Today, bowing to pressure from the victims’ families and a lawsuit from the New York Times, New York City released thousands of pages of oral histories from the weeks after September 11, 2001, as well as dispatch tapes and phone logs recorded as the events were unfolding (NY Times article here). The Times put up an interactive feature with excerpts from the dispatch tapes (complete tapes here), which are recordings of calls back and forth between emergency personnel and the Manhattan command center, as well as one harrowing sequence in which a civilian calls in from inside the cab of a fire engine after the second tower has collapsed.
Because of how I found out about the attacks — from a radio report in the snack bar at Glacier Point in Yosemite, after both towers were already down — I have to imagine what it would have been like to experience the events in sequence as they unfolded. These tapes give at least some sense of that, as the situation steadily worsens and the confusion increases, culminating in the nightmare cloud of dust as the second tower collapses.
I don’t have much to add. These tapes are painful listening. Thinking about September 11 still makes me tear up, and I wasn’t even there. To all who bore the weight of that morning as it unfolded, my deepest sympathies. That’s about it.