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Context of 'March-May 2002: Empty Fuel Tanks in WTC 7 Wreckage Suggest Fuel May Have Contributed to Fire on 9/11'

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Jerome HauerJerome Hauer [Source: Public domain]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani establishes the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM). This is tasked with coordinating the city’s overall response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. [Gotham Gazette, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 83-284] It will also be involved in responding to routine emergencies on a daily basis. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file] OEM comprises personnel drawn from various City agencies, including police and fire departments, and emergency medical services. It begins with a staff of just 12, but by 9/11 this will have increased to 72. Its first director is counterterrorism expert Jerome Hauer. [New York Times, 7/27/1999] Richard Sheirer will take over from him in February 2000 and will be OEM director on 9/11. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 12; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file] OEM is responsible for improving New York’s response to potential major incidents by conducting regular training exercises involving various city agencies, particularly the police and fire departments (see 1996-September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283] According to Steven Kuhr, its deputy director from 1996 to 2000, one of the key focuses of the office is counterterrorism work, “responding to the consequence of a chemical weapons attack, a biological weapons attack, or a high-yield explosive event.” [CNN, 1/16/2002] Furthermore, OEM’s Watch Command is able to constantly monitor all the city’s key communications channels, including all emergency services frequencies, state and national alert systems, and local, national, and international news. It also monitors live video feeds from New York Harbor and the city’s streets. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283, 542] In June 1999, Giuliani will open the OEM’s Command Center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7 (see June 8, 1999).

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Office of Emergency Management, Jerome Hauer, Richard Sheirer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A training exercise based around a simulated terrorist attack is held at New York’s new emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. The exercise, which lasts 24 hours, is intended to test New York’s response to a biological attack. Many city, state, and federal agency officials, including officials from the Department of Defense, participate. The exercise takes place as the new emergency command center is being unveiled, with a small group of reporters being escorted through it today (see June 8, 1999). [CNN, 6/7/1999; New York Daily News, 6/8/1999; New York Times, 6/8/1999]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Giuliani’s emergency command center.Giuliani’s emergency command center. [Source: CNN]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani opens a $13 million emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. [Newsday, 9/12/2001] The center is intended to coordinate responses to various emergencies, including natural disasters like hurricanes or floods, and terrorist attacks. The 50,000 square foot center has reinforced, bulletproof, and bomb-resistant walls, its own air supply and water tank, beds, showers to accommodate 30 people, and three backup generators. It also has rooms full of video monitors from where the mayor can oversee police and fire department responses. It is to be staffed around the clock and is intended as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism. [CNN, 6/7/1999; London Times, 9/12/2001; Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 233] The center is ridiculed as “Rudy’s bunker.” [Time, 12/22/2001] Author Philip Shenon will later comment that it “seemed the supreme example of how Giuliani’s ego and arrogance knew no bounds after four years in office,” and: “WABC Radio mocked Giuliani with a name-that-bunker contest for its listeners. Among the most popular entries: ‘Rudy’s Nuclear Winter Palace’ and ‘The Nut Shell.’” It is criticized because of the cost and because of the location, next to the WTC towers, one of the city’s top terrorist targets. In addition, the high floor it is on means it is vulnerable to power, water, and elevator outages. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 346-347] Most controversial is the 6,000-gallon fuel tank. In 1998 and 1999, Fire Department officials warn that the fuel tank violates city fire codes and poses a hazard. According to one Fire Department memorandum, if the tank were to catch fire it could produce “disaster.” Building 7 will be destroyed late in the day on 9/11; some suspect this tank helps explains why. [New York Times, 12/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Office of Emergency Management, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Rudolph Giuliani.Rudolph Giuliani. [Source: Publicity photo]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is promptly informed of the first WTC crash while having breakfast at the Peninsula Hotel on 55th Street. He later claims that he goes outside and, noticing the clear sky, immediately concludes, “It could not have been an accident, that it had to have been an attack. But we weren’t sure whether it was a planned terrorist attack, or maybe some kind of act of individual anger or insanity.” Only after the second plane hits at 9:03 will he be convinced it is terrorism. After leaving the hotel, he quickly proceeds south. In his 2002 book, Leadership, he will claim that he heads for his emergency command center. This $13 million center is located on the 23rd floor of Building 7 of the WTC, and was opened by Giuliani in 1999, specifically for coordinating responses to emergencies, including terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). Referring to it, he writes, “As shocking as [the first] crash was, we had actually planned for just such a catastrophe.” At around 9:07 a.m., Giuliani meets Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik at Barclay Street, on the northern border of the WTC complex. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 3-6; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 7] Yet they do not go to the command center. According to Kerik, “The Mayor and I… determined early on that the City’s pre-designated Command and Control Center… was unsafe because of its proximity to the attack.” [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file] Instead, they head to West Street, where the fire department has set up a command post, and arrive there at around 9:20 a.m. However, in his private testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2004, Giuliani will apparently change his story, claiming he’d never even headed for his command center in the first place. He says, “Even if the Emergency Operations Center had been available, I would not have gone there for an hour or an hour and a half. I would want to spend some time at the actual incident, at operations command posts.” [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 44-45 and 340-341] Other accounts indicate that the emergency command center is mostly abandoned from the outset, with emergency managers instead heading to the North Tower (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Bernard Kerik

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

John OdermattJohn Odermatt [Source: Queens Gazette]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is responsible for coordinating the city’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284] Its offices are in Building 7 of the World Trade Center. Today is reportedly “going to be a busy day at the OEM,” as staff members have come to work early to prepare for Tripod, a major biological-terrorism training exercise scheduled for September 12 (see September 12, 2001). Their building shakes when the North Tower is hit at 8:46 a.m. OEM Commissioner John Odermatt initially believes a freak accident has occurred involving a ground-to-air missile, but soon after, OEM is informed that a plane hit the North Tower. Immediately, OEM staff members begin to activate their emergency command center, located on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 (see June 8, 1999). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15] They call agencies such as the New York fire and police departments, and the Department of Health, and direct them to send their designated representatives to the OEM. They also call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and request at least five federal Urban Search and Rescue Teams. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293] According to the 9/11 Commission, OEM’s command center will be evacuated at 9:30 a.m. due to reports of further unaccounted for planes (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). By that time, none of the outside agency liaisons will have arrived. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] Other accounts indicate the command center may be evacuated earlier, possibly even before the second tower is hit (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, Tripod, John Odermatt

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

After the first World Trade Center tower is hit, Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker, and Michael Hess, New York’s corporation counsel, head up to the emergency command center of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is on the 23rd floor of WTC 7. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] The center, opened in 1999, is intended to coordinate responses to various emergencies, including terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). [CNN, 6/7/1999] However, Hess and Jennings find no one there. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110; BBC, 7/6/2008]
Center Is Empty; Jennings Warned to Leave - Jennings will describe that, when he arrives at the emergency command center, “To my amazement, nobody’s there.” He says: “I saw coffee that was still hot, that was still smoldering. They had screens all over the place, but the screens were blank. So I didn’t know what was going on.” He then phones several individuals, including one of his superiors. When Jennings says where he is, the superior responds: “Get out of there. Get out of there now.” Hess then runs back into the center, after having found the stairwell, and says: “We’re the only ones up here. We gotta get out of here.” [Dylan Avery, 2007; BBC, 7/6/2008]
9/11 Commission Claims Command Center Not Evacuated until Later - Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, “After the South Tower was hit [at 9:03], OEM senior leadership decided to remain in its ‘bunker’ and continue conducting operations, even though all civilians had been evacuated from 7 WTC.” The Commission will claim the emergency command center is not evacuated until 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] But according to the London Independent, Hess and Jennings arrive there by the time the South Tower is hit, which suggests the center is evacuated earlier than officially claimed. [Independent, 9/13/2001] Jennings himself will recall, “I had to be inside on the 23rd floor when the second plane hit.” [Dylan Avery, 2007] The possibility that the emergency command center is evacuated earlier than the 9/11 Commission claims is partly confirmed by OEM Commissioner John Odermatt, who later says that after the first plane hit the WTC, he left only two staffers there (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 34] Jennings and Hess subsequently head down the stairs, but will become trapped in WTC 7, and have to be rescued by firefighters (see 12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110]

Entity Tags: Michael Hess, Office of Emergency Management, Barry Jennings

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Thomas Von Essen.Thomas Von Essen. [Source: Publicity photo]The headquarters of New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is on the 23rd floor of WTC Building 7, is evacuated at approximately 9:30 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission. The headquarters was opened in 1999 and was specifically intended to coordinate the city’s response to disasters such as terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). A senior OEM official orders the evacuation after being told by a Secret Service agent that additional commercial planes are unaccounted for (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284 and 305] OEM personnel do not initially respond to the evacuation order with a sense of urgency. According to a 2003 report by the Mineta Transportation Institute, “They calmly collected personal belongings and began removing OEM records, but they were urged to abandon everything and leave the building quickly.” [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16] However, there are contradictory accounts of when the OEM command center is evacuated. The National Institute of Standards of Technology (NIST) claims the evacuation happens slightly later than stated by the 9/11 Commission, at “approximately 9:44 a.m.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109] Other accounts suggest it may have happened before 9:03, when the second attack occurred (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen will arrive at WTC 7 shortly before the collapse of the South Tower, looking for Mayor Giuliani. Learning that the OEM headquarters has been evacuated, he later claims that he thinks, “How ridiculous. We’ve got a thirteen-million-dollar command center and we can’t even use it.” [Essen, 2002, pp. 26] He says in frustration, “How can we be evacuating OEM? We really need it now.” He will later tell an interviewer that he’d headed for the OEM headquarters because, “I thought that was where we should all be because that’s what [it] was built for.” [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 230] All civilians were evacuated from WTC 7 earlier on, around the time the second WTC tower was hit (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Thomas Von Essen, Office of Emergency Management

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A four-image progression of photos showing World Trade Center Building 7 collapsing down into its footprint.A four-image progression of photos showing World Trade Center Building 7 collapsing down into its footprint. [Source: unknown] (click image to enlarge)Building 7 of the World Trade Center complex, a 47-story tower, collapses. No one is killed. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002] It collapses in 6.6 seconds, which is just 0.6 of a second longer than it would have taken a free-falling object dropped from its roof to hit the ground. [Deseret Morning News, 11/10/2005] Many questions will arise over the cause of its collapse in the coming months and years. Building 7, which was not hit by an airplane, is the first modern, steel-reinforced high-rise to collapse because of fire. [Chicago Tribune, 11/29/2001; Stanford Report, 12/5/2001; New York Times, 3/2/2002] Some will later suggest that the diesel fuel stored in several tanks on the premises may have contributed to the building’s collapse. The building contained a 6,000-gallon tank between its first and second floors and another four tanks, holding as much as 36,000 gallons, below ground level. There were also three smaller tanks on higher floors. [Chicago Tribune, 11/29/2001; New York Times, 3/2/2002; New York Observer, 3/25/2002; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-17] However, the cause of the collapse is uncertain. A 2002 government report will conclude: “The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time. Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-17] Some reports indicate that the building may have been deliberately destroyed. Shortly after the collapse, CBS News anchor Dan Rather comments that the collapse is “reminiscent of… when a building was deliberately destroyed by well-placed dynamite to knock it down.” [CBS News, 9/11/2001] And moments after the collapse, MSNBC’s Brian Williams joins David Restuccio, an FDNY lieutenant, by phone to ask him about the collapse. “You guys knew this was coming all day?” asks Williams. Restuccio replies: “We had heard reports that the building was unstable, and that it would eventually need to come down on its own, or it would be taken down. I would imagine it came down on its own.” Restuccio does not explain what he means by “it would be taken down.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Dan Rather, World Trade Center, David Restuccio

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

World Trade Center Building 7, which collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11, had contained two independently supplied and operated fuel systems for emergency power. The fuel had been in several storage tanks low down in the building. In March and April, two 11,700-gallon tanks that had been located under the building’s first floor loading dock and operated by Silverstein Properties are removed from the collapse site. They show no evidence of fuel leakage. FEMA says that approximately 20,000 gallons of fuel are subsequently recovered from them, which is about 85 percent of their total capacity. In early May, two 6,000-gallon tanks that had been owned by Salomon Smith Barney and were also located below the loading dock are recovered. These were always kept full for emergencies and would have been full on 9/11. Yet now they are damaged and appear to be empty. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “Some fuel contamination was found in the gravel below the tanks and sand below the slab on which the tanks were mounted, but no contamination was found in the organic marine silt/clay layer underneath.” Shyam Sunder, lead investigator of NIST’s WTC investigation, will state that this “suggests that this fuel… could have been consumed in the building.” This finding “allows for the possibility, though not conclusively, that the fuel may have contributed to a fire on Floor 5” of WTC 7. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-15; Associated Press, 6/6/2002; Newsday, 6/6/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 4/5/2005 pdf file; New York City Council, 9/8/2006 pdf file] Some people have speculated that the diesel fuel stored in WTC 7 may have played a role in its collapse (see March 2, 2002). However, FEMA says, “Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence.” WTC 7 housed another 6,000-gallon tank between its second and third floors, which was meant to fuel generators that would supply backup power to the mayor’s 23rd-floor emergency command center (see June 8, 1999). Currently, no data are available on the condition of this tank. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-16 and 5-31]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A New York Times article theorizes that diesel fuel tanks were responsible for the collapse of Building 7 of the WTC. It collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on 9/11, even though it was farther away from the Twin Towers than many other buildings that remained standing (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It was the first time a steel-reinforced high-rise in the US had ever collapsed in a fire. One of the fuel tanks had been installed in 1999 (see June 8, 1999) as part of a new “Command Center” for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. [New York Times, 3/2/2002; Dow Jones Business News, 9/10/2002] However, in interviews, several Fire Department officers who were on the scene say they were not aware of any combustible liquid pool fires in WTC 7. [Fire Engineering, 9/2002] And, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on 9/11, “No diesel smells [were] reported from the exterior, stairwells, or lobby areas” of WTC 7. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-22 pdf file] Curiously, given all the Wall Street scandals later in the year, Building 7 housed the SEC files related to numerous Wall Street investigations, as well as other federal investigative files. All the files for approximately 3,000 to 4,000 SEC cases were destroyed. Some were backed up in other places, but many were not, especially those classified as confidential. [New York Law Journal, 9/17/2001] Lost files include documents that could show the relationship between Citigroup and the WorldCom bankruptcy. [Street, 8/9/2002] The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates over 10,000 cases will be affected. [New York Law Journal, 9/14/2001] The Secret Service had its largest field office, with more than 200 employees, in WTC 7 and also lost investigative files. Says one agent: “All the evidence that we stored at 7 World Trade, in all our cases, went down with the building.” [Tech TV, 7/23/2002] The IRS and Department of Defense were also tenants, along with the CIA, which, it has been revealed, had a secret office in Building 7. [CNN, 11/4/2001; New York Times, 11/4/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-2; New York Magazine, 3/20/2006] A few days later, the head of the WTC collapse investigation says he “would possibly consider examining” the collapse of Building 7, but by this time all the rubble has already been removed and destroyed. [US Congress, 3/6/2002]

Entity Tags: Larry Silverstein, Citibank, Internal Revenue Service, US Securities and Exchange Commission, Central Intelligence Agency, US Secret Service, WorldCom, World Trade Center, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The 9/11 Commission’s staff team that is investigating the emergency response on 9/11 comes to the conclusion that New York City was, in author Philip Shenon’s words, “shockingly ill-prepared for the attacks.” It is clear to the investigators that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani was largely responsible for what went wrong.
Two Major Problems - One problem was that New York’s emergency command center, based on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center 7, was knocked out early in the attacks, leaving the emergency response without a focal point, and the police and fire departments set up separate command posts (see (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (After 10:28 a.m.-12:00 pm.) September 11, 2001). The command center, sometimes referred to as “Rudy’s bunker,” was criticized when it was built precisely because this problem was foreseen (see June 8, 1999). In addition, the radios used by firefighters in the World Trade Center failed to work on 9/11. The same problem was encountered during the response to the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993), but the solution that was implemented—a repeater to boost the radios’ signal—did not work on the day of the attacks. This problem was especially grave, as many firefighters were instructed to flee the about-to-collapse towers, but did not hear the instruction due to the poor radio system and died as a result (see (Between 9:59 a.m. and 10:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Tempering Criticism - However, the team, led by former New Jersey attorney general John Farmer, is aware that Giuliani’s image as a global hero after the attacks could complicate matters. Shenon will describe their thinking: “But would the Commission be willing to take on the most popular political figure in the country—the president-in-waiting, it seemed?… [Giuliani] was a hero, the embodiment of everything Americans wanted to believe about themselves about 9/11.” Therefore, “Farmer and his team always qualif[y] their criticism of the former mayor.” Nevertheless, the Commission’s two staff statements issued during the hearings about this topic in New York will be extremely critical of Giuliani. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 347-350]

Entity Tags: John Farmer, 9/11 Commission, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) publicly rejects the theory that diesel fuel tanks installed in World Trade Center Building 7 played any role in the 47-story tower’s collapse, late in the afternoon of 9/11. This is clearly set out in a question-and-answer factsheet published on this day, together with an announcement of NIST’s draft report on the building’s collapse (see August 21, 2008 and August 21, 2008). The factsheet asks, “Did fuel oil systems in WTC 7 contribute to its collapse?” The answer is “No…. The worst-case scenarios associated with fires… could not have been sustained long enough, could not have generated sufficient heat to weaken critical interior columns, and/or would have produced large amounts of visible smoke from the lower floors, which were not observed.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008; New York Times, 8/21/2008] These findings are echoed in the draft version of its final report on the collapse. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/2008, pp. xxxii pdf file] WTC 7 had three emergency power systems, all of which ran on diesel fuel. The systems contained two 12,000 gallon fuel tanks and two 6,000 gallon tanks located beneath the building’s loading docks, and another 6,000 gallon tank on its first floor. There were also 275 gallon tanks on the fifth, seventh, and eighth floors, and a 50 gallon tank on the ninth floor. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008] It has previously been suggested that diesel stored in these tanks might have contributed to fires that led to WTC 7’s collapse (see March 2, 2002). [New York Times, 3/2/2002] This possibility was proposed in the final report of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) investigation of the WTC collapses, published in May 2002 (see May 1, 2002). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-28 - 5-29] But in his summary of the findings of NIST’s three-year study of WTC 7, lead investigator Shyam Sunder says the building’s collapse was “not due to fires from the substantial amount of diesel fuel stored in the building.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Shyam Sunder

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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