|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
An examination of Mr. Giuliani’s handling of the extraordinary recovery operation during his last months in office shows that he seized control and largely limited the influence of experienced federal agencies. In doing that, according to some experts and many of those who worked in the trade center’s ruins, Mr. Giuliani might have allowed his sense of purpose to trump caution in the rush to prove that his city was not crippled by the attack.
Administration documents and thousands of pages of legal testimony filed in a lawsuit against New York City, along with more than two dozen interviews with people involved in the events of the last four months of Mr. Giuliani’s administration, show that while the city had a safety plan for workers, it never meaningfully enforced federal requirements that those at the site wear respirators.
At the same time, the administration warned companies working on the pile that they would face penalties or be fired if work slowed. And according to public hearing transcripts and unpublished administration records, officials also on some occasions gave flawed public representations of the nature of the health threat, even as they privately worried about exposure to lawsuits by sickened workers.
“The city ran a generally slipshod, haphazard, uncoordinated, unfocused response to environmental concerns,” said David Newman, an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a labor group.
City officials and a range of medical experts are now convinced that the dust and toxic materials in the air around the site were a menace. More than 2,000 New York City firefighters have been treated for serious respiratory problems. Seventy percent of nearly 10,000 recovery workers screened at Mount Sinai Medical Center have trouble breathing.
Long before 9/11, radios were a constant issue at emergency scenes. Too many people talking on too few channels led to system overload. In the case of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the inability of the fire department to communicate effectively was a major problem, so much so that it was pinpointed as such in an after-action report prepared by the department. Yet it was these same radios that firefighters brought to the World Trade Center on the crystal-clear morning of September 11, 2001, four months before the conclusion of Giuliani’s tenure in office.
On 9/11 the firefighters converging from all over the city at the
World Trade Center attempted to use the complex’s radio system, first testing it in the lobby of the North Tower. The test indicated that the system was not functional, even though it actually was. A volume control switch mistakenly had not been activated, so the system was of no use at all to firefighters ascending the North Tower, according to The 9/11 Commission Report, which investigated the city’s response.
The firefighters were confronting a disaster of immense proportions, much larger than what occurred in 1993. If there was ever a need for a robust communications system, it was now. Yet the communication system at their disposal failed them miserably, likely costing many firefighters in the North Tower their lives. These firefighters climbed the stairs of one of the world’s tallest buildings without a reliable means of communicating with commanders below. As they conducted their hazardous work as best as humanly possible, they were disadvantaged: there was no way of their getting word from their commanders about the location of the fire or that the tower was in danger of collapsing.
Tragically, while firefighters struggled to use their inadequate radios, new FDNY radios sat in boxes in a city warehouse. The new equipment, in fact, had been issued to firefighters on March 14, 2001, but it was pulled from service a few days later, after a trapped firefighter’s “mayday” message went unheard at a house fire in Queens. In the ensuing months leading to 9/11, an investigation by then city comptroller Alan Hevesi uncovered an exclusive “no bid/sole source” contract between the city and the manufacturer of the new radios under the watch of Tom Von Essen, Giuliani’s fire commissioner.
The city and the manufacturer maintained that the transaction was legal, and there the matter was left, although in a relatively little-known book titled Radio Silence FDNY—The Betrayal of New York’s Bravest, authors FDNY Captain John Joyce and Bill Bowen alleged additional improprieties on the part of city and the company. Giuliani, in his book Leadership, claims that it was necessary to have separate command posts so that the police could get telephone lines to protect the rest of the city from attack, while fire officers needed to observe the twin towers themselves. The flaw in this conclusion is that it assumes the response to the World Trade Center was composed solely of the FDNY, when, in reality, the NYPD was also a very important player at the trade center.
Labels: Rudy Giuliani