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Context of '(9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: WTC Building 7 Evacuated'

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Anthony Whitaker.Anthony Whitaker. [Source: ABC News]Sergeant Alan DeVona, an officer with the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), calls for the evacuation of the Twin Towers over a PAPD radio channel, and his colleague, Captain Anthony Whitaker, then calls for the evacuation of the entire World Trade Center complex, but their orders are apparently not passed on [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 19 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 78-79; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 200-202] DeVona, the PAPD patrol sergeant at the WTC, is currently in the lobby of the North Tower, coordinating with emergency agencies as they arrive there. [Devona, 3/28/2002, pp. 24 pdf file] Whitaker, the PAPD commanding officer at the WTC, is outside the Twin Towers, looking up at the burning North Tower. [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 25; Murphy, 2002, pp. 184]
Officers Request Evacuation of the WTC - At 8:59 a.m., DeVona calls for the evacuation of the Twin Towers. “As soon as we’re able,” he says over the PAPD radio channel, “I want to start a building evacuation, Building 1 [i.e. the North Tower] and Building 2 [i.e. the South Tower], till we find out what caused this.” Immediately after DeVona says this, at 9:00 a.m., Whitaker makes a similar request over the same radio channel. “Let’s begin an evacuation of the entire complex,” he says. “All buildings, copy?” [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 19 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 200-201] Unlike DeVona, Whitaker is ordering the evacuation of not just the Twin Towers, “but also the five other buildings throughout the 16-acre complex—the mercantile exchange, offices of major investment banking concerns, and government agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service, and the CIA,” according to New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 79] Whitaker has decided to evacuate the WTC complex “because of the danger posed by highly flammable jet fuel from Flight 11,” which crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), and “because of the magnitude of the calamity in the North Tower,” according to the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293]
Request Is the Second Time Evacuation Is Called For - Whitaker will later say that his current request is the “second time” he has called for the evacuation of the WTC complex. He will recall making his previous request—for “a full-scale evacuation of the entire complex”—shortly after Flight 11 crashed. [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 23-25; Murphy, 2002, pp. 180-181, 184-185] Transcripts of PAPD radio transmissions will show that an evacuation was requested at 8:49 a.m., but only for the upper floors of the North Tower (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 9/11/2001 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 195] And according to some accounts, that request was made by DeVona, not Whitaker. [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 16 pdf file; Devona, 3/28/2002, pp. 24 pdf file; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 78]
Officer Repeats Order, for the Written Record - At 9:01 a.m., an officer at the PAPD desk in Building 5 of the WTC asks if they should evacuate their building. DeVona instructs the officer to wait, saying, “Stand by on Building 5.” Whitaker then asks the officer at the PAPD desk if they have started a “chrono log” yet. [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 19 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 201] A “chrono” is a written record of what the PAPD is doing. [Murphy, 2002, pp. 182] The officer replies, “That’s affirmative.” At 9:02 a.m., Whitaker repeats his previous instruction, apparently to make sure it is officially recorded. He says: “For the chrono, evacuate all buildings in the complex. You copy? All building in the complex.” The officer at the PAPD desk acknowledges the instruction and then radios all PAPD units in the field, and tells them to evacuate “all tenants in the buildings… at the Trade Center.” [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 19 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 202]
Orders Not Passed on to Other Agencies - It is unclear whether DeVona and Whitaker’s orders to evacuate the WTC are passed on. Their orders are given over PAPD radio channel W, which cannot be heard by the deputy fire safety directors in the Twin Towers, who are able to make announcements over the buildings’ public address systems. [WTC News, 8/1995 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 200-202] According to the 9/11 Commission, there is “no evidence” that the orders are “communicated to officers in other Port Authority Police commands or to members of other responding agencies.” [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file] Despite this, an announcement is made over the public address system in the South Tower, advising workers to evacuate, at 9:02 a.m. (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). Attempts to order workers to evacuate the North Tower are unsuccessful because that building’s public address system was damaged by the plane crash (see (Between 8:47 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 5/18/2004]

Entity Tags: Alan DeVona, Anthony Whitaker, Port Authority Police Department

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

The second plane hitting the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) causes internal alarms to go off in WTC Building 7, located just a few hundred feet away from the Twin Towers. The alarms warn there is no water pressure and that the building’s emergency power generator has been activated. Office of Emergency Management (OEM) staff, based in Building 7, immediately request air security over New York. They are told that federal support is on its way, but the Federal Aviation Administration instructs them to use NYPD and Port Authority Police Department air assets to clear the airspace around the WTC. They are also warned that the Kennedy Airport control tower is reporting an unaccounted for plane heading towards New York. A report by the Mineta Transportation Institute will claim that this plane is Flight 93, which later crashes in Pennsylvania. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16] However, Flight 93 is still flying west at this time, and only reverses course and heads towards Washington at around 9:36 a.m. (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to at least one person at the scene, WTC 7 is evacuated around this time due to the reports of this incoming third plane (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Jems And FireRescue, 3/2002, pp. 68 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, World Trade Center, Federal Aviation Administration

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 security officer for one of the businesses in Building 7 of the World Trade Center (WTC 7) goes up WTC 7 and subsequently becomes trapped on its seventh floor. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 298-299 pdf file] Although most people were evacuated from the building around the time the South Tower was hit, if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), after the South Tower collapses at 9:59 a.m. the security officer heads up to a floor in the 40s in WTC 7, reportedly to check that all his personnel have left. (The name of the company he works for is unstated.) He is initially accompanied by a police officer, but at around the 10th floor this officer has difficulty breathing, and so goes back down and exits the building. When the North Tower collapses at 10:28 a.m., WTC 7 shakes and the stairwell goes dark. The security officer, who has reached the 30th floor by this time, heads back down the stairs. When he reaches the 23rd floor, where the headquarters of New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is located, he opens the door to check for any members of staff that might still be there, but finds the area filled with smoke. (The OEM was evacuated at about 9:30 a.m., if not earlier (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) He then continues down to the seventh floor, where he has to stop because he is unable to see or breathe. He is able to break a window, and calls for help. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 298-299 pdf file] At around 12:10 to 12:15 p.m., firefighters will enter the building and rescue the security officer, escorting him down the stairs and out of the building. They will also rescue two men who are trapped on the eighth floor (see 12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 110]

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 pdf file]

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 pdf file; 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 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 110; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 298-299 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Barry Jennings, Michael Hess

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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