This page can be viewed at http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=new_york_port_authority
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey holds a drill at the World Trade Center based on the scenario of a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers. Numerous agencies participate in the drill, which is held on a Sunday. As well as the Port Authority, these include the New York City Fire Department, the New York City Police Department, and the Emergency Medical Services. Guy Tozzoli, the director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, will describe the drill during a legislative hearing in 1993 (see (March 29, 1993)). He will recall that the Port Authority simulates the “total disaster” of “the airplane hitting the building” and participants simulate “blood coming out of people.” He will add that the drill is “a real preparation for a disaster.” (Rayman 11/12/2001; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 58-59) (During the hearing, Tozzoli will mistakenly recall the drill being conducted in the late 1970s, but it is in fact held in November 1982. (Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 274) ) The drill follows an incident in 1981, when an Argentine aircraft came within 90 seconds of crashing into the WTC’s North Tower as a result of having problems communicating with air traffic controllers (see February 20, 1981). Asked about the drill shortly after 9/11, Tozzoli will say it was held “just to have people trained within the city for that particular scenario [of a plane hitting the WTC].” The 1982 exercise appears to be the last “joint drill involving all the emergency responders” held at the WTC prior to the 9/11 attacks, 19 years later, according to New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. (Rayman 11/12/2001; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 59)
Peter Goldmark, the executive director of the New York Port Authority, is concerned that, in light of terrorist attacks occurring around the world (see April 18-October 23, 1983), Port Authority facilities, including the World Trade Center, could become terrorist targets. (Maull 9/28/2005; Hartocollis 10/27/2005) He therefore creates a unit called the Office of Special Planning (OSP) to evaluate the vulnerabilities of all Port Authority facilities and present recommendations to minimize the risks of attack. The OSP is staffed by Port Authority police and civilian workers, and is headed by Edward O’Sullivan, who has experience in counterterrorism from earlier careers in the Navy and Marine Corps. In carrying out its work, the OSP will consult with such US agencies as the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, NSA, and Defense Department. It will also consult with security officials from other countries that have gained expertise in combating terrorism, such as England, France, Italy, and Israel. (Glanz and Lipton 2004, pp. 226; New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004) According to Peter Caram, head of the Port Authority’s Terrorist Intelligence Unit, the OSP will develop “an expertise unmatched in the United States.” (Caram 2001, pp. 12) In 1985 it will issue a report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center” (see November 1985). (New York Court of Appeals 2/16/1999) It will exist until 1987. (Solnik 1/5/2000)
After assessing the security of New York Port Authority facilities, the Office of Special Planning (OSP), the Port Authority’s own antiterrorist task force, releases a report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center.” For security purposes, only seven copies are made, being hand-delivered and signed for by its various recipients, including the executive director of the Port Authority, the superintendent of the Port Authority Police, and the director of the World Trade Department. (New York Court of Appeals 2/16/1999; Solnik 1/5/2000) Because of the WTC’s visibility, symbolic value, and it being immediately recognizable to people from around the world, the report concludes that the center is a “most attractive terrorist target.” (New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004) The report, which is 120 pages long, lists various possible methods of attacking the center. (New York Court of Appeals 2/16/1999; Caram 2001, pp. 103; Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 87) One of these is that a “time bomb-laden vehicle could be driven into the WTC and parked in the public parking area.… At a predetermined time, the bomb could be exploded in the basement.” (Glanz and Lipton 2004, pp. 227) As a Senate Committee Report will find in August 1993, “The specifics of the February 26, 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center garage were almost identical to those envisioned in the [OSP] report.” (New York Court of Appeals 2/16/1999) Due to the Port Authority’s failure to adequately implement the OSP’s recommendations, the report will be crucial evidence in a successful civil trial against it in October 2005, charging negligence in failing to prevent the 1993 bombing. (Mumma 10/26/2005; Hartocollis 10/27/2005; Hoban 2/18/2006) As of mid-2006, the other possible methods of attacking the WTC listed in the report remain undisclosed.
Following the release of the Office of Special Planning’s (OSP) report, which called the WTC a “most attractive terrorist target” (see November 1985), the New York Port Authority, which owns the center, seeks a second opinion on the OSP’s recommendations. At a cost of approximately $100,000, it hires the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to review the general security of the WTC. SAIC states in its report that the attractiveness of the WTC’s public areas to terrorists is “very high.” Like the OSP, SAIC pays particular attention to the underground levels of the center and describes a possible attack scenario much like what occurs in the 1993 bombing. (Caram 2001, pp. 105-106; New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004)
Rick Rescorla, a security chief for a company at the World Trade Center, and Dan Hill, a former Army colleague of his, write a report in which they warn that terrorists could attack the WTC by detonating a truck filled with explosives in the underground parking garage, but the Port Authority, which manages the WTC, dismisses their warning. Rescorla, who previously served in the US Army, is now working as the director of security at brokerage firm Dean Witter, and his office is on the 44th floor of the WTC’s South Tower. (Stewart 2002, pp. 173-177; Stewart 2/11/2002)
Former Army Ranger Agrees to Identify WTC Vulnerabilities - Rescorla has become increasingly concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the United States, especially after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up by a terrorist bomb over Scotland in December 1988, and he thinks the WTC is “an obvious target.” He therefore asks his friend Hill to join him in New York and be his consultant. (Stewart 2002, pp. 173) Hill, a former Army Ranger, has been trained in counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, demolition, and the use of explosives. (Stewart 2002, pp. 152-153) “If anyone can figure out how to hurt this building, you can,” Rescorla tells him, and adds, “I want to know the worst.” Hill agrees to help Rescorla. After he arrives in New York, Rescorla takes him to the WTC. Rescorla explains the basic engineering of the Twin Towers and suggests they examine the buildings, starting at the bottom and then working up.
Parking Area Has No Visible Security - The two men begin by walking around the entire 16-acre WTC complex. Hill then asks Rescorla where the loading and docking operations are, and Rescorla takes him to a ramp that goes to the basement levels of the WTC. After they walk down the ramp, past a loading dock, and into a parking area, Hill asks, “Where are the guards?” Rescorla replies, “There are no guards.” Hill then notices that all the major columns and supporting beams in the parking area are visible and exposed.
Hill Thinks Parking Area Is a 'Soft Touch' - After thinking for a few minutes, Hill says: “Hell, Rick. This is a soft touch. It’s not even a challenge.” He then explains to Rescorla how he would attack the WTC if he was a terrorist. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart, Hill says he would “bring in a stolen truck, painted like a delivery truck. He’d fill it with a mixture of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel, then drive down the ramp and park. With four or five men dressed in coveralls, he could plant additional charges near key supporting pillars within 15 minutes. Then he and the men would walk out and disperse, and he’d remove his coveralls.” He would then take a taxi to another location, where he would have a van waiting with a woman, two children, and possibly a dog inside. He would use a cell phone or a beeper to detonate the truck bomb and then make his getaway. “Nobody’s going to stop a family and a dog on Interstate 95,” Hill tells Rescorla.
Port Authority Dismisses Rescorla's Concerns - Later on, the two men analyze Hill’s findings and incorporate them into a report for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the WTC buildings. The following day, Rescorla meets with some Port Authority officials and notifies them of his and Hill’s concerns, but they are uninterested. Rescorla later tells Hill that the officials’ response was to say, “You worry about your floors and we’ll worry about the rest, including the basements and parking.” All the same, Rescorla sends copies of his and Hill’s report to the Port Authority and also the New York City Police Department, but he receives no responses. Rescorla and Hill are unaware that the Port Authority’s Office of Special Planning submitted a report in 1985 that warned of a bombing at the WTC of a similar kind to what they have envisioned, and also emphasized the vulnerability of the basement levels (see November 1985). However, no steps were taken to increase security at the WTC in response to that report. (Stewart 2002, pp. 173-177) In February 1993, terrorists will attack the WTC in almost exactly the way that Hill predicts, by parking a van containing a 1,500-pound urea nitrate bomb in the basement and detonating it with a timer (see February 26, 1993). (Parachini 2000, pp. 190-191 )
Following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), the New York Port Authority asks investigative and security consulting firm Kroll Associates to help design new security measures for the WTC. Kroll’s Deputy Chairman Brian Michael Jenkins leads the analysis of future terrorist threats and how they might be addressed. Assessments conclude that a second terrorist attack against the WTC is probable. Although it is considered unlikely, the possibility of terrorists deliberately flying a plane into the WTC towers is included in the range of possible threats. (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 11 ; Finnegan 10/19/2009 )
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) holds regular interagency training exercises in the years preceding 9/11, aiming to carry out a tabletop or field exercise every eight to 12 weeks. Mayor Rudy Giuliani is personally involved in many of these. The exercises are very lifelike. Giuliani will later recall, “We used to take pictures of these trial runs and they were so realistic that people who saw them would ask when the event shown in the photograph had occurred.” Scenarios drilled include a sarin gas attack in Manhattan, anthrax attacks, and truck bombs. One exercise, which takes place in May 2001, is based on terrorists attacking New York with bubonic plague (see May 11, 2001). Another, conducted in conjunction with the New York Port Authority, includes a simulated plane crash. Just one week before 9/11, the OEM is preparing a tabletop exercise with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to develop plans for business continuity in New York’s Financial District—where the World Trade Center is located—after a terrorist attack (see (September 4, 2001)). OEM staffers are actually preparing for a bioterrorism exercise on the morning of 9/11 (see (Shortly After 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001). Jerome Hauer, OEM director from 1996 to February 2000, will recall, “We looked at every conceivable threat that anyone on the staff could think of, be it natural or intentional, but not the use of aircraft as missiles.” He will tell the 9/11 Commission: “We had aircraft crash drills on a regular basis. The general consensus in the city was that a plane hitting a building… was that it would be a high-rise fire.… There was never a sense, as I said in my testimony, that aircraft were going to be used as missiles.” (Pooley 12/22/2001; Giuliani 2002, pp. 62-63; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 15, 30 ; 9/11 Commission 5/19/2004; 9/11 Commission 5/19/2004 ) The OEM was created in 1996 by Giuliani to manage New York’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks (see 1996). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284)
The FAA creates “Red Teams” —small, secretive teams traveling to airports and attempting to foil their security systems—in response to the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am 747 over Scotland. According to later reports, the Red Teams conduct extensive testing of screening checkpoints at a large number of domestic airports in 1998. The results were frightening: “We were successful in getting major weapons—guns and bombs—through screening checkpoints with relative ease, at least 85 percent of the time in most cases. At one airport, we had a 97 percent success rate in breaching the screening checkpoint.… The individuals who occupied the highest seats of authority in the FAA were fully aware of this highly vulnerable state of aviation security and did nothing.” (Shenon 2/27/2002) In 1999, the New York Port Authority and major airlines at Boston’s Logan Airport will be “fined a total of $178,000 for at least 136 security violations [between 1999-2001]. In the majority of incidents, screeners hired by the airlines for checkpoints in terminals routinely [fail] to detect test items, such as pipe bombs and guns.” (Associated Press 9/12/2001)
Employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates the World Trade Center, and the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) take part in training exercises that simulate major fires on upper floors of the WTC. (Rayman 11/12/2001; 9/11 Commission 11/3/2003; 9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 )
On June 6, 1999, members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) and the FDNY participate in an exercise that simulates a five-alarm, full-floor fire on the 92nd floor of the WTC’s South Tower. The exercise, held early on a Sunday morning, makes use of smoke machines, lighting, and mannequins, to create a realistic environment for participants. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 )
In September 2000, the Port Authority and the FDNY conduct a similar exercise on the empty 93rd floor of one of the Twin Towers (the particular tower is unstated). Like the June 1999 exercise, it is held on a Sunday morning, simulates a five-alarm fire, and uses smoke machines to make it more realistic. Alan Reiss, the director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, will later recall: “It was a major full-floor high-rise fire. It was a full-scale fire simulation.” Five FDNY engine companies take part. The exercise is videotaped and elevators are unavailable while it is taking place. (Rayman 11/12/2001)
At some point in the summer of 2001, the Port Authority and 30 FDNY companies train for a five-alarm fire on the 90th floor of the South Tower. Fire safety directors working for OCS Security, which holds the fire safety contract for the WTC, also take part in the exercise. (9/11 Commission 11/3/2003)
The PAPD holds “annual tabletop drills involving both police and the civilian management at the World Trade Center,” to exercise the emergency response plans for the WTC, according to Reiss. These drills are developed by PAPD specialists, Reiss will say, and other agencies besides the Port Authority—such as the FDNY—can participate. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 ) However, despite being recommended in 1993 to train for the event of a plane hitting the WTC (see (March 29, 1993)), the Port Authority conducts no exercises simulating that scenario in the subsequent eight years before 9/11. (Rayman 11/12/2001) Whether the Port Authority held exercises simulating large fires on the upper floors of the WTC before 1999 is unclear.
Real estate development and investment firm Silverstein Properties and real estate investment trust Westfield America Inc. finalize a deal worth $3.2 billion to purchase a 99-year lease on the World Trade Center. The agreement covers the Twin Towers, World Trade Center Buildings 4 and 5 (two nine-story office buildings), and about 425,000 square feet of retail space. (Bagli 4/27/2001; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 7/24/2001; IREIzine 7/26/2001) Westfield America Inc. will be responsible for the retail space, known as the Mall. Silverstein Properties’ lease will cover the roughly 10 million square feet of office space of the Twin Towers and Buildings 4 and 5. Silverstein Properties already owns Building 7 of the WTC, which it built in 1987. This is the only time the WTC has ever changed hands since it was opened in 1973. (International Council of Shopping Centers 4/27/2001; Westfield Group 7/24/2001; Daily Telegraph 9/11/2001; Glanz 11/29/2001; CNN 8/31/2002) It was previously controlled by the New York Port Authority, a bi-state government agency. (Malanga 5/12/2007) Silverstein and Westfield are given the right to rebuild the structures if they are destroyed. (Goldberger 5/20/2002)
Silverstein Properties Not the Highest Bidder - Silverstein Properties’ bid for the WTC, at $3.22 billion, was the second highest after Vornado Realty Trust’s, at $3.25 billion. Silverstein Properties won the contract only after protracted negotiations between the Port Authority and Vornado Realty Trust failed. The privatization of the WTC has been overseen by Lewis M. Eisenberg, the chairman of the Port Authority. Eisenberg, a financier, is involved in Republican politics. (Bagli 3/17/2001; Kessler 8/20/2004)
Banks Provide Most Money for Deal - Larry Silverstein, the president of Silverstein Properties, only uses $14 million of his own money for the deal. His partners, who include real estate investors Lloyd Goldman and Joseph Cayre, put up a further $111 million, and banks provide $563 million in loans. (Brill 2003, pp. 156; Bagli 11/22/2003; Seemuth 2/2005; Frangos and Grant 9/11/2008)
Silverstein's Lenders Want More Insurance - The Port Authority had carried only $1.5 billion in insurance coverage on all its buildings, including the WTC, but Silverstein’s lenders insist on more, eventually demanding $3.55 billion in cover. (Frankel 9/3/2002) After 9/11, Larry Silverstein will claim the attacks on the World Trade Center constituted two separate events, thereby entitling him to a double payout totaling over $7 billion. (English 10/9/2001; Vuillamy 8/18/2002) Eventually, after several years of legal wrangling, a total of $4.55 billion of insurance money will be paid out for the destruction of the WTC (see May 23, 2007). Most of this appears to go to Silverstein Properties. How much goes to Westfield America Inc. is unclear. (Topousis 5/24/2007)
George Tabeek, a security manager with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, expresses his concerns about an aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center, perhaps in a terrorist attack. (CBS News 2/11/2009; Grant 9/6/2011) The Port Authority was, until late July, responsible for the management and operation of the WTC (see July 24, 2001), and most Port Authority World Trade Department employees are still working in the WTC. (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 7/24/2001; IREIzine 7/26/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 281)
Possibility of Plane Hitting WTC Discussed - Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC since 1999, will later say that, following the 1993 bombing of the WTC (see February 26, 1993), the Port Authority “put thousands and thousands of hours into safety construction and safety procedures.” Over $100 million has been spent on improving security and fire safety. Therefore, according to Tabeek, “the World Trade Center was safer on 9/11 than 99 percent of the buildings in America.” Tabeek will say: “We were already looking into bio-chem. We were talking about weapons of mass destruction.” He will add that, just two weeks before 9/11, “[W]e talked about ever getting hit by a plane, but it was never in our wildest dreams a commercial airliner.” (Nugent 6/2008; CBS News 2/11/2009)
Possibility of Attack Using Plane Discussed with New Head of Security - Tabeek discusses the possibility of a plane hitting the WTC again on September 6, the Thursday before 9/11. That evening, John O’Neill, the new head of security at the WTC (see August 23, 2001), calls him to a conference room in the South Tower, to discuss security and “threat assessment.” During the meeting, Tabeek describes the improved security at the WTC, telling O’Neill: “We’re 99 percent locked down. You’re not going to get in here with a bomb that’s going to do substantial damage within the building, because we minimized that.” According to Tabeek, O’Neill asks: “Okay, you say to me we’re 99 percent locked down. What’s the other 1 percent?” Tabeek replies, “A plane.” O’Neill says, “Come on, you’re grabbing at straws.” But Tabeek tells him, “No, in ‘93 we’re an American economic bad cop… and now we’re an American-Israeli economic bad cop, more of a threat today than we ever were.” He adds that the plane involved would be “a corporate jet slamming into the building,” with “minimal loss of life, minimal economic loss.” Tabeek will later comment, “I never expected something bigger.” (Grant 9/6/2011) An analysis carried out on behalf of the Port Authority after the 1993 WTC bombing identified the scenario of terrorists deliberately crashing a plane into the Twin Towers as one of a number of possible threats (see After February 26, 1993). (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 11 ) Tabeek will tell one magazine, “We had planned for the possibility of a small airplane—a corporate jet, maybe—crashing into one of the [WTC] buildings by accident.” (Nugent 6/2008)
Silverstein Properties, Larry Silverstein’s company which took over the lease of the WTC weeks earlier (see July 24, 2001), has a meeting planned for the morning of 9/11 in it’s temporary offices on the 88th floor of the WTC North Tower, along with Port Authority officials. It is to discuss what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. However, this evening the meeting is canceled because one participant cannot attend. (Sorkin and Romero 9/12/2001; Leibovich-Dar 11/21/2001) Of Silverstein Properties’ 160 staff, 54 are in the North Tower when it is hit, and four of them die. (Saunders et al. 9/7/2002)
A command center for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, located in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, is upgraded to make it more secure, and the improvements will reportedly save the lives of people in the command center when the nearby South Tower collapses on September 11. (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001; Guarnera 1/2002; Nash 1/23/2002) The Port Authority’s Security Command Center (SCC) is on the 22nd floor of the North Tower. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 ; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 294) Newsday will report, on the day after 9/11, that officials had “recently” increased security at the WTC “by installing bulletproof windows and fireproof doors in the 22nd-floor computer command center.” (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001) According to George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, by September 11, the WTC in fact has “bulletproof window glass in most areas.” (Nugent 6/2008) The installation of the bulletproof windows—and presumably, also, the fireproof doors—in the SCC is made at the request of Douglas Karpiloff, the Port Authority’s director of security and life safety for the WTC. (Nash 1/23/2002)
Upgrades Intended to Protect against 'Aerial Attacks' - According to Hermina Jones, a security guard at the WTC, the upgrades to the SCC are intended “to secure the towers against aerial attacks.” (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001) Tabeek will later recall, “We had planned for the possibility of a small airplane—a corporate jet, maybe—crashing into one of the [WTC] buildings by accident,” although it is unclear if this comment is made in reference to the installation of bulletproof windows at the WTC. (Nugent 6/2008)
Security Improvements Save Lives on September 11 - Some people will credit the upgrades to the SCC with saving their lives on September 11. Tabeek will be in the SCC that day when the first of the Twin Towers—the South Tower—collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). When that happens, according to Tabeek, the “impact of the explosion peeled off the outer skin of [the North Tower], shattering the thick double-paned windows [of the SCC] in the process.” Tabeek will say, however, that the “inner layer of laminated bulletproof glass put in months earlier… withstood the blast and undoubtedly saved his life and those of the others with him.” Victor Guarnera, the chief technical adviser and manager of security systems for the World Trade Department, who is also in the SCC at that time, will describe what happens when the collapse occurs, saying, “The outer windows [of the SCC] exploded, either from impact [of debris from the South Tower] or differential pressure, but the inner window wall of high-tempered bomb and bullet-resistant glass we had installed a few months before held fast.” Guarnera will comment that the bulletproof windows “were responsible for our survival up to that point.” (Guarnera 1/2002; Nash 1/23/2002)
During the 9/11 catastrophe, around 200 people die in the WTC’s elevators without getting help from elevator mechanics, according to an in-depth study later performed by USA Today. Some of the victims are burned by the initial explosion, some die as the elevator cars plummet when their cables are severed, and some are stuck and perish in the collapse. USA Today will say it “could not locate any professional rescues of people stuck in elevators. The Fire Department of New York and the Port Authority also could not cite successful rescues.” After the North Tower is hit, most of the WTC’s 83 elevator mechanics gather in the lobby of the South Tower, but when the second plane hits, they evacuate. In contrast, a passing elevator mechanic from another company runs into the WTC and dies trying to free trapped passengers. USA Today will comment: “When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, Otis Elevator’s mechanics led the rescue of 500 people trapped in elevators. Some mechanics were dropped onto the roofs of the Twin Towers by helicopter. Others, carrying 50-pound oxygen tanks on their backs, climbed through smoke to machine rooms high in the towers. On Sept. 11, the elevator mechanics—many of the same men involved in the rescues in 1993—left the buildings after the second jet struck, nearly an hour before the first building collapsed.” Although ACE Elevator, the local company which won the WTC contract from Otis in 1994, will say it was acting in accordance with procedure, USA Today will note: “The departure of elevator mechanics from a disaster site is unusual. The industry takes pride in rescues. In the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, elevator mechanics worked closely with the firefighters making rescues.” Robert Caporale, editor of Elevator World will say, “Nobody knows the insides of a high-rise like an elevator mechanic. They act as guides for firefighters, in addition to working on elevators.” The Port Authority will also say that their departure was in conflict with the emergency plan. “There was no situation in which the mechanics were advised or instructed to leave on their own.” (Cauchon 12/19/2001; Cauchon and Moore 9/4/2002)
An automated announcement is reportedly activated in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, advising workers to stay in their offices rather than evacuate, although a senior official will later dispute the accounts of security officers who describe hearing it. The announcement is heard by workers in the Port Authority’s Security Command Center (SCC) on the 22nd floor of the North Tower.
Automated Announcement Heard by 'a Lot of People' - The recorded female voice that makes the announcement usually comes on automatically in situations such as when a sprinkler is loose, telling people to return to their offices, according to Hermina Jones, a security guard in the SCC. Jones will recall that the automated recording now comes on, apparently after being activated by the impact of Flight 11 hitting the North Tower. She will say that “a lot of people listened to that and went back to their offices. When tenants called me on the intercom, I told them to ignore it and take Stairway A.” Jones will add, “You could hear [the recording] in the background, telling them over and over, ‘Please go back in your office.’” Nancy Joyner, a security supervisor, also notices the recorded announcement. “Whenever there is smoke, sometimes the alarm will trigger, and that’s when you heard [the recording],” she will say. She will add, “That day [i.e. September 11], the recording came on.”
Port Authority Official Says There Are 'No Automated Announcements' - However, Alan Reiss, the director of the World Trade Department of the Port Authority, will dispute the recollections of Jones and Joyner, and claim that no recording goes off. He will state, “There were no automated announcements used anywhere in the World Trade Center, as such recordings are not permitted by fire codes.” Furthermore, Reiss will state, “no messages of any kind—live or otherwise—could be heard over [the North Tower’s] public address system, which was severed by the impact of the first plane.” (Rayman 9/10/2002; Reiss 10/8/2002) The 9/11 Commission Report will indicate, however, that announcements might be heard in a few areas of the North Tower. “Because of damage to building systems caused by the impact of the plane,” the report will state, “public address announcements were not heard in many locations.” Around the time that the automated announcement is reportedly going off in the North Tower, an announcement is made in the South Tower, advising workers to stay in their offices, instead of evacuating (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). That announcement, though, is made by a deputy fire safety director, rather than being a recorded message. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 286-288)
Security officials in the South Tower of the World Trade Center instruct people who are evacuating the building to return to their offices. (Vulliamy 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 289) After Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), many people in the South Tower, who were unclear about what had happened, decided to leave their building. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 287) But on their way down, some of them encounter officials who are telling people to head back upstairs.
Official with Megaphone Says People Can Return to Their Floors - Arturo Domingo, who works for Morgan Stanley on the 60th floor of the South Tower, is among those trying to leave. When he reaches the 44th floor, he finds a man there with a megaphone who is telling people: “Our building is secure. You can go back to your floor. If you’re a little winded, you can get a drink of water or coffee in the cafeteria.” Domingo and some of his colleagues return to their office, but head down again after Flight 175 hits their building at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Moss and Bagli 9/13/2001)
Workers Told They Are Safest inside Tower - John Howard, also a Morgan Stanley employee, similarly encounters a man with a megaphone—perhaps the same person—as he is evacuating. The man is saying, “Don’t panic!” and telling people they are safer staying in the building than leaving it. But there is then a “huge explosion,” presumably the sound of Flight 175 hitting the tower. At that moment, Howard will later recall, “We all ran over the guy with the bullhorn to get out.” (Taylor 9/12/2001) And another Morgan Stanley employee makes it to the staircase and has gone down more than 20 floors when she hears a voice on a megaphone instructing people to head back upstairs. (Vulliamy 9/16/2001)
Workers Sent Back from Ground Floor - On the 78th floor of the tower, people waiting for express elevators to take them down to the lower floors are told by security officials to return to their offices. And a group of 20 workers who have descended to the ground-floor lobby is told by security officials to go back upstairs. Nineteen of them do so, and 18 of these will subsequently die in the tower. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 289, 544) The Observer will comment that the instructions for workers to return to their offices, rather than evacuate, mean that “during the crucial 15 minutes of what should have been escape”—after the attack on the North Tower but before the attack on the South Tower—“there was confusion and a two-way rush along the panic-stricken arteries of life.” (Vulliamy 9/16/2001)
Security Officials Work for Port Authority - The security officials advising workers to return upstairs are “not part of the fire safety staff,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 289) According to The Observer, they are “officials of the Port Authority.” (Vulliamy 9/16/2001) Following the attack on the North Tower, an announcement goes out over the public address system in the South Tower that similarly tells workers their building is safe and they should stay in, or return to, their offices, rather than evacuate (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 72) That announcement is made on the orders of George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Grant 9/6/2011; Walmsley 9/10/2011) It is unclear if the security officials who instruct workers to return upstairs in person are acting on orders from Tabeek, or if someone else has told them what to do.
According to released transcripts, a caller from the Port Authority police desk tells a La Guardia Airport control tower employee that, “they are considering [the crashes into the WTC] a criminal act.” The control tower employee replies, “We believe that, and we are holding all aircraft on the ground.” (Kugler 12/29/2003) La Guardia is one of two major New York City airports, and the Port Authority patrol both the WTC and the city’s airports.
A Port Authority police officer calls a flight controller at La Guardia Airport in New York City. The officer asks, “They are inquiring whether or not you can call Kennedy’s tower, because they can’t get through, and inquire whether or not they had any contact with these aircrafts.” The flight controller responds, “At this time, we do not think that anyone in the FAA had any contact with them.” (Dwyer 12/30/2003) “Kennedy” is a reference to John F. Kennedy Airport, another major airport in New York City. Port Authority police, who patrol both the WTC and the airports, seek information from the controllers about the hijackers. However, the controllers are unable to offer any news. (Dwyer 12/30/2003)
At some point between the collapse of the two WTC towers, it is claimed that fire chiefs order the firefighters to come down. It has not been reported exactly who issued this order or when. Witnesses claim that scores of firefighters, unaware of the danger, were resting on lower floors in the minutes before the second tower collapsed. “Some firefighters who managed to get out said they had no idea the other building had already fallen, and said that they thought that few of those who perished knew.” At least 121 firefighters in the remaining tower die. The Fire Department blames a faulty radio repeater. However, the Port Authority claims later transcripts of radio communications show the repeaters worked. (Dwyer and Flynn 11/9/2002)
Congress approves a $15 billion federal aid package for the battered US airline industry, and sets up a government fund to compensate 9/11 victims’ relatives. (Simon 9/22/2001) However, relatives are only allowed to sue US-designated terrorists, and if they sue anyone else, they are not entitled to any compensation money. The law also limits the airlines’ liability to the limits of their insurance coverage—around $1.5 billion per plane. (Baum 1/17/2002) Nevertheless, some later sue entities that make them ineligible for the fund, such as the Port Authority, owner of the WTC.
Right before the expiration of a one-year legal deadline, the Port Authority, the government body that owns the WTC complex, is sued by five insurance companies, one utility and 700 relatives of the WTC victims. The insurance companies and utility are suing because of safety violations connected to the installation of diesel fuel tanks in 1999 that many blame for the collapse of WTC Building 7. (Debaise 9/10/2002) The relatives’ lawsuit is much more encompassing, and even blames the Port Authority for the Flight 93 hijacking (the Port Authority owns Newark airport, where the flight originated). The relatives’ lawsuit is likely to lie dormant for at least six months as evidence is collected. Relatives are also considering suing the airlines, security companies, and other entities. (Missing 9/13/2002)
Two 9/11 victims’ relatives testify before the Congressional 9/11 inquiry. Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband Ronald died at the WTC, asks how the FBI was so quickly able to assemble information on the hijackers. She cites a New York Times article stating that agents descended on flight schools within hours of the attacks. “How did the FBI know where to go a few hours after the attacks?” she asks. “Were any of the hijackers already under surveillance?” (Miklaszewski 9/18/2002) She adds, “Our intelligence agencies suffered an utter collapse in their duties and responsibilities leading up to and on September 11th. But their negligence does not stand alone. Agencies like the Port Authority, the City of NY, the FAA, the INS, the Secret Service, NORAD, the Air Force, and the airlines also failed our nation that morning.” (US Congress 9/18/2002) Stephen Push states, “If the intelligence community had been doing its job, my wife, Lisa Raines, would be alive today.” He cites the government’s failure to place Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi on a terrorist watch list until long after they were photographed meeting with alleged al-Qaeda operatives in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After). (Miklaszewski 9/18/2002)
At a press briefing in New York City, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) releases a 122-page progress report on its investigation into the WTC collapses. NIST began its study in August 2002 (see August 21, 2002). Investigators say they believe that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who built the Twin Towers, failed to carry out vital tests to establish how the buildings would cope with a major fire. They have been unable to find evidence that tests were conducted on the fireproofing material used in the buildings. Their report also states that in 1969, builders directed contractors to coat the WTC floor supports with half an inch of spray-on fireproofing. In 1999, the Port Authority issued guidelines to triple the thickness of the fireproofing, and by 9/11, about 30 floors in the upper areas of the two towers had been upgraded. Almost all the floors in the impact zone of the North Tower had their fireproofing upgraded, while in the South Tower just the 78th floor—the lowest in its impact zone—had been upgraded. As the New York Times states, though, “investigators took great care… to say they were nowhere close to definitively determining how and why the towers collapsed after they were struck by hijacked airliners.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 5/2003, pp. 81; National Institute of Standards and Technology 5/7/2003; Guardian 5/8/2003; Glanz 5/8/2003)
Insurance companies reach a $2 billion settlement with real estate development and investment firm Silverstein Properties for the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. The agreement, which involves seven of the two-dozen insurers for the WTC, ends more than five years of legal wrangling. The other insurance companies involved have already paid out about $2.55 billion, meaning the total payout will be $4.55 billion. In September 2006, Silverstein Properties and the New York Port Authority had agreed to split the reconstruction of the WTC site between them, and to divide up the remaining insurance proceeds accordingly. Consequently, the Port Authority is to receive about $870 million from the latest settlement, while the remaining $1.13 billion will go to Silverstein Properties. (New York State 5/23/2007; Bagli 5/23/2007; Schuster 5/23/2007; Gralla and Wilchins 5/23/2007) Silverstein Properties acquired the lease on several of the World Trade Center buildings, including the Twin Towers, in July 2001 (see July 24, 2001). (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 7/24/2001) As the New York Times summarizes, “At that time, two dozen insurers had signed binders pledging to provide $3.5 billion in insurance coverage, but had not finished the documentation.” Therefore, after 9/11, an “ugly dispute developed over which insurance policy was in effect at the time of the attack. Mr. [Larry] Silverstein [the president of Silverstein Properties] argued that since two jetliners slammed into the two towers, he was entitled to a double payment on the $3.5 billion policy. But many of the insurers countered that they had agreed to a different policy that did not permit double claims.” (Bagli 5/23/2007) In 2004, federal juries had decided that Silverstein Properties could collect a maximum of $4.68 billion for the loss of the WTC. The current settlement therefore means the insurers are obliged to pay 97.2 percent of that maximum. (Levitt 5/23/2007; New York State 5/23/2007; Schuster 5/23/2007; Gralla and Wilchins 5/23/2007) Silverstein Properties had separately been awarded $861 million of insurance money in 2002 for the loss of World Trade Center Building 7, which also collapsed on 9/11 (see May 2002).
Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike