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Context of '(9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Office of Emergency Management Command Center Is Evacuated; Exact Time Is Unclear'

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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

Richard SheirerRichard Sheirer [Source: Publicity photo]Richard Sheirer is in a meeting at New York City Hall when he is informed by telephone of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Sheirer is the director of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which was set up in 1996 to coordinate the city’s overall response to major incidents, including terrorism (see 1996). It has an emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, specially intended for coordinating the response to catastrophes such as terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). Yet instead of going to this, Sheirer heads to the North Tower, and arrives at the fire command post set up in its lobby before the second crash at 9:03 a.m. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file] John Odermatt, Sheirer’s top deputy, also goes to the North Tower and says that, after the first plane hit, he leaves only two staffers at the command center. John Farmer, who heads the 9/11 Commission unit that assesses the city response to the attacks, will find it “strange that Sheirer, four OEM deputies, and a field responder went straight to the North Tower… rather than to the nearby emergency command center.” Journalists Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins will conclude, “[T]he command center was out of business from the outset.” [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 31 and 34] Sheirer stays at the North Tower lobby until soon after 9:30 a.m., when Mayor Giuliani requests he joins him at the temporary command post at 75 Barclay Street (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file] John Farmer will later complain, “We [the 9/11 Commission] tried to get a sense of what Sheirer was really doing. We tried to figure it out from the videos. We couldn’t tell. Everybody from OEM was with him, virtually the whole chain of command. Some of them should have been at the command center.” Fire Captain Kevin Culley, who works as a field responder at OEM, is later asked why most of the OEM’s top brass were with him at the scene of the incident. He says, “I don’t know what they were doing. It was Sheirer’s decision to go there on his own. The command center would normally be the focus of a major event and that would be where I would expect the director to be.” When the 9/11 Commission later investigates OEM’s shortcomings on 9/11, “No rationale for Sheirer’s prolonged lobby stay, no information conveyed to commanders, and no steps to coordinate the response” will be discovered. [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 31-32 and 34]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, John Odermatt, Kevin Culley, Richard Sheirer

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

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

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

The OEM command bus.The OEM command bus. [Source: New York City Office of Emergency Management]Personnel from New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) use the OEM command bus as their command post after their command center in World Trade Center Building 7 has been evacuated. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004] The OEM command center, on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, is intended to coordinate the city’s response to emergencies, including terrorist attacks. [New York Times, 6/8/1999] However, it was evacuated at around 9:30 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report, although other accounts will suggest the evacuation occurs at an earlier or later time (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 34] OEM personnel therefore now have to operate from the their command bus. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004] The bus, known as the Interagency Command Center (ICC), is equipped with computers, a state-of-the-art communications system, and on-board electrical generation. It also has its own conference room. [Wall Street Journal, 9/21/2001; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20; Power, 2004, pp. 172] It can be deployed to the location of a major emergency, to serve as an on-scene command post for coordinating interagency operations and communications. [City of New York, 2001, pp. 8 pdf file] The OEM’s emergency plans and vital records are kept in WTC 7, and, due to the evacuation of the command center, are now inaccessible. Fortunately, after they move to the ICC, OEM personnel are able to implement their emergency action plans from memory and by utilizing their combined knowledge. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20] After the Twin Towers collapse, the ICC will move to a firehouse on Houston Street, to provide support to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his entourage, who have set up a temporary headquarters at that location (see (After 10:28 a.m.-12:00 pm.) September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

After spending about 40 minutes at the disaster scene, on the World Trade Center site, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani relocates to a small office building at 75 Barclay Street, about two blocks from the WTC, hoping to establish a command post there. His usual command center, in WTC 7, was evacuated at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). With him are several colleagues, including Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and Office of Emergency Management Director Richard Sheirer. [Kerik, 2001, pp. 334; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 10; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 10] While at Barclay Street, Giuliani is able to get in touch with the White House, and speaks to Chris Henick, the deputy political director to President Bush (see 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). Immediately afterwards, he receives a phone call from Vice President Cheney, though this is cut off before either one is able to speak. Giuliani also claims he is given advance warning of the South Tower’s collapse while at this command post (see (Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After the South Tower collapses outside, Giuliani and his colleagues all decide to evacuate, going through the basement into a neighboring building, 100 Church Street. They will then leave this and head north, being joined by cameras and press. [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 112; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 348]

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

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

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