- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009

NEW YORK — It was an emergency drill Sunday, yet the scene of hundreds of firefighters, police officers and other first responders hustling around the World Trade Center evoked the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Firefighters carried oxygen tanks, hoses and heavy axes into an underground train station, while police and other emergency personnel helped those playing injured - all part of a large disaster response exercise at ground zero.

More than 800 first responders participated in Sunday’s mock terrorist attack, which simulated an explosion on a New Jersey-bound PATH commuter train in a tunnel. The police, firefighters and other emergency personnel joined about 150 volunteers, who posed as injured passengers smudged with grime and fake blood.

The two-hour drill recalled the July 7, 2005, bombings on the London subway system more than the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers.

Officials bought television ads and plastered train stations with posters to warn downtown Manhattan residents of the drill. The warnings for those in the area came after a Department of Defense-arranged flyover by a jet above downtown Manhattan last month panicked thousands of Wall Street workers and residents. The hundreds of first responders represented the largest police and firefighter presence at the trade center site since the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. The purpose of the drill was to improve interagency cooperation in the event of a real disaster.

“The motto for today is: You can never be too prepared,” said Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs area transit hubs and owns the Trade Center site. “We will evaluate how well we did prepare, how well we performed, find wherever we did make mistakes and how we can improve.”

Poor communication and jurisdictional infighting between the police and fire departments impeded rescue efforts when the Twin Towers were struck in 2001.

PATH service was suspended during the exercise, and streets around the site were blocked off.

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