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Wednesday, April 05, 2006
"THIS is Verizon Operator 2764. We have a hundred people trapped on the 105th floor of the One Wolrd Trade Center" - From the Sept 11,2001, emergency calls released late last week.

They're talking to dead people.
All of the 911 operators and New York City Fire department dispatches heard on those emergency calls are speaking with individuals who will never make it out of those buildings, never set foot on the pavement of lower Manhattan, never see their loved ones again.

The tapes were made public as the result of a lawsuit filed by the New York Times and some of the family members of those killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

It took four years for the case to wind its way through the courts. Finally the tapes have been released -- but the callers voices have been delected on grounds of privacy. Only family members can hear the calls in their entirety.

Everyone else hears just the operators. It might be even more chilling that way; it's as if the operators are talking to ghosts-in-waiting.

CALLER : (Deleted)
OPERATOR: "I understand that, sir. I understand that. All right. We're trying to get to people as fast as we can."

OPERATOR: Sir, I don't know the World Trade Center like the back of my hand. I really don't."

I sifted through hundreds of pages of transcripts and listened to excerpts.

"OK, if you feel your life is in danger, do what you must do".(OPERATOR, to a DISPATCHER) "I have a person on the 100th floor. They're waving like a towel. It's on the northwest corner of the building of the One World Trade Center ....and the female caller said it's the west tower, if that makes any sense to you ....."

OPERATOR: "LIke you said, the stairs are collapsed. OK? Put the wet towels under your head and lie down. OK? I know it's hard to breathe...."

It's heartbreaking, It's frustrating. It's devastating.

There are times when the operators and dispatchers are clearly in the dark as to the magnitude of what's happening. At one point there's talk about a helicopter flying into one of the towers. In another conversation, an operator doubts the towers could collapse because they're so "Strong".

"Are they still standing?" one operator says to another.
"The World Trade Center is there, right?"
"Someone said they collapsed," comes the reply.

Often the operators struggle to maintain their composure. You hear "Oh ,God"
and "Poor Babies", and "I pray it's not true".

"Yeah, because they're buildings, big buildings,and they don't think. They don't think. How could you have a big building and no way to get out of it? That's ridiculous. Anyway, if you had like a chute like you just slide down, that way people don't have to walk down and more people can get out. Just slide down the chute and you're out the door. That's what they should have. But you can't tell the rich people around here. Have a good day."

Hindsights is 20/20

Sadly, maddeningly, long after top fires and police commanders on the scene gave teh orders for everyone to evacuate the buildings, operators were following the standard procedure in high rise fires, which is to advise callers on floors below the spot of the initial fire to wait for help.

A New York Times account of one conversation details a man's gorwing desperation as he's trapped in the 88th floor offices of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. As he's transferred from department to department, he's told repeatedly not tomove.

"You cannot (attempt to leave) You have to wait until somebody comes there... I can't tell you to do that, sir....I can't tell you to move ... I need you to stay in the office. Don't go into the hallway. They are coming upstairs. They are coming."

It's not the fault of the dispatchers. They were going by the bppk. They did'nt hae the information they should have had, because New York's communications system weas lacking in the "communications" part of the equation. At that time, the city had no way for field commanders to update operators on the 911 system, which seems insance in retrospect.

"Fire above," says an operator.
"They want to know if they should evacuate."

The dispatcher responds:
"I believe they should remain where they are."

(Source: Abstracted from the column of CHICSUNTIMES Richard Roeper)
posted by infraternam meam @ 1:58 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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