!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Profile: Richard Rotanz
Positions that Richard Rotanz has held:
Richard Rotanz was a participant or observer in the following events:
Personnel with New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) request “air security” over the city following the second crash at the World Trade Center. Staffers in the OEM’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in WTC Building 7 contact the FAA and request air protection over New York “immediately” after Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), according to a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute. The FAA assures them that federal support is on the way but it also instructs them to use New York Police Department and Port Authority Police Department air assets to clear the airspace around the WTC. Additionally, it mentions that the control tower at New York’s JFK International Airport is reporting that an unaccounted-for plane is heading for the city. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16 ]
Firefighter Thought the First Crash Might Be an Attack - OEM staffers apparently contact the FAA on their own initiative. However, personnel in the EOC are also contacted by Richard Sheirer, the director of the OEM, after the second crash at the WTC and he tells them to request air protection over the city. [9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004] Sheirer is at the Fire Department’s command post in the lobby of the North Tower (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] He possibly calls the EOC to request air cover on the suggestion of firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at the OEM who is with him at the command post. Brown started discussing the need to have fighter jets over New York before the second hijacked plane hit the WTC. “One of the first things I brought up with my bosses in the Fire Department was that we needed to get air cover from the military just in case this was a terrorist attack,” he will later recall. [Firehouse, 1/31/2003] “We weren’t sure [if] this was a terrorist attack, but we knew there was a good possibility that it was,” he will comment. [City of New York, 1/15/2002]
OEM Director Calls His Deputy to Request Air Support - After Sheirer and the other officials with him are notified about Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower, they realize this is definitely a terrorist attack. Sheirer then calls Richard Rotanz, the deputy director of the OEM, about getting air protection over New York. [9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004] Rotanz initially went to the North Tower following the first crash at the WTC, but he is now back at the EOC. [Urban Hazards Forum, 1/2002] Sheirer instructs him to call the State Emergency Management Office in Albany, New York, and get it to arrange for the Air National Guard to provide cover for the city. He also instructs Rotanz to contact the Pentagon and tell it to arrange “air support.” Rotanz says there are other unaccounted-for planes, besides the two that crashed into the WTC, which may be heading for New York and Sheirer passes this information on to the officials with him in the lobby of the North Tower (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is unclear exactly when Sheirer calls Rotanz. Sheirer will tell the 9/11 Commission that he contacts the EOC “[a]lmost instantly” after Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower “to confirm that air support was on its way to New York.”
OEM Director Asks for Helicopters to Protect the City - Following his call with Rotanz, Sheirer gives the instruction for the Police Department’s aviation unit to prevent any other planes from hitting a target in New York. “But looking back, how could a helicopter stop a commercial jet going over 400 miles per hour?” he will comment. [9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] Fighters will arrive over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] However, numerous witnesses on the ground there will recall only noticing fighters overhead after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Brown will later on try, unsuccessfully, to call the White House to make sure that air cover is being provided for New York (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [City of New York, 1/15/2002; Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 ]
Thomas Von Essen. [Source: Publicity photo]The Office of Emergency Management’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in World Trade Center Building 7 is evacuated in response to a report that more commercial planes are unaccounted for. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] The EOC, which opened in 1999 (see June 8, 1999), is a state-of-the-art facility on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 that is intended to serve as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism or other kind of crisis. [CNN, 6/7/1999; City of New York, 2/18/2001] Office of Emergency Management (OEM) officials activated it shortly after Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the WTC (see (Shortly After 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bylicki, 6/19/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293]
Staffers Discussed Evacuation after the First Crash - Soon after the crash occurred, officials in the EOC “began discussing with OEM staff whether or not they should evacuate the building,” according to a report by Tricia Wachtendorf of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 77] Richard Rotanz, deputy director of the OEM, and some other officials in the EOC conducted a “threat analysis” after the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Urban Hazards Forum, 1/2002]
Staffers Want to Stay in the Operations Center - Personnel are reluctant to leave the EOC because in it they have “a tremendous amount of resources at their fingertips” and they are “best able to handle an emergency of this scale,” Wachtendorf will later write. Furthermore, there is no clear procedure to move to or establish an alternative operations center if it is abandoned. “I couldn’t think of where we would go if we left the EOC because at that time we didn’t have a backup facility,” one official will recall. There is, in fact, “no formalized evacuation plan for the EOC,” according to Wachtendorf. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 77-79]
OEM Deputy Director Orders the Evacuation - However, Richard Bylicki, a police sergeant assigned to the OEM, was told during a call with the FAA that at least one other plane, in addition to the two that hit the Twin Towers, is unaccounted for and possibly heading for New York (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and he passed this information on to Rotanz. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003] Rotanz was given the same warning by a Secret Service agent who works in WTC 7. [Urban Hazards Forum, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] Based on this information, he “surmised that [WTC 7] was potentially the next target,” Bylicki will recall. He consequently now orders all OEM employees to leave the building. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004] A Secret Service agent, presumably the one who told Rotanz about the additional unaccounted-for planes, also reportedly advises EOC personnel to evacuate. He says, “There’s a reported third plane headed toward the East Coast and we’re warning everybody to vacate the building,” Fire Department Captain Abdo Nahmod will recall. [Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 9/2011, pp. 42 ]
Some Liaisons Have Come to the Operations Center - Various city agencies were contacted after the EOC was activated and instructed to send their designated representatives to the center. None of these representatives have arrived by the time the EOC is evacuated, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293, 305] However, contradicting this claim, a number of emergency responders will recall arriving at the EOC before it is evacuated, to serve as representatives for their agencies. [City of New York, 10/11/2001; City of New York, 10/25/2001; City of New York, 12/4/2001; Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 9/2011, pp. 42 ]
Staffers Are Initially Slow to Leave - Personnel reportedly do not initially respond to the evacuation order with a sense of urgency. They “calmly collected personal belongings and began removing OEM records,” a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute will state. But they are subsequently “urged to abandon everything and leave the building quickly.” [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16 ] After evacuating from the EOC, they assemble in the lobby of WTC 7 and await further instructions over radio. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003] Most of them think they are only temporarily abandoning their facility and expect to return to it later in the day. They do not anticipate WTC 7 being affected by fires (see 4:10 p.m. September 11, 2001) and then collapsing late this afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 84]
Fire Commissioner Will Be Surprised That the Center Is Evacuated - Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen will be surprised when he finds that the EOC has been evacuated, since the center was designed for dealing with a crisis like the one currently taking place. “I thought that was where we should all be because that’s what [it] was built for,” he will comment. He will arrive at WTC 7 looking for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani shortly before 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). When he learns that the EOC has been evacuated, he will think: “How ridiculous. We’ve got a 13-million-dollar command center and we can’t even use it.” He will say in frustration: “How can we be evacuating OEM? We really need it now.” [Essen, 2002, pp. 26; Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 230]
Time of the Evacuation Is Unclear - It is unclear exactly when the EOC is evacuated. The order to evacuate is issued at “approximately 9:30” a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] But, according to a report by the National Institute of Standards of Technology, the evacuation occurs slightly later than this, at “approximately 9:44 a.m.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109] Other accounts will suggest it may even have taken place before the second attack on the WTC 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). [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 34; Dylan Avery, 2007] Many people in the rest of WTC 7 left the building earlier on, around the time of the second attack (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109]
Joseph Callan. [Source: FDNY]Emergency responders in the lobby of the north WTC tower hear an unconfirmed report of a third plane heading toward New York. Consequently, Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Callan orders all firefighters to evacuate the tower. The third plane report is soon found to be incorrect. One firefighter tells a colleague over radio, “That plane is ours, I repeat, it is ours.” Rescue operations therefore continue. [New York Times, 7/7/2002; New York City Fire Department, 8/19/2002, pp. 32; Fire Engineering, 9/2002; Associated Press, 11/16/2002] The source of the incorrect report is apparently Richard Rotanz, the deputy director of the New York Office of Emergency Management (OEM), who is reportedly in the OEM command center on the 23rd floor of WTC Building 7. A Secret Service agent in WTC 7 reportedly told him there were unconfirmed reports of other planes in the air. When OEM Director Richard Sheirer called Rotanz some time after the second WTC tower was hit, Rotanz relayed this information, telling him there were “still planes unaccounted for that may [be] heading for New York.” Sheirer then told people in the North Tower lobby “that another plane was on the way.” Journalists Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins, in their book Grand Illusion, blame Sheirer for “instantly converting unspecific information into a very specific false alarm.” This false alarm quickly ends up on fire and police department dispatches. Sheirer is apparently so unnerved by it that he instructs the police department aviation unit to not let another plane hit the WTC. As he will later tell the 9/11 Commission, though, “We were grasping at straws,” since no police helicopter could “stop a commercial jet going over 400 miles per hour.” [Firehouse Magazine, 9/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 32-33] Emergency medical technician Richard Zarrillo is currently in WTC 7, and is informed by an OEM rep there of the alleged third plane inbound for New York. While the rest of Building 7 was evacuated earlier on (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), this false threat reportedly leads to the evacuation of the OEM command center as well (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [City of New York, 10/25/2001] (However, some accounts indicate the command center may have been evacuated earlier (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) Soon after hearing this false report of a third inbound plane, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and OEM Director Richard Sheirer will all leave the North Tower lobby and relocate to a temporary command post on Barclay Street (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kerik, 2001, pp. 334; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 342]
Fireman Mike Kehoe heads upstairs while others flee downstairs. Kehoe luckily survived the building collapses. [Source: John Labriola]In the lobby of Building 7 of the WTC, EMS Division Chief John Peruggia is in discussion with Fire Department Captain Richard Rotanz and a representative from the Department of Buildings. As Peruggia later describes, “It was brought to my attention, it was believed that the structural damage that was suffered to the [Twin] Towers was quite significant and they were very confident that the building’s stability was compromised and they felt that the North Tower was in danger of a near imminent collapse.” Peruggia grabs EMT Richard Zarrillo and tells him to pass on the message “that the buildings have been compromised, we need to evacuate, they’re going to collapse.” Zarrillo heads out to the fire command post, situated in front of 3 World Financial, the American Express Building, where he relays this message to several senior firefighters. He says, “OEM says the buildings are going to collapse; we need to get out.” (OEM is the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, which has its headquarters in WTC 7.) Fire Chief Pete Ganci’s response is, “who the f___ told you that?” Seconds later, they hear the noise of the South Tower as it collapses. [City of New York, 10/23/2001; City of New York, 10/25/2001; City of New York, 10/25/2001; City of New York, 11/9/2001] Others also appear to have been aware of the imminent danger. Fire Chief Joseph Pfeifer, who is at the command post in the lobby of the North Tower, says, “Right before the South Tower collapsed, I noticed a lot of people just left the lobby, and I heard we had a crew of all different people, high-level people in government, everybody was gone, almost like they had information that we didn’t have.” He says some of them are moving to a new command post across the street. [City of New York, 10/23/2001; Firehouse Magazine, 4/2002; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 214] Mayor Giuliani also says he receives a prior warning of the first collapse, while at his temporary headquarters at 75 Barclay Street (see (Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Damage to World Trade Center Building 7.
[Source: New York City Police Department]Firefighters notice significant damage to World Trade Center Building 7 at some point after the Twin Towers collapsed. Butch Brandies tells other firefighters that nobody is to go into WTC 7 because of creaking and noises coming out of there. [Firehouse Magazine, 9/9/2002] According to Deputy Chief Peter Hayden, there is a bulge in the southwest corner of the building between floors 10 and 13. [Firehouse Magazine, 9/2/2002] Battalion Chief John Norman will later recall, “At the edge of the south face you could see that it was very heavily damaged.” [Firehouse Magazine, 9/2/2002] Deputy Chief Nick Visconti will recall, “A big chunk of the lower floors had been taken out on the Vesey Street side.” [Firehouse Magazine, 9/9/2002] Captain Chris Boyle will say, “On the south side of [WTC] 7 there had to be a hole 20 stories tall in the building, with fire on several floors.” [Firehouse Magazine, 9/9/2002] One witness will describe looking at the south face of the building and seeing “broken windows, damage to the building, I-beams sticking out.” Another witness will describe seeing 10 to 15 floors where “the corner I-beam was missing,” and add that “there were more floors that had damage throughout the front facade of the building and several floors were completely exposed.” [Aegis Insurance Services, Inc. v. 7 World Trade Center Company, LP, 12/4/2013 ] Richard Rotanz, the deputy director of New York’s Office of Emergency Management, assesses the condition of WTC 7 at around 12:30 p.m. “We’re looking at the upper floors of Tower 7,” he will recall. “The skin of the building or the outside skirt of the building was taken out,” he will say. “You could see columns gone, floors collapsed, heavy smoke coming out, and fire.” [BBC, 7/6/2008; BBC, 10/17/2008] WTC 7 will collapse at around 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 111]
Richard Rotanz. [Source: University of Delaware]Richard Rotanz, the deputy director of New York’s Office of Emergency Management, assesses the state of World Trade Center Building 7 and sees significant damage inside the building. [BBC, 7/6/2008; BBC, 10/17/2008] WTC 7 was damaged by the debris when the North Tower of the WTC collapsed at 10:28 a.m. (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 16] At around 12:30 p.m., according to the BBC, Rotanz and some other officials—whose identities are unstated—go into WTC 7 to see what condition the building is in. “At the time the building wasn’t safe, but we had to make an assessment just the same,” Rotanz will later tell the BBC. He will describe what he observes inside WTC 7, saying: “You could hear the building creak above us. You could hear things fall. You could hear the fire burning. You could see columns just hanging from the floors, gaping holes in the floors up above us.” He also sees “an elevator car that was blown out of its shaft” and is now “down the hall.” [BBC, 7/6/2008; BBC, 10/17/2008] The elevator car is “30 or 40 feet away from where the elevator shaft once was,” according to another account. [Aegis Insurance Services, Inc. v. 7 World Trade Center Company, LP, 12/4/2013 ] Rotanz and those with him soon leave the building. “We didn’t spend that long” inside WTC 7, Rotanz will say. Rotanz has also observed significant damage to the exterior of WTC 7 (see (After 10:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 10/17/2008] At around 2:30 p.m., senior firefighters will make the decision to abandon the possibility of fighting the fires in WTC 7 (see (2:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The building will collapse at around 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 111]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.