Thursday, September 13, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Thursday, September 13th, 2001

The Numbers 6:02 AM PDT

The numbers are the most awful, inarguable distillations of what happened at the World Trade Center on Tuesday. New Yorkers have been fearing them and at the same time needing them. This morning some of them are here:

Grief counseling requests yesterday alone: 2500

Employees missing in each of two companies: 700

One unconfirmed report, quoting a Port Authority source, suggesting casualties in the World Trade Center Complex: 20,000 to 30,000

And of all these cold statistics at once heartless and heartbreaking is the report from the New York Fire Department. Veterans still recall the numbing tragedy of 1966, when the department suffered its worst day: a dozen firefighters dead. This morning, the NYFD says, it has lost 350.

The First Memorial One 7:32 AM PDT

Twenty-odd blocks north of the Trade Center, in front of the equestrian statue of George Washington in New York's Union Square, the city's first shrine to the victims draws about a hundred at this hour. Most striking of all: Sixty or so pieces of cardboard and paper, taped to the plaza itself, held down in places by candles, with markers provided for mourners to write a message of any kind.

Among them: "Rebuild the towers, taller than ever"..."I am angry. I am sad. I am afraid and I will heal."...

And taped to several boards, photographs of missing workers from the Trade Center: "Marina Gertsberg if you have any information... please call."

The First Memorial Two 8:32 AM PDT

Two young women. Seated on the steps of Union Square Park, in front of an informal memorial to the dead, and the missing, of The World Trade Center. They were arm in arm, one trying to write on the posterboard taped to the plaza, the other, supporting her friend when she broke down in tears then resumed her struggle. No others, not even dozens of reporters and photographers, dared to impose on her grief.

After the two left, what she wrote could be viewed, with respect. Inside a heart, in red crayon: "Dylan Keeler R.I.P."

The First Memorial Three 9:02 AM PDT

They stand, looking straight down at the words written in markers, in crayons, in tears.

A hundred or more New Yorkers at this first of the shrines to the dead and missing at the Trade Center, on the steps of Union Square Park, 20 blocks north of the site itself the silence interrupted only by sobs, the bells of a distant church, and the endless wail of sirens of vehicles still headed downtown.

Many eloquent passages penned, some in Chinese, Yiddish, even Arabic. But the most poignant, perhaps, also the most simple: "To my Mom and Dad," it reads. "I'll always love you."

View From The Bridge One 9:31 AM PDT

It is the average New Yorker's best perhaps only chance to see with his own eyes the new, numbing skyline. The "Q" train leaves the subway station at DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn and, about three minutes later, rises from the ground to vault the Williamsburgh Bridge over the East River to Manhattan.

And for just under four minutes, the financial district, still off-limits to civilians, is visible. Riders move and look to the car's left side to stare slack-jawed: at the smoke still obscuring the American Express Building; at the soot visible on the historic Woolworth Building; and, mostly, at The Millennium Hotel, standing alone, blue sky and brown smoke next to it, next to where the towers of The World Trade Center... used to be.

View From The Bridge Two 10:32 AM PDT

This is the New York subway system's car 4239, the "Q" line which for the $1.50 fare provides New Yorkers something money cannot buy them on the ground a view, for as long as four minutes, into the heart of The World Trade Center area.

As this train crosses The Williamsburgh Bridge into Manhattan, passengers look to the downtown side, and stare in disbelief not at the smoke which still billows upwards, obscuring the center of the view; not at the Statue of Liberty, unclouded by the still-burning debris, but at what, after two decades, is gone from the vista: the towers of The World Trade Center in their absence dominating this horizon more powerfully even than they did when they still stood... just two mornings ago.

They Were In No Danger One 11:02 AM PDT

The questions are not being asked at this makeshift memorial in New York's Union Square Park not being asked aloud, at least. But rising to the surface on this Day Three: account after account from survivors of the collapse in the South tower, Two World Trade Center, the second structure to be hit that they were reassured by building officials that they were in no danger.

Today's New York Times quotes Arturo Domingo, who was working in the Morgan Stanley offices on the 60th floor. As he descended a stairwell, he was stopped on the 44th floor by a man shouting through a bullhorn. "His exact words were," Domingo said, "'Our building is secure. You can go back to your floor.'"

Domingo did not do that. And is thus here to tell us about it.

They Were In No Danger Two 12:03 PM PDT

What would you do, in the 'Big One,' in an L.A. high-rise, if officials told you the building was safe, but your instincts told you it was not? The parallel to that question is being asked around this city as the survivors of the second tower to collapse tell of being advised they were safer inside than out.

Richard Jacobs, climbing down from the 79th floor, told the New York Times that on the 48th, he and his Fuji Bank colleagues heard an announcement that 'The situation is under control.' Jacobs did not believe that, and continued to descend. His colleagues went to the elevator bank. They pressed the 'up' button. They have not been seen since.

The Rescuers Speak 2:02 PM PDT

Covered in the dust from what they call "the hole," a half dozen construction workers from Long Island were smiling broadly as they headed home via the Subway. They were there, and part of it, when the men were rescued from the hellish wreckage earlier today.

But they also painted a picture of the Trade Center area unlike any thus far depicted on television. "It's as if there was a battleship off shore and it fired into downtown," said one. Dozens of buildings, thought another, will have to be knocked down before they fall down. Debris, said a third, will still be being removed... months from now.

And the smell, the smell of death, is ever-present there, and soon, they expect, it will drift up Manhattan Island and give New Yorkers a still more horrible dose of the reality of terrorism. That's why these men were actually rooting for the rain predicted by forecasters it will tamp down the dust, and the smell... and the fires: "I'm working on top of ten stories of debris," said one, "and it's all hot, there are still fires down below."

The train reached their station, 34th Street. As the construction men exited, the rest of the passengers burst into applause.

The Next Worst Thing Ever 4:03 PM PDT

Officially, 4,763 people are missing here. That number could have been 4,765. That it is not, makes this a good day.

Six of the construction workers involved in the rescue of the two trapped firefighters rode home - just like the rest of the soul and sinew of New York on the subway, on the "C" train. They were covered in that white ash, that ghoulish, ghastly pale powder. They were smiling. Because two people aren't missing tonight.

And though rain tonight would add weight to the mountains of wreckage, these men are praying for it. It would tamp down that dust, put out the fires they say they can feel beneath their feet as they pick through the rubble. It would also delay merely delay their most horrifying prediction that soon, the terrible smell, of bodies decaying under the debris will become so potent that it will drift out from the site and across Manhattan.

Panic At The Rescue 5:23 PM PDT

"Nothing has captured this," the construction worker said as he tried to find comfort against the hard plastic bench of his subway ride home. ""It's as if there was a battleship off shore and it fired into downtown."

Run they did. Fifteen blocks, he said. Which building was in danger of collapse? It was impossible to tell, they all agreed: dozens and dozens of structures in the Trade Center area are fatally compromised. These men say that the final toll could be fifty buildings and months of work. "We'll have to pull them down, or they'll fall down."

And these six heroes were happy. They were part of the earlier rescue of two trapped firefighters. They did not seem to notice that as they left the subway at 34th street, they passed a sign posted long ago to make New York's labyrinth of rails easier to understand. "E train," it reads. "To World Trade Center all times."

Sports, Airfare, and Chaos 9:15 PM PDT

The decisions by the National Football League, Major League Baseball, pro stock car racing, college football, and other sports organizations to postpone or cancel events through the weekend may indeed be respectful, but it is not purely so.

Sources in the emergency management operations of major airlines who told us Wednesday night that the NFL's decision would be preempted by the logistics of the nation's fractured flight schedule, now explain that the other outfits' postponements were also heavily influenced, in some cases mandated, by the simple fact that no one could guarantee that the planes needed to transport athletes or anyone else this weekend, would even get off the ground.

Thus, these sources say, the sudden about-face from several college conferences, which had previously announced they would play football... regardless. And these sources also caution that though the sports leagues hope to return to the fields and tracks next week, right now there is still no way to be sure the country's air transport system can get them there.