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CNN Live Event/Special

America Under Attack: Terror Hits U.S. Capital Out of the Clear Blue Sky

Aired September 12, 2001 - 03:00   ET


JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: Terror hits the United States capital out of the clear blue sky.

ELISA DE SILVO, ANCHOR: And then it strikes again, directly into the Pentagon. The attacks are unimaginable, the perpetrators unknown. And the casualties are unthinkable, but the U.S. President insists the American spirit has survived.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.


MANN: Now panic in the streets turns into a frantic search for survivors, as rescue crews pick apart piles and piles of rubble.

Hello, I'm Jonathan Mann.

DE SILVO: And I'm Elisa De Silva. Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in the United States.

Massive search and rescue operations are underway in New York and Washington, the sites of devastating, and experts say coordinated attacks, that shook the United States on Tuesday. I want to show you the latest pictures now from lower Manhattan. Parts of the once bustling financial district have been reduced to rubble. Officials haven't even hazarded a guess as to how many bodies may be buried there. Estimates run into the thousands.

Well, there's also hope for survivors. There are reports that cellphone calls are coming from beneath the debris. Already several injured people have been pulled from the collapsed buildings.

MANN: Now let's take a look at the latest video of the attacks on the World Trade Center. You'll see a hijacked airliner slamming into the south tower Tuesday morning.

MANN: Now the same scene slowed down. It was the second jetliner crash, a different plane had struck the north tower minutes earlier.

The towers collapsed shortly afterward. And later, so did a 47 story building in the World Trade Center complex.

DE SILVO: U.S. President George W. Bush learned of the attack while he was visiting an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida. His plan to talk about education changed immediately. Mr. Bush was whisked away and flown around the country, stopping at military installations in Louisiana and Nebraska, before finally returning to the White House at dusk.

Once there, he addressed the nation and the world.


BUSH: The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities, to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos in retreat, but they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.

These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.


MANN: At the U.S. Defense Department, the feared toll is shocking. Authorities say 100, perhaps 800 people are missing. A tally from area hospitals shows at least 73 people were wounded when the hijacked jet slammed into the Pentagon, causing part of it to collapse. 64 people were aboard the flight and all are presumed dead.

Part of the building is still burning at this hour. Firefighters are not expected to be able to extinguish all of the flames until daylight.

Government sources tell CNN that the hijacked airliner that crashed in western Pennsylvania was headed for another government target, possibly the White House, the Capitol, or the Camp David presidential retreat. It's unclear how the flight was diverted from its target. The sources say members of Congress were told that authorities are confident that the evidence so far points to Osama Bin Laden.

DI SILVO: We want to take a moment now to give you another look at some exclusive video from the scene of the attacks in New York City.




DI SILVO: Yes, you just saw the American Airlines flight 11, as it slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.




DI SILVO: And these pictures show the second plane, United Airlines flight 175, crashing into the other tower 18 minutes later, meticulously planned, very well coordinated attacks.

Rescue crews are working through the night in New York City, combing through the rubble of the collapsed buildings.

CNN's Garrick Utley joins us now live with more on that. Garrick?

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really, it's about shortly after 3:00 in the morning here. We hope in a few hours with daylight, officials may start to be able to give us, on this new day, some more specific ideas as to what casualties we'll rise to, here in New York City.

The mayor, Mayor Giuliani, said they're going to be in the thousands. They're going to be horrendous more than we can possibly imagine.

But as of right now, just witnessing some of these pictures we're seeing a moment ago, those planes crashing into the twin towers, of course the thing that's foremost on our minds, the trauma really, the shock, is the human cost, the casualties.

But there's also and something else that has been lost. The buildings themselves. What are these buildings? It may sound very materialistic, but look at some of them here and what to mean to our lives.

They are more than just steel or stone. They represent what the nation is. They became and have become iconic landmarks that do mark the land, that do define us. The bridges and roads are the arteries. We are so vulnerable because we depend on them.

The Empire State Building has been a symbol for decades in New York and around the world. And of course, the two towers that were there until early yesterday morning. And now, we see what brought them down.

The first jet 8:45 on Tuesday morning. And then, what followed? The terror, followed by the unbelievable, the collapse of the towers, more than 100 stories going down like the proverbial cliche deck of cards. But why did these buildings collapse, buildings that were -- went up only 30 years ago, that should last for a century or more?

It wasn't the explosion, the force of the two planes, structural engineers tell us. It was the heat. The flames there burned too long and too hot, rising about 1500 degrees. It began to melt the steel. And the floors in the towers were connected to the steel skin on the outside. And as that steel literally melted, that floor gave way, fell on the next, the next, the next, and down they came. That was the structural failure. They were not built to withstand more than 1500 degrees of heat caused by two planes, fully laden with gasoline, flying into them on this day here in New York.

And now, we just look downtown at where they were, the former towers, standing there. Those landmarks known around the world, nothing but a plume of dust and the searchlights for rescue workers there this evening.

But again, this really the story of people, those trapped there and on the airplane and in the Pentagon.

And Maria Hinojosa, CNN's New York, looked at what happened today from the perspective of the street.


MARIA HINAJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At ground zero, running in the streets is the only form of escape. But on those same streets, the chaos and vibrations couldn't be avoided.

Further north, New Yorkers gathered at Times Square in humble silence and disbelief. Everyone looking up to the big screen. Downtown, the mass exodus began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw everybody crying in the streets, saying their prayers and crying. I saw different races, nationalities and creeds that usually have differences with one another, come together and bond and love and respect.

HINOJOSA: Along 5th Avenue, people flooded to the street to watch together. The faces of New Yorkers solemn, quiet, praying. A father trying to give security to the innocent ones. The tiniest of faces protected. Streets filled with anger and shock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never witnessed nothing like this in my entire life. Human beings, parents, daughters and sons, jumping out of the window at least from 80 something floors. None of you want to witness that. I'm traumatized for life.

HINOJOSA: The street, where now everyone shares the pain out in the open, without shame. The street where office chairs have become eerie stretchers outside a hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had multiple types of injuries, from severe burns to blunt injuries and multiple fractures.

HINOJOSA: The street, where a depleted mayor summons some strength.

RUDY GIULIANI, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: New York City is a lot stronger than this. And we're going to overcome it. And the people of New York City are going to give an example of how you stand up to terrorists. You just don't be afraid.

HINOJOSA: But Times Square is empty. The streets are silent and a city mourns.

Maria Hinajosa, CNN, New York.


UTLEY: And this evening, down in lower Manhattan, this has been the scene, the rubble, the wreckage as rescue workers continue with their search. But there's been so much dust. There is so much rubble there, that even the police and the rescue workers who come in with trained dogs, trying to sniff out human life, say the dogs have lost the scent because of the smoke and the dust.

We do know, according to officials in New York City, that at least 300 members of the New York Fire Department are missing. Entire units, entire battalions have been lost in the rubble. 80 or more New York City policemen and women are also missing and believed lost. And those pictures speak for themselves. More than 100 stories, suddenly nothing.

UTLEY: And just moments before these towers collapsed, some of the families and the loved ones of those who had gotten into their office early on this morning, on that Tuesday morning, had talked with them by telephone. We've had reports from a number of sources that those on the upper floors, up on the 100th floor, people working for a stockbroker knew what was happening beneath them when the plane crashed into the building, knew they could not get down to the fire escape. And more than one, we are told, called his wife to say good- bye.

This rescue worker, his body language says it all. And so does this.

And now New York City, Manhattan, has a new landmark.

And there was silence there in lower Manhattan.

John and Elisa, back to you now.

DE SILVO: Garrick, is there any hope that beneath that rubble and destruction, someone could have survived?

UTLEY: Hope, yes, of course. We've had some reports from the mayor and other city officials that they have been getting some cellphone calls from victims in the rubble. It's not clear exactly where they are.

Of course, we remember the two towers went down, more than 100 stories each. But also a third skyscraper, not nearly as tall, less than half that height, also collapsed earlier this evening. And it's thought that perhaps in that building or even in some other buildings that have been blocked by rubble, there are people still alive. But how many, no one can say.

You look at that devastation there. And each of us, I think, can come to our own conclusions.

Live picture of where the World Trade Center once stood.

DE SILVO: And we still don't know how many have died.

UTLEY: And we will not know until tomorrow, at the very earliest. And even then, it's only going to be estimates. It was remarked earlier this evening that you're not going to be able to go in and take out that debris for days or even weeks to come. The best way, the only way, really, to get an estimate, is to know how many people were working in each company, in each office on each floor, run a census and see who can respond, who got out and who's missing and add up those numbers.

And as the mayor of -- New York City Mayor Giuliani said earlier this evening, it's going to be horrendous.

DE SILVO: Garrick, thank you.

The attacks have given U.S. President Bush the biggest test of his still young presidency. Let's bring in CNN's Jean Meserve in Washington now for more on the story from the U.S. Capitol. Jean?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Elisa, some of the latest comments from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who says there were no specific warnings of the multiple attacks. We'll undoubtedly learn more Wednesday morning, when he briefs reporters.


Powell was on a trip to Peru and Colombia. He cut it short and returned to Washington and made a vow that the people responsible for the attacks would be caught.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: They can destroy buildings. They can kill people. And we will be saddened by this tragedy, but they will never be allowed to kill the spirit of democracy. They cannot destroy our society. They cannot destroy our belief in the democratic way. You can be sure that America will deal with this tragedy in a way that brings those responsible to justice.

You can be sure that as terrible a day as this is for us, we will get through it because we are a strong nation, a nation that believes in itself.

MESERVE: Powell's State Department was evacuated today, but it was the Pentagon that took a direct hit when an American Airlines 757 slammed into it. 24,000 people normally work at the Pentagon. And with 100 to 800 people reported missing, officials are grim about what the death toll will be. DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: There cannot be any survivors. It just would be beyond comprehension. The -- there are a number of people that they've not identified by name, but identified as being dead. And there are a number of casualties, but the FBI has secured the site. And the information takes time to come. People have been lifted out and taken away in ambulances. And the numbers will be calculated. And it will not be a few.


MESERVE: Secretary Rumsfeld says the Pentagon is still functioning, despite the harsh blow that it took today. The Pentagon, of course, across the river from us in Washington, D.C. CNN's Bob Franken is there.

Bob, what's going on at this hour?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this hour, there's sort of a waiting pattern, waiting for daybreak, when, if things go the way they want them to, the fire will have subsided enough inside, that they'll be able to peel back this crushed in area and start going through the rubble, looking to see if there are any survivors, looking to see exactly how many casualties they have. All of that, as I said, is what they hope to do at daybreak.

Also, the Pentagon is going to be open for business tomorrow. That is to say, about half of it. We've been told that a full half of it will shut down. Of course, it was not a full half that actually sustained the damage from that airplane. You can see in back of me, it was well short of that, but there is a concern about the structural damage over a massive part of the Pentagon.

The Pentagon actually has about 17 miles of corridor. So there's about half of it, which is really suspect in terms of safety. So all of that, of course, is coming tomorrow. We're going to be finding out the first signs about just how this serious was in human terms.

It was, of course, something that happened how many hours ago now? About 18 hours ago when a plane crashed into the side of the Pentagon that you see in back of me. This is the west side of the Pentagon. Most of the critical offices, those with the secretaries and deputy secretaries are, where the military command center is, those were not hit by this plane.

And of course, it did not penetrate into the inner circle of the Pentagon, which would've even more catastrophic.

Now, the Pentagon has also, of course, to see the military power in the United States, Jean. And plans are being made now for some military responses and also some protections. And we'll get to those in just a moment. But Jean, what we have here then is a situation where the Pentagon is trying to calculate the damage, trying to calculate just how much damage has been done, both in physical terms and in human terms.

Jean? MESERVE: Bob, when you say half the building will be shut down this -- tomorrow, today I guess I should say, the hours have changed on me, how is this going to affect the military capability of the U.S.?

FRANKEN: Well, they're going to be able to, in fact, handle everything. Of course, the Pentagon is such a huge operation. And many of the operations can be switched to the other part. The Pentagon is, in fact, already operating militarily. It has ordered that ships be sent out on both coasts.

The Navy announced just a short while ago that it was sending an aircraft carrier, altogether 15 ships that would operate to protect the West Coast and Hawaii. The aircraft carrier is the U.S.S. Stenus (ph). That follows action on the East coast, where the Kennedy was sent out, along with the George Washington support ships to patrol the East coast, particularly the northern East coast, north of Norfolk, that would include Washington and the New York area in particular.

And of course, orders are going out in the Middle East. The U.S.S. Enterprise, which was supposed to be heading back in fact was stopped in the Arabian Gulf. It is going to stay there now pending military decisions.


MESERVE: Bob Franken at the Pentagon. Thanks so much.

The U.S. Defense Department is operating a hotline for staff to ring in and report their status. All Army personnel who work at the Pentagon are asked to call 1-800-984-8523 or 703-428-0002.

Families seeking information on Army personnel are also asked to call that number. The number for Navy and Marine Corp personnel is 1- 877-633-6772.

This, as the military tries to account for all of its personnel.

The U.S. Congress, when it reconvenes this morning, plans to pass a bipartisan resolution condemning the attacks. The Capitol Building was evacuated as a precaution early Tuesday, shortly after the attacks. Flags there were flying at half staff.

Government sources say that senior administration officials told members of Congress that that hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania could have been heading for the Capitol for the White House or Camp David. Of course, none of those hit.

Today, members of the House and Senate sang "God Bless America," as they gathered on the Capitol steps. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Congress will speak with one voice as it sang with one voice, to condemn the attack, comfort the families and bring those responsible to justice.

The U.S. says it has not yet received any credible claim of responsibility for the attacks, but there is no shortage of suspects. Topping the list, exiled Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden. U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN that there are good indications that persons linked to Osama Bin Laden may be responsible for these attacks.

Taliban officials in Afghanistan, where Bin Laden is based, say they doubt his involvement. Earlier, the editor of the influential newspaper, "Al-Quds" told us that Bin Laden was capable of such an act.


ABDEL-BARI ATWAN, EDITOR, AL-QUDS: The man is ruthless. And you know, he believes that he should declare war against the United States. And this kind of appeal, this kind of call actually appealed to many young Muslims all over the world. And recently, he managed to recruit a lot of those highly educated Arabs, who were even educated in the United States itself and some western countries.

So I'm not surprised if he's surrounded with experts in different fields.


MESERVE: Bin Laden is already wanted in the U.S. in connection with the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa, which killed more than 200 people.

And CNN's terrorism analyst Peter Bergen reports that he did have pilots in his organization.

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch says there's some evidence that Osama Bin Laden's organization might have been behind the attacks. He told CNN about an earlier along with a word of warning to Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.


SEN ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: The Taliban have been harboring Osama Bin Laden. Osama Bin Laden has said that it is the duty of every Muslim to kill Americans. There's every indication that he has been behind some of the attacks against American installations.

And we happen to know just today that we've got information that indicates that representatives who are affiliated with Osama Bin Laden were actually saying over the airwaves that, the private airwaves at that, that they had hit two targets.


MESERVE: And that summarizes events and developments here in the nation's capitol. Now for more on international reaction, let's go back to John in Atlanta.


MANN: Jean Meserve, thanks very much. In fact, we have some news just in we want to share with you.

DE SILVO: Yes, just into this to CNN from CNN's terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, in 1993, Osama Bin Laden's group purchased an airplane from a boneyard in Tucson, Arizona and paid $210,000 for the retired jet. That's a military aircraft with a designation T389, the equivalent of the civilian Saber 40.

The plane was subsequently flown from Dallas/Fort Worth to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, via Canada, Iceland, Rome, and Cairo, according to the plane's pilot, Assam Al-Ridi (ph), a member of Bin Laden's Alchid (ph) organization.


MANN: International reaction to the attacks in the United States has been shock and sorrow and support. Leaders from across Europe are expressing their anger and their feelings for the United States. As well, their determination to stand firm against further acts of terrorism.

For more on the European Union response, the EU international affairs chief, Javier Solana, joins us now on the line from Brussels.

Let me ask you first sir, about the kind of humanitarian or diplomatic or military support you think Europe is prepared to offer now?

JAVIER SOLANA, EU INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS CHIEF: All the humanitarian aid is being analyzed now. And we are in a permanent contact with the American government to see how much we can give, at what type of a specific issues are necessary to resolve, that we are prepared all the possibilities that -- not only the European Union as such, but a different countries of the European Union.

At this very moment, I would like to say very, very clearly, all Europe is the United States. We are with our friends. We are with our allies. And we are very, very close to the suffering of the families. We want to say once again our solidarity with the American people, with the institutions, with the President of the United States.

And you can be sure that the European Union citizens and the European Union institutions will be absolutely together, shoulder to shoulder.

MANN: Let me ask you, sir, the U.S. President is being urged to respond sooner rather than later and to respond in strength to these attacks. It's going to be, we imagine, a military response of some kind, once decisions are reached. How concerned is Europe about that? How eager or supportive would it be?

SOLANA: We have a place where we have the possibility of showing that solidarity, which is Nato. And Nato has had a meeting last night already. It will have another meetings in the day, along the day. And we will be there, together with our friends, American friends, to see what is the best (INAUDIBLE).

MANN: It has been suggested that George W. Bush should do what George Bush, Senior did, which is assemble a coalition before there is any military response to these attacks. Does the United States need international help in this matter or can it act first and quickly and alone?

SOLANA: Well, this is a decision that the United States leaders have to take, that whatever is the decision, that we are ready to cooperate with them in a fight, in a battle, which is against terrorism, which is a battle against everybody.

MANN: Javier Solana, international policy chief of the European Union. Thank you so much for talking with us.

SOLANA: Thank you very much.

MANN: As we have been reporting, U.S. officials regard extremists linked to Osama Bin Laden as prime suspects in the attacks against Washington and New York. Osama Bin Laden is believed to be in Afghanistan.

On early Wednesday, there were explosions in Kabul, the Afghan capital. Soldiers from the ruling Taliban say the explosions seem to come from a low flying helicopter firing rockets. The United States quickly denied any involvement.

And CNN's Nic Robertson in Kabul reported that a rebel group had claimed responsibility. The spokesman for the Taliban denies Afghanistan allowed Bin Laden to strike from its territory.


ABDUL SALAM ZAEEF, TALIBAN AMBASSADOR TO PAKISTAN: We in Afghanistan do not allow Osama Bin Laden to use Afghanistan's territory to launch attacks against any country around the world. We took away all communication devices from him. And he does not have any communication with anybody outside of Afghanistan.

In any case, we will conduct our own investigation and find out what happened. And we denounce this terrorist attack, whoever is behind it.


MANN: The Taliban, as you just heard, have denounced the attack and say they will conduct their own investigation.

DE SILVO: And bringing you now up to date on what we know so far, thousands of people are feared dead in the aftermath of coordinated terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Two airliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, causing them both to collapse. A third structure building 7 also collapsed later in the day.

About 2,000 rescue workers are on the scene in New York. There is hope that there are some survivors in the rubble. New York's mayor says two have made cellphone calls to their relatives. Rescue personnel are also on the scene at the Pentagon, the target of hijackers on board a third airliner. Officials say anywhere from 100 to 800 people are missing.

Rescue workers in New York are struggling through the night to reach survivors of the attacks, knowing full well that they're going to find many, many people who never had a chance. A spokesman for the International Association of Fire Chiefs say that at least 265 New York firefighters are feared dead, including the city's fire chief and many of its highest ranking members.

Hospitals throughout the New York City area standing by to admit those rescued from the rubble. At least 2,000 people were treated Tuesday. And hospital officials are expecting many more. St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center is one of the closest trauma centers to the World Trade Center.

A hospital spokesman describes what it's been like there so far.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still have six paramedic teams downtown. EMS is on full alert. They are continuing to dig, however, they do hit hot spots occasionally and everything stops. I understand they're also stopping to allow listening devices to try to listen to know where they need to dig next.

We currently have had a total of 327 patients come through St. Vincent's here in Manhattan. Of that, 62 of those patients had been listed in critical condition at one time or another. Some of them have been transferred to burn units. Some to our own intensive care units.

Three of our patients passed away. And in total, we've had approximately 57 police officers and firefighters.