ABC News Special Report: "Planes crash into World Trade Center"
September 11, 2001
(coverage begins 8:53 AM Eastern Time)
Announcer: This is an ABC News Special Report.
CHARLES GIBSON, co-anchor:
Now by the entire ABC Network. "Good Morning America" was in progress in the East Coast and the Midwest, but we're joined by the entire network just to show you some pictures at the foot of New York City. This is at the World Trade Center. Obviously a major fire there. And there has been some sort of explosion. We don't fully know the details. There is one report, as of yet unconfirmed, that a plane has hit the World Trade Center. And you can see that there is smoke there coming out of at least two sides of the building.
DIANE SAWYER, co-anchor:
And as you said, there are two towers, the tallest structures in Manhattan--on the island of Manhattan. We're trying to get people on the telephone to see what more we can learn. We have no idea if it was a plane. Was it in any sense deliberate? Was it an accident? It does seem to be that there is considerable and--and truly terrifying damage on some of those floors at the top. GIBSON: This--this angle is a little deceptive. As you know, there are two Trade Center towers, and the second tower there is hidden behind the first. This is really almost the picture postcard of New York City. It's the--that and the Empire State Building, I guess, are the two most recognizable symbols of New York. There you can see the two--well, we had there just briefly the other angle of the World Trade Center towers. But this is confined to one of the towers on the upper floors. These buildings--I think they're 110 stories each. So this would be in the--in the top 15 or 20 floors there.
SAWYER: You mentioned earlier that, of course, as we all know, years ago there was that terrorist attack. It took place down on the ground and in the underground levels, in the garage levels. But, again, that's not to imply that we have any reason at this point to believe that this is--this is terrorism or not. We simply don't know.
And in just a few minutes Peter Jennings is going to be joining us from the newsdesk up town where he's going to tell us everything that he knows.
We also have Don Dahler on the phone. And you know he's been with us on"Good Morning America" for a long time.
And, Don, where are you and what do you know?
DON DAHLER reporting:
I'm about four or five blocks just north of the World Trade Center. And at about 10--I would say 10 minutes ago, 15 minutes ago, there was a loud sound that I can only describe it--it sounded like a missile, not an airplane. Then there was a loud explosion and immediately lots of screaming out on the streets. And I don't want to cause any speculation, but that's the only way I could describe the sound. And it was definitely not the sound of a prop plane or anything like that.
SAWYER: And am I right? Are you a pilot?
DAHLER: Well, I have flown. I do not have a pilot's license, but I--I grew up on military bases. and I know the sounds of jets. And--and I've been in war zones and--and heard those kinds of different sounds. So, again, not to cause any kind of undue speculation but the sound itself was not of a prop plane. It was perhaps a jet. But it could have been a missile as well.
GIBSON: Can you give me--was it--was it a whining sound, Don, or what?
DAHLER: Yes. It was--it was a--how to describe it. It was a high pitch, but it had a--a--a whooshing sound. Not--not like a prop plane.
GIBSON: Huh. And you didn't see anything actually in the air?
DAHLER: No. I wasn't looking out. But we looked out immediately. You can see quite a lot of damage. If it was an airplane, it had to be huge because it hit way up in the World Trade Center. It--I would say it's probably--probably a good 5/6ths of the way up to the top. There's a considerable amounts of flame. There's damage on two sides that I can see. On the very north facing side there's--where it looks like the largest amount of damage--there's a gigantic hole that encompasses a number of floors. I would say, maybe, 10 to 15 floors. And then on the left side, which would be the east side, there's considerable damage as well, and lots of flames and smoke coming out of it.
GIBSON: You know, I--I don't know that people outside New York realize it, but these two buildings are essentially cities in and of themselves. I mean, there's 30 to 40,000 people, if I remember the number--and I'm doing this from memory--number of people who actually work in these buildings. And this obviously occurred at the time that people were coming to work.
SAWYER: Don, are you saying this sound was striking enough that you heard it before you saw anything?
DAHLER: Absolutely. I--I noticed it before the explosion, I noticed a very--a sound like something was very low and shrieking across the sky. And then I heard the explosion.
GIBSON: And which of the two towers is this, because, again, we're just seeing an angle that's a little deceptive.
DAHLER: This is the west tower.
GIBSON: Now we're hearing--we're hearing somewhat faintly in the background, Don, as you talk to us, sirens. Are there a lot of emergency vehicles already on the scene?
DAHLER: Yeah. They're descending--this part of New York City has quite a few emergency stations all over. And I--I imagine it sounds like they're coming from every one of the stations. In fact, there's one just down the street that sounds like every truck they have is--is headed that way.
GIBSON: We--we see--actually we see two faces. I know you can't see the picture that our audience is seeing. But we see two faces of that tower. One seems to have a rather gaping large hole in it. The other face seems to have two holes in it. It's all somewhat obscured by smoke. One large, one--one somewhat smaller.
SAWYER: And, of course, we know there are a variety of offices there. There are financial offices there, there are advertising offices, all kinds. We can only hope that since it is still a little bit early in New York, that maybe--that maybe on some of those floors some of the offices were still not open for business.
GIBSON: You can now see there, on that one side--well, you can see flames coming now, actually, out of two sides of the building, and I'm minimizing, actually, the number of openings that are on those--those two faces of the World Trade Center. There's multiple, it looks like, holes or openings...
SAWYER: With fire still going on.
GIBSON: ...on both sides of the tower.
SAWYER: As we've heard before, we said earlier that there was at least one speculative report that an airplane had crashed in, whether deliberately or accidentally we don't know, and there are continuing reports from people who say that--that they saw an airplane, one woman saying that she saw a jet going in.
So, again, Don, a jet screaming that low could be consistent with what you heard?
DAHLER: Absolutely. It could be consistent with what I heard. What I know I did not hear was an airplane, any kind of a prop plane, and I think looking at the damage, I don't think there's any way possible that it would have been a pop--prop plane. It's just too much damage to the building.
What's deceptive about the World Trade Center is that it is so huge and so tall that the perspective is difficult to get from the ground, but when you look at the--the size of the hole, and if you look in context at one of the helicopters going around at a lower site, a helicopter's about the size of a regular Cessna, that kind of thing, the body of the plane, the hole is so much larger than that helicopter that it would have to be--if it was a jet, I would have to speculate it would have to be a larger than normal jet. I mean, larger than like a Citation or something like that. It's such a gigantic hole, and it blew out the other side.
And again, these buildings are almost a city block size building, so for it to have blown in this hole on the north side as well as the west side, it had to be a gigantic explosion.
GIBSON: Well, obviously, we don't know if this was--if it was a plane, and I underline, if it was, we don't know if it would have been deliberate or accidental. We know so little now, other than what we can see from these pictures. But the interesting point is, there are a number of small airports around New York where passenger--corporate jets or private jets will land and take off, and it's not uncommon, if you have ever visited the World Trade Center, when you go up to the observation platforms at the top you can look down on airplanes that are either coming in for landings or taking off from New York airports. But all pilots who fly in this area know very well where the World Trade Center is located. All the routes are very far or comfortably far away from the two towers.
SAWYER: And not just private planes, too, because with some winds in some directions, even out of the big commercial airports, planes are routed quite close to New York. I've flown in from LaGuardia, even, into LaGuardia but having to go right by the World Trade Centers.
GIBSON: But we emphasize, this is all speculative at this point. And just to reset for all of you, this is a special report from ABC News, and we are dealing--and we have to underline this--we are dealing purely in the realm of speculation here as to what may have happened at the World Trade Center. Obviously, a major incident occurred here on the upper floors of one of the World Trade Center towers. You can see multiple openings and flames coming out of at least two sides of the tower at the World Trade Center.
SAWYER: We've just got a report that the Associated Press is now reporting that it was an aircraft. So that's one more witness weighing in, or at least one more source weighing in on the fact that it was an aircraft of some kind.
GIBSON: And as Don Dahler reported, this occurred about 15 or 20 minutes ago in downtown New York, and New York time that would have been about 20 minutes or a quarter of 9. This is a time when literally tens of thousands of people are coming to work at the World Trade Center.
SAWYER: Looking at the top of the building, you mentioned there's an observation center, and I don't know what time it opens but I think it opens fairly early, and people are up there at all hours of the day--families, tourists coming in to look at the city of New York from atop it. And also there--I don't know if this is the building that has the restaurant on top of it as well, but in those high floors, there are places where tourists teem in the morning, even if the regular workers weren't in.
And we remind you again, that there was a terrorist bomb that did go off at the World Trade Center years ago. It was down in the garage level, but we have no reason to speculate in that way.
GIBSON: Absolutely, no indication that this could have been related to that. Right.
Don Dahler--ABC's Don Dahler, who is on the scene--Don, just give me some description again of what you're--what you can see now.
DAHLER: Well, we see--it appears that there is more and more fire and smoke enveloping the very top of the building, and as fire crews are descending on this area, it--it does not appear that there's any kind of an effort up there yet, now remember--Oh, my God!
SAWYER: Oh, my God! Oh, my God!
GIBSON: That looks like a second plane has just hit ...
DAHLER: I didn't see a plane go in. That--that just exploded. I...
GIBSON: We just saw another plane coming in from the side.
DAHLER: You did? I was--that was obscured from my view.
GIBSON: That second explosion, you could see the plane come in just from the right-hand side of the screen, so this looks like it is some sort of a...
SAWYER: Oh, my!
GIBSON: ...concerted effort to attack the World Trade Center that is under way in downtown New York.
SAWYER: We will see that scene again just to make sure we saw what we thought we saw.
GIBSON: We're going to give you a replay of what we just saw, and I--I must admit, I thought it was some sort of fire equipment or some sort of observation plane, but it was obviously designed to attack the World Trade Center. We're going to show you that--here's a replay of the videotape.
(Replay of videotape shown)
GIBSON: In a second, that looks like a good-sized plane, came in and hit the World Trade Center from the other side. So this is obviously, or would seem to be, and again I'm dealing in speculation, but it would seem like there is a concerted attack against one of the towers of the World Trade Center under way.
SAWYER: We had seen a plane coming in from the other direction earlier. I had noticed it. Had you, Charlie? I didn't know if that plane had been circled wide and came back from another direction, but we all watched it, and I just assumed...
GIBSON: Don, could you hear that? Could you hear that plane as it came in?
DAHLER: I did not hear that plane, but I had to step inside the window because the fire crews were so loud--the sirens--that I couldn't hear you.
GIBSON: I got you.
DAHLER: I did see the explosion, but the side of the building that the plane entered was just outside of my view, so all I saw was this huge fireball and the explosion.
GIBSON: Well, the shot that we've got is now just from one side of the World Trade Center, but this is the shot again--this is moments ago of this--of this second plane coming in, and this is now in slow motion.
(Replay of videotape shown)
GIBSON: Ah, this is terrifying--awful.
SAWYER: We watch powerless. It's a horror.
GIBSON: All right, we're going to go back to live coverage now. You're looking at live pictures, and there is the second fire, which was brought about by this second plane that hit the tower, and Don, from everything I can see, it was the same tower that was hit the first time, right?
DAHLER: No, it's the second tower. It is the...
GIBSON: It's the other tower.
DAHLER: It is the other tower that was hit.
GIBSON: My mistake.
DAHLER: They targeted--from your--from what I'm seeing on television, from your view, they are--the two towers are in--one is in front of the other one, but it was definitely the second tower that was hit about halfway down, not quite as high, and from my view here, it does not seem to be as--as big, as much damage as the original. It--I don't know if that means it was not as big a plane or what. I did not see the plane go in, but it's--I mean, it's horrendous damage, but it doesn't seem to be the gaping hole through two sides of the building like on the first one.
SAWYER: Don, from your vantage point, can you see if there are people coming out down below?
DAHLER: I don't--I can't see the bottom of the base of the building.
GIBSON: There's the wider shot of the two towers now. Both towers have been hit by planes now in the last half-hour, and again, I say, we are--we are totally powerless in knowing what's going on here, except that it would obviously appear this is--can't be a coincidence like this. It would, obviously, be some sort of a concerted attack against both towers of the World Trade Center. This is--again, we're going to show for the third time this tape of the--of the airplane flying in and hitting the World Trade Center.
(Replay of videotape shown)
GIBSON: This is slo-mo, slow motion of the plane coming in and hitting the obscured second tower of the World Trade Center, and you can see flames coming out. And I can't see the plane coming down. You know, if it just...
DAHLER: Charlie, that's a commercial size jet. That is--that did not look like...
GIBSON: No, that's a good-sized airplane. That's...
DAHLER: Yeah, that is--that is not a little commuter plane. That was a good-sized jet.
GIBSON: And I can't tell if it actually flew into the building or if it just clipped it with a wing. And if it did, of course, then there's the frightening prospect that the plane would have crashed right on the streets of--very busy streets of New York.
SAWYER: It seems--and this is a small hope--that the fire may have gone out from the first sight. I don't know if we can get the camera in close enough or not. It doesn't mean that the smoke isn't terrifying and deadly.
DAHLER: Diane, I can see from here the orange flames. The fire has not gone out. In fact, it looks as if it's encompassing a part of the building that was not initially a part of the original explosion. I can see it moving over to the left side, which would be the east side of the first side of the building, almost all the way over to the edge. The--the backside is almost totally enveloped in flames that I can see from here.
GIBSON: Yes, it--with that kind of smoke, there's got to be an awful lot of flame in there. And--and I think all of us have thought at one point or another about the fact that these buildings, though they are so majestic as they stand above the skyline of New York, that it's very difficult for emergency workers or firefighters to--to fight these. We have a witness who has called in to speak to us. His name is Karim Arraki.
Mr. Arraki, did you, as I understand, they're telling me in my ear--is it true that you witnessed the first plane hit the tower?
Mr. KARIM ARRAKI (Eyewitness): Yeah.
GIBSON: Could you--could you give me some sort of a description of it?
Mr. ARRAKI: I was sitting in my car here in Greenwich, you know. I just saw the plane was coming down from the left side and going straight to the building, you know, and go inside.
GIBSON: It actually went inside the building?
Mr. ARRAKI: Excuse me?
GIBSON: It went in--it flew right into the building?
Mr. ARRAKI: I saw it come up from the left, and I saw the plane coming through to the building, go inside. A small plane.
GIBSON: You say small plane. Was it a jet?
Mr. ARRAKI: Excuse me?
GIBSON: Was it a jet plane?
Mr. ARRAKI: No, no. It was plane, you know, like they teach the people to pilot plane--small plane, you know. It was that kind of plane.
GIBSON: You mean like a small single or double-engine prop plane?
Mr. ARRAKI: Yeah. Double-engine, yeah, yeah, yeah.
GIBSON: Right. And it actually went into the building there on the upper floors?
Mr. ARRAKI: Yes, going into the building, and I never saw that plane before. It's like something--I don't know, it's like they work with the motors--I never saw a plane like that before! Yeah!
GIBSON: All right.
Mr. ARRAKI: (Unintelligible).
GIBSON: Mr. Arraki, you are down in that area right now, then?
Mr. ARRAKI: Yeah, I'm in Greenwich here on Northmore Street.
GIBSON: Can you--can you tell if there's a large number of fire equipment and--and emergency equipment on the scene?
Mr. ARRAKI: Excuse me?
GIBSON: Can you see fire equipment or emergency equipment on the scene?
Mr. ARRAKI: I don't know. The fire is upstairs on the building and the second plane is--is--all the buildings now.
GIBSON: And did you see the second plane come in?
Mr. ARRAKI: Yeah. I--I saw--yeah, I saw the second plane, it go boom. I--I heard, you know. I just wake up my head like that I saw the side, too.
GIBSON: And that second plane much larger than the first?
Mr. ARRAKI: Same. Same, two both. Both same.
GIBSON: They're both the same?
Mr. ARRAKI: Yeah.
GIBSON: Because the pictures we see, the second plane looks rather large.
Mr. ARRAKI: No, is going inside, too. Is going inside the building, too. And the second hole it's smaller than the other one.
GIBSON: And it actually also penetrated the building? You could see it go in?
Mr. ARRAKI: Yeah, inside. Inside, inside. No planes outside, no planes.
GIBSON: Now, can you see if there are people fleeing the building? We don't have shots yet from street level. Can you see if there are people leaving the building?
Mr. ARRAKI: No, I can't see, because I told you, I'm on Northmore in Greenwich. I just saw up the building, I don't see downstairs.
GIBSON: So you're in Greenwich Village?
Mr. ARRAKI: Yeah. I 'm on Greenwich Street in Northmore.
GIBSON: Oh, I see, on Greenwich Street. OK, I can--no, that's--that's just a local street. For people who don't know New York, that is right in the vicinity right nearby, but not actually on the site of the--of the World Trade Centers.
ABC's Peter Jennings is at the anchor desk uptown here in New York, and is now in position.
Peter, I suspect you are looking at exactly the same pictures. Well, I know you're looking at the same pictures we are.
PETER JENNINGS, co-anchor:
We are, Charlie, we've been watching it from the beginning. We--we'll be watching this for much of the day. There is chaos in New York at the moment. There have been not one but two incidents, as Charlie and Diane have so ably reported, so far, the second one coming at 9:03 when television was on live and you could see what was clearly a jet aircraft flying into the second trade tower. Both trade towers, now, these 110-story high towers, have now been hit. There is chaos here. Or there's chaos in the immediate area.
There is confusion in Washington because now everybody is engaged in this. The Pentagon is involved in this, all the intelligence services are engaged in this in the morning, and as we look at those towers, let's just simply keep looking at these towers this morning. And if you have the feed at home--I actually don't have it here, so if somebody could please make sure that I have the photo--pictures of what's going on.
The various airports in the area--Newark and LaGuardia, particularly, have already suspended operations. The city asked the Federal Administration Aviation for permission to close down airspace in all of New York lest there be a third aircraft or some other untoward incident involved.
And ABC's John Miller is with me here, who's been listening efficiently to all of his police sources.
And, John, I gather the city is ordering a major evacuation from a number of public buildings and a number of these very high profile targets.
JOHN MILLER reporting:
They're going into what they call an Archangel Operation, which is code name for essentially a major lockdown of the city. Evacuating the United Nations building, the municipal buildings, city hall, Gracie Mansion, which is the mayor's residence. All things that could be considered potential targets, because obviously because of the nature of this, with two incidents, there is the potential that this is a double act of terrorism, and they are worried about other targets.
JENNINGS: All right. Let's go back to the building itself, John. You work the police radio, if you would, for just a minute. The FBI is already investigating reports that a plane was actually hijacked before this collision, this incident, this attack occurred at the World Trade Towers.
In Washington at the moment, the presumption that this is a terrorist attack, according to ABC's John McWethy, although it's very difficult at the moment for anybody to get a clear indication of what has actually happened because it happened so quickly. The first attack coming just before 9:00 Eastern time, the second attack, which we could all watch, those of us who are watching television, occurring at 9:03, just three minutes.
The president is in Florida and he has already been told of what is happening. These trade towers have always been--have always been, and you may have heard it already this morning, regarded as a prime target for this particular act of terrorism. As you know, there was terrorism at the World Trade Center before; 1993, there was a huge bombing attack on the trade centers. These are the two at the southwestern corner of the island of Manhattan, just prime pieces of real estate of interest to anyone who wishes to hit either New York City or the United States in a very, very visible and vulnerable way.
We have with us at the moment Lindsay Grimm, a witness who was in the building on the phone.
Lindsay, can you hear me?
Ms. LINDSAY GRIMM (Eyewitness): I can hear you.
JENNINGS: Can you tell me what you know?
Ms. GRIMM: Well, I actually, just to clear things up, I wasn't actually in the building. I was in the World Financial Center, which is directly behind it.
Ms. GRIMM: And I was--I was--our part of the building faces the section, the courtyard where the World Trade Center is. We ran to the window right after we--we felt this, kind of this sonic boom, as if it were an earthquake, and something just wasn't right. We ran to the window and somebody yelled, 'Oh, my God, a plane just flew into the World Trade Center.'
JENNINGS: Now, is this what we think of as the first one or the second one?
Ms. GRIMM: I--it was the first one, because I was actually outside for the second one.
JENNINGS: And the first one appears to have gone into the southern tower, am I correct?
Ms. GRIMM: Correct.
JENNINGS: And the second one--did you see the second one?
Ms. GRIMM: I was--I had my back facing. I was running as fast as I--well, not running, but walking at a brisk pace away from the two buildings when I heard it, and people just started screaming and running.
JENNINGS: Now you know the area fairly well, working down there. Is--is 9:00 in the morning a time when people have gathered in very large numbers? People get there earlier or get there later?
Ms. GRIMM: Yeah, I actually just happened--I usually get here a little after 9, and I happened to be here early for a morning--for a meeting this morning. So, yeah, I mean, you see the general amount of traffic about 9:00. Is that when it happened? Right at 9?
JENNINGS: Well, just before and just after 9.
Ms. GRIMM: Oh, OK.
JENNINGS: Can you see outside at the moment as to anything...
Ms. GRIMM: I am outside.
JENNINGS: And what do you--where are you and what do you see?
Ms. GRIMM: I am west of the two buildings looking directly at them and it--it's difficult to look at, I'll tell you that much.
JENNINGS: This is not an area which is easy to reach for emergency services. These two buildings hug the Hudson River. There's only the--the Westside Drive that comes up there. Is there a large amount of emergency equipment descending on the place?
Ms. GRIMM: There sure is. As soon as I got out of the building, obviously, the first thing, you're surrounded by it. Sirens, noise everywhere, and you can hear it coming by now, even still.
JENNINGS: Anything else that you know that you'd like to add?
Ms. GRIMM: Just as I was coming out of the building, I heard somebody sort of ushering people away and they were saying, 'You guys got to get out of here. It's bombs.'
JENNINGS: Many thanks, Lindsay Grimm, who saw this occurring, at least the first--hesitate to call it an attack--the first incident. We'll continue to call it for now, and very much the second one now. That's what it looks like, both of the towers in--twin trade towers are now on fire. We have no idea whatsoever the measure of casualties inside or the measure of damage inside, though you can only imagine it. The New York City Office of Emergency Management said to us a short while ago they do not know what happened yet.
Want to check in very quickly with the president of the United States. John Cochran with the president in Florida. John:
JOHN COCHRAN reporting:
Peter, as you know, the president's down in Florida talking about education. He got out of his hotel suite this morning, was about to leave, reporters saw the White House chief of staff, Andy Card, whisper into his ear. The reporter said to the president, 'Do you know what's going on in New York?' He said he did, and he said he will have something about it later. His first event is about half an hour at an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida.
JENNINGS: Thanks, John. John Cochran with the president. The president's in Florida today pushing his education reform. It will get wiped off of the agenda today in view of this extraordinarily serious accident.
For those of you who don't know, the twin trade towers, and it's a popular destination for tourists when they come to New York City. It has financial offices in it, it has government offices, it has lots of access on the top, above where this accident--actually where this incident actually occurred--where tourists come. It's one of the great views in New York City, and people gather there, certainly at the foot of the building, fairly early in the morning to be able to go and see it. The two collisions, the two incidents have occurred about two thirds of the way up. John Miller, we haven't--(clears throat) excuse me--we haven't had an aircraft fly into a building in New York, as far as I know, since just after the second world war when a...
MILLER: The Empire State Building.
JENNINGS: ...plane flew into the Empire State Building.
MILLER: That's right. A B-52 flew into the Empire State Building then, and this is--this is really the first time there's been anything like that since.
JENNINGS: John, I was listening as you and Chris Isham, one of our investigative unit, wandered up here to the rim just a short while ago, saying, one of you, I think, 'This was something that was waiting to happen.' Who were you talking about? What are you talking about?
MILLER: What we were talking about is, there's been a great frustration since the bombing of the World Trade Center, which the suspects later told federal authorities were intended to take the building down, that it didn't have a larger effect. And US intelligence, FBI people, for years have heard that they've always wanted to try and finish that job off, to take the buildings out, and it was another viable target. Interestingly, ironically, whatever you want to call it, the World Trade Center just hired, two weeks ago, the head of the FBI's national security division for counterterrorism in New York to augment and take over their security, pretty much aware of the level of threat, that this is a symbolic target.
JENNINGS: One of the things that anybody mounting security in the World Trade Center himself will not be able to necessarily appreciate is what has happened at some distance. And there are a couple of reports, speculative at the moment, drifting around, including one on the Associated Press which says the FBI is investigating reports of a plane hijacking just before the World Trade Center actually crashed.
And John McWethy, our national security correspondent, is with us in Washington.
John, what do you know?
JOHN McWETHY reporting:
Peter, we do hear that there was a hijacking. It is not clear where that hijacking occurred at this point, but it is one of the many things that US officials are scrambling to try to get a handle on at this point.
JENNINGS: Anything else, John? What happens at the Pentagon at a moment like this? I know everybody springs into action, but what do they do?
McWETHY: What happens is there is a particularly counterterrorism cell within the Joint Chiefs of Staff that goes into an emergency basis at this point. They're investigating all aspects of air traffic in the area, all intelligence that, as they sift through it, may have given them some indication that something was happening. At this point, though, there were no warnings, they say. This morning, as they go back through this information, they may cull through it and find some clue, but at this point, they believe there was no warning.
JENNINGS: Thank you very much, John. Would you please call us back as soon as you have something which would call into question immediately, of course, the notion of counterterrorism in an incident like this. No, nobody who saw--watching "Good Morning America" today, for example, saw, at least those of us working on television, saw a first plane crash into the building. Much of the country watching television this morning will have seen the second plane crash into the other tower, and we have, as you can see from a distance there, until we get our cameras on the ground producing material which we can put on the air, a pretty limited view.
(Footage of second plane crash)
JENNINGS: So we have no idea what evacuation procedure is in the building. We do know...
MILLER: We're listening in the background. At this time, all elevators are out in both towers, according to the rescue workers on the scene. They've put out an urgent call for Scott Airpacks, because they're climbing smoke-filled stairwells, they've got to go very high up to get to the target locations, and they're talking about people trapped in the smoke there.
JENNINGS: And this, of course, is reminiscent of 1993 when the explosions occurred at the trade towers last time.
JENNINGS: John, is it standard operating procedure--you mentioned that all of the other principal government buildings in the city--Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence, and some of the other buildings will be evacuated. Is that a fairly standard anticipated operation?
MILLER: It is an existing plan. It is on paper but, Peter, I have to say it's never been put into effect in New York. This is unprecedented, and I think, as this develops, you'll see similar plans go into effect in Washington in potential target buildings because you really have to take the position that they're under some form of attack here, at least as a precaution till they sort this out.
JENNINGS: As we wait to get a better grasp of--of what now becomes a rescue operation of people in the twin trade towers, we're reminded here that the US officials, according to Pentagon sources, have no warnings today of any kind of terrorist attack, and if you listen to the news on a regular basis, you hear the Pentagon warning Americans worldwide of some impending terrorist attack. Here we are in the height of commercial America with--with no warning whatsoever, no intelligence whatsoever, as far as we can tell, at least, in these first couple of hours.
MILLER: No. And all of the latest intelligence, at least the basics of which I've been scanning for months, have focused on the high potential for attacks against American targets abroad. Indeed, federal authorities in the intelligence community have reported they've interdicted and interrupted more than a dozen of those attacks by shutting terrorist cells down around the world. They've always been worried, since the first attack on the World Trade Center, that there would be another bold strike on US soil.
JENNINGS: And, of course, there are any number of targets which have been high on counterintelligence's list in New York City: the Lincoln Tunnel, the United Nations, the Holland Tunnel, the FBI headquarters, not to mention all of the city civic buildings which John mentioned.
President Bush is, by the way, going to speak very shortly to the nation about this, and then he's going to return to Washington, and we have on the phone our principal aviation analyst and expert, John Nance.
Good morning, John.
JOHN NANCE reporting:
JENNINGS: What would you like to contribute to this, because one knows that it is indeed possible to fly an aircraft into a building if one intends to do so.
NANCE: If one intends to do so, that's correct. And, unfortunately, when you've got something that has been as--as worrisome target as--as the World Trade Center, regardless of the way we hardened it up on the ground, they have apparently--whoever "they" is--picked the one vulnerable area. The thing that is most disturbing to me is not only the fact, of course, that there are people, more than likely, in that building that have been directly affected by this, but that we may have an innocent load of passengers. The flash of that second aircraft across the screen is disturbingly close to what you would call the platform of an Airbus 319 or an Airbus 320. Also of a 767 or something of that nature, and that's a large airplane.
JENNINGS: John, let me go slowly with you because--and we'll actually put it on the screen again, very slowly, so that we can come across the screen. Are you able to identify specifically the type of aircraft by looking at this videotape as it comes across? Can we roll that, please?
NANCE: I'm--I'm watching that right as it comes across the screen, and it--it is more than likely not a Boeing 737. That--that profile, Peter, is very close to an Airbus A320, A319.
JENNINGS: And who flies the Airbus 320, 318?
NANCE: We have quite a few airlines.
JENNINGS: OK. So...
NANCE: Very few private ones.
JENNINGS: Yeah. And--and with--and John comports a little bit here with at least these initial reports that the FBI is investigating reports of a hijacking just before the second crash occurred.
We had no--John, let me just ask you one other question about just flying into the World Trade Centers.
JENNINGS: When the first--when the first incident occurred, it was reasonable for people to suspect that there--that it was an accident. From a flying point of view, is the World Trade Center always something to worry about if you're taking off from one of the New York City airports?
NANCE: Not really. The fact that we have had all these years since that B-25 crashed into the Empire State Building tells you a lot about flight paths around New York City. You--you have to be so disastrously out of contact and off course and so many things would have to go wrong to imperil any of the buildings in Manhattan. The fact that it hasn't happened tells us, really, how rare a situation it would have to be.
JENNINGS: John, the FAA immediately asked for New York City airports to suspend operation. We can confirm that Newark and LaGuardia have closed. I mean--can we confirm...
NANCE: And Kennedy and Teterboro in Westchester. They've essentially asked all airports within a 20-mile radius to put a hold on anything taking off.
JENNINGS: Teterboro airport, which is in New Jersey, just on the west side of the Hudson River in Westchester, which is maybe 40, 50 miles north of New York City. They've all suspended operations. Standard--easy to do, John? Quick to do? It seems to have been so.
NANCE: Fortunately, very--very quick to do because they're all controlled by air traffic control towers, and they can put a halt to the operations with a phone call.
JENNINGS: OK. John Nance, thanks very much. Call us back, will you, if you--if you learn anything.
NANCE: Peter, one of the difficulties they're going to face, as you can glean from this picture here, is the people who are trapped and need to be rescued are on the upper floors, but you see the plume of smoke covers the roof. The last explosion was at the bottom of the building and the smoke rose up but they were able to make a series of daring rescues by landing, and they've trained for this and retrained landing police helicopters on the roofs of the twin towers and pulling people out. It's going to be very difficult, since the roofs are now enveloped in smoke, for the police helicopters, which are arriving at a landing zone now just below the World Trade Center, to be able to get up there till that smoke dissipates. And that's where they had expected to pull a lot of people out this time because they had so much success the last time.
JENNINGS: Similarly, John, if you look at the two buildings, it does appear, at least in the northern tower there, or the left tower as you see it on the screen, below the incident, the building at least looks like on the outside reasonably secure and people will have a long, horrendous, terrifying walk down in a darkened building, but at least will be able to get out on the ground.
By the way, Claire Shipman--ABC's Claire Shipman just called in. She's been checking with the FBI. She also says that the FBI had no warning whatsoever. Their crisis management operation in Washington is in place in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration. They're all now, which makes perfect sense, focusing on the recovery of survivors. The New York Stock Exchange has--has delayed indefinitely its opening today. This--this will just have not only an extraordinary effect on the national psyche, one surmises, dissimilar perhaps, but--but from what happened in Oklahoma City, but a very clear reminder to those of us in the United States that terrorism of a huge magnitude which we're somewhat more accustomed to in the Middle East and in Africa, given the attacks on the US embassies a couple of summers ago, but a reminder, again, that as far as international terrorism is concerned and people's anger and even desperation on this occasion, that the United States is going to find itself manifest here on US soil.
John, this--here's the president now in--in Florida. I wonder if everybody knows there what's going on. We'll listen.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a difficult moment for America. I, unfortunately, will be going back to Washington after my remarks. Secretary Rod Pace and the lieutenant governor will take the podium and discuss education. I do want to thank the folks here at--at the Booker Elementary School for their hospitality.
Today, we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. I have spoken to the vice president, to the governor of New York, to the director of the FBI, and have ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and their families and to conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act. Terrorism against our nation will not stand. And now if you'd join me in a moment of silence. (Bows head) May God bless the victims, their families and America. Thank you very much.
JENNINGS: President clearly shaken, I think, one can say, confirming what we think we all knew, which was that two aircraft in an act of terrorism crashed into the twin trade towers. Nobody was quite certain about the first one at the very outset but the president absolutely, having talked with the vice president and the governor of New York, the director of the FBI, now believing and confirming that we have two terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. And the president saying the two things which a president must say in a moment like this, 'Terrorism will not stand,' which is an important thing for him to say but not always necessarily effective, and 'God bless the victims and their families.'
John Miller, what are you picking up on the police radio? We'll wait for you.
MILLER: There was a--there was a bit of a stir a moment ago because LaGuardia tower reported urgently that there was another aircraft moving fast in the no-fly zone. Now they've contacted that aircraft and they say it's a military aircraft that's rushed to the scene to enforce the no-fly zone and literally be a presence in the area in case there is another plane headed for the buildings, so that there'll be some, at least armed aircraft up to confront it.
JENNINGS: Just think for a second, John, how--how you have drawn an extraordinary parallel. We think of no-fly zones as being in southern...
JENNINGS: ...and northern Iraq, where the Iraqis are not allowed to fly and if they do fly, they're going to be shot down. Now we have a no-fly zone all around the lower part of New York City and perhaps on the--on the northern area, too. All of the area's airports closed down and armed American aircraft in the air to shoot down anybody else who wants to take a shot of the place.
MILLER: I--I mean, those are the reports that are coming across the radio now...
MILLER: And if it's true, it's quite incredible and certainly unprecedented.
JENNINGS: Well, it would also suggest, as best you can tell looking at it from this very sort of antiseptic environment that we are all in our newsrooms, is that the reaction has been fairly quick. New York City has an Office of Emergency Management. It's over here on the west side. It's a great bunker from which the city...
MILLER: Ironically, it's located in the World Trade Center complex, although not in the--in the twin towers, right next door.
JENNINGS: Just north--north of the trade towers...
JENNINGS: ...in the World Trade Center, in the other northern trade center there. And on an occasion like this--this is not one they--they absolutely anticipated when they got going--they were talking, very concerned with chemical and biological warfare. They've got extensive plans about that which they very often demonstrate to the press.
Going to interrupt myself and everybody else just a second because one of our senior producers, Mark Obenhaus, is on the phone, and he saw the incident.
Mark, can you hear me?
Mr. MARK OBENHAUS: I do indeed, Peter.
JENNINGS: Go ahead.
Mr. OBENHAUS: Well, I was leaving my house to go to work and I walked down the street to go to the subway. I was at the corner of Franklin and West Broadway, and as I was approaching the subway, a tremendous roar went over my head and--and I looked up immediately, and it was a plane much lower than I've ever seen a plane in lower Manhattan, and it was a large plane. I couldn't identify it as anything specific except that it was a commercial jet certainly. And it--it--my eyes followed it because this is approximately 15 blocks from the World Trade Center, and it--it just slammed right into it and was completely engulfed by the--by the building. It was extraordinary. No--no wings flew off, nothing like that. It just went directly in, creating this sort of cavern-like hole and--and suddenly, then, big, big flames started protruding from it and then, of course, smoke. And--and then debris started just catapulting and, of course, the area that we're in, there's a great deal of foot traffic and people are just approaching and beginning to just gasp at--at just the sight of the building itself, even if they hadn't seen the actual incident, the actual impact, just the sight of this huge building engulfed in flame with this massive, cavernous hole in the side of it.
And we stood there--I can't tell you the amount of time, I would estimate about 15 minutes, and--and, of course, there's all kinds of services coming down, fire department and so forth, and then suddenly, from my vantage point, which would be north of the building, the sec--the far tower suddenly explodes in flames. Yet again, a similar kind of event and, as you now see, I've run down the street to my home where I've had the television on and I saw that that, too, was another airplane. It--from our vantage point you couldn't tell what exactly it was that hit the--hit the--hit the second tower, but it was a similar, seemingly almost bomb blast and with flames and debris protruding wildly from--from the building.
JENNINGS: Mark, let me ask you a couple of more specific questions. You now, confirm for us, I think, that it was the first attack on the tower that you saw.
Mr. OBENHAUS: Yes.
JENNINGS: What direction was the aircraft coming from?
Mr. OBENHAUS: It was coming from the north.
JENNINGS: It was coming from the north down over Manhattan itself?
Mr. OBENHAUS: Yes. Well, it would have been flying, roughly, over the west side. I'm--I'm on, as I say, west Broadway, which is probably a quarter mile from the river, so it was a direct path north--from the north into the--into the north tower.
JENNINGS: Do you remember whether it had two engines, three engines, or four engines?
Mr. OBENHAUS: I do not. It was very quick. It struck me, you know, the profile--the body of the plane was of such scale that I immediately identified it as a commercial jet. I didn't--I couldn't--it happened so quickly I couldn't tell whether it had windows on the side or what, but it could very well have been some sort of a--a transport plane. But it was a large, large plane, as opposed to, occasionally down here you do see smaller, prop planes or smaller aviation stuff that flies around here sometimes, doing movies and things like that. But in all my years down here, and I've lived down here for about 20 years within walking distance easily of the building, I've never heard anything like this, and that's what--that's why I--I just immediately glanced up, and I just followed the track of this sound and this huge plane that was swooping over my head.
JENNINGS: Could you see any markings on it whatsoever?
Mr. OBENHAUS: No. I did not. It was too--too quick. I--I--I can't give you any kind of identifying help on--on what it was.
JENNINGS: Do you remember what color it was? Was it...
Mr. OBENHAUS: I--my impression was--was that it had a tan coloration to it However, the sun, it was very low in the horizon, and I think kind of orange, and it may have been simply the color of the sun reflecting off a silver exterior. I--I really am not sure of that.
JENNINGS: OK, Mark. Anything else? What's the--what's the--the--what's the mood and the environment down there at the moment, if it's not hard to imagine.
Mr. OBENHAUS: Oh, I can't tell you. In everyone who--who glimpses it close up. It's quite different seeing it from the ground than on the television pictures I'm now looking at. But it's close to you and you--you see what the impact must have been like and you see the kind of devastation that has--has incurred by the--by the buildings. And it's just--it's--it's--frightening is, perhaps even too mild a word.
Mr. OBENHAUS: It's absolutely just a horrible, horrible sight. It--it reminds you of the worst kind of effects in movies that, you know, you're reassured watching a movie that it's an effect. But this is not.
JENNINGS: Well, Mark, you and I are supposed to have a meeting not long from now. We'd prefer you to go and work the story, if you would, and call us back as soon as you can.
Mr. OBENHAUS: I will, indeed.
JENNINGS: Many thanks. Mark Obenhaus, one of our senior producers on the phone, who saw the incident, describes it as a large plane, not sure what the color was, not sure the number of engines it had, which, in his mind--he's a very experienced reporter--reflects the speed and surprise with which this aircraft--this is the first one we're talking about now, just before 9:00--approached the World Trade Towers from the north, causing the first huge gap in the building. And Mark describes the plane being engulfed in some respects by the building. Didn't see wings fall off. Saw it go absolutely, totally, almost as he described it, into the building itself.
And we now have had--one of the enormous difficulties about terrorism, everybody knows, is that you--you almost immediately get a claim of responsibility and you may get several. And people's suspicions get ramped up given the obvious nature of people who they think or know are involved in terrorism around the world.
There has been a claim of responsibility, according to the Reuters News Agency, made to Abu Dahbi Television in the Persian Gulf, from something called the Palestinian DFLP. The Palestinian DFLP is something called the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It has been for many, many years one of the most militant of the Palestinian organizations. Has been involved in violence before. Has been involved in--in--in other actions before. And it is the first organization to claim responsibility for this, though we have to caution you in all the obvious ways, before the day is over, there may be any number of people who claim responsibility.
The White House, of course, is--is--is--has leapt to the forefront of people's concern this morning. And there is a plane circling the White House at the moment. And they're clearing the grounds there. We have--that's a report which may be misleading in that it may presume an attack where as we just discovered a moment ago that what we had was an additional airplane in New York airspace was a security operation. I think probably most Americans know that there is no building in the country which is--which is heavily defended--I shouldn't say deemed secure--but...(network audio difficulties)...but a battery of anti-aircraft missiles on the top of the White House itself.
We've had incidents, as you know, in the past, several years ago where a small aircraft landed in the White House--in the White House garden and the pilot mentally deranged, as I recall at the time, was killed. But the White House is certainly, certainly been very heavily defended. And this plane circling the White House adds to the trauma that people are feeling today but we have no idea precisely what that means.
John Miller, you're listening.
MILLER: This scene is still in some degree of chaos but the police has set up a major mobilization point just outside the building. And they've set up a tactical mobilization point--the major mobilization point is for the responding units involved in the rescue. The tactical one is actually an armed mobilization point for security outside the World Trade Center now.
JENNINGS: Thanks very much.
Let's go to the White House. Claire Shipman is on the phone.
Claire, what's that we're looking at?
CLAIRE SHIPMAN reporting:
Well, that's what we're trying to figure out right now. All we know is it's this gigantic plume of smoke coming from behind the old Executive Office Building. And we're told that the White House itself, the West Wing at the very least, is being evacuated. The personnel from there are being asked to leave. We've sent people running over there to try to find out what it is. But we don't know yet.
JENNINGS: Now the old Executive Office Building is to the--slightly to the west and a fraction to the south. So we are looking southwest from a camera just across Lafayette Park which is north of the White House. The White House is to the left side, out of your picture. Maybe even the cameraman could give us some appreciation.
But you have no idea. Was that an explosion? Did you hear anything?
SHIPMAN: We did--we did not hear it. In fact, we were trying to figure out from the White House what security precautions they were taking around the White House in the wake of the apparent attacks on the World Trade Center. And we suddenly just saw this smoke rising from behind the old Executive Office Building. We have people on their way there now but it's like nothing I've ever seen. We've never seen that kind of smoke coming from--from anything that would ordinarily occur here.
JENNINGS: I must also tell you, Claire, I think if you think about what's behind the--the EOB there, you're really down in pretty open area. It doesn't look like a place where a building would be on fire.
SHIPMAN: No, that's right, although there are a number of building just behind the old Executive Office Building on G Street that could potentially be on fire. But nothing you would necessarily think of as--as a target. Apparently, we're also...
JENNINGS: Claire, let me interrupt you for a second. We now have that fire confirmed at the Pentagon. I have John McWethy at the Pentagon.
If you can hear me, John, please get in touch immediately if you can and brief us in--John McWethy has actually been evacuated from the Pentagon. And parts of the Pentagon are, indeed, being evacuated.
Want to hold our breath here, it seems to me, for a second and--and--and--and--and not get into a mode that the country is under attack. But we now have two attacks on the twin trade towers center, US buildings, city buildings completely evacuated in New York City. We have this mysterious black smoke at the southwest corner of the White House which is to say there's something going on behind the old Executive Office Building. We now have a report that fire has been confirmed at the Pentagon. ABC's John McWethy, our Pentagon correspondent who's been plugging in as quickly to the intelligence and counterintelligence units there this morning, has been temporarily evacuated. But that is as much as we know for sure at the moment.
John Miller, go back to what you're hearing on your nets.
MILLER: Actually, it's interesting. And the--in New York City, they're reporting on what we're seeing here also. Essentially trying to tell everybody that heightened security is important now.
JENNINGS: John, I apologize. There's a lot of us here. What are we listening to here?
Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible)...bomb squad is checking Air Force One out.
JENNINGS: Say again. Say again. Please, come here, John.
Man: (Unintelligible)...reporting that bomb squads are checking out Air Force One...(unintelligible).
JENNINGS: Great! So we have bomb squads...
MILLER: I think you're going to see lots of this. And I think we were talking about this a few minutes ago. In fact, when I was telling you that in New York they were evacuating the municipal building, the United Nations, Gracie Mansion which is the mayor's residence, all potential targets, I suggested to you that shortly in Washington you'll probably be seeing the same kind of reaction at sensitive, symbolic locations. And, apparently, that's become more than a concern but perhaps a reality.
JENNINGS: OK. We do know--or at least the Associated Press is now reporting that an aircraft crashed near the Pentagon. And the West Wing of the White House, as Claire Shipman told us, was evacuated amid these threats of terrorism.
I guess what's--first of all, let me go to another eyewitness. ABC's Bill Blakemore, one of our senior reporters, has been an eyewitness to the New York incident.
Bill, are you on the phone?
BILL BLAKEMORE reporting:
Yes, I am, Peter.
JENNINGS: Go ahead.
BLAKEMORE: I'm down at 12th Street. It looks like we're more than a mile north of this very surrealistic sight. Business has completely come to a stop here. Looks like through lower Manhattan people standing in the streets, cell phones aren't working. A few of these phone booths, such as the one I'm talking to you from now, are working. One man just shaking his head said to me a few moments ago, 'I was supposed to be at a meeting in the building at 10:30 this morning. And then I saw the second plane hit the tower and this flash of light.'
There's--there's a complete cessation of regular life. There's one delivery man standing here looking like he doesn't know where to go with this stack of beer crates. So all of lower Manhattan is just standing in the streets on this sunny morning looking at this unrealistic sight in front of them. This grey smoke coming out of the trade center.
JENNINGS: OK, Bill, talk to as many people as you can. Call us back when you can.
Let's return to Washington visually, at the moment. Just take a look at that picture. That smoke behind the Executive Office Building, which is right next to the White House, we now believe is from a fire in the courtyard of the Pentagon, or at least where an aircraft appeared to have crashed in the general vicinity of the Pentagon. Now the Pentagon is southwest from the White House, across the Potomac River, and what we think we may be seeing there--emphasis on think--is smoke in the distance, rather than immediately behind the Pentagon.
Precautions being taken everywhere. The US Capitol is now being evacuated as a precautionary measure. The US Treasury, according to at least one eyewitness, is being evacuated as a precautionary measure. And there was an explosion outside the Pentagon. And that's an issue of eyewitnesses from both inside and from outside. We're not quite sure what we're looking at.
And we are--we are looking now at Air Force One. We've just been told by ABC's Ann Compton that there's been a serious investigation now--or serious check of Air Force One before the president, who's been in Florida, gets on it and flies back to Washington.
All of this, of course, adds to the tension, adds to the fear, but all of it makes absolute common sense. And there is no aircraft in the world, to the best of my knowledge, which is given as intense security as Air Force One which is what any aircraft the president flies on its designated course wherever it is in the world. And today, it's been at Sarasota in Florida.
I want to get somebody to fix some monitors here for me, please. I want this monitor in front of me here to look like that monitor so I know what I'm looking at right now. Thank you.
And the president will, having already spoken very briefly to the nation, saying, as we said, the obvious and necessary thing that terrorism will not stand. Calling for a moment of silence to--to acknowledge, to recognize, to honor, to deeply sympathize with the victims of today's attacks. The president then said he would come back immediately to Washington. I think we all know that the president is never out of touch with the events of the moment, wherever he is.
But, as of the moment--listen to this--as of the moment, from west to east in the United States, there are no airplanes taking off that are at least under the control or have--or are obeying the Federal Aviation Administration. At O'Hare Airport in Chicago, for example, planes are still landing but all departures have been stopped. The Sears Tower in Chicago--Chicago's great landmark tower has been closed. And there are no aircraft taking off in the US. This clearly because while we've not been able to confirm--while we've not been able to confirm precisely what happened--there is the Pentagon in--that is the courtyard of the Pentagon.
The Pentagon is, indeed, exactly what it's described. Just on the other side of the Potomac River from--from the Capitol, and there you see fires burning in the courtyard of the--the Pentagon confirming what we had--what we've been told almost immediately by eyewitnesses. We've also been told it was a plane crash. So our--our belief for the moment is an aircraft has crashed into either the courtyard itself or into that particular side of the building. Parts of the Pentagon have been confirmed--you can hear it. Just listen.
(Sounds of siren)
JENNINGS: And that's what it looks like from just across on the north side of the White House. Those are the same incidents, to the best of our knowledge. The same incidents. And if you look at the amount of smoke at the Pentagon, this is huge. This is huge. The State Department is now being evacuated as a precaution. We're simply not able to get a good handle yet on what precisely happened at the Pentagon. But we do know that nowhere in the United States, at no commercial airport under the control of the FAA, are aircraft taking off. And this is in large measure because it has now been reported by several news agencies that the first aircraft--I beg your pardon. That one of the two aircraft which crashed into the twin trade towers just before and just after 9:00 Eastern time this morning was hijacked out of Boston. We do not know the airline. We're not able, absolutely, to confirm that but there are several reports. And there--and that led to the intense concern with the FAA and with the National Intelligence Services that all of the airspace in the general area of New York City and now subsequently in Washington and everywhere else, be sealed as one would try to seal a building in order to prevent a third or a third or fourth whatever incident similar to the first two.
But that is the Pentagon, and as ABC's John Miller first reported a moment ago, the scene on the ground in New York City is still pretty chaotic. Emergency rigs, emergency services have converged on the twin trade towers at the very same time that other high profile building--Nancy Gibron, I'm not sure, do we know if the United Nations has been evacuated yet?
MILLER: The Police Department on the New York side has ordered the United Nations evacuated. In fact, they did that very early on. In fact, almost immediately after it became apparent what was going on here.
Right now, at the World Trade Center, the emergency units are reporting there's still debris falling onto the street on the east side of the building, including a second body which has fallen from the wreckage on the upper floors. They're also talking about people who are on the roof. They've asked if the aviation unit from the Police Department can get up there and pick people up. But again, because of that smoke, as we discussed before, they're going to have real trouble edging in there.
JENNINGS: As we look at the Pentagon, again we have to say that sometimes the camera and the eye don't see precisely what is happening. We have now had eyewitness reports from--our sources on Washington say they did see a plane crash in the vicinity of the Pentagon. We're looking at it from the western--from the Washington end which would be to the east of the Pentagon, slightly to the north east of the Pentagon itself. And it looks very much as if there is fire in the courtyard itself--in that central courtyard. But you can see a small plume of smoke on the--on the northern side of the building as well. At least, I think it's the no--yes, it is. The northern side of the building as well, and we're not absolutely certain.
The Associated Press quoting a senior US official--or quoting a US official is now saying affirmatively that one of the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center was hijacked after takeoff from Boston. At this time of day, it--any number of aircraft taking off from Boston.
ABC's John McWethy believes that it was an American Airlines flight, Flight Number 11, bound for Los Angeles. And I realize when--when--when saying that we're going to put the fear of God into a lot of people on the West Coast and people who know--are connected with that flight. But our Pentagon correspondent John McWethy just reports to us that American Airlines Flight 11 bound for Los Angeles from Boston was actually hijacked out of Boston.
That's a helicopter over the Pentagon. I apologize to the audience. We have two separate monitors here. They show different pictures. Can you tell me which one the audience is seeing at home so I can work with that and I may not have to ask again. Thank you very much. I don't know.
And--and so we now have the first incident at the trade center and the second trade incident at the trade center as two aircraft--we know that one of them--at--we know it at this moment one of them, according to officials talking to both the Associated Press and confirmation from ABC's John McWethy at the Pentagon, that is was a commercial aircraft--commercial aircraft that was hijacked out of Boston which could have been anytime before 9:00 this morning because the first act on the trade towers was just before 9:00 and the second one was after that.
And, John Miller, you're listening.
MILLER: Actually, it's interesting. There's no--there's no way to characterize any part of this as fortunate, but if you look at cities who are prepared to handle an incident like this--and as you've seen New York's emergency response to this--it is probably one of the few places that is--that is prepared with the kind of equipment, response and rescue efforts that could actually address something like this. And Washington is probably the other.
Immediately when this happened, the entire emergency service unit, which comprises hundreds of specially trained cops, was mobilized to the scene. Now a triage center--a triage center for the injured has been set up just around the corner from the World Trade Center. It's an incredible scene down there with a tremendous amount of equipment.
JENNINGS: The Federal Aviation Administration has actually gone even further than it did a few minutes ago. It--it was informing all--asking all planes not to take off. Now the FAA has ordered all aircraft currently in the air, over the United States, to land at the nearest airport. Now you can imagine what may be happening--or what they think may be happening in some parts of the country if there is somebody else on some aircraft coming from somewhere or going somewhere, with evil in their--with evil intentions. And so all aircraft currently in the air over the United States have been ordered to land at the nearest airport.
MILLER: I think what you're going to see...
JENNINGS: Hang on there a second. I just want to check one thing because one of the very first people the president talked to was the director of the FBI. And Pierre Thomas, who covers the Justice Department and the FBI for us, has been here.
They may think they prepare for this kind of thing, Pierre, but, man, it must have been a shock.
PIERRE THOMAS reporting:
A stunning shock. The FBI Special Operations Center is now in full alert. The FBI extremely concerned that there will be additional attack. Normally when you have a situation like this, they immediately get on the line with the CIA, the various intelligence agencies, trying to get a sense of who might have been planning something. But right now, the first order of business is to protect against a second attack, a third attack. The feeling is when you normally have this kind of situation, there will be more attacks almost immediately.
JENNINGS: Let's go to the trade towers again because, John, we now have a--what do we have? We don't...
MILLER: It looks like a new plume--a new large plume of smoke.
JENNINGS: Well, it may be that something fell off the building. It may be that something has fall--yet we don't know, to be perfectly honest. But that is what you're looking at, the current--that's the scene at this moment at the World Trade Center.
Don Dahler from ABC's "Good Morning America" is down in--in the general vicinity.
Don, can you tell us what has just happened?
DAHLER: Yes, Peter. Don Dahler. I'm four blocks north of the World Trade Center. The second building that was hit by the plane has just completely collapsed. The entire building has just collapsed, as if a demolition team set off--when you see the old demolitions of these old buildings. It folded down on itself, and it's not there any more.
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