New York Releases One-Sided 911 Recordings Under court order, New York releases police and fire 911 dispatch tapes from Sept. 11, 2001. The tapes contain only one side of the conversations. Police and fire operators can be heard, but people inside the World Trade Center have been edited out.
NPR logo

New York Releases One-Sided 911 Recordings

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5316472/5316473" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
New York Releases One-Sided 911 Recordings

New York Releases One-Sided 911 Recordings

New York Releases One-Sided 911 Recordings

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5316472/5316473" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Under court order, New York releases police and fire 911 dispatch tapes from Sept. 11, 2001. The tapes contain only one side of the conversations. Police and fire operators can be heard, but people inside the World Trade Center have been edited out.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Margot Adler, reports.

MARGOT ADLER: Even hearing one side of the conversations and the constant beeps of deletions, the phone calls are gripping as city 911 operators try to maintain their composure as they give advice to callers inside the Towers, often without knowing what was really going on.

(SOUNDBITE 911 TAPE)

NORRIS: Okay, listen, listen, listen to me, listen to me, okay? Listen, don't, try not to panic, you can save the air supply by doing that, okay?

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

NORRIS: Unidentified Woman: The stairwell collapsed.

(SOUNDBITE OF STATIC)

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

ADLER: Unidentified Woman: They don't say don't open the windows sometimes. It depends on the circumstances. 'Cause you can't see because heavy smoke, you don't know smoke is around you.

(SOUNDBITE 911 TAPE)

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

NORRIS: Then, that's the bad part. And I don't know what to tell you, I'm so sorry, I don't know what to tell you to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

ADLER: Unidentified Man: They're working they're working their way up. They'll get to you as soon as they can.

(SOUNDBITE 911 TAPE)

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

ADLER: His parents released the tape to The New York Times. Today, the families held a news conference so packed with reporters, it seemed the entire New York press corps was there. Their attorney, Norman Siegel, said the families believed the recordings were an invaluable history that would reveal crucial information.

NORMAN SIEGEL: ...regarding the last moments of their loved ones lives. But in addition, they believed that disclosure of these materials will provide the public with vital information regarding the management and effectiveness of rescue operations and safety in high-rise buildings such as the World Trade Center.

ADLER: Almost all the family members said they had no criticism of the heroic work of the 9/11 dispatchers. Sally Regenhard's son, Christian, was a firefighter who died that day. Listening to the operators on the tape, she said...

SALLY REGENHARD: They did everything that they could. It brought us to tears to see how they desperately tried to manage a situation that they were not prepared to manage, they were not trained to manage. They had no guidance, they had no direction.

ADLER: Instead, family members faulted the city for not having an emergency plan, and they faulted the police and fire departments for not creating better avenues of communication and coordination between the different agencies. Maureen Santora of Astoria, Queens, is also the mother of a firefighter who died. She said her heart went out to the dispatchers who were sometimes unaware of the situation.

MAUREEN SANTORA: There were many dispatchers who did not know for several hours that the Twin Towers had collapsed.

NORRIS: Unidentified Man: Oh, man.

SANTORA: I am positive that most of these dispatchers are today feeling a terrible pain of knowing that they were the last voice of the people who died on September 11th. And they were absolutely helpless to do anything to correct the situation because they did not have a plan and they did not have the necessary information to help all of those who ended up dying.

ADLER: Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.