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Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

Hopes for survivors fade

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

NEW YORK -- One week after terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, the mayor said there was virtually no hope left Tuesday of finding any of the 5,400 missing souls alive. Meanwhile, a federal grand jury has begun investigating the attack.

The somber news from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani came just a few hours after the nation, led by President Bush on the White House lawn, paused for two minutes to honor the victims. The remembrance came at 8:48 a.m., exactly one week after the first of two hijacked airliners struck the twin towers.

Nancy Pelaez, an administrative assistant on her way to work in New York, paused and wiped away tears. "When you keep silent these two minutes, it seems like a really long time," she said. "I'm thinking of people who were looking for their loved ones."

218 confirmed dead

By Tuesday, 218 people had been confirmed dead at the Trade Center and 5,422 were still listed as missing. Five survivors have been found, but none since last Wednesday. Just 135 bodies have been identified -- little more than 2 percent of the dead and missing.

After a week of round-the-clock digging by thousands of rescue workers, the mayor said the chances of finding any survivors in the smoking ruins of the 110-story towers is now "very, very small."

"We don't have any substantial amount of hope we can offer anyone that we will find anyone alive," Giuliani said. "We have to prepare people for that overwhelming reality."

Authorities said a grand jury convened last week in nearby White Plains to investigate the attacks, the first step toward possible charges. The community is part of the federal court system's Southern District of New York, which has historically led all investigations related to Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the attacks.

In Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft said authorities have detained 75 people and arrested at least four material witnesses in the terrorist investigation. He also said new rules will allow suspected illegal immigrants to be detained for 48 hours, double the old period.

The FBI is also investigating the possibility that more than four planes had been targeted by the hijackers, Ashcroft said.

Afghanistan's Taliban rulers, meanwhile, vowed to wage a holy war against America if U.S. forces launch an assault to punish them for sheltering bin Laden, a Saudi exile. In the capital of Kabul, hundreds of clerics gathered to discuss conditions for possibly extraditing bin Laden to a country other than the United States.

Thousands of Afghans continued to flee to Pakistan amid fears of a U.S. attack.

Rescuers give pause

In New York's command center, workers paused amid the ringing phones and glowing computer screens as the one-week mark arrived. In Union Square, residents stood silently amid a sea of candles and flowers.

Even workers at ground zero stopped briefly in the morning's hazy sunshine before returning to their labors.

"If a brother has lost his life, you'd like to give him a proper burial," said Tom Butler, spokesman for the Uniformed Firefighters Association. "We're going to continue to do what we have to do."

Wearing a face mask to protect his face from the smoke, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan joined the mayor and Gov. George Pataki for a 20-minute tour of the rubble. He shook his head repeatedly at the seven-story mound of concrete, glass, metal and wood.

"This is not just an attack on New York or the United States but on the whole world," Annan said. Not long after his visit, the U.N. General Assembly postponed next week's annual gathering of world leaders.

Families await word

Hundreds of families from more than five dozen countries are waiting for word of their loved ones. Relatives continue to wallpaper the city with fliers bearing pictures and details of the missing.

In hopes of getting DNA matches, they have rooted through personal effects -- toothbrushes, coffee mugs, razors, hairbrushes, chewed gum -- that might provide a match with the body parts found at the site.

The process of DNA matching is expected to begin late next week, when the city medical examiner's office receives special FBI software.

Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, with ash on his shoes and a haggard expression on his face, said the compression of materials from the collapse of the twin towers is making it difficult to dig deep into the rubble. And in areas where there might be a void beneath the rubble, rescuers have been driven away by the heat from underground flames.


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