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America's New War: A Tour Through Ground Zero

Aired September 21, 2001 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Bill Hemmer has been to the scene, a tour with the New York governor, George Pataki.

Bill, good afternoon.

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, hello to and Judy in Washington.

A short time ago George Pataki took us down to ground zero, just a few feet from what was the former World Trade Center tower, and I can tell, once you're inside that area, it is both shocking and it is mesmerizing.

We'll let the governor take us through on a short tour now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, NEW YORK: We're in there working right now trying to fix them. And then you see -- you see what used to be -- that's what's left of the South Tower. That was 104, 106 stories tall, and it's just incredible, just incredible.

And up there would be the North Tower. And it's like, it's like a scene out of a horror movie, you know, after the nuclear bombs have struck, but it's not a movie. Now, these guys are not extras in a movie, this is what actually happened, and it's just incredible. And you can see it's still burning, it's still smoldering.

How are you? We're proud of you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're proud of you, too.

PATAKI: We're proud of you. God bless you. Thank you.

HEMMER: When we see this destruction on television, and we see the videotape, it's a bit hard to understand where things were or where are they now. Can you tell us -- can you point out what is what in this maze of rubble and destruction?

PATAKI: This was the South Tower. This was 104, 106 stories tall. This is what is left. Up there was the North Tower. And my office used to be in this building. For my first 3 1/2 years as governor, this -- my office was on the 57th floor here.

Hi, how are you? We're so proud of you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing, Governor?

PATAKI: God bless you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

PATAKI: Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Staten Island, engine (ph) 153.

PATAKI: Well, we're proud of you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Staten Island (OFF-MIKE).

PATAKI: It's just -- and you look, and you see, and there's no concrete. There is very little concrete. All you see is aluminum and steel.

HEMMER: What happened to the concrete?

PATAKI: The concrete was pulverized. And I was down here Tuesday and it was like you were on a foreign planet. All of lower Manhattan, not just this site, from river to river there was dust, powder, two, three inches thick. The concrete was just pulverized.

HEMMER: What's to explain, Governor, the smoke that still comes out of the pile?

PATAKI: There are still fire down below. There is such an incredibly deep pile of rubble, and the tower goes down five, six stories underground that there is still fire underneath smoldering. And that's why, you know -- look at the guy there, right smack in the middle of the smoke on the top of the pile, they're extremely brave out there, working to get through this and still hoping, however unlikely the hope might be, for a miracle.

You can see the buildings around it that have been incredibly damaged, but thank God they're structurally sound, they're not coming down.

HEMMER: Even though we see that facade that's been ripped and torn away, structurally that building is OK?

PATAKI: Structurally that building is sound. And that was a very great concern, because a lot of injuries to the rescue workers, to the police and fire, occurred when the buildings came down. So people were out here risking their lives before we were sure that these buildings were structurally sound, and you just didn't know what was going to happen. But they're OK.

HEMMER: Let's take a walk over here...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: The governor a short time ago, and there is so much more to show from what we saw. We spent close to an hour down at ground zero touring that area with the governor.

One thing to pass around, the area quite dangerous at this time, but you may have seen the outside side skeleton of the South Tower, that area of twisted metal that extends right up in the air, they're still saying that's about 20 stories tall, it's in danger of collapse. What they're trying to do with that at this time is a few construction crews in from North Carolina have come up here. They want to attach cables to that part and drag it down to the ground. They are going to have some difficulty doing it, though. They say they might have it down by Tuesday of next week, but it is something that they're watching and keeping a close eye on at this point -- Aaron.

BROWN: Bill, that's a fascinating look in conversation. A quick thing or two. When you are in the area, do you have a sense that the 60 thousand tons that they've moved out, the 60 thousand tons of debris, is actually noticeable, that it's actually made a difference, or is there so much there it's just a drop in the bucket?

HEMMER: Since it was my first time in, my first impression was one of a sense of overwhelming debris and rubble, and clearly there are just thousands and thousands of tons to be taken out.

The governor says he's taken several people in throughout course of the past 10 days, he does notice a different from the time he goes in.

But one thing that's critical to point out here is that the rubble we're seeing above ground is substantial, and it is staggering, but still, we know there is quite a bit below ground as well.

A couple of other things, Aaron, that caught my attention here as we're inside. you know, we talk about being disoriented once we're in the site because it is so large and so massive and you try and pinpoint what is what and where is -- where are things at this point. The World Financial Center, a couple towers still standing, they are spray painted. I think you can just see it just there: 2 WFC. That is 2 World Financial Center. Those areas are marked to allow the employees and the rescue workers inside to let them know about their own bearings. And the governor remarked that the last time he saw buildings like that, spray painted, he was in Pristina, Kosovo at the end of the war over Yugoslavia.

Also, you saw some windows there shortly. The governor says they're knocking out those window, clearing out the glass. He anticipates at some point very soon that glass will be replaced. And the indication he gives us is it's just a sign of things, struggling, struggling and struggling to try and get back to operation here.

Also, there are some buildings down here, actually, Aaron, that surprised me that workers had been back in earlier in the week on Monday. In the Mercantile Exchange, they went back to work on Monday, and that's just about two blocks from where we were.

But as you look at this videotape, I tell you, it's absolutely astounding. And the steam that continues to come up, we saw workers top of that pile, on top of that steam, working under just amazing and incredible conditions.

BROWN: Well, how surreal and bizarre it must be to go back to work a block or so away.

Bill, thank you.

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