Innuendo, Erroneous Reports Abound In WTC Transcripts
UPDATED: 10:39 a.m. EDT September 1, 2003NEW YORK -- The caller's story was outrageous: Someone had
fired missiles at the World Trade Center's north tower from atop
the nearby Woolworth Building. Terrorists in a plane watching the
attack then plowed into the south tower.
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Excerpts: From Sept. 11 Port Authority Transcript
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"Oh man," said a woman in the office of the Port Authority's
police superintendent, Fred Morrone. "And both towers were hit?"
"Both towers," the caller said.
Amid the real-life horrors of Sept. 11, 2001, the 2,000 pages of
transcripts of emergency communications that day also revealed a
flood of terrifying rumors and misinformation: A possible bomb on
the George Washington Bridge, a third hijacked plane winging toward
None of it was true, but nothing seemed unimaginable as both
110-story towers were attacked in lower Manhattan. The terrorist
assault killed 2,792 people.
With confusing reports flooding into the Port Authority that
day, the transcripts demonstrate how workers "showed a tremendous
degree of professionalism under extremely chaotic circumstances,"
spokesman Harry Spector said.
The Woolworth Building, itself once the tallest in the world,
was cited as a possible source of the attack.
"Can you send somebody over to the Woolworth Building to check
the roof?" a Port Authority police officer asked. "There's a
possible ... they said it was ... we just had a second explosion,
possibly a missile from the roof of the Woolworth Building."
"The Woolworth Building?" replied a police operator.
"`Yeah, on ... on Broadway," the officer said.
Transcripts created from tapes of Port Authority emergency calls
and radio transmissions illustrate the utter disorientation caused
by the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
"It's a fire bomb," one caller told authorities.
"A helicopter crash," said a second man calling the Port
"Possible aircraft explosion," offered a PA police officer in
another phone call.
The transcripts were released Thursday evening by the Port
Authority, which owned the trade center, just two weeks before the
second anniversary of the attack. The New York Times went to court
to win their release.
Already reeling from the twin attacks, authorities were soon hit
with another threat.
"We have a report over the radio from New York City that there
is a third plane on the way," said Port Authority police Officer
Tommy Cashin, speaking to the PA police in Newark.
"Yeah, we heard that too," said a sergeant answering the call.
"Military is aware of that, they're the ones that told us."
Another Port Authority officer, speaking by phone with his
mother, presented an even grimmer picture.
"Don't even go out," he told her. "I mean, they got planes on
the radar. They think they are going to start crashing all over
Another officer told his wife, "It looks like we're going to be
at war. They're attacking all over the country."
In upper Manhattan, the George Washington Bridge -- the main
artery for getting in and out of the city after the attacks -- was
targeted with a bomb threat, one of hundreds that plagued New York
immediately after Sept. 11.
An FBI agent called New Jersey state police, asking if the
bridge was open for emergency vehicles.
"FBI, this is Port Authority," said a PA officer. "Be advised
we have a bomb threat on the George Washington Bridge at this time.
(inaudible) get off."
Another Port Authority officer expressed concerns that officials
had about other potential terrorist targets, like the Lincoln
Tunnel or the Brooklyn Bridge.
"There's various reports, all terrorist, uh, vehicles on the
crossings," he says, referring to the area's bridges and tunnels.
There was only one thing for certain, as the transcripts showed
-- words uttered over and over and over.
"Yeah, well," said Cashin, "we don't know exactly what's
© 2004 by WNBC.com The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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