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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
Tapes rekindle horror of 9/11
Second plane approaches World Trade Center
Many relatives did not want the transcripts released

Transcripts of frantic emergency calls made as people tried to escape the World Trade Center on 11 September, 2001, have been released.

The voices of at least 36 victims have been identified from the recordings - most of them workers for the Port Authority of New York, the owners of the twin towers.

In one excerpt a male caller says "either a plane crashed into the Trade Center, or a rocket hit the Trade Center - and, uh, people are all over the place, dead".

The Port Authority tried to stop the release of the transcripts, but a state judge ruled the public should have access to them.

The BBC's Jane Standley in New York says the transcripts make painful and often gruesome reading - detailing the last moments in the lives of victims and of the people who battled to save them.

'People just jumping'

In another excerpt, a male voice says: "I've got dozens of bodies, people just jumping from the top of the building onto ... in front of One World Trade".

A female voice then asks: "Sir, you have what jumping from buildings?"

The reply is: "People - bodies are just coming from out of the sky."

People are looking for the horror stories, not the good things
Laurie Tietjen

The attacks on the twin towers - carried out by suspected members of al-Qaeda who hijacked four airliners and crashed two of them into the skyscrapers - killed at least 2,792 people.

The Port Authority lost 84 of its staff in the attack. Its headquarters was in the building.

It argued that it would be insensitive to victims' families to release the transcripts - and some family members agree.

'Slap in the face'

The release of around 2,000 pages of transcripts of calls made to the emergency services was ordered by a judge following a media request under Freedom of Information legislation.

"For me and my children, it's like being slapped in the face with it happening again," said Leila Negron, 36, whose husband, Peter, worked at the Trade Center as an environmental specialist.

I know that a lot of families would like to hear [the recordings]
Dorothy McLaughlin

After reading excerpts from the transcripts, Laurie Tietjen, who lost her brother in the attacks, said she was concerned the media would reproduce excerpts insensitively.

"People are looking for the horror stories, not the good things," she said.

"A lot of the information there is pretty personal. It doesn't help to have it out there in the public. It's just extremely hurtful to the families."

Vital information

But not all relatives see the publication as a bad thing.

Monica Gabrielle of West Haven, Connecticut, lost her husband, Richard, in the attack.

"There's not much that's private about this," she said.

"Hopefully, there's a whole host of information there that can contribute some information as to what went wrong, what could be done better, what went right."

The actual audiotapes have been handed over to a federal government agency, which will use them to try and pinpoint how and why the towers collapsed and also to determine the effectiveness of the emergency response.

Dorothy McLaughlin, whose 36-year-old son George died in the attack, said that, although the information could be shocking, "I know that a lot of families would like to hear [the recordings]."

She said she was not sure whether she wanted to hear her own son's last calls, and couldn't be sure he had time to make any.

The Port Authority released a 73-minute recording of firefighters' radio communications last year after the New York Times took it to court.

The BBC's Nick Bryant reports from New York
"The transcripts are filled with voices of anguish and desperation"

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