Hopes were fading today that more survivors would be found from the attack that occurred two days ago that demolished the World Trade Center towers, now feared to be a mass tomb where thousands may be buried. The preliminary death toll had reached 82 by early today, but it’s expected to rise sharply in the days and weeks to come. New York City has ordered 6,000 extra body bags. About 40,000 people worked in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says he fears a few thousand have been trapped in each of the towers. Coordinated attacks leveled the landmark 110-story Twin Towers on Tuesday, stunning the world. Hijackers took over two other jet liners the same day. One crashed into the Pentagon outside Washington, and the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania. In a feverish around-the-clock search for survivors, hundreds of emergency workers used everything from heavy machinery to their bare hands to sift through tons of crushed concrete and twisted steel. Sniffer dogs searched the rubble of what had been a symbol of America’s financial power. The results of the monumental rescue effort so far have been dismal. As anxious families await finding out word about what has happened to their loved ones, only three people were found alive in searches all day Wednesday. Another two survivors were discovered on Tuesday. About 1,500 National Guard troops were deployed in the area, and a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was stationed a few miles away off the south coast of Long Island.
The sidewalks and streets surrounding flattened buildings were strewn with mangled cars, demolished rescue equipment and personal belongings. Thick layers of dust and paper that rained down after the explosion covered dozens of blocks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, says 450,000 tons of debris would have to be cleared from the Twin Towers, and another 15,000 from the third building that collapsed. Mayor Giuliani said 3,000 tons of debris had already been removed.
Three of the hundreds of companies with offices in the World Trade Center said they could not account for about 1,500 workers. A preliminary Reuters tally of employees at just four companies and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey found about 946 workers missing.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department says at least one hijacker on each of the four planes in Tuesday’s attacks was trained at a U.S. flight school. Overall, 50 people may have been involved in the hijackers’ well-financed operation. Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said yesterday both cash and credit cards were used by the hijackers to purchase tickets, hotel rooms and other things. The FBI’s massive investigation stretches from the Canadian border to Florida, where some of the participants learned how to fly commercial planes before the attacks. Tucker said flight schools in more than one state were involved in the training of the hijackers, several of whom had pilot’s licenses.
The identities of more than a dozen of the men who hijacked the four planes with knives and box cutters and threats of bombs have been ascertained, says the U.S. government. Attorney General John Ashcroft said 12 to 24 hijackers commandeered the four planes, and a government official said another two dozen or so are believed to have assisted them. About 40 of the men have been accounted for, including those killed in the suicide attacks. Authorities detained at least half a dozen people in Massachusetts and Florida on unrelated local warrants and immigration charges and were questioning them about their possible ties to the hijackers. Officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were investigating whether one group of hijackers crossed the Canadian border at a checkpoint and made their way to Boston, where two jet liners were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center. Two suspects flew from the Portland International Jetport in Maine to Boston, where they boarded the deadly flights, this according to Maine Governor Angus King. The two men apparently were using New Jersey driver’s licenses and left behind a rental car with Massachusetts plates that was impounded and hauled to the Maine State Police crime lab.
In Congress, a bipartisan resolution vowing U.S. retaliation won unanimous approval in the early hours today. The House of Representatives passed the nonbinding measure by a vote of 408 to zero about 12 hours after the Senate approved it 100 to zero. Arizona Senator John McCain, veteran of the Vietnam War, said the United States had a message for those behind the attacks. He said, “We’re coming after you. God may have mercy on you, but we won’t.”
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