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Thread: 9/11 Tape Raised Added Questions on Radio Failures

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    9/11 Tape Raised Added Questions on Radio Failures

    9/11 Tape Raised Added Questions on Radio Failures
    By JIM DWYER and KEVIN FLYNN


    For much of the last year, New York City has said the devastating breakdown in fire communications at the World Trade Center was largely caused by the failure of an electronic device in the complex called a repeater, which was designed to boost radio transmissions in high rise buildings.

    Now, however, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's analysis of its 78-minute tape of firefighter communications from Sept. 11 flatly contradicts the city's version of what went wrong. It also raises questions about the thoroughness of the city's investigations into the worst loss of life any fire department has ever experienced

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    Fire Department Tape Reveals No Awareness of Imminent Doom

    Fire Department Tape Reveals No Awareness of Imminent Doom
    By KEVIN FLYNN and JIM DWYER


    The voices, captured on a tape of Fire Department radio transmissions, betray no fear. The words are matter-of-fact.

    Two hose lines are needed, Chief Orio Palmer says from an upper floor of the badly damaged south tower at the World Trade Center. Just two hose lines to attack two isolated pockets of fire. "We should be able to knock it down with two lines," he tells the firefighters of Ladder Company 15 who were following him up the stairs of the doomed tower.

    Lt. Joseph G. Leavey is heard responding: "Orio, we're on 78, but we're in the B stairway. Trapped in here. We got to put some fire out to get to you."

    Ladder 15 had finally found the fire after an arduous climb to the 78th floor, according to the tape. They were in the B stairwell. On the other side of the fire were hundreds of people, blocked from fleeing by smoke and flame on the stairs. Chief Palmer was facing similar fires in the A stairwell, across the floor.

    "We're gonna knock down some fire here in the B Stair," Lieutenant Leavey is heard telling one of his firefighters. "We'll meet up with you. You get over to the A Stair and help out Chief Palmer."

    The time was 9:56 a.m. The firefighters had just arrived at a place where, 54 minutes earlier, many people had been waiting for elevators when the second plane came crashing through the building. Now Chief Palmer and Ladder 15 were surrounded by the wounded whom they hoped to evacuate.

    Like the cockpit voice recorder from a downed jetliner, this tape, discovered in an adjacent building several weeks after Sept. 11, is providing a glimpse into unseen corners of the tragedy and the resolute advance of firefighters as they encountered the largest catastrophe of their lives.

    The 78-minute tape, which was found in a room at 5 World Trade Center where radio transmissions were monitored, is the only known audiotape of firefighters at the scene. In recent months, officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which maintained the recording system, have allowed fire officials and family members to listen to it. It was not publicly released, however, until this week. The release came after federal prosecutors, responding to a court motion by The New York Times, said that making it public would not interfere with the prosecution of terrorists.

    Officials from the Port Authority and the Fire Department are still debating what the tape tells them about the breakdowns in radio communication that day. There are several long stretches of silence on the tape. Transmissions from only a few of the companies that operated in the south tower are recorded. A few additional snippets of conversation can be heard from firefighters in the north tower, where radios using the same frequency were also monitored.

    But sections of the tape provide vivid images of the firefighters: the breathless voice of Chief Palmer, a marathon runner, after dashing up dozens of flights; the assurances from firefighters to him that they are coming on his heels; the effort to create a medical staging area for the wounded on the 40th floor.

    At several points in the tape, fire commanders can be heard speaking with urgency. A commander alerts a colleague that he needs more companies to handle what he is facing in the south tower. The chiefs discuss the need to get more elevators into service, to carry firefighters up and to transport the injured back down.

    But nowhere on the tape is there any indication that firefighters had the slightest indication that the tower had become unstable or that it could fall.

    "Chief, I'm going to stop on 44," Stephen Belson, an aide to Chief Palmer, tells him at 9:25 as he ascends.

    "Take your time," the chief responds.

    A half-hour later, the tape reveals, firefighters from Ladder 15 had loaded 10 injured people into an elevator and begun a descent to the lobby. Down below, fire commanders were waiting, hoping to use that elevator, the only working one in the building, to ferry additional firefighters back up to the heavily damaged floors. But suddenly the elevator stopped, according to the tape.

    "You're going to have to get a different elevator," a firefighter from Ladder 15 says over the radio. "We're chopping through the wall to get out."

    A few seconds later, at 9:58 a.m., Chief Palmer tries to raise someone from the ladder company. "Battalion 7 to Ladder 15," he calls.

    But the tape remains silent.




    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/09/nyregion/09TOWE.html

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    Bravest hit new WTC radio report

    Bravest hit new WTC radio report

    By MICHAEL SAUL
    DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

    Firefighters questioned yesterday a new report that suggests human error or FDNY equipment failures - not malfunctioning Port Authority radio boosters - were to blame for deadly communication breakdowns during the World Trade Center attack.

    The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey now says a 78-minute tape of firefighter chatter proves that its repeaters - amplifiers that boost radio signals - successfully transmitted firefighters' messages on Sept. 11.

    The findings, first reported in yesterday's New York Times, flatly contradict an earlier city-sponsored study that found the repeaters had malfunctioned.

    Mayor Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta have endorsed the earlier study.

    Donald Ruland, a trustee and member of the executive board of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, told the Daily News the logic behind the Port Authority's analysis seems faulty.

    "It is possible that the repeaters could have been malfunctioning but some communication could have made it [through]," Ruland said. "Just because there were communications recorded from the output of the repeater in no way indicates firefighters transmitting life-and-death messages always made it [through]."

    Ruland said he doesn't believe the repeaters' performance was adequate. "There weren't enough of them, and there were certainly incidents of dead spots," he said.

    Firefighters in the south tower can be heard on the tape speaking over their radios until the building collapsed. However, very few communications from the north tower are heard on the tape.

    FDNY spokesman David Billig told the Daily News yesterday that the department stands by the original analysis.

    Originally published on November 10, 2002



    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/loca...9p-32384c.html

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    In Rescuers' Voices, 9/11 Tape Reveals a Gripping History

    In Rescuers' Voices, 9/11 Tape Reveals a Gripping History
    By JIM DWYER


    Even now, those voices carry.

    One firefighter, out of breath after dashing to the 78th floor, thinks he can manage with two hoses.

    Right behind you, says another fellow.

    Whatever you need, says a third man.

    Out of the avalanche of words about the events of Sept. 11, a mere 2,800 or so come nearer to the core of the catastrophe than any other documentary record made public so far. Those words, captured on a tape that was released last week, were spoken by firefighters who climbed high into the south tower and perished. As a fragment of human history, they have enormous weight. They map out a lost place. They narrate the final innocent moments, before the vastness of the horror became apparent. And because the language is stripped to business-only, these words are a reminder that emergency workers who went to the trade center were there not to pose for hero statues, but to rescue gravely injured people from a burning sky, a task many of them approached with a calm professionalism.

    Yet the tape is revealing on another level entirely. While these words are as true as any spoken about those terrible events, they remained sealed off from the public for more than a year, by one agency or another. In that sense, the tape not only provides facts about a particular 78 minutes on Sept. 11, 2001, but also exposes what many see as a lingering diffidence toward searching inquiries into whatever broke down on that day, whether building codes in New York City or spy codes at the National Security Agency.

    At a local level, for instance, the tape transmissions raise a commanding challenge to the city's official conclusion that a certain piece of radio equipment

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