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“THERE’S A WOMAN HANGING”

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By mmguestblogger  •  March 31, 2006 03:29 PM

I’d be seriously remiss if I didn’t link this. You’ll find two and a half hours of audio at the link if you scroll down a bit, and if you scroll down a bit more, a complete transcript. The Times also has a full report replete with graphics.

The words of the callers were removed by the City out of respect for their privacy, but you can fill in the blanks:

One of the recordings — city officials have refused to say who made the call — involved a man on the 105th floor who suggested desperate measures to improve the air.

“Oh, my God,” said the dispatcher. “You can’t breathe at all?”

The most agonizing part?

No more than 2 of the 130 callers were told to leave, the tapes reveal, even though unequivocal orders to evacuate the trade center had been given by fire chiefs and police commanders moments after the first plane struck. The city had no procedure for field commanders to share information with the 911 system, a flaw identified by the 9/11 Commission that city officials say has since been fixed.

The tapes show that many callers were not told to leave, but to stay put, the standard advice for high-rise fires. In the north tower, all three of the building’s stairways were destroyed at the 92nd floor. But in the south tower, where one stairway remained passable, the recordings include references to perhaps a few hundred people huddled in offices, unaware of the order to leave.

The calls released today bring to life the fatal frustration and confusion experienced by one unidentified man in the complex’s south tower, who called at 9:08 a.m., shortly after the second plane struck the building. For the next 11 minutes, as his call was bounced from police operators to fire dispatchers and back again, the 911 system vindicated its reputation as a rickety, dangerous contraption….

Michelle’s recent post on “the falling man” received a lot of attention, and rightly so. If you missed it, now’s your chance.

UPDATE: “Although there were no voices, their desperation was evident in heavy, audible breathing on the other end of the operators’ calls.”

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