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The Sad, Slow Search: Sounds of the Street

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Rescue workers, police, firefighters, sanitation workers and thousands of volunteers continue the grim search for survivors in the disaster area where the World Trade Center once stood. Yesterday five more people were pulled alive from the rubble, but Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said that nearly 5,000 people remain unaccounted for. The walls of many New York City neighborhoods are now plastered with posters bearing photos of the missing. Democracy Now! in Exile producer Miranda Kennedy was in the streets of the evacuation zone and spoke to some of those involved in the effort. [includes rush transcript]


  • Sounds of the street

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As rescue workers slowly pick bodies from the World Trade Center rubble, a team of coroners, dentists and scientists is toiling around the clock to attach names to the victims. The magnitude of the grim task is daunting, even to veteran medical examiners who have tackled the aftermath of plane crashes, fires and other disasters. Thousands of bodies are buried beneath tons of steel and concrete. Forensic experts said yesterday the process of identifying victims could take months. By 10:00 a.m. yesterday, crews had recovered 94 bodies, 46 of which had been identified. About 70 body parts also had been taken out of the rubble.

The rain has been beating down on us intermittently throughout the night, as the slow, sad search continues. Ambulances would be a siren of hope. Instead, it’s dump trucks, doctors without much to do, and body bags. Rain hopefully has cleared some of the air of the asbestos, the toxic, acrid smoke that’s pervading the whole area.

Around midnight last night, Miranda Kennedy left the firehouse where we’re broadcasting from, just blocks of where the World Trade Center towers are, and she went into the streets, speaking to some of the people involved in the search-and-rescue effort.

RESCUE WORKER 1: Everyone’s dead. It’s just as simple as this.

MIRANDA KENNEDY: Where were you? Where have you been?

RESCUE WORKER 1: Well, we’re just right by—they call it Ground Zero. It’s right by Hilton Hotel. It’s—where I was was called Liberty. Basically, we just give aid to workers, police officers, firefighters. Whoever was in the buildings is dead already. They get injured. They get lethargic. They get tired. There’s like so much dust there, so much fume there. So, you know, your eyes start burning, and you get tired, get injuries. It’s so—I mean, I can’t really express it in words. It’s just so unreal. There’s so much dirt. There’s so much steel, so much brick, so much—they’re all just, you know, they’re lying on top of each other. It’s just—it’s so overwhelming. It takes days, maybe, you know, even a month to just get everything out and get everyone out probably.

RESCUE WORKER 2: Everybody’s waiting for their chance, like we are. You know what I mean?

RESCUE WORKER 3: We’re dying to get in there. We don’t want to be here. But we’re forced to stay here, because of the position.

RESCUE WORKER 2: When we got sent down here, I thought that I would be right at the scene doing what I do, but like he was saying, the vibration. But what I really notice is that—

RESCUE WORKER 3: So much unity, so much togetherness, everybody. Everybody’s helping.

RESCUE WORKER 2: The supplies are unbelievable.

RESCUE WORKER 3: A lot of college kids helping out, volunteer workers. Salvation Army is doing a fantastic job. You know, all the body parts they’re picking up—heads, arms, legs, feet, whatever they got—just picking them up, throwing them into plastic bags until they can identify them, you know? And I mean, guys, there’s a lot of danger there. The building collapsed, and they’re worried about that. Guys are—cops, firemen, construction workers, they’re going through it like there was nothing wrong. And meanwhile, their lives are in danger, and they can’t believe it.

RESCUE WORKER 2: I don’t think that they ever thought it would come down. And if you—

RESCUE WORKER 3: No, no one ever thought that building would come down.

RESCUE WORKER 2: I saw the steel. We were getting the steel in last night from what they were taking out of here. And if you saw the thickness and the weight of the steel, you would, like, say, like, “How did this ever come down?” I mean, it’s big pieces of metal you’re talking about. But I guess the heat just ultimately buckled it, and it came down. And the weight of 10 or 20 floors.

RESCUE WORKER 3: But it just shows—

RESCUE WORKER 2: It’s unbelievable. It just came down.

MIRANDA KENNEDY: So you think that after—after it was hit, they sent in the fire crews, because they didn’t think that there was—

RESCUE WORKER 3: Right, they never thought it would come down.

RESCUE WORKER 2: Well, I think they went up there to rescue people, because if you listen to people, they were coming down the stairs, and firemen were going up the stairs.

RESCUE WORKER 3: Yeah, they were trying to help them.

RESCUE WORKER 2: But the heat—and they were trying to shut—put the fire out and get people out of there. But that heat had to buckle that steel. And the steel is really thick and really heavy, like it’s incomprehendable that that building came down. But, I mean, I guess it buckled, and just the weight of the floors brought it down. Big, big, big building. Big building. And like he said, it’s 20 feet high now. Where is that building? Downstairs, I mean, there’s a lot of building come down.

RESCUE WORKER 3: And all they’re worried about is getting the market open and getting everybody back to work. And it’s devastating. I mean, half the neighborhood’s still under all the asbestos, everything else.

RESCUE WORKER 2: I was up late. We were working last night.

RESCUE WORKER 3: People, you don’t know—we were walking through there yesterday, asbestos flying, and they didn’t even have masks for us until the other—until today, after we had to fight for them. But meanwhile, you go over here, they got everything you want. We had to go over there and get them, but which was sickening. But all the asbestos, and they’re saying it’s not asbestos. We talked to a few people who were here. They says the count was—their counts were over five percent asbestos, and Giuliani says there’s no asbestos.

But that’s another argument. And these cops—the cops, the firemen, at first, they had no masks, no nothing. And they were—Tuesday, when they had everything, they were just standing there. They were all white. The blue uniforms were practically white. You know? And it was all dust, breathing in this dust for hours and hours and hours. You know? And I tell you, firemen and cops, they deserve everything they get, because they were there putting their lives on the line and going—didn’t matter to them. You know, really didn’t matter. Trying to save lives and just standing there, and all this dust they’re breathing—

RESCUE WORKER 2: All this debris that they’re taking out of—they have like a hundred cops last night and maybe half a dozen or a dozen FBI, and if there’s anything in that building, they’re going to find it, because they’re going through it by hand. Each load, load by load, they’re just raking it out, right down to the ground. And if there’s something in there, like a voice recorder, which is what I guess they’re looking for, they’ll find it, because they’re really looking.

MIRANDA KENNEDY: What do you think is going to happen now? It looks like the country is preparing for war.

RESCUE WORKER 2: I don’t know. I just hope that there’s no more bombs or no more—that’s—I think that if we had another explosion somewhere, it would be really demoralizing and would not be good. But as far as who we’re going to pay back and how we’re going to pay them back, I’m not—I have no doubt that there will be some retaliation. And like I got two kids in college, and I’m not interested in sending them to war at all, you understand? Especially not for terrorism. But they’ll be dealt with.

RESCUE WORKER 3: Here, it’s asbestos.

RESCUE WORKER 2: They’ll be dealt with.

RESCUE WORKER 3: There’s the asbestos. It’s in our shoes. We bring it to our houses.

MIRANDA KENNEDY: Well, Bush is coming in tomorrow, you know?

RESCUE WORKER 3: Oh, forget it. It’s going to be a madhouse. It’s the worst thing—he’s the worst guy to be here tomorrow.

MIRANDA KENNEDY: Why do you say that?


RESCUE WORKER 2: Well, because they just shut everything down.

RESCUE WORKER 3: We’ve got enough cops and everybody around here now. You need him? We don’t need him.

RESCUE WORKER 2: Well, I think—I don’t think like him. I think it’s a good thing he’s coming.

RESCUE WORKER 3: Well, it’s good for the politicians, not for the workers, not for security.

RESCUE WORKER 2: Well, I think it’s good for morale, too. But, you know, it’s just that you can’t get in and out of here anyway. But you’re not going to get in and out of here before Monday anyway. And down where that accident happened is—you’re not going to get in that area for a long time. A lot of those buildings are heavily damaged that were around that, buildings falling off and ripping off pieces of other buildings. The World Trade Center’s buildings aren’t the only ones that are destroyed.

RESCUE WORKER 3: Financial building [inaudible], too.

RESCUE WORKER 2: There’s a lot of damage down there.

Over here, a couple of rains, and this will be all back to normal here. But over there, it’s not going to be normal for a long time.

MIRANDA KENNEDY: So what do you think? Do you think they’re going to open up the Stock Market amidst the rubble?

RESCUE WORKER 2: Yeah, I think they will, yeah.

RESCUE WORKER 3: Monday, it will be definitely open.

RESCUE WORKER 2: I think they’ll open Monday.

RESCUE WORKER 3: By Monday it will be open.

RESCUE WORKER 2: They’re just not going to be able to use that section for a while, quite a while, because there’s buildings that have big pieces missing from them. I don’t know if they’re going to take those buildings down or repair them or what they’re going to do. But if they’re going to repair them, it’s going to take a long time. And if they’re going to take them down, it’s going to take even longer. But there’s a lot of damage down there. A lot of damage.

RESCUE WORKER 3: They caught American sleeping. That’s what they did. They caught us sleeping. We’re supposed—we think we’re so well protected, and we’re not. And look how a few guys, what they did to us. Fifty people, they said, is involved, besides all the country. The first time, they couldn’t do it, because they didn’t have the money. This time, it didn’t cost them no money, but a few plane fares. And they knew exactly what they were doing. Take the full jets, the biggest ones, and they did this. I seen the jet crash into the building. I couldn’t believe my own eyes.

RESCUE WORKER 2: Yeah, unbelievable, absolutely. Absolutely unbelievable. Like, after I saw the first building come down, I just stood there and waited for the building to reappear. Like, just couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe it. Surreal. Really surreal, surreal. Unbelievable. Just can’t believe what you’re actually seeing. And even after it happens, still can’t believe it.

AMY GOODMAN: Marvin Gaye, “The Lord’s Prayer,” accompanying the sad, slow search, sounds of the street, produced by Miranda Kennedy.

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