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CNN Live Event/Special

New York City Officials Address Day's Devastation

Aired September 11, 2001 - 23:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: New York's Mayor Rudy Giuliani now speaking again.


RUDOLPH GIULIANI, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: We're hopeful that we'll be able to rescue some more people. I have no idea how many others, but at least there's some hope that we'll be able to get some people out. We have been able to get two people out who have been identified as Port Authority police officers. I don't have their identities and I don't have their condition.

That's the good news, and all night we'll keep trying to extricate people through tomorrow and there are over a thousand, well over a thousand rescue workers and emergency workers down there now, could be 2,000. And the New York Police Department and the Fire Department, emergency services, the assistance that we've gotten from the National Guard and if you go down there, you'll see fire departments from East Meadow and Bellmore and Northern New Jersey and we really appreciate their efforts. It will be of great assistance all during the night.

If you have questions that we can answer or try to answer, the number is 1-212-560-2730, that's 1-212-560-2730. I know that there's great concern over what the numbers of people lost are. We don't know the answer to that. The dimension will be very large, it'll -- it -- in terms of the people we are looking for, it's a couple of hundred firefighters and police officers, which is a staggering number.

As far as the number of people in the building, that'll be in the thousands. But there's no way of knowing at this point. And, we're going to keep praying and hoping that we save as many people as possible.

QUESTION: Mayor, there are reports that were a group of survivors from the basement of the World Trade Center that they have cell phones, they've been calling their relatives in Seattle to tell them precisely where there and that there's a group of NYPD police who are with them and alive and well. Do you know about this?

GIULIANI: I know that that rescue effort's been going on for a couple of hours, yes.

QUESTION: Mayor, do you know anything about the report about the possible resources that they found in New Jersey?

GIULIANI: Yes. I think the Police Commissioner was able to get information about that.

BERNARD KERIK, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: I just got a confirmation from the Chief of Detectives, he's reach out to the FBI. They have confirmed that someone has been stopped in New Jersey, three men in a van. However, there was no explosives in the van. All right. They're being held for questioning.

QUESTION: Where in New Jersey, do you know?

KERIK: I can't say yet.


QUESTION: Why were they stopped and why do you think they're connected with this?

GIULIANI: We can't tell at this point. It's between the FBI and the Port Authority. We just got the confirmation by phone after I left the last briefing.

QUESTION: Were they on the George Washington Bridge as they were heading to New Jersey?

GIULIANI: No, they weren't.

QUESTION: Were they in the Meadow Land?

QUESTION: There were rumors that there were explosives, where did those rumors come from or why did that begin to circulate?

KERIK: I can't tell you.

QUESTION: Were they in the Meadow Land, Police Commissioner?

KERIK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Were they in the Meadow Land?

KERIK: It's my understanding, but I -- we haven't confirmed that.

QUESTION: Do we know why they were stopped?

KERIK: Not yet.

QUESTION: Commissioner, can you tell us anything about the rescue of the Port Authority officers or the ongoing effort with people in the basement where the Port Authority officers were pulled out of, or the details?

KERIK: We can't say yet. It was Trinity and Church where the officers were that were just pulled out. The other people that are still in the building, we can't tell exactly where they are. QUESTION: We all know that the Port Authority is housed in the World Trade Center, any idea of the status of their operations?

GIULIANI: They've lost a lot of people and we don't know the full dimension of that either. But, the Port Authority have a lot of people that are missing. And we were fortunate to find two of the police officers. We'll keep searching for the others, but they have sustained a lot of losses.

QUESTION: The group of people with the cell phones that (inaudible) reports, do you think -- do you have any group that sizes in that particular location?

GIULIANI: We don't know the exact numbers. We know it's more than two people.

QUESTION: Are the people who are -- ?

GIULIANI: Two people communicated and they say there are more people there.

QUESTION: And do you know what...

QUESTION: The people who are running around the city trying to find information about those who are missing, what are they supposed to do? Where are they supposed to go and who's collecting that information?

GIULIANI: The phone number that they should call is 212-560-2730. And then as we have information about people either who are -- who have been recovered or dead, we'll let them know that.

QUESTION: Is our morgue able to handle this?

GIULIANI: We had a meeting with the medical examiner earlier, went over it with him. He believes that he's able to handle it. He'll start handling it at 30th Street, which is the morgue for Manhattan. He'll then be able to move up to the Bronx where he also has facilities and then we have the possibility of using the peer on the west side, which is set aside in case the numbers get too difficult to handle.

But, he thinks he can handle at least a good deal of it tomorrow and the next day right in Manhattan.

QUESTION: How close...?

QUESTION: Commissioner Von Essen, can you talk about the loss of the fire Department?

THOMAS VON ESSEN, FIRE COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY: We've got over 300 people that are missing that we can't account for. We believe that many of them are gone. We don't -- we'll keep looking. We have hundreds of people over there now trying to find as many possible locations that they might be in some way in a void or whatever. And, you know, still be able to breath and still alive. But, we believe that most of these people, I think, are going to be unable to pull out. So, we'll just keeping working on it.

I have a number I'd like -- we haven't been able to make any contact with the families because we're still unsure of the situation. So the number for the families who haven't spoken to their loved one in the course of this whole horrible day, if they call this number we'll at least tell them that this is a person that's missing or that we have had some contact with this person. The number would be 718- 999-2541 is the number that we'll be using at Fire Department Headquarters.

This is just for firefighters.

QUESTION: What about the number?

VON ESSEN: Just for firefighters. Firefighters and fire officers, EMS personnel. I would just -- we'll man those numbers, that number will roll over to 10 lines and we'll be able to just try to give them some information. We don't have a lot. So, that's why we haven't been calling them like we would normally do.

QUESTION: How close...

QUESTION: What about the top members of your staff who may have been lost...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Debbie Witt, Deborah Witt.

VON ESSEN: I'm sorry?

DEBORAH WITT, REPORTER: What about the members of your staff who may be lost?

VON ESSEN: We've notified their families already, spoke to them earlier?

WITT: How do you feel about that?

VON ESSEN: How do I feel about it? I don't know what to say. I -- we lost people that have given over 40 years. Commissioner Feehan has had every job in the Department, virturally the most valuable people -- person in the department. When I got this job the Mayor and Commissioner Safer said make sure you keep Bill Feehan. I haven't regretted that one day. He's given a whole life to this Department.

Chief Gansy (ph) the same thing, Chief of the Department, 33 years, 34 years. Ray Downy (ph), we just honored him with a dinner almost 40 years of service, world renowned for situations like this, telling me how dangerous it was when we first got there, all the possibilities, everything that he was trying to do to get the people out.

Father George, I don't know if you know Father George, one of the nicest men you would possibly find in the whole world. We haven't found other people yet either, you might want to mention the names some of the best people in this Department, I can't find anybody from five rescues and seven squads. It's just a devastating thing. I don't know -- well, the Fire Department will recover, but I don't know how.

QUESTION: Commissioner Kerik, in the Police Department do you have any idea how many people you're looking for at this time right now?

KERIK: The number we're looking for is in excess of about 32, 33 people. That's what we know as of right now. And for the members -- for the family members of the Police Department, if they have questions or if they need to contact us regarding their family members, they can call 718-677-8238, it's the Special Operations Division and we'll be able to help them as much as possible.

QUESTION: How close are...?


QUESTION: How close are rescue teams able to get to the scene assuming there are people who are (OFF-MIKE) ?

GIULIANI: The rescue teams are able to get very close now. It was very difficult during the day. But, in most places they now can -- they now can operate. There's still a few dangerous areas, but they're able to operate down there now.

PERE: I know there's pockets where people may be...?

GIULIANI: Yes. We're very hopeful that there are pockets where there are people, not only the ones that we know about, but hopefully others, a group of firefighters who are at St. Vincent's Hospital they were in a void for four or five hours and we're hopeful that there are other situations like that. And that's why our rescue workers are working so furiously.

QUESTION: How big a group is down there?

GIULIANI: It was a company. It was a group...

QUESTION: Did that company survive?

GIULIANI: No, it was a -- seven?

KERIK: Yes, it was five guys and an officer.

QUESTION: About five guys and five...?


KERIK: Six men.

GIULIANI: This was earlier today. They were in, I believe, one World Trade Center and the firefighter described to me that they were there for about four or five hours and when they walked out they were shocked to see that the building had come down, because they knew there had been damage, but they had been in a void. So they had been protected.

QUESTION: What unit are we talking about?

KERIK: It was...

GIULIANI: I'm not sure. We'll find out for you.

KERIK: I think I remember, but I don't want to say.

QUESTION: Can you tell us again about the two Port Authority police officers, how they were found, they're condition?

GIULIANI: No. The only thing we know is that they were found a while ago, that they are alive and we'll get your more information about their condition.

QUESTION: And since we're talking about the Port Authority, I guess it's a reasonable assumption that there were a large group of Port Authority police officers missing as well?

GIULIANI: There are, I'm sure there are. We don't have those exact numbers, as well as Port Authority personnel, the people who work for the Port Authority.

QUESTION: Wasn't their office in the...?

GIULIANI: Yes. Their office was there and -- so, we don't know how many people were actually at work. The first attack was at about 8:50 and then there was time to evacuate a lot of the building. So, we're not sure at this point how much of the building -- how much of the two buildings were evacuated in that period of time between the first attack by the airplane until the first building came down. We're hopeful because we saw a lot of people leaving; we all did at the time we were down there. We're hopeful that a lot of people got out of the building, but we don't know the numbers yet.

QUESTION: Maybe Commissioner Kerik could...

QUESTION: Last question.

QUESTION: ... tell us a little bit about the high ranking members of the Department, one was missing for awhile and you were able to find him and I believe the Police Sergeant was Medivaced out to New Jersey, did I get that right?

KERIK: No, not to my knowledge. Police Sergeants accounted for, the ranks that we're looking at, or looking for are at the ranks of police officer and detectives and perhaps a few Sergeants.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question, Deborah Pere -- last one, Deborah Pere.

QUESTION: Is there a coordinated effort right now to find out who is exactly may have not been in the building when this happened or are people just calling various companies. How will we find out who was there and who was not there?

GIULIANI: We're trying very hard by communicating with the Port Authority and some of the major tenants. We're trying to recreate how many people are there. But, actually the major effort is really focused on trying to rescue people. The people who are out I'm sure have largely communicated with their families and are doing that. I saw many, people doing that on the telephone as we were leaving.

So, really the focus of our efforts is to try to get as many people out as possible with the hope that there are still people that are alive like the ones that we know about.

QUESTION: Mayor, you said earlier that there were several other buildings downtown that may be structurally unsafe that you're still not sure about yet. In fact, may collapse. Has anything changed from earlier today?

GIULIANI: No, I don't think so. No, I don't think so. Not after the last time we had a briefing and we were down there.

QUESTION: Five World Trade Center I heard was in some kind of trouble with (OFF-MIKE) by world trading.

GIULIANI: I don't know.

QUESTION: I'm sorry.

KERIK: We're waiting; we're going to wait until the daylight tomorrow. We'll have building and structural engineers check all these buildings that we're concerned about to make sure they're safe for rescue workers and for -- and to see what we can do to salvage these buildings.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.

GIULIANI: You can ask your last question, go ahead. Go ahead, he's been trying -- he's been trying for a while.

QUESTION: How long do you think is the department expecting people to be able to survive down beneath the ruble like that? I mean, is there some sort of...?

GIULIANI: There's no -- they could survive for some time. There's no way to know exactly how long, but it really -- it depends and I think one of the things that comes out of today is it depends on -- I guess it depends on the will of God or -- as to where you are and where you standing as this firefighter pointed out to us earlier.

QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, just to clarify something that Mr. Kerik said you were about 10 minutes past when you were standing with several of the high ranking officers who you lost and then you went to Barkley Street, have you thought about that 10 minute gap, how you were 10 minutes from being in a horrible situation?

GIULIANI: I haven't had a chance to think about it.

QUESTION: Then that could of evacuate the 10 -- you would have been with them 10 minutes earlier before the building collapsed? GIULIANI: The -- some of the people that we lost we saw like Father George, and Chief Gansy, Bill Feehan, we saw them about 10 minutes before -- before we went over to 75 Barkley street. And I talked to their families and I explained to them that they were working very hard and they were working at what they loved to do. And I'm sure their efforts will end up having saved other lives and their families can be very proud of them.

We have, without any doubt, the best Police Department, the best Fire Department, the best police officers, the best fire officers, the best emergency workers of any place in the whole world. And, although today's tragedy is going to be enormous, and there's no way to minimize it, if it weren't for them, this tragedy would be far worse. They executed brilliantly today. And I having watched it and having been a recipient of their services because we had to get ourselves out, I can tell you that whatever the number of casualties, without our Police Department, our Fire Department, our EMS, and the kinds of people we have, many of whom lost their lives, there would be double or triple the number of casualties.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

HEMMER: Clearly these briefings are becoming more and more difficult for city officials to meet and greet with reporters. Many of their colleagues, coworkers and friends were indeed killed today, or are feared missing tonight.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani indicating that the City is now prepared for thousands and thousands of bodies, and throughout the day tomorrow as the daylight comes up, as you look at a nighttime picture of downtown Manhattan, that indeed may be the scenario.

At this point tonight, more than 300 firemen feared dead and missing, 78 New York City police officers are missing as well. These were the first men and women to respond to this scene earlier today.

Also in that briefing, indications now, nothing confirmed, but indications that some people in the basement of the World Trade Center may be using cell phones to call relatives outside of the area. Nothing confirmed, again, but rescuers are aware that there is a possibility that some people may be indeed on their telephone inside at this point.

Also, another clarification. We reported about 30 minutes ago a van had been pulled over outside of New York City. We now understand that two or three men are being held for questioning. But as for explosives onboard that van, that has been denied by police officials there in the briefing we just hear. Again, we'll track it throughout the night.

It is almost midnight east coast time, this tragedy continues to unfold this evening.