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Context of '(Shortly Before 12:10 p.m.) September 11, 2001: City Housing Authority Worker Finds WTC 7 Lobby in Ruins, Possibly Steps over Dead Bodies'

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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

According to a soldier at the scene, WTC Building 7 is evacuated before the second tower is hit. [Fort Detrick Standard, 10/18/2001] The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) states, “As the second aircraft struck WTC 2, a decision was made to evacuate WTC 7.” This would be just after the Port Authority Police Department called for the evacuation of the entire WTC complex (see 8:59 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). But by this time, “many WTC 7 occupants [have] already left the building and others [have] begun a self-evacuation of the building.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109] All individuals in the Secret Service’s New York field office, located in WTC 7, were ordered to evacuate after the first attack, and they are in the process of doing so when the second plane hits the South Tower. [PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006] The Secret Service has a Stinger missile secretly stored in the WTC, to be used to protect the president if there were an attack on the city when he visits it. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 379] Presumably, this missile is abandoned with the evacuation. The Office of Emergency Management’s command center, on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, is not evacuated until later, at 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Barry JenningsBarry Jennings [Source: Public domain]Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker, and Michael Hess, New York’s corporation counsel, hear unexplained explosions inside World Trade Center Building 7, where they become trapped. [UPN 9, 9/11/2001; BBC, 7/6/2008] The two men went up to the emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 after the first attack occurred (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Independent, 9/13/2001] At some point, the power goes out in the building. They then start walking down the stairs to get out. According to Hess, when the two men get down to the eighth floor, “there was an explosion and we’ve been trapped on the eighth floor with smoke, thick smoke, all around us, for about an hour and a half.” [UPN 9, 9/11/2001] Jennings will also recall hearing explosions. He will say: “I made it to the sixth floor and there was an explosion. The explosion was beneath me.” [Dylan Avery, 2007] He will add, “[T]he staircase that I was standing on just gave way,” and, “Then we made it back to the eighth floor, I heard some more explosions.” [BBC, 7/6/2008] Jennings says to Hess: “This is it; we’re dead. We’re not gonna make it out of here.” [Penn State Public Broadcasting, 3/1/2002] The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will claim the two men head down the stairs after 9:59, when the first collapse occurs, and then become trapped around the time the second tower collapses, at 10:28. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110] But according to the London Independent, they start heading down the stairs after the second attack at 9:03, which suggests the explosions begin earlier on. [Independent, 9/13/2001] Jennings will confirm this, saying that when he hears the first explosion, “Both [of the Twin Towers] were still standing,” meaning it occurs before 9:59. He says: “I was trapped in there when both [Twin Towers] came down.… All this time I’m hearing explosions.” [Dylan Avery, 2007] The cause of the explosions is unclear. Later on, firefighters will rescue Hess and Jennings from the building (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: Barry Jennings, Michael Hess

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Thomas Von Essen.Thomas Von Essen. [Source: Publicity photo]The Office of Emergency Management’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in World Trade Center Building 7 is evacuated in response to a report that more commercial planes are unaccounted for. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] The EOC, which opened in 1999 (see June 8, 1999), is a state-of-the-art facility on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 that is intended to serve as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism or other kind of crisis. [CNN, 6/7/1999; City of New York, 2/18/2001] Office of Emergency Management (OEM) officials activated it shortly after Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the WTC (see (Shortly After 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bylicki, 6/19/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293]
Staffers Discussed Evacuation after the First Crash - Soon after the crash occurred, officials in the EOC “began discussing with OEM staff whether or not they should evacuate the building,” according to a report by Tricia Wachtendorf of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 77] Richard Rotanz, deputy director of the OEM, and some other officials in the EOC conducted a “threat analysis” after the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Urban Hazards Forum, 1/2002]
Staffers Want to Stay in the Operations Center - Personnel are reluctant to leave the EOC because in it they have “a tremendous amount of resources at their fingertips” and they are “best able to handle an emergency of this scale,” Wachtendorf will later write. Furthermore, there is no clear procedure to move to or establish an alternative operations center if it is abandoned. “I couldn’t think of where we would go if we left the EOC because at that time we didn’t have a backup facility,” one official will recall. There is, in fact, “no formalized evacuation plan for the EOC,” according to Wachtendorf. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 77-79]
OEM Deputy Director Orders the Evacuation - However, Richard Bylicki, a police sergeant assigned to the OEM, was told during a call with the FAA that at least one other plane, in addition to the two that hit the Twin Towers, is unaccounted for and possibly heading for New York (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and he passed this information on to Rotanz. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003] Rotanz was given the same warning by a Secret Service agent who works in WTC 7. [Urban Hazards Forum, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] Based on this information, he “surmised that [WTC 7] was potentially the next target,” Bylicki will recall. He consequently now orders all OEM employees to leave the building. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004] A Secret Service agent, presumably the one who told Rotanz about the additional unaccounted-for planes, also reportedly advises EOC personnel to evacuate. He says, “There’s a reported third plane headed toward the East Coast and we’re warning everybody to vacate the building,” Fire Department Captain Abdo Nahmod will recall. [Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 9/2011, pp. 42 pdf file]
Some Liaisons Have Come to the Operations Center - Various city agencies were contacted after the EOC was activated and instructed to send their designated representatives to the center. None of these representatives have arrived by the time the EOC is evacuated, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293, 305] However, contradicting this claim, a number of emergency responders will recall arriving at the EOC before it is evacuated, to serve as representatives for their agencies. [City of New York, 10/11/2001; City of New York, 10/25/2001; City of New York, 12/4/2001; Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 9/2011, pp. 42 pdf file]
Staffers Are Initially Slow to Leave - Personnel reportedly do not initially respond to the evacuation order with a sense of urgency. They “calmly collected personal belongings and began removing OEM records,” a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute will state. But they are subsequently “urged to abandon everything and leave the building quickly.” [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16 pdf file] After evacuating from the EOC, they assemble in the lobby of WTC 7 and await further instructions over radio. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003] Most of them think they are only temporarily abandoning their facility and expect to return to it later in the day. They do not anticipate WTC 7 being affected by fires (see 4:10 p.m. September 11, 2001) and then collapsing late this afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 84]
Fire Commissioner Will Be Surprised That the Center Is Evacuated - Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen will be surprised when he finds that the EOC has been evacuated, since the center was designed for dealing with a crisis like the one currently taking place. “I thought that was where we should all be because that’s what [it] was built for,” he will comment. He will arrive at WTC 7 looking for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani shortly before 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). When he learns that the EOC has been evacuated, he will think: “How ridiculous. We’ve got a 13-million-dollar command center and we can’t even use it.” He will say in frustration: “How can we be evacuating OEM? We really need it now.” [Essen, 2002, pp. 26; Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 230]
Time of the Evacuation Is Unclear - It is unclear exactly when the EOC is evacuated. The order to evacuate is issued at “approximately 9:30” a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] But, according to a report by the National Institute of Standards of Technology, the evacuation occurs slightly later than this, at “approximately 9:44 a.m.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109] Other accounts will suggest it may even have taken place before the second attack on the WTC 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). [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 34; Dylan Avery, 2007] Many people in the rest of WTC 7 left the building earlier on, around the time of the second attack (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, Richard Bylicki, Thomas Von Essen, Richard Rotanz, Abdo Nahmod, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker who had become trapped in World Trade Center Building 7, finds the building’s lobby in ruins as he is being rescued from it, and steps over what feels to him like dead bodies. [Dylan Avery, 2007] After the first plane hit the WTC, Jennings had gone up to the emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 along with Michael Hess, New York’s corporation counsel (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Dylan Avery, 2007] After heading down the stairs, the two men became trapped on the building’s eighth floor (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Some time later, firefighters come into WTC 7 to help the two men out of the building. [UPN 9, 9/11/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110]
Lobby Is 'Total Ruins' - According to Jennings, when he gets down to the lobby, he is astonished to find it totally ruined. In a 2007 interview he will recall: “[W]hen I came in there, the lobby had nice escalators. It was a huge lobby.” But reaching it again, he asks the firefighter who is escorting him, “Where are we?” and the firefighter answers, “This was the lobby.” Jennings finds this “unbelievable,” and says, “You gotta be kidding me.” He will describe the lobby as being “total ruins.”
'Stepping over People' - Furthermore, Jennings steps over what may be dead bodies in the lobby. He will say: “[T]he firefighter that took us down kept saying, ‘Do not look down,’ and I kept saying, ‘Why is that?’ [He said,] ‘Do not look down.’ And, stepping over people. And you know you could feel when you’re stepping over people.” [Dylan Avery, 2007] Yet most people were evacuated from WTC 7 around 9:03 a.m., if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109] The very latest that people left the building, according to official accounts, was 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] In a later interview, Jennings will clarify: “I never saw dead bodies.… [I]t felt like I was stepping over them but I never saw them.” The BBC will say, “There is no evidence that anyone died in Tower 7 on 9/11.” [BBC, 7/4/2008; BBC, 7/6/2008] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), firefighters lead Jennings and Hess out of WTC 7 at around 12:10 p.m. to 12:15 p.m. (see 12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18]

Entity Tags: Michael Hess, Barry Jennings

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael Hess.Michael Hess. [Source: Harvard Law Bulletin]While most of Building 7 of the World Trade Center was evacuated around the time the South Tower was hit, if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), firefighters now find three individuals who have become trapped inside it, and lead them out of the building. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110] Among these individuals are Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker, and Michael Hess, New York’s chief lawyer who is also a longtime friend of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The two had gone up to the 23rd floor emergency command center of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management after the first attack occurred, but found it empty (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 11/21/1997; Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 20-21 and 244; Dylan Avery, 2007] They then headed downstairs but became trapped around the eighth floor by smoke and debris that filled the staircase. After breaking a window and calling for help, they were spotted by firefighters outside. When the firefighters go in, they also find a security officer for one of the businesses based in the building, who is trapped on the seventh floor by the smoke in the stairway. This officer headed up the building after the South Tower collapsed at 9:59, to check that all his personnel had left there (see (Shortly After 9:59 a.m.-12:10 p.m.) September 11, 2001). All three men are escorted out of the building. [Penn State Public Broadcasting, 3/1/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 110; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 298-299]

Entity Tags: Barry Jennings, Michael Hess

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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