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Profile: Richard Sheirer
Positions that Richard Sheirer has held:
Richard Sheirer was a participant or observer in the following events:
Jerome Hauer [Source: Public domain]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani establishes the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM). This is tasked with coordinating the city’s overall response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. [Gotham Gazette, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 83-284] It will also be involved in responding to routine emergencies on a daily basis. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] OEM comprises personnel drawn from various City agencies, including police and fire departments, and emergency medical services. It begins with a staff of just 12, but by 9/11 this will have increased to 72. Its first director is counterterrorism expert Jerome Hauer. [New York Times, 7/27/1999] Richard Sheirer will take over from him in February 2000 and will be OEM director on 9/11. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 12 ; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] OEM is responsible for improving New York’s response to potential major incidents by conducting regular training exercises involving various city agencies, particularly the police and fire departments (see 1996-September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283] According to Steven Kuhr, its deputy director from 1996 to 2000, one of the key focuses of the office is counterterrorism work, “responding to the consequence of a chemical weapons attack, a biological weapons attack, or a high-yield explosive event.” [CNN, 1/16/2002] Furthermore, OEM’s Watch Command is able to constantly monitor all the city’s key communications channels, including all emergency services frequencies, state and national alert systems, and local, national, and international news. It also monitors live video feeds from New York Harbor and the city’s streets. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283, 542] In June 1999, Giuliani will open the OEM’s Command Center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7 (see June 8, 1999).
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]
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 ]
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]
According to the accounts of numerous witnesses on the ground near the World Trade Center, military fighter jets are first noticed flying over Manhattan either shortly before or soon after the second collapse, at 10:28 a.m. Some witnesses recall fighters arriving just before this collapse:
Emergency medical technicians Dulce McCorvey and Michael D’Angelo hear fighters flying over Manhattan at unspecified times after the first tower’s collapse. [City of New York, 10/3/2001; City of New York, 10/24/2001]
Fire Lieutenant Sean O’Malley and firefighters Pete Giudetti and Dan Potter notice jet fighters flying overhead soon before the second collapse. [City of New York, 10/12/2001; City of New York, 12/6/2001; Smith, 2002, pp. 49-50]
Other witnesses say the fighters arrive soon after this collapse:
Deputy Fire Chief Robert Browne, police officer Peter Moog, and emergency medical technicians Richard Zarrillo and Jason Katz notice fighters overhead immediately after, or fairly soon after, the second tower’s collapse. [City of New York, 10/24/2001; City of New York, 10/25/2001; City of New York, 12/20/2001; Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 79-80]
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and Office of Emergency Management Director Richard Sheirer are heading north together after leaving their temporary command post on Barclay Street (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In some accounts, all three of them recollect hearing the first military jets overhead soon after the second tower’s collapse. [Kerik, 2001, pp. 339-340; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 14; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] However, according to another account, Giuliani hears the first jet slightly earlier, at around 10:20 a.m. And, in his private testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Kerik claims to have heard a fighter jet coming when he was heading to the temporary command post on Barclay Street, i.e. shortly before 9:50 a.m. [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 348-349]
A few witnesses claim the fighters arrive earlier on, before the first collapse at 9:59 a.m.:
Emergency medical technician Frank Puma and Port Authority Freedom of Information Administrator Cathy Pavelec say they see fighter jets overhead at unspecified times before the first collapse. [City of New York, 12/12/2001; Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 68]
The fighter(s) are presumably the F-15s launched from Otis Air Force Base at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will claim that these arrived over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m. (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), which is significantly earlier than most of the witnesses on the ground recall.
Entity Tags: Dulce McCorvey, Jason Katz, Frank Puma, Dan Potter, Sean O’Malley, Pete Giudetti, Peter Moog, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Robert Browne, Richard Sheirer, Michael D’Angelo, Cathy Pavelec, Richard Zarrillo, Bernard Kerik
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 ; 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]
Henry Jackson. [Source: Henry Jackson]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) opens a new operations center at Pier 92 on the Hudson River after World Trade Center Building 7, where its original Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was located, collapsed on the afternoon of September 11 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004; Guardian, 1/28/2008] The original EOC, on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, was evacuated at around 9:30 a.m. on September 11 (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305; Guardian, 1/28/2008] The OEM command bus initially served as the office’s command post (see (Shortly After 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and then, that afternoon, an alternate EOC was established at the New York City Police Academy (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20 ; Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 76; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004]
New Operations Center Is Set Up at the Site of a Planned Exercise - However, it was soon realized that the location was too small for the OEM’s needs. OEM Director Richard Sheirer suggested that a new EOC should therefore be set up at Pier 92 and the decision was made to do this. Pier 92 was chosen because it was going to be the site of a training exercise on September 12 called Tripod, which would test how well the OEM could administer treatments in response to a biological terrorism attack (see September 12, 2001). Consequently, equipment was already there that could be used in a replacement EOC. Henry Jackson, deputy director for administration at the OEM, was given the order to build the new facility at 8:00 a.m. on September 12 and by the end of the day, 150 people were helping to set it up. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004; 9/11 Commission, 4/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] The new EOC is operational by September 14. OEM representatives are instructed to report to it for the 6:00 p.m. shift that day. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 76]
Facility Is Organized Like the Original Operations Center - The new operations center is arranged just like the original EOC in WTC 7. OEM and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials sit on a raised platform known as “command and control,” surrounded by 10 sections, which each represent a particular task, such as law enforcement, debris removal, transportation, and infrastructure. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 94] The facility is equipped with networked computers, telephones, fax machines, photocopiers, and supplies. A media briefing area, from which Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will hold regular press conferences, is created near the back of the facility. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 88-89]
Facility Is Much Larger than the Original Operations Center - The facility is about 125,000 square feet in size, making it around two and a half to three times larger than the original EOC in WTC 7. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 355; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] More organizations with more representatives have desks there than could have been accommodated at the original EOC. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 105] Eventually, 175 agencies will be represented there. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20 ] One senior OEM official will in fact remark that, even if the smaller original EOC in WTC 7 had survived on September 11, unlike the replacement facility, it would have lacked the capacity to manage the city’s response to the 9/11 attacks. [Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research, 10/2002 ]
New Operations Center Has Extensive Security - The new EOC is four miles north-northwest of the WTC site. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20 ] Workers there can easily be transported to and from Ground Zero by boat or by the West Side Highway. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 355] Considerable security is provided, as the facility is regarded as a likely target for any further terrorist attacks. Armed snipers are positioned on the roof, soldiers with automatic weapons guard the street-side entrances, and armed patrol boats keep watch from the river. [ArcNews, 12/2001; Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 105] The EOC will be located at Pier 92 until February 2002, when the OEM will move its operations to a facility in Brooklyn. [Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research, 10/2002 ]
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