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Profile: John Odermatt
John Odermatt was a participant or observer in the following events:
John Odermatt [Source: Queens Gazette]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is responsible for coordinating the city’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284] Its offices are in Building 7 of the World Trade Center. Today is reportedly “going to be a busy day at the OEM,” as staff members have come to work early to prepare for Tripod, a major biological-terrorism training exercise scheduled for September 12 (see September 12, 2001). Their building shakes when the North Tower is hit at 8:46 a.m. OEM Commissioner John Odermatt initially believes a freak accident has occurred involving a ground-to-air missile, but soon after, OEM is informed that a plane hit the North Tower. Immediately, OEM staff members begin to activate their emergency command center, located on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 (see June 8, 1999). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15] They call agencies such as the New York fire and police departments, and the Department of Health, and direct them to send their designated representatives to the OEM. They also call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and request at least five federal Urban Search and Rescue Teams. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293] According to the 9/11 Commission, OEM’s command center will be evacuated at 9:30 a.m. due to reports of further unaccounted for planes (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). By that time, none of the outside agency liaisons will have arrived. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] Other accounts indicate the command center may be evacuated earlier, possibly even before the second tower is hit (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Richard 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 ] 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 ] 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]
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