- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — A fire official described near-chaos inside the World Trade Center, with communication becoming increasingly difficult as firefighters tried to reach people trapped by a blaze raging high overhead, recordings released yesterday of emergency phone calls during the September 11 attacks show.

“We’re in a state of confusion,” Chief Dennis Devlin of Battalion 9 said. “We have no cell-phone service anywhere because of the disaster. … Bring all the additional handy talkies.”

Chief Devlin tried to get a rundown of all the companies dispatched to the 110-story buildings. He was still inside the South Tower when it collapsed.

The same mix of concern and confusion was evident in recordings of more of the 1,613 previously undisclosed emergency calls made after two hijacked planes hit the trade center.

“One of the towers just collapsed,” a fire lieutenant said during one call. “Everybody’s got to be inside of it. … There’s got to be thousands of the people inside it. One of the towers just came down on everybody.”

Callers trapped on the upper floors of the burning towers sought help from emergency operators, who were unable to offer much more than words of encouragement.

“There’s heavy smoke and flames and the building management is announcing that everything is all right, and it’s not and they’re confused,” one fire dispatcher said after fielding a phone call from someone trapped on the 82nd floor.

Another, speaking to a woman stuck on the 83rd floor, offered hope of a rescue team, which never appeared.

“Listen to me, ma’am,” that operator told Melissa Doi during a 20-minute phone call. “You’re not dying. You’re in a bad situation, ma’am.”

A portion of Miss Doi’s end of the conversation was played for jurors in April at the trial of September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” Miss Doi asked the dispatcher.

“Ma’am, just stay calm for me, OK?” the dispatcher said. The conversation ended with the operator trying in vain to speak with Miss Doi, a financial manager for IQ Financial Systems: “Not dead, not dead,” the operator said to no response. Miss Doi never made it out of the World Trade Center.

The calls included the voices of 19 firefighters and two emergency medical technicians killed in the collapses, although most of the calls were from firefighters asking dispatchers where they should report for duty, the fire department said.

About a dozen family members of the September 11 victims arrived in a Manhattan conference room yesterday to hear the tapes, which again raised questions about the lack of communication on the scene.

“We’re still looking for information for how we can fix what went wrong that day,” said Aggie McCaffrey, whose brother Orio Palmer was among the 343 firefighters killed.

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