Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell
THIS IS WHAT remains of the World Trade Centers Tower One in lower Manhattan. The devastation, said photographer Ted Waddell, is massive and overwhelming, and rescue workers have turned their focus on recovery efforts in this pile that has tragically become the tomb of more than 6,000 people to date.
Scene of Devastation
Is Beyond Belief
Editors Note: Democrat reporter/photographer Ted Waddell accompanied local tractor salesman Tim Mullally on a mission of aid to New York City on Friday and ended up at the site of the Twin Towers collapse. The following is his account of a city struggling to recover from an unimaginable tragedy.
By Ted Waddell
NEW YORK CITY September 25, 2001 The Pile. The Pit. Ground Zero. A modern day version of hell.
What used to be the proud Twin Towers of the World Trade Center rising above the skyline of lower Manhattan were reduced to piles of rubble on Sept. 11 as terrorists hijacked two commercial airliners and crashed them into the symbols of American enterprise.
Ten days later, emergency urban search and rescue (USAR) teams from across the country continued to risk their lives amidst the still-smoldering wreckage of twisted steel and broken glass as they tried to recover the remains of those people who were trapped in the towers when they crashed to earth.
Thousands of New York City firefighters and police were at the scene, praying against all odds to find some of their cherished brothers still alive. Hope of locating survivors dimmed as days turned into weeks.
On Friday, September 21, several dignitaries visited Ground Zero to assess the magnitude of the devastation and check on the progress of the massive cleanup/recovery effort.
Thousands of emergency services personnel lined the side streets at Ground Zero and cheered as US Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller III, NYS Governor George Pataki, NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik put themselves at risk to visit the site of the worst terrorist attack on America.
What they saw was beyond belief.
Television images came up short, as the pictures flickering across the scene could not convey the real perspective of the disaster. Two 110-story buildings reduced to mounds of shattered ruins, several inches of pulverized concrete was all that was left of the outer skin of the towers, while a few sections of the main support structure reared toward the sky like time-worn relics of ancient coliseums.
Huge cranes lifted steel onto flatbeds, as workers used acetylene torches to burn their way through gigantic remnants of the Twin Towers so the clearing operation could continue.
At the scene, forensic technicians gathered tiny fragments into sterile containers for DNA identification analysis.
Scores of trucks transported the shattered rubble away from the scene to other locations where forensic pathologists will examine it for human remains and law enforcement investigators search for clues.
From a vantage point several blocks away, smoke still rose from the scene and hundreds of pieces of apparatus were lined up on their way into the site.
But standing about 50 feet from Ground Zero, the real scope of the disaster became apparent: buckets slung from cables attached to 150-foot cranes lifted firefighters and USAR personnel onto the top of what was left of the WTC towers, now called The Pile, and were dwarfed as they rose into the smoke, silhouetted against the surrounding skyline and broken fragments of the twin edifices.
Shattered and flame-scarred sections of the massive steel girders now served as reminders of mans dark side. And they stood alone in mute testimony to the thousands of innocent lives swept away in a cauldron of hate.
Temporary morgues had been established at locations within the secured perimeter but stood virtually idle, as only small fragments of victims were being recovered more than a week after Americas Second Day of Infamy.
Still inside the perimeter, volunteers manned food stations, while trained medical staff were on hand at several trauma and grief stations.
Heavily armed MPs stood silently by buildings that were marked Keep Out. In Danger of Collapse!
Red Cross volunteers turned out in force in response to the disaster, including several members of the Sullivan County Disaster Response Team.
Emergency veterinary stations provided medical care to scores of injured rescue and recovery dogs, as their handlers stood protectively next to their canine buddies.
Ten days after the Twin Towers fell, the air was still filled with smoke and fumes, along with what was reported to be asbestos fibers. While many rescue personnel and investigators wore filtration masks, a lot of workers labored unprotected to find victims and remove millions of tons of debris.
Outside Ground Zero, evidence of the fiery collapses served as stark reminders of the tragedy: for blocks around, fire escapes and window ledges were piled with shredded scraps of paper and insulation. The centuries-old graveyard at Trinity Church was littered with what used to be business records and inter-office correspondence.
Outside Trinity Church, volunteers provided passersby with free drinks and sandwiches. Inside the church, volunteers also provided aid to rescue/recovery personnel. Hand-lettered cards of thanks addressed to the NYFD and NYPD were taped to the entrance of the venerable house of worship.
It was all too clear this was the largest recovery operation in the nations history, as an estimated 6,400 people had been reported missing in the wake of the WTC attacks and were presumed entombed in the remains of the Twin Towers.
All around the area, there was a serious law enforcement presence at the scene: FBI, ATF, Treasury agents, U.S. Marshals, NYPD, NYC Corrections and Highway Patrol, NYSP, and others.
The inner perimeter was sealed off by National Guardsmen armed with M16s. If you didnt have the right official pass issued by the mayors Office of Emergency Operations, it wasnt a good idea to try to enter the area.
Residents of the area were escorted into and out of the area, as they sought to recover personal items abandoned in the hasty evacuation on Sept. 11.
The Current Situation
At Ground Zero, American flags fly in defiance of the terrorist attacks on the United States.
Leaving Ground Zero, throngs of people still line the West Side Highway, even ten days afterwards, waving flags, holding up posters and offering bottles of water to the legions of emergency services personnel entering and leaving the disaster zone.
Outside lower Manhattan, its pretty much business as usual for most New Yorkers, as they heeded the advice of Mayor Giuliani to never forget what happened, but get back to work. Everywhere you looked, storefronts were plastered with American flags, and most cars displayed some sort of sign of patriotism in support of the nation and to mourn those lost in the tragedy.
Leaving the city by way of the NY Port Authority, scores of people waited in line to sign a memorial book honoring Port Authority Police and the several hundred other NYC firefighters and police officers who rushed in while others were rushing out.
The Local Effort
By Ted Waddell
JEFFERSONVILLE Tim Mullally of Jeffersonville is a local John Deere dealer, manufacturers of the Gator, an all-terrain vehicle. When Mullally and his brother-in-law, Art Norden of Callicoon, heard of the disaster in NYC, they loaded up some Gators and headed off to the city.
Once rescue workers saw what the machines could accomplish under some of most extreme physical and psychological conditions imaginable, Mullally put into motion a system whereby John Deere loaned about 25 Gators, including support services and spare parts, to aid in the massive rescue/recovery operation.
After several days at Ground Zero, Mullally returned to Jeffersonville on Thursday, only to go back to the city the following day with more equipment. (His other brother-in-law, Tom Norden, lives in Manhattan and has been involved with the situation from day one.)