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FDNY, NYPD, NJ Port Authority Cops Learning Cruel Toll

September 19, 2001

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FDNY, NYPD, NJ Port Authority Cops Learning Cruel Toll

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Sept. 13, 2001 by Kevin Flynn/New York Times

New York -- A total of 350 firefighters, nearly 30 times the number ever lost by the New York City Fire Department in a single incident, are missing or dead, officials said yesterday, as government agencies and private companies began to tally their losses from the terror attack on the World Trade Center.

Another agency hit hard by the trade center's collapse was the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which officials said had lost as many as 200 employees. At least 30 of the authority's police officers were still missing.

The city itself said that 40 of its police officers were missing and presumed dead, while many other federal agencies and corporations that were tenants in the buildings were still far from compiling complete lists of their casualties.

Partial accounts came from a few companies, such as Marsh & McClennan, an insurance and financial-services company, and Cantor Fitzgerald, a government- bond-trading firm, which each reported that 700 of their employees were still missing.

Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., a securities company, said it was missing 69 of its 172 employees, while the Alger mutual fund company said it had not accounted for 38 of its employees.

Airline passengers who were aboard the four hijacked jets account for a total of 266 people who are part of a death toll that officials acknowledge is likely to reach several thousand.

"The best estimate we can make," said Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, "is there will be a few thousand people left in each building."

Although the Fire Department may not have suffered the greatest number of casualties of any single entity, many New Yorkers yesterday felt particularly drawn to the agency's plight because its losses had come in the effort to save lives. And firefighters themselves, while trained to rush toward disasters, even as others are running away, had never encountered death in this magnitude.

Some three dozen fire companies, including such as Ladder Company 132, Ladder Company 105 and Engine Company 33 were missing in action, with their members presumed to be trapped or dead beneath the rubble.

Also missing were all five of the elite Rescue Companies that serve the city.

Many of the fire companies found themselves caught in the collapse of the buildings as they headed up stairwells and through hallways to rescue people.

Five of the department's most senior officials, including the chief who specialized in directing rescues from collapses of this sort, were also missing or dead, as were a dozen battalion chiefs. At least ten fire trucks were buried in the rubble.

The wives of some the missing firefighters have appeared at firehouse doors to see if anyone can help find their husbands.

"I keep looking at the list of people that are missing," Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen told reporters at the scene. "I don't want to talk about all the names. Just a phenomenal group of people. The best of the department. The best Rescue guys are missing. The Squad guys are missing. Terrific units all around here. It's just phenomenal. It's just unbelievable to me. I don't know."

The physical and emotional toll on the Fire Department could be seen yesterday in the strain on Mr. Von Essen's face, in the halting speech of firefighters as they discussed dead colleagues and in the steps the department was taking to ensure that the injured agency would be able to provide fire protection for the rest of the city.

With more than 400 firefighters devoted to searching the wreckage, officials

said resources were stretched thin and they were sending one ladder truck and one engine to initial reports of fires, instead of the normal two. Response times, they said, will also likely be slower in spots.

But no place has been left uncovered, officials said. Fire companies from Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut, among other places, had arrived to help.

"There were Jersey units in a bunch of places in Brooklyn," said Frank Ancona, a retired firefighter who was helping staff Ladder Company 113 in Brooklyn. Volunteers from Sayreville, N.J., had ridden with him on Tuesday night, he said.

Shaken firefighters and officers spent much of the day searching through the rubble for lost colleagues, mourning and rearranging responsibilities as they attempted to deal with the loss of so many senior people. The work served an important purpose even if very few people were found to have survived, officials said, because it helped some of the firefighters move past the horrors of the previous day, when they watched so many get hurt and were then prevented by unstable buildings from embarking on a vigorous search.

"The fireman are glad to be in there digging," said Francis X. Gribbon, a department spokesman. "They were anxious to go."

Officials have estimated that as many as 400 firefighters were at the scene, including several hundred inside the buildings, when the first of the towers fell around 10 a.m. Some have stories of fortunate escapes just before the buildings collapsed. But far more prevalent are disturbing accounts, such as the death of a department chaplain, the Rev. Mychal Judge, who was giving the last rites to a firefighter who had been injured by a falling body when both were swallowed by cascading rubble.

One of those feared lost in the debris, was Capt. Timothy Stackpole, who had returned to full duty several months ago after recovering from severe burns he suffered in a fire in 1998. He was off-duty when he heard about the terrorist attack but had gone to the Trade Center to help, officials said.

At Engine Company 1 in Manhattan, firefighters recalled how they got out of the north tower when they were told the south tower had just collapsed. Their lieutenant, Andy Desperito, told them to get out, while he stopped to help someone. Several minutes later, they were on the street, when the north tower fell. Lieutenant Desperito's body was recovered later in the day.

Among those caught in the second collapse were three of the department's most senior officials, William Feehan, the first deputy commissioner, Peter Ganci, the chief of department, and Raymond Downey, the chief of special operations, who were directing rescue operations from a command post near Vesey and West streets. Chief Downey is still missing, as are Chiefs Gerard Barbara and Donald Burns, two of the department's highest-ranking supervisors.

The bodies of Commissioner Feehan and Chief Ganci have been recovered.

Commissioner Feehan and Chief Ganci had each served the department for more than three decades. Chief Downey had led the New York team that helped search for survivors after the 1995 terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City.

Mr. Von Essen, after recounting these losses and others on Tuesday night, said, "The Fire Department will recover, but I don't know how."

Friends, meanwhile, were doing their best to console families. In Breezy Point, Queens, residents said 10 firefighters from there were either missing or dead and that so many people showed up for a special Mass at St. Thomas More Church on Tuesday night that the priest ran out of communion wafers.

On Long Island, William McLaughlin, a former secretary of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said, "I have heard that some people are dead. But how do you say that if they are still listed as missing. So you just say, "Keep praying. He's a big guy. Maybe he is in there somewhere.' "

Occasionally, there was good news, as there was yesterday when M.J. Magbanua, after a journey that brought her to two firehouses, found her friend, firefighter Daniel Murray, of Squad 18, injured, but safe at a firehouse on Lafayette Street.

"I feel guilty sitting here," he told her.

"No, you were out there," she reminded him.

In 1966, when the department suffered what had been its biggest loss of life, 10 of the 12 firefighters killed in a fire on East 23rd Street were buried after a joint funeral Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. The logistics this time for the department, which usually helps arrange large, ceremonial funerals, is more daunting, although there was some talk yesterday of a possible memorial service at a large arena, like Madison Square Garden.

Some friends of firefighters have already built a makeshift memorial to their sacrifice out of a damaged truck used by Ladder Company 24 in Manhattan.

It was parked yesterday, outside the firehouse on East 31st St., decorated with floral bouquets and an American flag that flew from its upraised ladder. In the soft gray soot that coated the truck when the buildings fell, friends had written farewells to four people from the firehouse who have not been found.

Short-term manpower shortages were being addressed, officials said, by having firefighters work extra shifts and by making use of many volunteers. Lieut. Tim Carr. said he had driven 10 hours through the night with two of his colleagues from a 23- member force in the small town of Nelsonville, Ohio. They stood outside the Police Academy at 10:30 a.m. looking for work.

Despite the acts of concern, many firefighters still seemed to be reeling from the magnitude of their losses. Firefighter Paul Mendoza said his unit, Rescue Company 4, in Queens, had just gotten over the deaths of two men in a fire on Father's Day. Now everyone from the unit who had worked Tuesday morning were missing or dead.

"We may never get over this," he said.

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