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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkNews from Around the Americas | August 2006 

9/11 Emergency Call Tapes Released
email this pageprint this pageemail usAmy Westfeldt - Associated Press

Dorine Hetzel sheds tears as she listens to newly disclosed tapes of World Trade Center victims, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006, in New York. Hetzel's brother, firefighter Thomas J. Hetzel of Ladder 13, was killed in the attacks. It was the first time she heard the fire command center make reference to her brother's unit. The tapes represent 911 calls from people who were trapped in the World Trade Center towers and emergency responders. They were released to the families as a result of a lawsuit brought by the New York Times and families of Sept. 11 victims. (AP/Kathy Willens)
A 911 operator, speaking to a woman trapped on the 83rd floor of the World Trade Center, offered hope of a rescue team that never appeared, recordings of emergency phone calls from Sept. 11 released Wednesday show.

"Listen to me, ma'am," the operator told a panicked Melissa Doi during a 20-minute phone call. "You're not dying. You're in a bad situation, ma'am."

A portion of Doi's conversation was played for jurors in April at Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui's trial, but the rest was wasn't released until Wednesday with a batch of taped 911 calls from the day of the attack.

"I'm going to die, aren't I?" Doi asked the dispatcher. "Please God, it's so hot. I'm burning up."

The operator encouraged Doi to keep her composure: "Ma'am, just stay calm for me, OK?"

The conversation was one of more 1,613 previously undisclosed emergency calls from the morning of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They include the voices of at least 19 firefighters and two emergency medical technicians killed when the twin towers collapsed, although most of the calls are from firefighters asking dispatchers where they should report for duty, the Fire Department said.

The calls "reveal extraordinary professionalism and bravery," the department said. It lost 343 firefighters that day.

The New York Times and families of Sept. 11 victims sued for access to the emergency calls and firefighters' oral histories. Attorneys said they wanted to find out what happened in the towers after two hijacked jetliners crashed into them and what dispatchers told workers and rescuers in and around the buildings.

The calls also include 10 previously unreleased 911 calls made by people trapped in the towers, although those calls will include only the voices of the operators who heard their pleas.

The city in March released transcripts of 130 calls from people trapped in the towers, including only the voices of operators and other public employees. The callers' voices were cut out after city attorneys argued that their pleas for help were too emotional and intense to be publicized without their families' consent.

Thousands of pages of emergency workers' oral histories and radio transmissions were released last August.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta ordered his department to search for additional recordings when another tape turned up shortly after the March release. City officials listened to all calls to emergency and fire dispatchers between 8:45 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. on Sept. 11 to locate all available recordings.

The fire department said Tuesday that when it first turned over its emergency calls, officials "misinterpreted instructions they were given on what kinds of calls to copy" and "failed to capture" other 911 calls they knew had to be made public.

"The department regrets the delay," it said in a statement.

Attorney Norman Siegel, who represents Sept. 11 families, called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to pledge that no more emergency recordings from that day exist.

A spokesman for the mayor declined to comment Tuesday.

Families of the 21 rescuers who were identified in the calls have been notified, the department said. Because they were public employees, their entire calls will be released on Wednesday. The department said that the voices of other firefighters who died may also be released, but said it couldn't positively identify them.

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