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What firefighters didn't know on 9/11
Christopher Hagedorn (7/18/02)*

The number of firefighters who lost their lives, 343, is numbing; the knowledge that they could not be contacted because of the failure of the communications system is unpardonable.

Sept. 11 may be the date of an act of unspeakable negligence for which nobody will accept responsibility. The issue, just emerging, is how the police and fire departments responded, coordinated their efforts and communicated with their respective forces; the question is why the city's leaders have refused to accept responsibility and apparently want to secrete the facts of just what happened.

In a front-page article, The New York Times revealed a devastating picture of incompetence and petty rivalry between the Fire Department and the NYPD during the rescue efforts on Sept. 11. Its report charged that deaths of police officers were considerably less than the firefighters because of clear warnings to the officers that were never transmitted to the firefighters. According to NYPD tapes during the rescue efforts, police officers were alerted to the imminent collapse of the World Trade Center's north tower some 21 minutes before it occurred.

In the case of the firefighters, communications failed as they had in the 1993 bombing of the WTC.

As the Times reported: "No other agency lost communications on Sept. 11 as broadly, or to such a devastating effect, as the Fire Department. Throughout the crisis, the two largest emergency departments, fire and police, barely spoke to coordinate strategy or to share intelligence about the buildings' conditions.

"During those final minutes, most firefighters inside the north tower did not know the other building had crumbled, and how urgent it was for them to get out. Instead, dozens of firefighters were catching their breath on the 11th floor of the tower, witnesses say. Others were awaiting orders in the lobby. Still others were evacuating disabled and the frightened.

"Although Mayor Rudolph Giuliani created the Office of Emergency Management in 1996 and spent nearly $25 million to coordinate emergency response, Trade Center officials said the agency had not conducted an emergency exercise there that included the Fire Department, the police and the Port Authority's emergency staff."

There was testimony of many persons escaping from the north tower on stairways that firefighters were running up, without hesitation. In each statement by survivors, one heard of the courage of the firefighters who were unknowingly climbing to their death that morning, despite NYPD warnings to its officers.

Yes, the firefighters were incredibly brave, entering the towering inferno in an effort to save lives. That the police were admonishing their personnel of the "imminent collapse" of the north tower, while firefighters were ignorant of the dangers, is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions.

The number of firefighters who lost their lives, 343, is numbing; the knowledge that they could not be contacted because of the failure of the communications system is unpardonable. If the police officers were indeed, warned on the imminent collapse some 21 minutes before it occurred, as reported by the Times, the negligence is unmentionable in its magnitude.

In military operations, the generals calculate projected losses on the field of battle. Gen. Eisenhower well understood that the estimated casualties of the glider squadron and paratroopers on D-Day would most probably approach 70 percent.

When Eisenhower visited the paratroopers on the early morning of June 6, 1944, he was grim, knowing the dangers they would encounter. Earlier that morning he has written a statement that he carried in his pocket, to deliver if the invasion failed and our troops were force off the beaches of Normandy and back into the sea.

The statement in Eisenhower's pocket said: He accepted full responsibility for the failed landing and the deaths of our brave soldiers.

There were no Eisenhowers, it seems, in the city after Sept. 11 to accept responsibility for the tragic events involving the firefighters.

To date, nobody from the city administration has stepped forward; former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and Fire Commissioner Thomas Von have been silent. Equally, and heretical to say, Mayor Giuliani, now proclaimed America's Mayor, has never mentioned the other tragedy of Sept. 11.

Yes, human failure may have played a part in the horrific drama of that morning, but honesty about what really happened demands a higher integrity owed to those brave men and women in uniform who so openly responded to the call to service to attempt to save lives. Their memory, if for no other reason, requires a thorough accounting and accepting responsibility.


Source: Greenwich Post, Town & Village News, City, Bronx, and Parkchester News

* Christopher Hagedorn is the Publisher of Hagedorn Communications, Inc.

© Copyright 2002 Hagedorn Communications, Inc.

Sally Regenhard,

P. O. Box 70
Woodlawn Station
Bronx, NY 10470

Monica Gabrielle,

P. O. Box 70
Woodlawn Station
Bronx, NY 10470