Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 14, 2001

America's bloodiest day
Toll of missing, dead nears 5,000

By Deborah Hastings
Associated Press

NEW YORK — At what's left of the World Trade Center, it was a jittery day of fits and starts.

Under strong lights, workers continue the around-the-clock recovery effort at the World Trade Center site.

Associated Press

Ecstatic reports of rescued firefighters proved wrong. Anxious rescue workers fled and returned on a tide of conflicting reports of collapsing buildings. Fake bomb threats poured in. The toll of missing and confirmed dead headed toward 5,000.

And early today, it rained.

"The rain made the footing a little more dangerous," said Richard Coppo, who volunteered as a rescue worker. "We thought that maybe the rain would settle the dust and make things better, but actually it stirred it up."

Confusing reports and worries of terrorist threats added misery to a city that had had enough, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said in a televised conference.

"There was a lot of misinformation today," a grim Giuliani said yesterday evening. "There were false reports of two buildings collapsing. We've experienced of number false bomb threats, over 90."

To the callers, he promised prosecution: "This is a warning."

Three days after hijacked passenger jets plowed into the twin 110-story skyscrapers, thunder and lightning brought a torrent of rain to the mammoth heap of ash and twisted wreckage now covering the World Trade Center Plaza. But sodden rescue workers kept at it during downpours that began around 1 a.m.

Today's storm followed a disappointing 24 hours. No survivors were found, only false hope. Reports of five firefighters recovered alive in a buried SUV were carried by television stations and news agencies, including The Associated Press. Authorities were ecstatic. But the story wasn't true.

The accurate report: Two firefighters had been temporarily trapped in an underground air pocket and freed by other rescue workers.

Volunteers, already running on adrenaline and faith, were evacuated from a damaged office tower across the street from the Trade Center when the top 10 stories appeared unsteady. Workers fled, sprinting down the street.

No buildings fell. Giuliani said inspections yesterday found the buildings still standing were structurally sound.

At another spot, a chain of about 100 workers passed buckets of debris. A shout went up — a search dog had heard something.

"Quiet! quiet!"

Wheezing workers lowered their buckets and turned.

Seconds passed. A minute went by.

Then, those at the front of the line picked up their buckets, turned their faces, and went back to work.