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Throughout the building, terrorized occupants were dialing 911 on
cell phones and pleading for help from fire rescue, which was sending
every piece of emergency equipment in its inventory to the Trade Center.
At 8:56 a man from the eighty-seventh floor yelled that his office was on
fire and there were four other people with him.
Picking himself up from his long tumble, Steve Mclntyre knew that he
had found the only way out and he headed back up to get the other
employees. He noticed that very few people were passing him coming
down. Above McIntyre's ninety-first floor, occupying floors 93 to 100, was
the giant insurance, consulting, and financial firm, Marsh & McLennan.
And above them, from 100 to 105, was Cantor Fitzgerald, a large bond
dealer. One of the trade center's oldest tenants, it had gradually taken
over five floors as it expanded. Finally, there was Windows on the World,
the famous restaurant with its breathtaking views, on the 106th floor.
Many of the people on those floors, where the plane hit and above, were
trapped and would never get out.
Christopher Hanley, who worked for a division of Reuters on Sixth
Avenue, was among 150 people attending a special breakfast conference
at Windows on the World. At 8:57 he called fire rescue to tell them the
room was filling with smoke and people could not get down the stairs.
About the same time, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee called from the 103rd
floor. As people were screaming in the background, he told the operator
that he was trapped, could not breathe, and that the smoke was coming
through the door.
Another Cantor Fitzgerald employee unable to make his way out was
forty-five-year-old Ian Schneider. The son of a truck driver, balding with
a thick, black, barbershop-quartet mustache, he worked as a senior
managing director of the firm. Schneider, like many others, took the
dangers of working in the high-profile building in stride. He had been
there during the earlier bombing in 1993 and had gone back to work the
next day. And he would hang pencils from the ceiling to see them sway.
Minutes after the plane hit, he called his wife, Cheryl, at home in Short
Hills, New Jersey, to say he was leaving the building. But this time it
would be different: the stairways were blocked or destroyed. Schneider
pulled out his cell phone and called fire rescue to tell them that he and
many other people were trapped on the 105th floor and that smoke was
filling the room.
Over at Tower Two, many people headed down the emergency
stairwells soon after the crash, but after a few minutes, once it was
determined that their tower was not affected, they were told that they
could return to their offices, which many did. One of those in Tower Two
was Sean Rooney, a fifty-year-old vice president for Aon, one of the
numerous insurance and financial services firms that populated the twin
towers. At the time of the attack on Tower One, his wife, Beverly Eckert,
a vice president with GeneralCologne Re, was attending a conference in
her Stamford, Connecticut, offices. Hearing of the explosion at the World


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Trade Center, she quickly went for her phone where she found a message
from Rooney. "It's the other building," he said. "I'm all right. But what I'm
seeing is horrible." Relieved, Eckert went back to her meeting.
When Steve Mclntyre arrived at his office after finding an open
emergency stairwell, the other employees were gathered in the reception
area. Quickly they began making their way down. Despite the confusion,
Claire Mclntyre had managed to grab her pocketbook and flashlight. "The
first two flights were dark," she recalled, "with no emergency lights, and
water was pouring down the stairs. We could barely see and I put my
flashlight on. Then the emergency lights came on, and water was still
flowing down." But the slick, oil-covered debris was dangerous and
colleague Emma "Georgia" Barnett slipped and fell down three flights of
stairs. Nevertheless, she got back up but this time tripped over a hose,
injuring her knee. Still, determined to survive, she continued down with
the rest.

The skies had turned deadly. By 8:56 an air traffic controller in
Indianapolis was becoming very worried. American Airlines Flight 77
from Washington to Los Angeles, the plane on which Barbara Olson and
the hijackers from Laurel, Maryland, were flying, was not answering.
"American seventy-seven, Indy," he kept repeating. The controller then
called American Airlines operations to see if they could raise the crew.
They also had no luck, so the controller asked a different operator to try
again. "We, uh, we lost track control of the guy," said the Indianapolis
controller. "He's in coast track but we haven't, we don't [know] where his
target is and we can't get a hold of him. You guys tried him and no
response. We have no radar contact and, uh, no communications with
him so if you guys could try again." "We're doing it," said the American
Airlines operator. But there would be only silence.

Among those watching the events unfold on television was John Carr,
the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Shortly
before nine his cell phone went off. "Hey, John, are you watching this on
TV?" said one of his associates. "Yeah, I am," replied Carr. "That's
American eleven," said the friend. Carr nearly dropped his coffee. "My
God, what are you talking about?" he said. "That's American eleven that
made that hole in the World Trade Center." Carr still could not believe it.
"You're kidding me," he said. "No," replied his friend. "And there is
another one that just turned south toward New York." Then, referring to
United Flight 175, he added ominously, "We lost him, too."
At 9:02 on the ABC News program Good Morning America,
correspondent Don Dahler in New York was giving hosts Diane Sawyer
and Charles Gibson an update on the Trade Center explosion as the
camera focused on the twin towers. "It appears that there is more and
more fire and smoke enveloping the very top of the building," he said,
"and as fire crews are descending on this area it does not appear that


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there is any kind of an effort up there yet. Now remember” Oh, my God!"
At that moment the image of a large commercial jetliner, tilted to one
side, zoomed across the television screen and smashed into Tower Two,
pushing desks, people, and file cabinets out the windows. Paper began to
slowly rain down, sparkling in the sun like confetti. Then, a fraction of a
second later, United Flight 175 exploded with the force of a fuel-air
bomb, sending superheated flames and dense, black smoke in all
directions.
"My God!" repeated Sawyer, almost in a whisper. "That looks like a
second plane," said Gibson flatly and with no emotion, as if describing a
passing bus. "I just saw another plane coming in from the side. That was
the second explosion”you could see the plane come in, just on the right-
hand side of the screen. So this looks like it is some kind of concerted
effort to attack the World Trade Center that is under way in downtown
New York."
Hearing of the second explosion, Beverly Eckert once more grabbed
the phone to call her husband, Sean Rooney. Again, another message
was waiting”but it had come in prior to the most recent event. "Just
letting you know I'll be here for a while," he said. "They've secured the
building." After trying unsuccessfully to call him, she rushed home to
Glenbrook. The two had been married for twenty-one years and had
known each other since meeting in their native Buffalo in 1967. For
Rooney, it was a long commute to the World Trade Center every day, but
he greatly enjoyed playing carpenter, plumber, electrician, and mason at
his home in Connecticut. Since buying the house fourteen years earlier,
he had added cement steps by the front door, built a fireplace mantel in
the living room, and laid marble floors in the master bathroom. He even
cultivated an herb garden. Eckert especially liked the way her husband
laughed”and how it made his shoulders shake. But now she was very
worried.
Soon after she reached their house, only about a mile away, the
phone rang. It was Rooney telling her that he was trapped on the 105th
floor of the burning Tower Two. He had tried to make it down the
emergency stairwell, he said, but around the seventy-sixth floor the heat
and smoke had become too intense, driving him back. Then he tried to
escape to the observation deck just above his office, but the thick steel
door was locked. He said he was now on the north side of the building,
and Eckert said she would pass the information on to the rescue
workers. Confused as to what was happening around him, Rooney asked
his wife what she could see on the television. Eckert said there was fire
on his side of the building, but it was many floors below. "The smoke is
heavy," Rooney said. "I don't understand why the fire suppression isn't
working."
"Maybe they can get a helicopter to you," said Eckert, desperately
trying to get her husband to the roof and possible rescue. "Please try the
door again. Pound on it. Maybe someone is on the other side and will


525
hear you. Who is with you?" she asked. "I'm alone," said Rooney. "Some
other people are in a conference room nearby." He then went back to the
observation deck to try the door again.

The man charged with protecting the continental United States from a
surprise attack was NORAD Major General Larry K. Arnold. Yet he
himself was among the most surprised by the attack. He watched the
deadly assaults unfold on his office television set. Then when United
Flight 175 hit Tower Two, Arnold blinked. "I couldn't believe that that
was actually happening," he said. NORAD's public relations officer was
talking to his brother in Tower Two when the United 767 hit it. "Well, I
better get out of here," the brother said quickly and then hung up. But
he never made it out.
At the time of the impact, NORAD's two fighters from Otis Air National
Guard Base were still seventy-one miles away”seven minutes' flying
time.

Over in Tower One, Steve Mclntyre and his fellow employees were still
attempting to make their way down the crowded and rubble-strewn
stairs. "We stopped at around the eighty-fifth floor to take stock and to
calm each other," Mclntyre recalled. "That was much better. We realized
the fire was above us and that it was clear below. We just had to get
down." His emotional state was "up and down like a yo-yo," he said. "We
were completely encased in tunnels. And then we would open a door onto
a floor and there would be guys fighting a fire, and then we would open
another door and there would be people just milling around." As people
or debris blocked their paths, they would zigzag across floors to other
emergency stairwells. By the time they reached the sixties, Claire
Mclntyre was exhausted. "I was thinking: 'How much more to go?'" she
said.

By now it was about three minutes past nine. Both towers of the
World Trade Center had been hit by large commercial airliners with
thousands of people feared dead. One crash took place on live television.
Another commercial jet bound for Los Angeles”American Airlines Flight
77” was missing and may have been headed for still another target.
Other flying bombs were possibly orbiting. NORAD had launched fighters
to intercept and possibly shoot down one of the aircraft, requiring the
president's permission. Frightened Americans across the country were
transfixed in front of their televisions. Commentators were declaring that
the United States was under massive airborne attack. Yet as America
was suffering its worse assault in history, the president of the United
States remained largely in the dark, knowing far less then the average
couch potato watching Diane Sawyer.
At the time, George W Bush was sitting on a stool in Sarasota,
Florida, listening to a small class of second graders read him a story


526
about a girl's pet goat. It was the day's routine photo-op, prepackaged
propaganda for the press designed to demonstrate his concern for
education. Just before entering the class, Condoleezza Rice, the national
security advisor, informed the president of the devastating jet plane
crash into Tower One. Nevertheless, Bush decided stay on message and
go forward with the publicity event. Florida, after all, had been the most
crucial battleground of the last election, and could be in the next.
About 9:06, four minutes after the attack on Tower Two, White House
Chief of Staff Andy Card leaned over and whispered the brief message in
the president's right ear. "A second plane has hit the World Trade
Center," he said. "America is under attack." Almost immediately an
expression of befuddlement passed across the president's face.
Then, having just been told that the country was under attack, the
commander in chief appeared uninterested in further details. He never
asked if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were
coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks, or
what was the current status of NORAD or the Federal Emergency
Management Agency. Nor did he call for an immediate return to
Washington. Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he
simply turned back to the matter at hand: the day's photo op. Precious
minutes were ticking by, and many more lives were still at risk. "Really
good readers, whew!" he told the class as the electronic flashes once
again began to blink and the video cameras rolled. "These must be sixth
graders!"

As President Bush continued with his reading lesson, life within the
burning towers of the World Trade Center was becoming ever more
desperate. At 9:06 the police helicopter radioed the message, "Unable to
land on roof." As it pulled away from Tower One, the hundreds or
thousands still trapped on the upper floors saw their last hope
disappear. Without someone to break open the locked doors to the roof,
or pluck them from it, all they could do was hang out of windows trying
to find some smoke-free air to breathe. Some flapped draperies to try to
attract attention. The towers had now become sky-high chimneys.
Within minutes, people began jumping, preferring a quick death to
burning alive or suffocating. "People falling out of building," said the pilot
of the chopper. "Jumper," he added. And they just kept coming. "Several
jumpers from the window [Windows on the World] at One World Trade
Center." By 9:09 people were also beginning to throw themselves out of
Tower Two. "People are jumping out the side of a large hole," said a caller
to fire rescue. "Possibly no one catching them."
Like people trapped on a sinking ship seeking the highest point above
the water, those in the twin towers, blocked from going down, were
climbing up as high as they could go. But it would be a climb to
nowhere. "One hundred twenty people trapped on the 106th floor,"
exclaimed a caller in Windows on the World at 9:19. "A lot of smoke. . . .


527
Can't go down the stairs!" "Evacuation to the top floor of World Trade
Center," said another caller a few seconds later. The problem was the
same at Tower Two. "Hundred and fifth floor," a caller yelled. "People
trapped! Open roof to gain access!" But, ironically, although some would
make it to the roof through open doors, other doors were locked to keep
potential jumpers, and simple spectators, off.

For more than half an hour, air traffic controllers in both Washington
and Indianapolis had been searching madly for American Airlines Flight
77, which had taken off from Dulles Airport about 8:10. At 8:56 all
contact was lost. "You guys never been able to raise him at all?" asked a
radar operator at Indianapolis Control. "No," said the air traffic
controller. "We called [the] company. They can't even get ahold of him so
there's no, no, uh, no radio communications and no radar." Finally, at
9:24, the FAA alerted officials at NORAD, who immediately sent out a
scramble order to their Air National Guard unit at Langley Air Force Base
in Hampton, Virginia.
Four minutes later, Dulles tower air traffic control operator Danielle
O'Brien spotted an unidentified blip on her radar screen. Although she
didn't know it at the time, it was the missing Flight 77. Seventy minutes
earlier she had bid farewell to the flight crew with her uncustomary "good
luck." The alarmed controllers quickly called to warn their colleagues at

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