Papers, dust and rubble
BY DIEGO IBARGUEN Associated Press
Sep 13, 2001
Firefighters go to work near the site of the World Trade Center in New York on Wednesday. In the most devastating terrorist onslaught ever waged against the United States, knife-wielding hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center on Tuesday, toppling its twin 110-story towers.
MARK LENNIHAN / Associated Press
Rescue workers sift through a hellish moonscape at ground zero.
NEW YORK -- The spot where the World Trade Center once stood was an otherworldly place
Wednesday, a hazy landscape of gray dust, splayed girders, paper and boulders of broken
The hellish scene was occasionally punctuated by flames, erupting as debris was removed and
air fanned the smoldering wreckage. "We got a problem with fireballs!" came a call over a Fire
For the first time since the twin towers collapsed, reporters were allowed to visit ground
zero of the catastrophe even as rescue workers dug through the rubble to find the thousands
A morgue set up in a Brooks
Brothers clothing store received remains a limb at a time. Rescue dogs, German shepherds and
golden retrievers, clambered over the debris and workers readied a dozen 8-inch-
high robots to search air pockets under the debris.
Firefighters wielded cameras and listening devices attached to long poles that could be
shoved into crevices.
Only about seven stories of the north tower remained, its girders bent outward. Late
Wednesday afternoon, the few remaining stories of the south tower collapsed. Rescue workers
fled the scene amid the collapse and the threat that another nearby building might fall.
"It's horrifying. It's like Beirut," said Wilson Franco, a 25-year-old member of the Civil
Air Patrol, as he delivered blankets and other supplies.
Everywhere lay the paperwork of Wall Street -- charred expense reports, torn memos, ledger
sheets, along with floppy disks. Cranes
worked in slow motion, removing stones one by one from rubble five stories high.
"I never thought I'd see the World Trade Center pass by me in a dump truck," said volunteer
The smell of natural gas hung over the site and the buzz of portable generators was in the
air. Grit made of pulverized concrete, insulation and paper made it hard to breathe, and it
covered the streets in a gray blanket several inches thick.
An elevated walkway that once ran between the World Trade Center and the World Financial
Center along the Hudson River had fallen to the ground, blocking a street. Huge steel beams and
aluminum panels lay on the sidewalks.
Bulldozers plowed through the rubble, while workers formed human chains to remove debris.
They shoveled ash and other debris into piles along the side of the road. Every once in a
while, a breeze stirred up the piles, sending a thick haze
through lower Manhattan.
Joe Meyers, a nurse from Rockaway, N.J., said he had treated more than 30 rescue workers,
mostly for eye injuries from the dirt. Nurses hung bags of saline solution, used to rinse
workers' eyes, from a broomstick.
A few blocks away, corner markets still had fruit neatly stacked in pyramids out front. The
produce was covered with soot.
Other buildings around the center sustained varying degrees of damage. Some only had soot
covering their windows. Another building was completely caved in; only its corners and part of
its outer walls remained.
On one dusty window near the disaster site, there was a message written with a finger: "God
Bless the Dead."
Workers said another symbol helped them keep going: a flag that had been planted in the
rubble, "just to let them know that America's not dead," firefighter Ronald Coyne said.