The 9/11 tapes revealed--sort of
Five years after 9/11, some of the families of the victims of that horrific day have won a partial battle to have the audiotapes and transcripts of the exchanges between those trapped in the towers and emergency personnel released. The compromise that has been reached is that the tapes and transcripts now available to the press and pubic do not include the victim's end of the exchanges. Nevertheless, even this one-sided version is deeply disturbing. Here's two brief excerpts, courtesy of the New York Times:
"O.K. Hello. You say you've got 100 people where? . . . floor. You guys can't get to the stairway. You can't get — O.K. Is there a fire going on? There is no fire in where you are. Then it should be all right to open a window. . . . 100 people or 120 people? O.K. This is 911. . . . You had a plane hit the building and there has been another plane that hit the building. O.K.? Right at this point, open the window. If you can get a window open, open a window. You know, I'm not there. I can only go by . . . if there's a fire going on anywhere and you open the window, it's going to make the fire ignite more.
What is your emergency? O.K. one second, sir. One second. What floor are you on, sir? You're on 105th floor. Wow. Any injuries? Just hold on one second, sir. Hold on. I hear the fire alarm. They're coming. They're on their way. They're working on it. My God, this, don't worry, God is there. God is there. God is, don't worry about it. God is . . . Don't worry. They're on their way, sir. E.M.S. is there and . . . O.K. . . . E.M.S. Hold on. I'm going to connect you to E.M.S. Hold on one second, sir."
I have to confess that just cutting and pasting these two entries from the innumerable ones that were recorded that day has driven me to tears.
The families who fought to get the tapes released felt that it was crucial in order to understand how unprepared we were for this type of devestation, despite the bombing of the WTC a number of years earlier. Adding to the heartache is the controversy over the long-delayed building of a World Trade Center memorial. The current plan seems structurally unsound to some of the victim's families, since the foundation of the building will be deep underground. The families fear that we have not learned the lessons of 9/ll even after all that has happened.
I predict that eventually the full tapes will be released, including the victim's side of the calls. I don't know if I'd be able to listen to these recordings, but I feel it might indeed represent an important piece of documentation of this tragedy. It seems to me that in this and other matters of national security, our Administration has learned and heeded very little indeed.