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(8:47 a.m.-9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Security Officials Advise Workers Evacuating WTC’s South Tower to Return Upstairs

Security officials in the South Tower of the World Trade Center instruct people who are evacuating the building to return to their offices. [Observer, 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289] After Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), many people in the South Tower, who were unclear about what had happened, decided to leave their building. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287] But on their way down, some of them encounter officials who are telling people to head back upstairs.
Official with Megaphone Says People Can Return to Their Floors - Arturo Domingo, who works for Morgan Stanley on the 60th floor of the South Tower, is among those trying to leave. When he reaches the 44th floor, he finds a man there with a megaphone who is telling people: “Our building is secure. You can go back to your floor. If you’re a little winded, you can get a drink of water or coffee in the cafeteria.” Domingo and some of his colleagues return to their office, but head down again after Flight 175 hits their building at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001]
Workers Told They Are Safest inside Tower - John Howard, also a Morgan Stanley employee, similarly encounters a man with a megaphone—perhaps the same person—as he is evacuating. The man is saying, “Don’t panic!” and telling people they are safer staying in the building than leaving it. But there is then a “huge explosion,” presumably the sound of Flight 175 hitting the tower. At that moment, Howard will later recall, “We all ran over the guy with the bullhorn to get out.” [Newsday, 9/12/2001] And another Morgan Stanley employee makes it to the staircase and has gone down more than 20 floors when she hears a voice on a megaphone instructing people to head back upstairs. [Observer, 9/16/2001]
Workers Sent Back from Ground Floor - On the 78th floor of the tower, people waiting for express elevators to take them down to the lower floors are told by security officials to return to their offices. And a group of 20 workers who have descended to the ground-floor lobby is told by security officials to go back upstairs. Nineteen of them do so, and 18 of these will subsequently die in the tower. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289, 544] The Observer will comment that the instructions for workers to return to their offices, rather than evacuate, mean that “during the crucial 15 minutes of what should have been escape”—after the attack on the North Tower but before the attack on the South Tower—“there was confusion and a two-way rush along the panic-stricken arteries of life.” [Observer, 9/16/2001]
Security Officials Work for Port Authority - The security officials advising workers to return upstairs are “not part of the fire safety staff,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289] According to The Observer, they are “officials of the Port Authority.” [Observer, 9/16/2001] Following the attack on the North Tower, an announcement goes out over the public address system in the South Tower that similarly tells workers their building is safe and they should stay in, or return to, their offices, rather than evacuate (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 72] That announcement is made on the orders of George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011; ABC News, 9/10/2011] It is unclear if the security officials who instruct workers to return upstairs in person are acting on orders from Tabeek, or if someone else has told them what to do.

Entity Tags: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, John Howard (Morgan Stanley employee), Arturo Domingo

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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