells of a terrorist organization and give us information on motivations, intentions, capabilities that would allow us to interdict.

We know that we have lost some of our eavesdropping capability, listening to what our potential adversaries are saying. We also know that we've not been making the investment in the analysis of the information that we collect, so that we can use it effectively to avoid incidents like this.

I believe this occasion will drive home the point that the only real protection against terrorism is the best possible intelligence. And that is the only intelligence that the citizens of the United States should be prepared to accept.

BLITZER: Senator Graham of Florida, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, thanks so much for joining us. And I want to go back to our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl. He's up on Capitol Hill. And I believe he has the junior senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton with him -- Jon.

KARL: That's right, Wolf. We're joined here by Senator Clinton of New York.

Senator Clinton, you've been on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue when something like this has happened, of course, when our embassies were bombed around the world. What do you think the President needs to come out and say when he comes and addresses the nation shortly?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Well, I do have, you know, some understanding of how difficult a time this is for the entire country. And we're all united behind the President. We are, as you saw earlier with the legislative leadership of our country, from both Houses of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, saying just as clearly as we can that this was an attack on America. And the President of the United States is our President. And we will support him in whatever steps he deems necessary to take, both in the retaliation that will be called for.

And also, in the very important work of rebuilding New York and the Pentagon. We can't let these evil acts in any way, deter us from, you know, making it clear that the United States is resolute. And we are going to support the president. KARL: And are you getting any new information from law enforcement out of New York about just the extent of the loss in New York?

CLINTON: Jon, I don't think we even have an inkling of the devastation. We've not really had the kind of coverage at ground zero that would show what I'm hearing. You know, rubble sometimes up to your waist. Our firemen and police officers wading through dangerous circumstances, trying to see if there are any survivors.

The numbers of people who are injured and who we fear are casualties I think will be terrible once they are fully understood. I'm very proud of New York City, the mayor, the police, the fire, all the people working in the emergency frontlines have done a superb job. But you know, New York is the global city. It's the symbol of American leadership. And you know, these terrorists made a direct hit on who we are as a people. And New York has responded and the national government has to stand behind us.

KARL: And senator, you had told us earlier that you had spoken at length with former president, your husband. What is Mr. Clinton saying?

CLINTON: Well, he's outraged, and you know, deeply angry, as I think all of us are, but is absolutely behind whatever this administration chooses to do because he knows how important it is to speak with one voice on behalf of our country. This is something that he and I believe strongly, having been on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

You know, and let me say too, that our country not only has to retaliate directly against those that perpetrated this attack, but we have make it very clear that we cannot permit any state, any government, any institution, or individual, to pursue terrorist aims that are directed at United States or any country with impunity.

So I'm hoping that this is the kind of dramatic terrible catastrophe that unites the entire civilized world. So that it's not just attack on the United States, it's an attack on everyone who cares about, you know, freedom and dignity and justice and humanity.

KARL: Now we're told the Congress has never been evacuated before, not during the War of 1812, not during the Civil War. This was an extraordinary day. Of course, you are coming back. We had the display of unity on the steps of Capitol. But is any business really going to be able to done here? I mean, we've really -- we've entered a new phase here, haven't we?

CLINTON: I don't think so, Jon. I think that clearly because of the uncertainty that surrounded first the attacks in New York and then the attack on the Pentagon, it was prudent for these buildings to be evacuated. And I certainly went along with that, as did my staff.

I think though tomorrow, you'll see that, you know, Senate and the House will be back in session. We will be debating a resolution that really expresses our very strong feelings of outrage about this. And then, we're going to be getting down to the hard word of determining what we need to do. I, you know, told my colleagues that this is the kind of devastating attack and loss of life that is almost beyond imagination.

And you know, New York is going to need a lot of help. I was pleased that, you know, we asked for an emergency declaration of disaster. I talked with the governor. And he's been extraordinarily involved in all of this. But we're going to need the federal government, the entire nation, to stand behind New York.

KARL: OK, well, Senator Clinton, we thank you very much for joining us. We know you've got a busy, busy time ahead of you. Thank you.

CLINTON: Thank you.

KARL: And Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, John.

Just to remind our viewers, we're standing by. In about 24 minutes or so, President Bush is expected to be in the Oval Office to address the American public on this tragic day in U.S. history here in Washington at the Pentagon early this morning.

An American airlines flight 77, a Boeing 757 en route from Washington Dulles airport to Los Angeles was diverted after being hijacked and was slammed, crashed into the Pentagon earlier this morning.

Paula, this has been a traumatic day as well. Paula Zahn?

ZAHN: Yes, some of the images, Wolf, we're about to see again will be forever etched in our consciousness. The whole life of the city, as Jeff Greenfield said, changed forever at 8:45 in the morning.

You're actually looking at the second attack on the south tower of the World Trade Center there. The attacks were 18 minutes apart. We're going to show you images of thousands and thousands and thousands of people leaving these buildings that are on fire. Some 50,000 people work in this World Trade Center complex. Many of the roads and bridges were closed today by the city, causing people to have to find their way home on foot.

Mayor Giuliani now has declared the lower part of Manhattan off- limits to civilians at least until Thursday. All New York City public and parochial schools are closed tomorrow. All businesses below 14th Street in New York City will be closed tomorrow. Both the Nasdaq and the Dow Jones will be closed tomorrow. Airports throughout the country will be closed at least through noon, although there are some conflicting accounts of that.

And Jeff, as I stand here on this balcony night and look back at the smoke continuing to billow from the wreckage of the towers, it makes you sick. GREENFIELD: The smoke is billowing. The only sound are church bells ringing. There's not a single sound of a commercial airline in the skies, which usually fill the night sky. And the Empire State Building, which is usually lit up at night, is dark in mourning. It's a scene I, as a lifelong New Yorker, I could not have imagined in my worst nightmare.

ZAHN: And I think one of the more poignant images this evening was watching our Congress sing "God Bless America."

GREENFIELD: It actually was one of the more affecting things. You got a sense that the political community, which so often offers prepared statements and goes into partisan battle, this time they are simply overwhelmed by what happened. And that was a kind small effort of affirmation.

ZAHN: What happens tomorrow?

GREENFIELD: I think the numbness is really going to start hitting and so will the casualty lists.

ZAHN: We have to confirm now that the New York Police Department is saying that at least 78 members of its department are missing tonight. A union representing firefighters here in New York City is saying of the 400 firefighters who were initially called to the scene, 200, Jeff, are presumed dead tonight.

GREENFIELD: And that's only the people that have been counted by an official city agency, if 200 firefighters perished in the collapse of one of those towers. This is why I think tomorrow's going to be, as I said, a tougher day than today.

ZAHN: We had earlier a gentleman on who was working in the 65th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. And he said this is becoming real to him for the first time. But I can imagine across the country this sense of shock really will turn to outrage.

GREENFIELD: And I think in terms of the impact of this, when people wake up tomorrow, when we begin getting the casualty lists, people are going to want to strike as hard as they can. And the question will be when and at whom?

ZAHN: We're going to go back to Washington now where Wolf Blitzer's standing for another update -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We've heard so far, Paula, from the congressional leadership, from members of President Bush's Cabinet, from the Defense Department, the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the chairman of the Joint of Chiefs of Staff on this horrific day throughout the United States.

We're looking at these pictures earlier today at the Pentagon when an American Airlines flight 77, a Boeing 757, en route from Washington Dulles Airport to Los Angeles was commandeered and was forced to slam into the Pentagon.

We do not know the number of killed and injured, although the number is expected to be very, very high.

I want to show our viewers the extraordinary newspaper editions of both "The Washington Post" and "The Washington Times" are now coming out with special editions. Here is the headline, "Horror" in a special edition of "The Washington Times", similar edition of "The Washington Post" was put out today as well.

On this day, we're standing by. In about less than 20 minutes, President Bush will be in the Oval Office to address the American public.

Bill Hemmer is in Atlanta. He now has more. Bill?

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

So much of our concentration for our coverage today has been focused on Washington and New York City, but there's another element to the story. In Somerset County, that's in western Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh, United Airlines flight 93, bound from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco went down in a field.

CNN's David Mattingly, one of the first on the scene earlier today, now joins us with a live update from what's happening from that perspective. David, what do you have for us this evening as night has fallen there in western Pennsylvania?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, we are standing right in the heart of farm country in western Pennsylvania. I'm surrounded by cornfields, green pastures and rolling hills.

But tonight, this normally peaceful setting is teeming with emergency personnel, hundreds of emergency personnel and state troopers. Their mission tonight, to lock down the crash site of the United 757 right here in this area.

Now the plane went down in an old strip mining area. Views of the crash site indicate an impact crater about 10 feet wide and -- I'm sorry -- 10 feet deep and 15 feet wide. Officials report only small pieces of debris at the site, giving you an indication of what kind of force was behind this crash.

Now residents say they were watching news coverage. And you could imagine their horror watching the news coverage in New York and Washington, D.C. and suddenly hearing a tremendous explosion here.

Now the plane crash was such a powerful force, that people miles away say their houses were shaken. The school, a couple of miles away, windows were shaken. Students who -- and teachers who were watching also on television at the time were reportedly very upset.

Now this evening, Governor Tom Ridge, surveyed the crash site and he called on Pennsylvanians for their prayers, their blood donations and to volunteer their skills in this time of emergency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. TOM RIDGE (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We'd like to provide Pennsylvania support if called upon to do so. And my plea to all Pennsylvanians is to first of all, for your prayers. Secondly, for your blood. I think that the Red Cross would appreciate volunteers.


MATTINGLY: There is a great deal of speculation here at the crash site regarding a -- the reporting of a 911 call that reportedly originated from the hijacked plane and was taken by a 911 operator in a neighboring county. Well, at this time, there's no confirmation here at the scene of the accuracy of that report.

The FBI has reportedly again taken control of that tape, but tonight will not confirm or deny anything regarding that tape. So obviously, a possibly a key piece of evidence, also being looked at in regards to this crash site -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, David. David Mattingly on the scene there in Somerset County, western Pennsylvania.

Again, 38 passengers on board, five flight attendants and two pilots. And the indication David was given earlier by eyewitnesses who saw that plane go down, it appears that plane went directly into the earth. Again earlier today, 10:20 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

We'll continue to canvass the country. And it should be pointed out that a number of Americans in many major cities across the country, and even in the small towns, still somewhat disturbed and in a state of shock over what we're seeing throughout the country.

Here in the city of Atlanta, it is quite unusual to see a heavy commuter city like Atlanta to have so few cars traveling on its downtown street right around rush-hour, but that was the scene we saw when this southern city today and a number of malls indeed, closed as well, as people again continue to react to what we have seen throughout the day here.

The President will speak in 15 minutes time. 8:30 p.m. Eastern time from the White House. And certainly, CNN will have live coverage when that happens. Back to Wolf now in Washington -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Bill. In this statement just released from the Office of Personnel Management, the federal government here in Washington, federal agencies in Washington, D.C., will be open for business as usual tomorrow, Wednesday, under what is called an unscheduled leave policy. That means federal employees may take leave without prior approval, but federal agencies will be open in Washington.

Our senior White House correspondent John King is over at the White House getting ready, like the rest of us, to hear the President. But he has a guest. John?

KING: Wolf, among those here helping the President prepare and the White House respond to this tragedy, Joe Allbaugh, a close personal friend of the President, who is the director of Federal Emergency Management Agency. Tell us, sir, if you will, very difficult to get any numbers on those injured and killed, both at the Pentagon and up in New York. Do you have any preliminary estimates? And what you could tell us about federal response to help with the rescue efforts?

JOHN ALLBAUGH, FEMA DIRECTOR: It's premature for any numbers, John. I can tell you, I can tell the country, that we're doing what we need to do. Either our teams are already on the ground in New York and obviously here at the Pentagon, or they're on their way and will be there overnight.

KING: Four aircraft, commercial aircraft hijacked in a single day.


KING: The American people watching the horror of this have to ask their federal government how?

ALLBAUGH: Well, it is a stunning incident. It really is. The how and why will come later. Right now, we're concerned with recovery. Those folks that are missing their loved ones tonight, that won't be home, those are the folks we need to keep in our minds and in our hearts. We'll get to them quickly as we can.

KING: As you and other members of the President's cabinet meet here at the White House, one announcement from Secretary Mineta, your colleague, the Transportation secretary.


KING: Look for no more curbside check in. Look for more security checks at airports and at train stations. Has the country -- has our freedom to move about forever changed today?

ALLBAUGH: I'm not sure that it has. For the short term, it will. And I think most Americans will appreciate that. They will understand it. They will leave for their airports or railroads earlier. It's the right attitude to have at this time.

KING: I know your focus is on the emergency responses.

ALLBAUGH: Absolutely.

KING: You've been in these briefings today. Any indications at all that the United States government has any firm evidence of who is responsible for this?

ALLBAUGH: That's not my department. I'm focused on the recovery right now. We have others that are focusing on that as we speak.

KING: And last thing, I know you need to get back inside the White House, what numbers are we talking about? How many people from the federal government and people that are your disposal are responding to these? ALLBAUGH: Well, we have over 5,000 people at FEMA. And I know every one is deployed as we speak right now at some part of the country.

KING: All right, Joe Allbaugh.

ALLBAUGH: We're doing all we can.

KING: Thank you very much, Joe. We know you're very busy tonight. Thanks for joining us. Please keep us posted.

Wolf, back to you now.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, John. And I want to bring back CNN's Nic Robertson. He's in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he's been reporting for us via videophone.

Nic, tell us the latest? We heard those explosions earlier tonight. What is going on right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's about 10 to 5:00 in the morning day break here in Kabul. We'll certainly get a better idea of the extent of the damage caused by those explosions we heard overnight.

A little under an hour ago, we heard from a senior Taliban official who confirmed that the city was attacked. He said it was attacked by two helicopters firing rockets, hitting an ammunition dump in the city.

He said that the helicopters were sent by the Northern Alliance. That is the forces that the Taliban are battling to gain control of the last 5 percent of Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance said that they did -- that they were responsible for those attacks.

Northern alliance is very, very upset with the Taliban at the moment. At the weekend, their senior commander was the subject of a suicide assassination attempt that the Northern Alliance blame the Taliban for.

So in the civil war that's going on here, things are very tense at this time. An audacious attack. One analyst described the attack this evening. The frontline of the Northern Alliance some 40 or 50 miles from this capitol.

They flew helicopters then under the cover of darkness, switched on search lights when they got into the city, then fired missiles at the city. In a few hours, Wolf, we expect the United Nations agencies here and several international diplomats here in the city, to consider their positions. We understand the United Nations often at times like this, will withdraw its staff. In a few hours, we'll find out about that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson, our man in Kabul, Afghanistan. Thanks so much once again for joining us. Stand by. I want to bring in right now, Paul Bremer, the former U.S. ambassador for counterterrorism. You spent many, many years studying these kinds of developments, perhaps not as horrendous as what has happened in the United States today. Who's fingerprints do you suspect is over this operation?

PAUL BREMER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM: Well, as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee said earlier, it's early to make any conclusions. But there basically are four groups that you can imagine having the capabilities of doing this. Bin Laden is certainly one. The others would be some of the more radical Palestinian groups, which might be able to do this.

And then, of course, there are two states, Iraq and Iran. And I think that's the list of possible suspects for the moment.

BLITZER: And you've eliminated homegrown U.S. sponsorship, the way it occurred in Oklahoma City?

BREMER: Yes, I don't see that. That doesn't look to me to be the kind of operation those people have done. They are not suicide people. They like to get away. This is on a scale which goes way beyond anything I think that's domestic.

BLITZER: Now, we spoke earlier in the day. And you, of course, chaired a commission on counterterrorism that released findings earlier in the year. A lot of speculation about a intelligence failure that could have been predicted. In fact, when I spoke to you earlier and interviewed you earlier, there has been a lapse in intelligence gathering, the human intelligence gathering, in other words, running agents or spies within these terrorist cells.

BREMER: Right, and as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee said, I think it's the most important problem we need to address now. The objective of a counterterrorist policy is to prevent Americans getting killed. It's not the retaliation, it's to prevent the attacks. And if you're going to prevent the attacks, you have to know ahead of time about them. The only way to do that is to have a spy among -- among the terrorists who's going to talk to you.

Our commission looked at this rather carefully, and concluded that we've got some guidelines, some rules that were established in the CIA in the mid-'90s that have the effect of deterring case agents from basically trying to engage terrorist spies.

And I think this kind of attack shows again the importance of intelligence, the importance of taking a very aggressive look at human intelligence.

BLITZER: Well, explain to us why theoretically the CIA would put these kinds of rules in effect. Does it make any sense whatsoever not to try to penetrate these terrorist operations?

BREMER: My own view is that these rules do not make any sense, that in fact if you're going to get good intelligence on terrorists, you're going to have to deal with some very unsavory people. The rules were put into effect because there were concerns at the agency at the time that it was associating the United States with people who might violate human rights and be criminals.

Well, I sort of say, yeah, of course, that's what terrorists are, and if you're going to get intelligence about a terrorist, you're going to have to deal with terrorists, that's a fact of life.

BLITZER: And if you're running these unsavory individuals in these terrorist cells, you're presumably paying them for their cooperation, and as a result, I take it what you're suggesting the CIA doesn't want to be in the position of having to tell Congress that they're paying these unsavory terrorists.

BREMER: Well, I think that's probably what led to these guidelines being imposed in 1995. I think that -- in wake of this kind of an attack, we're going to take a close look at that. And my guess is that those guidelines will be changed.

But what we have to do now is find out who did it. And then we have to prepare a retaliation that would, I hope, be the most vigorous retaliation we can against the people who did it and any governments that were in any way contacted with this, including if it's Afghanistan and the Taliban.

And I think the day of sort of talking about terrorism is over now. We've seen the catastrophe that, unfortunately, many of us have been worried about. It's happened. Tens of thousands of people have been injured and maybe killed. And now's the time for real action.

BLITZER: If the retaliatory strike does take place, and everyone assumes eventually it will, won't that, as some critics will say, just simply lead to more terrorism, the cycle of violence as the State Department, and you once worked there, likes to talk it?

BREMER: Well, I think you have to be careful not to talk yourself into Hamlet syndrome when fighting terrorism. You can always make an argument against military retaliation because it's going to lead to something else.

You can always say that diplomacy won't really work because other countries won't support you. You can say that economic sanctions don't work because other countries will violate them. And you can go down the whole list of options that are there and persuade yourself that none of them make any sense. And at the end, you do nothing.

And effectively, if you do nothing, then this is the kind of thing that happens. And I think the American public will, when they take a deep breath, want and indeed deserve a very strong reaction to this. And I think it will be interesting to see how many of our allies who are today giving statements of full support, how many of them are really going to be with us when the time comes for retaliation. Then we'll know who our real friends are.

BLITZER: All right Ambassador Bremer, it was kind of you to join us. Thank you very much. BREMER: Good to see you.

BLITZER: Let's go back to New York. And CNN's Aaron Brown is standing by. Aaron?

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

We are waiting for the President, the President whose day began in Sarasota, Florida, where he was going to make a speech on education. He then went to Shreveport, Louisiana and then to Nebraska, to where the Strategic Air Command is based, and finally back to Washington.

There are, it seems to us, moments in a president's term, the Challenger for President Reagan, the Gulf War for President Bush, Oklahoma City for President Clinton. Now this, when a country looks to a president for information and reassurance.

Our senior White House correspondent, John King, I expect we'll hear both today.

KING: Expect you will, Aaron on a day defies description.

The president, we are told, wants to deliver a message of "resolve and reassurance to the American people." Mr. Bush, back at the White House now for a couple of hours. He has been briefed by the Vice President and members of his National Security Team. The key members of the Bush cabinet here, as well, trying to direct the federal government's response to this crisis.

Mr. Bush will address the American people, as you mentioned from the Oval Office here at the White House, after a day that began in Florida, saw him to go to a military installation in Louisiana, then a second military installation in Nebraska, all this as he tried to stay in touch with the National Security team. And all this, as the White House, the Secret Service, and the military decided whether or not it was safe to bring the President back to Washington.

They very much wanted the political statement of the President returning to the White House, to try to dispel any notion that this was a country under siege. Still, this is a key defining moment for this president, eight months into office. We're just a few minutes away from hearing him on this day of tragedy in the United States, address the American people from the Oval Office.

BROWN: And indeed, that political message that the government is functioning, that despite all that's happened, was repeated again and again by officials in Washington. Late today, I remember hearing Karen Hughes. It was almost the first thing she said. She was reassuring the American people that their government is running, despite it all.

This is the government continuation plan in the textbooks in Washington, D.C. This is a very young administration. And this is a major test, John. KING: That's right, Aaron. And at times, there is a conflict, if you will, between the security arrangements and the political calculations. The President being kept out of Washington, the key leaders in Congress being taken to a secure bunker outside of Washington, all that part of a protocol. Go ahead, Aaron.

BROWN: John, I'm sorry. I just want to tell our viewers that what they're looking at is a fire that continues to burn. And I assume this is a continuation until I'm told otherwise at the Pentagon in Washington. These pictures that you're looking at now. John, I'm sorry to interrupt.

KING: Quite all right, Aaron. The pictures, quite a devastating day, the scenes we are seeing today.

What I was saying is there are at times a conflict between the security concerns and the political calculation. White House officials very much saying throughout the day they wanted to get the President back to Washington for the signal that sent.

At the same time, there are a series of protocols they follow when they reach a full high terrorism alert as the government reached today, not only for the President's security but for everybody.

The First Lady was out in public. She was taken to a safe location, just brought back to the White House this evening. President Bush now though, meeting with his National Security team in the Oval Office for what has to be an amazingly anguishing moment for him. But we are told, he will deliver a statement offering reassurance and resolve to the American people, and promising once again, as he has twice already today, to dedicate all the resources of the United States government, to call on all our allies around the world to find out who is responsible for these attacks today. And the president will promise to bring them to justice.


BROWN: John, it -- you know this day it has been very long for all of us here. And you look back, you can still -- I'm not sure you could see it on the TV, but we can still see the smoke coming off the Trade Center. Three buildings have collapsed. These extraordinarily pictures we've shown you of the planes as they literally hit that building is one of those images that none of us, and we suspect none of you, will ever forget.

ZAHN: And Aaron, you know, given the horror and the scale of the tragedy that we've witnessed, I'm going to pose this question to Jeff, you wonder if anyone can deliver a speech that is as big as what happened?

GREENFIELD: That's exactly right, I think Paula, that you know when Reagan -- President Reagan gave a speech after Challenger, that was an awful day. Six people died. It was a terrible accident.

Even Oklahoma City, horrible as that was, was the contained act of one madman. This attack on the United States, which is not an overstatement, in some way makes words almost -- it's too much of a burden for almost any speech to bear. Yes, we want reassurance. Yes, we want resolve. Sure, we're going to get it. At the end of the day, you know, we still don't know how many people are dead because they can't get even go into that rubble two miles from here.

BROWN: And you know, Mayor Giuliani, Jeff, late today, talked in terms of a week. Maybe a week before we really know how many people have perished in that building. That is a long time to wait. There were a lot of phone messages when I was downstairs earlier from people wanting to know the answer to that question. How many people have died today?

And that is simply unknowable.

ZAHN: And you know what, Aaron...

BROWN: It is unknowable.

ZAHN: ...that makes it so hard to answer is that city officials can't even get in -- within that perimeter area. There is still debris falling from these collapsed buildings. And there are an untold number of people still trapped in this...

BROWN: And we know that there are a couple hundred firefighters who are missing, there are 78 New York police officers who are missing. And nobody down there, 30 or so blocks away from where we are, wants to see that number go up. So they will wait. They will wait until the building is as safe as it might get.

It will never be safe to go in there. There will always be risks. But the risk will mitigate a bit over time, and then they will slowly start to go into the building, start to search for may still be there. That is days away. They're not there yet.

GREENFIELD: And that's what the -- excuse me. But that's why the president's speech tonight has such a burden on it: The stark reality of that makes what the president has to say tonight as difficult, probably as difficult a speech as any president, at least since Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech...

BROWN: Probably since Roosevelt. This is one of those moments. The president now just a few moments away from addressing the nation from the Oval Office. He has not been back in Washington for very long. But now from the Oval Office, the president to talk about the extraordinarily horrible events of September 11th.