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Context of '(September 12-21, 2001): Recovery Workers Search for One of the Black Boxes at Ground Zero in Locations Where Its Signal Has Been Detected'

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Steven Stefanakos.Steven Stefanakos. [Source: New York City Police Department.]Recovery workers at Ground Zero search for one of the black boxes from Flight 11 or Flight 175—the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11—in locations where a signal from the device has reportedly been picked up, but it is unclear if they find a black box. [Appel, 2009, pp. 281-282] The two “black boxes” carried by all commercial aircraft—the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder—can provide valuable information about why a plane crashed. [CBS News, 2/25/2002; PBS, 2/17/2004] In the week after the 9/11 attacks occur, investigators identify a signal being emitted by one of the black boxes in the WTC debris, according to a report published by the New York State Emergency Management Office (see September 18, 2001). [New York State Emergency Management Office, 9/18/2001, pp. 1 pdf file] The signal is detected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to author Anthea Appel. However, while FAA personnel are able to hear the signal, they are unable to pinpoint exactly where it is coming from.
FAA Suggests Two Possible Locations for the Black Box - The FAA initially says it thinks the signal is coming from the corner of Liberty and Church Streets, which border the south and east edges of the WTC site, respectively, and so recovery workers are sent to dig at this location. However, after a few days, it changes its mind and, on September 21, says the signal is coming from Building 5 of the WTC. [Appel, 2009, pp. 281] This nine-story building is located in the northeast corner of the WTC site. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 4-1] The signal is coming from inside or directly under its roof, the FAA says.
Police Officers See No Sign of the Black Box - Lieutenant Delia Mannix of the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU), who is in charge of the operation to recover the black box, decides the only way to search the roof of Building 5 is to send a team up in a small, waist-high cage known as a “bucket.” Steven Stefanakos and two other ESU officers, who are selected for the task, get into a bucket and a crane lifts them onto the roof of Building 5. Knowing the black box is supposed to be under or embedded in the roof, Stefanakos and the two other officers look around, trying to spot a hole or a dent where the black box could have punctured the roof after being catapulted out of the plane when it crashed into the WTC. The roof, however, appears to be intact.
FAA Staffer Responsible for Locating the Black Box Has Gone Home - Unsure where to search, Stefanakos tries contacting the FAA staffer who is responsible for locating the black box. He tries to reach them three times over his radio but gets no response. Finally, a voice comes over his radio, telling him: “The FAA aren’t here. They went home for the weekend.” Noting that it is only about five o’clock in the afternoon, Stefanakos and his two colleagues are incredulous. As they are being carried down to the ground in the bucket, they comment to each other: “We’ve been workin’ every day for 16 or 17 hours straight with no days off. And here we are, inches away from the black box, and the FAA just get up and leave in the middle of a recovery just because they don’t wanna screw up their weekend!” [Appel, 2009, pp. 281-282] Whether a black box is subsequently retrieved from the roof of Building 5 is unstated. The 9/11 Commission Report will state that the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC “were not found.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456] Furthermore, a report published by the New York City Office of Emergency Management on September 25 will claim that the FAA has in fact been “[u]nable to detect any ‘pinging’ from either ‘black box’” at Ground Zero. [New York City Office of Emergency Management, 9/25/2001, pp. 17-18 pdf file] However, firefighter Nicholas DeMasi, who works extensively in the wreckage of the WTC, will say he helped federal agents recover three black boxes at Ground Zero (see October 2001). [Swanson, 2003, pp. 108; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, New York City Police Department, Delia Mannix, Steven Stefanakos

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Logo of the New York State Emergency Management Office.Logo of the New York State Emergency Management Office. [Source: New York State Emergency Management Office]Investigators searching the debris of the collapsed World Trade Center towers are reported to have detected a signal from one of the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC on September 11, although government officials will later say that these two planes’ black boxes were never found. [New York State Emergency Management Office, 9/18/2001 pdf file; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004] The two “black boxes” carried by all commercial aircraft—the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder—can provide valuable information about why a plane crashed. [CBS News, 2/25/2002; PBS, 2/17/2004] A report published today by the New York State Emergency Management Office states that “[i]nvestigators have identified the signal from one of the black boxes in the WTC debris.” [New York State Emergency Management Office, 9/18/2001 pdf file] Furthermore, a team from the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) arrived at Ground Zero on September 13 “and scoped the area using classified signal equipment,” according to Federal Computer Week magazine, and according to Toni Quiroz, chief of the computer networking branch at CECOM, “The team managed to get some signals that could have emanated from the black boxes.” Quiroz will add, however, that “it was never determined if they were the recorders.” [Federal Computer Week, 9/16/2002] But a report published by the New York City Office of Emergency Management on September 25 will state that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been “[u]nable to detect any ‘pinging’ from either ‘black box’” at Ground Zero. [New York City Office of Emergency Management, 9/25/2001 pdf file] A firefighter and a volunteer who are involved in the recovery effort at Ground Zero will say they helped federal agents find three of the four black boxes in the WTC debris (see October 2001). [Swanson, 2003, pp. 108; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004] But the 9/11 Commission Report will state that the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC “were not found” and the FBI will, in 2004, make the same claim. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Toni Quiroz, Federal Aviation Administration, Army’s Communications-Electronics Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A poster to help law enforcement officers locate the missing ‘black boxes’ in the WTC debris.A poster to help law enforcement officers locate the missing ‘black boxes’ in the WTC debris. [Source: FBI / Smithsonian Institution]Three of the four black boxes from Flight 11 and Flight 175 are found this month, according to two men who work extensively in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, but the public is not told. New York City firefighter Nicholas DeMasi will mention the discovery of the black boxes in a book published in 2003. He will claim to have driven federal agents on an all-terrain vehicle during their search and state that they found three of the four missing black boxes. The Philadelphia Daily News will report on the story in 2004 when another recovery worker, volunteer Mike Bellone, backs up DeMasi’s account and claims to have seen one of the black boxes. Spokesmen for the FBI and the New York City Fire Department will deny the claims of these two workers. [Swanson, 2003, pp. 108; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004] But in 2005, CounterPunch will report: “A source at the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that has the task of deciphering the data from the black boxes retrieved from crash sites—including those that are being handled as crimes and fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI—says the boxes were in fact recovered and were analyzed by the NTSB. ‘Off the record, we had the boxes,’ the source says. ‘You’d have to get the official word from the FBI as to where they are, but we worked on them here.’” An NTSB spokesperson will deny that the FBI ever gave the NTSB the black boxes. [CounterPunch, 12/19/2005] On September 18, it was reported that investigators had detected a signal from one of the black boxes in the debris at Ground Zero (see September 18, 2001). [New York State Emergency Management Office, 9/18/2001 pdf file] But the 9/11 Commission Report will state that the black boxes from Flight 11 and Flight 175 “were not found.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mike Bellone, New York City Fire Department, Nicholas DeMasi, RobertMoomo

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Pier 25 on the Hudson River.Pier 25 on the Hudson River. [Source: Larry Lerner / FEMA]Recovery workers find what appears to be one of the black boxes from Flight 11 or Flight 175—the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11—while they are working near Ground Zero, but FBI agents who inspect the object deny that it is one of these devices. [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 94-96] The two black boxes carried by all commercial aircraft—the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder—can provide valuable information about why a plane crashed. Although they are called “black” boxes, they are in fact painted bright orange. [CBS News, 2/25/2002; PBS, 2/17/2004] Since the initial days of the recovery effort at Ground Zero, finding the black boxes from Flight 11 and Flight 175 has been a priority, due to the critical information they might hold. Many posters with photos of a plane’s black boxes have been put up around the WTC site so workers will recognize these devices if they turn up in the debris.
Operating Engineer Thinks He Has Found a Black Box - Today, an operating engineer notices an object that looks like it could be one of the black boxes while he is scraping up a load of debris at Pier 25 on the Hudson River. [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 94] At Pier 25, near Ground Zero, debris from the WTC site is being loaded onto barges and transported to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island. [New York Daily News, 1/6/2002; APWA Reporter, 3/2004] The operating engineer thinks the object is the same shape as a black box. It is too blackened and charred, though, for him to determine if it is painted orange, like a plane’s black boxes are. He stops operations at the pier so he can get the opinion of the crane operator there. The crane operator agrees that the object looks like a plane’s black box and says its discovery should be reported. The operating engineer therefore makes a call to report the find and is put through to Lieutenant Ed Moss of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD).
Police Officers Think the Unearthed Object Is a Black Box - After the operating engineer tells him about the discovery, Moss heads to Pier 25 with his colleague, Lieutenant Bill Doubrawski. He examines the object and he too thinks it is one of the black boxes. Excitedly, he contacts Lieutenant William Keegan, who is in charge of the PAPD’s nighttime rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero. Talking over a secure phone line, Moss tells Keegan: “I think we found one of these things. I’m looking at the diagram. I think this is it.” Moss says Doubrawski agrees with his assessment. He describes the object as being “[h]ard as a rock, not orange,” and looking “like it was torched, all blackened.” Keegan says he wants to see the object and heads to Pier 25 to examine it.
Senior Police Officer Agrees with His Colleagues' Assessment - When he arrives there, he compares the object to some photos of a plane’s black boxes and agrees that it appears to be one of these devices. “The object found on the pier was absolutely close enough to the pictures available to us to notify the FBI without delay,” Keegan will later write. The PAPD officers arrange for some FBI agents who are working at Ground Zero to come to the PAPD command post to see the object.
FBI Agents Think the Object Is a Black Box but Then Change Their Minds - Around 20 to 30 minutes later, two FBI agents arrive at the command post. The agents examine the object that has been discovered and compare it to a diagram of a plane’s black box. They then say words to the effect of “Wow, this looks like it” and “It’s the same shape,” according to Keegan. However, after looking at the object for a few more minutes, they apparently change their minds. “We don’t think it’s a black box,” one of them tells the PAPD officers. In response, Keegan asks: “So it’s okay to throw it back on the barge? You’re clearing it?” The other agent quickly replies, “No, no, we’re going to take it with us.” The two FBI agents then leave the command post, taking the object with them. Keegan and his colleagues will subsequently never receive any information from the FBI, regarding whether the object really is one of the black boxes. [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 94-96] The 9/11 Commission Report will state that the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC “were not found.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456] But firefighter Nicholas DeMasi, who works extensively in the wreckage of the WTC, will say he helped federal agents recover three black boxes at Ground Zero (see October 2001). [Swanson, 2003, pp. 108; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Bill Doubrawski, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ed Moss, William Keegan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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