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(8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Announcement in WTC’s South Tower Instructs Workers to Stay in Their Offices

An announcement goes out over the public address system in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, telling workers that an incident has occurred in the other WTC tower and their building is safe, and advising them to stay in—or return to—their offices, rather than evacuate. [USA Today, 9/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288] After Flight 11 hit the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), many people in the South Tower were unaware of what had happened. “Some believed an incident had occurred in their building; others were aware that a major explosion had occurred on the upper floors of the North Tower,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state. As a result, many workers decided to leave the South Tower. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287] As they do so, an announcement is made over the public address system.
Announcement Says South Tower Is Secure - Brian Clark, an executive with Euro Brokers who also serves as a fire warden and is on the 84th floor of the South Tower, will later describe this announcement. “First, the strobe lights flashed, as they did during their normal fire drills,” he will say. “The alarm system gave a little bit of a whoop, whoop… to alert you to an announcement about to be made. Then the very familiar voice, the one we heard all the time, came over the system.” Clark will recall that the voice says: “Your attention, please, ladies and gentlemen. Building 2 [i.e. the South Tower] is secure. There is no need to evacuate Building 2. If you are in the midst of evacuation, you may use the re-entry doors and the elevators to return to your office. Repeat, Building 2 is secure.” [PBS, 4/30/2002; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 72] The announcement is made two or possibly three times, according to USA Today. [USA Today, 9/2/2002] Florence Engoran, a credit analyst working in the South Tower, will recall it being made “[o]ver and over and over again.” [DiMarco, 2007, pp. 50]
Announcement May Lead to Hundreds of Deaths - Many people in the South Tower remain on their floors after hearing the announcement, while others who were leaving the building turn around and head back upstairs. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289] USA Today will suggest that the announcement therefore “may have led to the deaths of hundreds of people.” [USA Today, 9/2/2002] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, of those who die in the South Tower, only 11 are below where the plane hits the tower at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 619 are in or above the point of impact. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 44]
Announcement Goes against Protocol - The announcement is later believed to have been made by Philip Hayes, a deputy fire safety director at the WTC, who is manning the fire command desk in the lobby of the South Tower. Fire safety directors are trained to read scripted announcements from a loose-leaf binder. But, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, the advice given in the announcement, for people to stay in, or return to, their offices, “did not correspond to any existing written protocol.”
Security Manager Decided to Instruct Workers Not to Evacuate - The 9/11 Commission Report will also state, “We do not know the reason for the announcement, as both [Hayes] and the director of fire safety for the WTC complex perished in the South Tower’s collapse.” [USA Today, 9/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 288; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 26, 72] However, George Tabeek, a security manager with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will admit having made the decision to instruct South Tower workers to return to their offices (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/10/2011] Some security officials in the South Tower instruct workers, in person, to return upstairs, rather than evacuate (see (8:47 a.m.-9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But finally, about a minute before Flight 175 hits the South Tower, an instruction will be broadcast over the public address system informing workers that they can begin an evacuation if conditions warrant it (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Observer, 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289]

Entity Tags: Philip T. Hayes, Brian Clark, Florence Engoran

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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