A nightmarish scene of rubble, body parts and dwindling hope

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Associated Press WriterNEW YORK (AP) -- The light of a new day brought no comfort to a city in shock, as rescue crews picked through the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center in a desperate search for survivors Thursday. New York's mayor said 3,700 people had been reported missing.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the city had some 30,000 body bags available. Still, he said there were just 94 confirmed dead, of whom 30 or fewer had been identified.

"Let's just say there was a steady stream of body bags coming out all night," said Dr. Todd Wider, a surgeon who was working at a triage center. "That and lots and lots of body parts."

A vast section of New York City was sealed off Thursday, with the stock markets to remain closed for the longest stretch since World War II. Work was slowed by hellish bursts of flame and the collapse of the last standing section of one of the towers taken out by twin suicide jets.

The 3,700 missing reported by Giuliani, added to the deaths in Washington and Pennsylvania when commandeered airliners crashed into the Pentagon and a grassy field southeast of Pittsburgh, would bring the total to around 4,000.

That compares with the 2,390 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor nearly 60 years ago, and the 1,500 dead on the Titanic.

On Wednesday, five people were pulled alive from the Trade Center rubble -- three of them police officers.

The New York Times reported that three financial companies with offices in the complex said more than 1,500 workers were unaccounted for.

A thick cloud of acrid, white smoke blew through the streets Wednesday after the four-story fragment of the south tower fell. Gusts of flame occasionally jumped up as debris was removed from the smoldering wreckage.

"The volunteers are literally putting their lives at risk," Giuliani said.

The vast search to uncover the terrorist plot stretched from Miami to Boston to Portland, Maine, and on to Canada and Germany. Up to 50 people were involved in the attack, the Justice Department said, with at least four hijackers trained at U.S. flight schools. Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden remained a top suspect.

"We're pursuing a couple thousand credible leads and I believe we're making progress on those leads," Attorney General John Ashcroft said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

In Washington, President Bush worked with Congress on legislation authorizing military retaliation, and officials revealed that the White House, Air Force One and the president himself were targeted a day earlier.

America's NATO allies bolstered Bush's case for military action, declaring the terrorist attacks an assault on the alliance itself.

In New York, the landscape was a haze of gray dust, splayed girders, paper and boulders of broken concrete. Firefighters armed with cameras and listening devices on long poles searched for survivors. German shepherds and golden retrievers clambered over the debris, sniffing.

A morgue set up in a Brooks Brothers clothing store received remains a limb at a time.

Giuliani was among those who escaped Tuesday's attack uninjured, bolting from a building barely a block from the site when the first of the towers collapsed.

More than 3,000 tons of rubble was taken by boat to a former Staten Island garbage dump, where the FBI and other investigators searched for evidence, hoping to find the planes' black boxes with clues to what happened in the final terrifying minutes before the crashes.

Wall Street and the rest of the nation's financial center remained closed for a third day Thursday, with hopes they may reopen Friday. The shutdown on the New York Stock Exchange was already longer than the two-day closure at the end of World War II; the next longest was for a week after the 1929 market crash.

Insurance industry experts say the attack could become the nation's most expensive manmade disaster ever, with payouts ranging from $5 billion to $25 billion.

The densely packed bottom tip of the island, an area roughly five square miles, remained off-limits to everyone but emergency workers. Volunteers emerged from the search-and-rescue mission with grisly tales as they cleared away the twisted steel and glass wreckage of the twin towers.

One body was carried out wrapped in an American flag. When workers hung another American flag from a piece of a transmission tower that apparently survived the collapse, "everybody stopped and saluted," said Parish Kelley, a firefighter from Ashburnham, Mass.

Kelley spent the day working in a crater left by the towers' collapse. As he picked through the rubble, he watched as a man's body -- a cell phone still clutched in his hand -- was carried out.

"We're looking at a pile of rubble 30 to 40 feet high. Where do you start?" said sheriff's Sgt. Mike Goldberg of Hampden County, Mass., accompanying a search-and-rescue dog.

The discovery of a foot and leg and a cockpit seat led to speculation that one of the pilots had been found, Goldberg said.

Survivors held to their spirit, like Marlene Cruz, who sported a neck brace, a leg cast and an unbroken will.

"I wouldn't let a terrorist stop me," she said at Bellevue Hospital. "If the building were still there, I would go back."

For those looking for missing family members, there were unanswered questions. A family grief center set up in a Manhattan armory drew 2,500 family members on Wednesday, said Gov. George Pataki.

Thousands more were expected as the search mission continued.

At St. Vincent's Hospital, where hundreds of victims were treated, a sobbing Annelise Peterson walked in a daze, clutching pictures of her boyfriend and brother.

Peterson asked if anyone had seen either. No one could tell her yes.

Among the missing: at least 202 firefighters and possibly up to 350; 154 workers from the Port Authority; 57 NYPD and Port Authority police officers; 38 members of a Manhattan management company. Another 150 were unaccounted for at the Pentagon. The four hijacked planes carried 266 passengers and crew.

Also lost was John P. O'Neill, head of security for the World Trade Center and a former FBI expert on terrorism. O'Neill headed the investigations into the bombing of the USS Cole, along with the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Back at Bellevue, a firefighter almost had to have his leg amputated so he could be freed from the rubble, said Pataki, who visited the hospital to thank medical workers and speak with patients.

The governor asked him why he would risk his life. The unidentified firefighter told him: "What do you expect? I'm a New Yorker."

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