11 September 2011

9/11... that morning, on NBC News

This is a loooooong post. It's several of the as-it-happened transcripts from the Today Show on the morning of 9/11. There's a jump a few paragraphs in. Click the headline to open the entire post.

KATIE COURIC, co-host:
As Matt just mentioned, we have a breaking news story to tell you about. Apparently, a plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center here in New York City. It happened just a few moments ago, apparently. We have very little information available at this point in time. But on the phone, we do have Jennifer Oberstein, who apparently witnessed this event.
Jennifer, can you hear me?

Ms. JENNIFER OBERSTEIN (Witness to Crash): Hello?

COURIC: Hi, Jennifer?

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Hi, Katie.

COURIC: Hi. Can you please tell me what you saw and give me any information about what is going on there?

OBERSTEIN: Yes. I have to tell you--it's--it's quite terrifying. I'm in shock right now. I came out of the subway at Rolling Green. I was heading to work in Battery Park at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and I come out, and I saw a big--I heard a big boom, looked up, and there was a big ball of fire. I'm now looking north at the World Trade Center, and it is the left Twin Tower, I'm looking north. I'm in Battery Park right now. And you can hear the fire engines and the emergency--emergency crews behind me, and it is unbelievable. When the fire first burst, it was a--hello?

MATT LAUER, co-host:
Yeah, go ahead.

COURIC: Go ahead. We can hear you.

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Something in the air like I've never seen before. And as you know, I used to work in news. I've never seen any fire like this in the air, and the pieces of building were flying down. It looks like it's the--it's like the top--I can't even tell you, maybe 20 floors. Intense smoke. It's--it's horrible. It's--I--I--I can't even describe it.

LAUER: Jenn...

COURIC: Do you have any idea what kind of plane it was?

Ms. OBERSTEIN: I'm sorry?

COURIC: Do you have any idea what hit the World Trade Center?

Ms. OBERSTEIN: What it was?

COURIC: Yeah, what kind of plane. We're getting reports that an airplane hit the building?

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Oh, I--I didn't even know that. Honestly, I was walking up and looked up and saw a big boom and fire. You know, I got to tell you, we were all saying around here that it was very interesting that it would be a bomb, and it would be so high up. So, it's--perhaps it was--perhaps it was a plane. We have no--no talk of a plane. However, I have to tell you, there is still--there is still things flying in the air. I mean, it--it's mind-boggling, and it was--it's horrifying.

click the headline to follow the jump... there's a lot more



LAUER: Jennifer, it's Matt Lauer. I--I'd like to ask you, while you were close to the building or--or have you since the explosion seen anyone who's been injured being taken out of the building? Are there ambulances dealing with people on the sidewalk around the building?

Mr. OBERSTEIN: No. I have not. I--I have not gotten that close. I have to tell you that my father works in the World Financial Center, and I first called over there to see--because it is next door--to see, you know, if he was OK. I couldn't get through, and I'm far away right now. I thought it might be a little dangerous to get too close. I saw lots of--lots of debris coming down. And right now I'm in Battery Park. I don't know, you know, it's--it's only--it's probably about a five-minute walk from here to the World Trade Center, but the smoke is incredible. I mean, I can't see the top of the tower. It's starting to cover the top of the second tower.

COURIC: In fact, we're looking at pictures right now, Jennifer, with the huge gaping hole on the side of the building and billowing smoke. So...

Ms. OBERSTEIN: I'm right now--I think, yeah--I--I think--I--I see major fire. I definitely see fire.

LAUER: Jenn--Jennifer, you said you're looking north at the building. So, in other words, you're south of the building. Is that right?

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Yes, I am.

LAUER: Because...

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Correct.

LAUER: Because we're looking at a picture that is looking at the north side of the building.

Mr. OBERSTEIN: I'm on the exact opposite side.

LAUER: And--and it appears that is where the largest hole is. And, again, as you mentioned correctly, toward the top of the building, but on the north side and then on the--what I think is the west side of the building, we can also see some holes there that could have been from damage once the impact occurred. Again, we've been told that if this is a plane--we don't have confirmation on that--but there is an enormous hole in the north side of that building.

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Yeah.

COURIC: Jennifer, can you tell us a little bit more about what you heard when you heard this explosion? Describe it for us.

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Absolutely. When I walked out of the subway, I looked at the Twin Towers because, I mean, I just always look up there. And right when I looked up, there was a boom. It wasn't--it wasn't that loud like, it wasn't huge. However, what was unbelievable was the amount of fire. It was a big ball of fire that just went up. And--and I looked at--I looked around at people. We were all horrified. I--I--I'm stuttering because I'm--I'm in such shock. I've never seen anything like it. It's just horrible.

COURIC: And, of course, this is real cause for concern because the World Trade Center is one of the busiest office buildings here in New York with hundreds, perhaps thousands of...

AL ROKER reporting:

Yeah.

COURIC: ...of workers who...

ROKER: The New York State governor has his city office there.

LAUER: Oh, that's right.

ROKER: New York City office there.

LAUER: Several thousand workers.

COURIC: And, so--and, of course, given the time this has happened, it's only probably appropriate to surmise that people might have been in the building.

LAUER: And--and, you know, we--we've seen stories in the past where planes have hit buildings, small planes, and it would be hard to imagine that a small plane could create that kind of hole in a building like the World Trade Center and create the damage on the other side of the building...

ROKER: Right.

LAUER: ...from the sheer impact. Small--small planes tend to crumble and then fall down the building. Again, we haven't talked to anyone--who's close...

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Excuse me.

LAUER: ...to the base of the building, so we don't know what kind of debris or wreckage...

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Matt?

LAUER: Yes, go ahead, Jennifer.

Ms. OBERSTEIN: I'm sorry. I'm just talking to a police officer here, and he says, 'Yes,' he heard it was a plane.

COURIC: Does he have any information about what kind of plane it was or does he--can he tell us any more details?

Ms. OBERSTEIN: May I--may I--I'm going to put you on hold for one moment, OK?

LAUER: Just to recap if you're just joining us. You're looking at dramatic pictures of New York's World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, where a short time ago, we are told that a plane crashed into the upper floors of the western-most tower. You can see a gapping hole. That is on the north side of the building, and you can see residual damage on the west side of that building, and, obviously, fires are burning right now in the World Trade Center.

ROKER: Tall buildings have had a real problem here in New York. Back in the 40s, a plane hit the Empire State Building. In the 60s, a helicopter crashed at the--on the top of what was the PanAm building, now the MetLife building. So...

COURIC: Right now, we are getting information, Al, now, that it was a small commuter plane. And, of course, we'll let people know as soon as we have more information as to what actually caused this. And, of course, on everybody's mind, who was...

ROKER: Yeah.

COURIC: ...might have been hurt as a result of this terrible, terrible incident. We're going to be talking to more eyewitnesses coming up in just a few minutes.





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MATT LAUER, co-host:

We're back at 9:00 Eastern time on this Tuesday morning. And we're back with dramatic pictures of an accident that has happened just a short time ago. You're looking at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan where just a few minutes ago, we're told, that a plane--some reports are that it was a small commuter plane--crashed into the upper floors of one of the Twin Towers. You can see fire and flames, or smoke, billowing from that tower. There is a gaping hole on the north side of the building. That's the side you're seeing to the left-hand side of your screen right now. And other damage to the west side of that building, which is to the right side of your screen. This, of course, happened just before the morning commute, before people were heading into their offices, and while I'm sure some people were already at work. Immediately, there is speculation or cause for concern. This is the World Trade Center that was the center of a terrorist bombing some years ago. So the questions have to be asked, was this purely an accident or could this have been an intentional act. But either way, extensive damage has been done to this building.





AL ROKER reporting:

It also looks like there is smoke coming out of the east side of the building in the shot we just saw. Looks like white smoke billowing out of the east side of the building.

KATIE COURIC, co-host:

Obviously, horrified commuters were--were absolutely devastated when they heard this explosion. We talked with somebody a moment ago about that, Jennifer Oberstein, and also another eyewitness, Elliott Walker, who is actually a producer here on the TODAY show.

Elliott, can you hear me?

Ms. ELLIOTT WALKER: Yes. Hi, Katie.

COURIC: Hi, Elliott. Tell me where you are and what you saw.

Ms. WALKER: Well, I live in this area. I returned to my apartment. But I was walking down the sidewalk delivering my young daughter to school. And we heard a very loud sound, the kind of sound you hear when a plane is, you know, going fast past you 'Nnnnnn,' followed by an enormous crash and an immediate explosion. I don't think we could feel shock waves, but we--we sort of felt like we did. And we were in a position where we could see the Trade Center almost immediately between the other buildings, and an enormous fireball that must have been 300 feet across was visible immediately, a secondary explosion, I think, and then plumes of smoke. I must be--there must have been a three-block cloud of--of white smoke. Now, from where I was on the street a moment ago, you can, in fact, see smoke leaving the building on three sides. It seems to be coming out on at least four or five floors. The area is filled with hundreds of dozens of pieces of paper that are just sort of floating like confetti. The area is swarmed with emergency vehicles and sirens. Obviously...

COURIC: Have you seen...

Ms. WALKER: ...we're very sensitive to this kind of thing in this neighborhood.

COURIC: Elliott, have you--of course, because of the incident that occurred in the early 1990s. Have you seen any--any evidence, Elliott, of--of people being taken out of the building? You say that emergency vehicles are there. Understandably so. But, of course, the major concern is human loss.

Ms. WALKER: Oh, my goodness.

COURIC: I mean, do you know if there were many people in the building?

Ms. WALKER: Oh, another one just hit. Something else just hit, a very large plane just flew directly over my building...

ROKER: Oh, my...

Ms. WALKER: ...and there's been another collision. Can you see it?

COURIC: Yes.

LAUER: Yes.

Ms. WALKER: I can see it on this shot.

COURIC: Oh, my...

Ms. WALKER: Something else has just...

LAUER: You know what...

Ms. WALKER: ...and that looked more like a 747.

LAUER: ...we just saw a plane circling the building. We just saw a plane circling the building, a second ago on the shot right before that.

Ms. WALKER: I think there may have been another impact. Can you tell? I just heard another very loud bang and a very large plane that might have been a DC-9 or a 747 just flew past my window, and I think it may have hit the Trade Center again.

LAUER: To be--to be honest, Elliott, I didn't--I didn't get the impression it was that big a plane. I...

Ms. WALKER: It looked big from here.

LAUER: I did see a plane go by a second ago, though. And it--it--it has now impacted the building.

Ms. WALKER: Yes.

LAUER: I'm trying to see if it is the different tower. It is. It's the other tower.

Ms. WALKER: I think it may have been the other tower.

COURIC: It's the second...

Ms. WALKER: The first one was World Trade Center One, and it looks, from what I'm seeing on television, like it may have been the second building that was hit.

LAUER: We're going to see--this is a piece of tape and we may actually see another plane enter the picture here in a second.

Ms. WALKER: I wonder if there are air traffic control problems.

LAUER: Let's go back to Jennifer Oberstein, who was talking to us a second ago.

Jennifer, did you see this happen?

Ms. JENNIFER OBERSTEIN: Hello?

COURIC: Jennifer.

LAUER: Did you just see this happen, Jennifer?

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Matt, I...

LAUER: Y...

Ms. OBERSTEIN: I--I--I've never seen anything--it looks like a movie. I saw a large plane, like a jet, go immediately headed directly into the World Trade Center. It just flew into it, into the other tower coming from south to north. I watched the plane fly into the World Trade Center. It was a jet. It was a very large plane. It was going south. It went past the Ritz-Carlton Hotel that's being built in Battery Park. It went--flew right past, almost hit it, and then went in.

COURIC: This is so shocking, of course, to everybody watching.

Ms. OBERSTEIN: I--I've never seen anything like it. It literally flew itself into World Trade Center.

LAUER: Obviously, now we--we move from what--what appears to--there it is right there.

Ms. OBERSTEIN: Again, I'm looking from south to north.

LAUER: That...

Ms. OBERSTEIN: And it went into the one on the--the right.

LAUER: That appeared to be at least a 727. We saw it a second ago. Here--here comes the videotape that we--we just showed you. You will see what appears to be a large plane, it could be a 727, right there, maybe even bigger, flying right into the side of the World Trade Center.

Ms. OBERSTEIN: It was at least a 727. I--it was a jet. I couldn't believe my eyes watching it right above me.

LAUER: And now you--you have to move from talking about a possible accident to talk about something deliberate that has happened here. We're going to immediately check with air traffic control in the area to find out if they had contact with either of these planes before the accident. But what we've just seen is--is about the most shocking videotape I've ever seen.

ROKER: What are the odds of two separate planes hitting both towers?

COURIC: Elliott, are you still there?

Ms. WALKER: Hello.

COURIC: Elliott.

Ms. WALKER: Yes, I'm still here, Katie.

COURIC: So, Elliott, what can you see right now from--from your perspective?

Ms. WALKER: I don't face in that direction. I can't see anything personally.

COURIC: It is completely impossible to understand why this is happening and to figure out what the--what in the world is going on.

Ms. WALKER: I think we have to be grateful...

COURIC: Ollie Everhart...

Ms. WALKER: ...that the first one hit before 9:00 AM. But it's now after 9:00 AM, and I just wonder how many people are in those offices.

ROKER: A lot of those buildings fell off.

COURIC: Well, hopefully, they were evacuated following the first incident. And we can only hope that there--it was a very short period of time from when we first learned about this--was probably about 8:50 Eastern time--the second incident occurred about 9:05. And so obviously that would be a short amount of time to get people out of the building. Ollie Everhart is another witness who is on the ground.

Ollie, can you hear me?

Mr. OLLIE EVERHART: Yes, hello.

COURIC: Please tell me what you're seeing?

Mr. EVERHART: Well, I live in lower Manhattan. I face the north tower, the north side where the first plane crashed into the building, and right now there is a lot of chaos on the ground, a lot of emergency vehicles. Everyone from the World Financial Center has exited and is walking north up to Battery Park North. There is just mass and mass of people walking north, uptown of Manhattan. I was--happened to look on the first tower and actually saw people waving where the first plane crashed through, and then it was unbelievable seeing this second jet come crashing into the second tower. What is going on?

ROKER: And, unfortunately, here in New York, many of our stations cannot see this--local stations--because the antennas are on the World Trade Center. There are backup towers on the Empire State Building, but communication--television communication in New York City is probably pretty much knocked off the air.

LAUER: I just want to say something, we're looking at a picture here where it appears, because of the angle, I think, that the towers are leaning, and--and I don't think that that is--is actually the case, because after the first impact, it looked as if it w--the left--the right-hand tower was leaning. And now somebody is saying--we're getting a witness saying they are leaning, actually, right now, which will give you an idea of the type of impact we-re--we're talking about.

COURIC: And that, perhaps, they're buckling under the force of--of the collision...

LAUER: And...

COURIC: ...and the hole that has resulted...

LAUER: And...

COURIC: ...from these two planes.

LAUER: We're going to go to George Shay right now, who has also witnessed both, or one of these collisions.

George, can you hear us?

Mr. GEORGE SHAY: I can hear you.

LAUER: What did you see, George?

Mr. SHAY: Well, I was in the car driving up--just gotten out of the Battery Tunnel, driving north on West Street, when an enormous explosion happened. And I think it was larger than a construction explosion. I looked out the window and what appeared to be an enormous tire smashed into the ground, and I believe it hit the car to the right of me. And it was just so scary and there was also a ton of debris falling. And I jumped out of the car and I ran south away from the building, because I thought it was--there would be further explosions.

LAUER: And--and have you seen anyone injured on--on--on the ground, George?

Mr. SHAY: A man next to me was actually hit by a piece of debris in his arm. And they said that someone had been badly hurt in a car ahead of me. I'm not certain if it was the car next to me. And--and I can't verify that. All I can say is that a lot of debris was falling and it is very confusing because everybody, I think, immediately assumed that a bomb had exploded and--and that sort of, you know, had people thinking further bombs may explode. So there was, sort of, a rush away.

COURIC: Did you see, George, the second plane, that jet...

Mr. SHAY: You know, I did not see anything.

COURIC: ...fly into this--the other Twin Tower?

Mr. SHAY: I saw two explosions, however. There was a first explosion that was louder and then a second explosion and--but I did not--I could not see that. And I looked up. And when I looked up, I saw debris falling and the tire, as I said, a very large tire.

COURIC: Well, of course, this is, as we've said, completely shocking video and a shocking turn of events. And we've been talking here that the first incident, one might surmise that it was some kind of accident. And then to have a second, what appeared to be 727 jet. Of course, the question of terrorist activity has to surface.

ROKER: Yeah.

COURIC: And--and--and the question of whether this was an intentional terrorist act of some kind.

LAUER: You know, keep in mind that there--we're in an area here where there are three major airports. You have Newark Airport, Kennedy Airport, and La Guardia Airport all within several miles of the World Trade Center. You know, it's very unusual for a plane to get into this area without being completely tracked or identified by air traffic control. So you would have to imagine that, A, if this plane were headed right for the World Trade Center, there must have been someone trying to talk or communicate with that pilot, and--and for it to fly right into the side of the building...

ROKER: Well, the--the--the smaller plane you can understand, almost, but a jumbo jet, a large jet, completely...

COURIC: Let's rerack that video if we could, Don in the control room, where we actually saw the jet flying into the building, which was unbelievable.

LAUER: And I was mistaken. When Elliott Walker said it was a big plane, I was looking in the distance and saw...

ROKER: Yeah.

LAUER: ...a small plane, which might have been a helicopter, actually...

ROKER: Yeah.

LAUER: ...to see this plane come into the picture.

ROKER: There it is.

LAUER: That is a big plane. And, I mean, it's hard to imagine. It's a 737, we're now being told. And flying directly into the midsection of the--what would be the eastern tower of the World Trade Center.

COURIC: OK. I'm wondering if Jennifer Oberstein is still on the phone? Do we still have Jennifer on the phone? She's actually not on the phone, because she was near a police officer. At least we could have, perhaps, gotten more information from that officer. Needless to say, it's pandemonium, I am sure, down there. And we gathered that from the eyewitnesses with whom we spoke and how terrifying this was for them to see. And you can only imagine, as you get closer to the Twin Towers, a New York landl--landmark, how--what the scene must be like there.

ROKER: You know, you talked about the buildings looking like they're buckling. They're designed to--to have a two degree sway in either direction because of the height of the building and to be able to deal with wind and stress, but something like that is more than it's probably designed for.

LAUER: We--we want to go now, Al, to Jane Derinowski, who, I understand, is a television producer here in New York.

Jane, can you hear me?

Ms. JANE DERINOWSKI: Yes, I can hear you. I'm down here near the World Trade Center. I was walking down Sixth Avenue this morning at 8:42 AM. A group of us saw a plane veer through the building, then we saw a huge cloud of smoke, and then fire came out of one of the towers. Here it's near the upper floor, as you can probably see with your chopper shots. And then about 10 minutes ago, a second explosion in the second tower, lower down. That was not affected by the plane, so I'm not quite sure what happened there. But right now there's a huge, gaping hole in one of the towers, and the other building is on fire. The scene down here is incredible. People are out--out of their office buildings watching, crying, taking pictures. I've never seen anything like it down here.

LAUER: Jane, you said you saw the first plane. Could--did you get a glimpse of what kind of plane that was? We were told it was a small commuter plane.

Ms. DERINOWSKI: Well, it--it looked--it wasn't a Cessna or anything like that. It was a larger plane, a midsized plane. And we could hear it very low. And walking down the street, a couple of us looked at each other thinking, 'What's happening?' Then it veered drastically on its side through the buildings and then went into the upper floors of the World Trade Center tower.

LAUER: We want to just mention that when the impact hit the first tower, you would hope that people who are in the second tower were beginning to evacuate, especially if air traffic control had some indication that this was deliberate, you'd hope that they were starting to get people out of the other tower before this second plane hit that tower.

ROKER: But you...

COURIC: Although...

ROKER: I mean, if you tried to go up--you know, we've been upstairs in the World--in the towers, you know, in the restaurant up there, to try to get down...

LAUER: I mean, the elevators would have been jammed, no question.

ROKER: Yeah.

LAUER: ...but if there was an indication this was deliberate in the first case...

ROKER: Yeah.

LAUER: ...you would hope that they would immediately begin evacuation in the second tower.

COURIC: We've got another eyewitness that we would like to speak with. Dan Dietrich is on the phone.

Dan, tell me where you are and what you're seeing, or what you saw.

Mr. DAN DIETRICH: OK. What I saw was one plane coming in low from--from the north down--down over Seventh Avenue. It crashed into the top or the middle of one of the towers. Ten minutes later, I saw another plane crash into the other side of the tower at a lower level. It looked to be a small, you know, commercial plane, the first plane that I saw. It crashed into the top of the tower. And there was a huge fireball and there was a gaping hole in the side of the tower. As we were waiting outside and looking at it, another plane came in low--I believe from the other side--and hit the--sort of the--the middle of the other tower. Now, I--I saw both--both planes, two separate planes, crash into each tower.

COURIC: And, Dan--and, again, the size of the planes, tell me about that.

Mr. DIETRICH: I would say that the plane was a--a--a midsize, looked to be a commercial airliner. I don't know. I thought perhaps, you know, a commercial airline, a midsize, not--you know, not a jumbo jet.

COURIC: This, of course, is unconfirmed, but we are getting information from an employee of United Airlines--and again we want to emphasize this is unconfirmed--but there is speculation that an American Airlines plane was hijacked and crashed purposefully--on purpose into the World Trade Center and that the second plane was another plane--perhaps hijacked--was then flown in to the second tower.

Dan, tell me about people on the ground. Are you at a vantage point where you can see what is happening on the ground?

Mr. DIETRICH: I'm farther up in the West Village. I'm not on the ground near the base of the towers.

COURIC: Where were you when it actually happened?

Mr. DIETRICH: I was walking down Seventh Avenue at about, oh, Charles Street, which is about 15 or 20 blocks north of the towers.

COURIC: Well, obviously, this was a shocking thing for you to witness on this Tuesday morning.

You know, with some wires just came out and said in 1945, an Army Air Corp B-25, a twin engine bomber, crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building. That occurred in dense fog. This was a crystal clear day in Manhattan. So it is completely unclear how there would be any kind of problems with visibility.

Dan, thank you so much for talking with us. Hopefully you can stay on the phone and we can check back in with you at another point in time. We really appreciate it.

Mr. DIETRICH: You're welcome.

COURIC: We want to also report that--that--remind people that the World Trade Center bombing that took place on February 26, back in 1993, the product of a terrorist attack--the result of a terrorist attack that killed six people and injured more than a thousand. Of course, that happened on a Friday afternoon. I think, Matt, you and Al were working that day.

ROKER: Yeah, we were.

COURIC: I know I was at home in Virginia watching it in disbelief. And now it feels a bit like deja vu. But, of course, this is so much more bizarre.

ROKER: A grander scale.

LAUER: Yeah, no question. And you keep in mind that that killed six people, injured a thousand, and the explosion happened in a garage in the basement. This was a direct hit on the midsection or upper section of the tower, so the potential for injuries and death much larger. Of course, also some people on the planes.

ROKER: Yeah. Were there people on the planes?

COURIC: That's right. Exactly. If they were hijacked and they were en route to a different destination?

LAUER: Right.

COURIC: Of course, this continues--the story continues to unfold. Bob Kur joins us now.

Bob, where are you and what can you tell us?

BOB KUR reporting:

Katie, good morning. I'm on the North Lawn at the White House. And the first thing we look for here, in light of what's happened is whether there is any unusual activity out here, whether there is an unusual police or Secret Service presence, people on the roof, that sort of thing. We don't see that as we speak. I did try to call the National Security office here. As you know, the president is out of town. He is in Florida. We're told he has been informed of this. I can tell you that the White House National Security staff that remains here is in a senior level meeting and we're hoping to hear from them as soon as possible. But, Katie, the reaction here to the pictures you're seeing and to the initial pictures when they came up, even in what's called the lower press office here at the White House, was one of--of shock. I mean, people are just standing around television monitors looking at this. And when I say people, I don't mean just the reporters, I mean the people who are actually in the office who work here at the White House.

COURIC: So very little information is coming out of the White House at this juncture. But needless to say, if the speculation is true about some kind of terrorist event, this will be a major, major crisis for the Bush administration. Jim Miklaszewski is at the Pentagon now.

Mik, are you hearing any more information from there?

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI reporting:

Well, according to US intelligence officials, Katie, there appeared, at least to their knowledge, to be no specific threat involving hijacking airliners, or any attacks on buildings in the New York area. US intelligence officials report this morning that there are--you know, they constantly are hearing about threats, possible terrorist threats, against American targets worldwide. But as far as they know this morning, they had no early indications that anything of this nature could have occurred. Pentagon officials are already calling this a terrorist attack. They say that they--they have not yet ordered the scrambling of any military jets. If National Guard were to be scrambled in that area, that would be at the order of the governor. Now, of course, the president does have the authority to scramble American military forces in defense, but there is a problem here. What--what now do you fend--defend against exactly. If you put war--warplanes in the air, there is always a danger that they could misidentify a--a--a pilot's intention.

Offscreen Voice: Susan. Susan.

MIKLASZEWSKI: Although I believe, according to officials here...

Voice: I just wanted to tell you guys, if you want to continue...

MIKLASZEWSKI: ...all points in that area are now off limits and restricted. But so far the US military and Pentagon officials are scrambling to get as much information as they possibly can to determine what course of action, if any, the US military would take.

COURIC: But, Mik, they are describing this as a terrorist attack right now.

MIKLASZEWSKI: There are some officials here in the Pentagon who are calling this an obvious terrorist attack based on very preliminary information; the information that intelligence officials are getting in terms of a possible hijacked plane, and, of course, the very horrifying video...

LAUER: Right.

MIKLASZEWSKI: ...of the plane veering into the tower itself is a clear indication to everyone here that this is not an accident.

LAUER: All right, Jim Miklaszewski, thanks. And, of course, the coordination that took place to have two planes hit the towers within 18 minutes of one another. Let's go back to the White House now. Bob Kur is still standing by there.

Bob, what can you tell us?

KUR: Well, Matt, it was interesting to listen to Jim Miklaszewski there from the Pentagon. Of course, the president has the authority to scramble military forces and this is a case, obviously, in which retaliation, if indeed it proves to be a terrorist incident, will be contemplated. But the usual course of events is, it's an investigation, you know. Unless someone steps forward, claims responsibility, the White House and other arms of the US government will say we have to determine who is responsible for this attack, try to pinpoint it. And then the US usually says someone is going to be made to pay. But that is a big "if," if we can determine exactly the origin of this terrorist attack. And so there are some implications to that.

COURIC: Let's go back to Jim Miklaszewski--Bob, thank you--at the Pentagon.

Mik, you have more information?

MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, Katie, Bob's exactly right. But, what--what the primary concern right now is protecting the American public in the New York area right now against any possible further attacks by the air. They have no indications there will be. But there is some concern that since this appeared to be such a highly coordinated attack, that there may be other terrorist attacks that could be planned either in New York or elsewhere. This is absolutely the worst case scenario for the counterterrorist planners, because apparently, according to intelligence officials, there were no firm indications prior to this that anything like this could have happened. But in terms of scrambling the US military, it would be for protection for the time being and not necessarily even thinking right now about any kind of retaliation.

LAUER: All right.

COURIC: All right, David Gregory is now on the phones from...

LAUER: Sarasota Springs.

COURIC: ...Longboat Key, actually.

LAUER: Where he's following the president.

COURIC: That's right.

David:

DAVID GREGORY reporting:

Yes, Katie, the president is about to begin an education event which is obviously being canceled. The event will go forward insofar as the president, we expect momentarily, will come out and make a statement about this. He was made aware en route from his hotel to this school here in Sarasota where he was going to talk about education. He'll make a statement. Then we're told by White House officials that he will quickly depart for Washington.

COURIC: We should mention, David, that New York City Airport, or New York area airports have all been closed. The Lincoln Tunnel has been closed here in New York. While we're getting ready to listen to the president, let's go back to J--J--Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon.

Jim, you talk about counterterrorist measures that are in place. Can you shed any light for us on--on what kind of things are in place in the event of an attack of this nature?

MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, Katie, it's very difficult to--for the US military to respond to this kind of thing at--you know, right now, because it is unclear exactly who is behind it and if there are any other potential attacks or incidents like this, because this has obviously not been officially declared a terrorist attack. But all the experts who are looking at these pictures say there is no doubt about it. This was a coordinated terrorist attack. But who and why is--is very much unclear right now. And the problem with trying to, then, put planes in the air to try to prevent any further attacks is, these are, after all, open air spaces for the most part. And it--and it's difficult for the US military to simply scramble jets and--and put them in the air and--and then, according to officials here, then do what? This area, of course, according to officials here, is--is obviously going to be declared off limits in terms of any air traffic. But right now, officials here at the Pentagon are simply scrambling to find out first, what happened...

LAUER: Right.

MIKLASZEWSKI: ...and what potential reaction the US military could provide in terms of protection, possible further protection against any further potential attacks.

LAUER: And Mik, it's important to note that if these plans were hijacked, if they were carrying passengers, there isn't much military officials could have done. You can't shoot down a plane like that for risk of the people on board, plus, for the injuries you could cause on the ground in a place like Manhattan. We...

MIKLASZEWSKI: That's...

LAUER: Go ahead.

MIKLASZEWSKI: That's exactly right. And the president, as we said earlier, does in fact have the authority to scramble the military to put them up in some kind of force protection mode. The governor has the Air National Guard at his disposal. He can do that. But again, officials are pretty much wondering exactly what to do in terms of protection and how. Again, to the counterterrorist--terrorist officials, this is absolutely the worst case scenario, because they're right now seems to be...

LAUER: OK.

MIKLASZEWSKI: ...not much--not much they can do in terms of the aftermath.

COURIC: Mik, obviously...

LAUER: We're getting some more information.

COURIC: Yeah, we're scrambling for information here. I just want to read this Reuters wire that says, "Two planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center on Tuesday morning causing huge explosions and killing at least six people. CNBC-TV said there were at least a thousand injured. Both towers of the lower Manhattan landmark, where thousands of people worked, were the scenes of a bombing in 1993. The FBI told the Associated Press that it was, quote, "foul play and not an accident." A person who answered the phone--that was reported by ABC. A person who answered the phone on the trading floor at interdealer-broker Cantor Fitzgerald, located near the top of the World Trade Center said, "We're blanking dying" when asked what was happening and hung up. There was screaming and yelling in the background and a follow-up call was not answered. Nick Folton, an eyewitness, said just before the first explosion, he saw a plane fly over his apartment in the Soho district of lower Manhattan."

Jamie Gangel is on the telephone, our national correspondent, with more information.

Jamie, what can you tell us?

JAMIE GANGEL reporting:

Katie, I've just spoken to top US officials with the access to latest intelligence. And they said, quote, that "This was clearly terrorist-related, no question about it." They said that they couldn't give any further details now, not because they didn't want to share it, but because they just don't know yet. They're at the earliest stages.

COURIC: So do they know, Jamie--a plane was, in fact, hijacked?

GANGEL: They would not answer that. And I think that it's because--I think that they just are getting the earliest details out and they're afraid of putting out misinformation. But they said, you know, that it was clearly terrorist-related.

LAUER: All right. Jamie, thanks.

We're looking again, if you're just joining us, at both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City where two planes have crashed into the towers. One certainly before 9:00 Eastern time, one shortly after 9:00 Eastern time. And as you can see, the tower on the left was hit just above the midsection point. They're both 110 floors high, 1300 feet above the ground. The tower on the right was hit more, probably two-thirds to three-quarters of the way up the tower. But you can fire. Fires burning in both towers. We actually saw a videotape on--we watched the second tape, or the second plane hit the building. You'll watch it enter from the right portion of the screen and then make contact with the left-hand tower in what is shocking video. And here it comes right there. And you can see the impact on one side of the building and the residual damage coming out of another side of the building. And one can only imagine--that--that one occurred shortly after 9:00 in the morning--how many people were in the building at the time of the impact. And it's a large plane. We're told it was either a 737--some reports that the first plane was a 757.

COURIC: Some kind of airbus. That was what the United worker told us, that apparently, that had been--that it was an American Airlines plane that had been...

ANN CURRY, anchor:

Hijacked.

COURIC: ...hijacked from Boston to Los Angeles. But we're just getting initial reports of that. And again, we must tell you that we're trying to get as much information. But it is trickling in at a very slow pace. So all of this is unconfirmed. And, of course, speculation of a terrorist attack is unconfirmed, although that is what some Pentagon official--officials are saying.



+++++++++++++++++++





KATIE COURIC, co-anchor:

And that's a very haunting description that Bob Kur just gave of that low-flying aircraft near the White House. And one can only wonder if that was something that ultimately ended up in the Pentagon.

MATT LAUER, co-anchor:

Let's go back--can--we just saw a live picture of what seemed to be a portion of the building falling away from the World Trade Center. If we can rerack that to about 20 seconds ago, you'll see something dramatic happening. And I don't know whether it's another explosion or a portion of the building falling away, but something major just happened at that building. Here we go to the tape.

COURIC: We have the tape.

LAUER: And watch what happens in the left-hand tower. I don't know if this is the correct tape. There, something there is about to happen, falling away right there.





TOM BROKAW, co-anchor:

Yeah, it looks like a big chunk of it just peeled away.

COURIC: One can always hope that the area has been evacuated, but, of course, you wonder about all the emergency vehicles and the people who might have been injured early in the morning.

BROKAW: Well, you remember when the bomb went off in the basement of it in 1993, how much damage was done throughout that building, how much chaos there was at that time. These are two coordinated airplane attacks on the building, on the upper reaches of it. That will have an enormous structural effect. Those buildings, I think, that it's fair to say, will probably have to be brought down. It's too early to speculate on that, but there's been that kind of damage to it.

LAUER: Let's--let's talk again--you were talking about...

COURIC: We have somebody actually on the...

LAUER: This is a reporter here in--in New York from WNBC. You talk about the fact this plane was taken from Boston on the way to Los Angeles. The report are that it was being diverted to JFK, and just for people who aren't familiar with the geography of this area, the southern tip of Manhattan would be very much near the flight--the landing pattern for JFK Airport. It could have been easy for a hijacker to pretend that he was taking that plane to JFK and veer off at the last minute.

BROKAW: Yeah, I heard one eyewitness say that over Washington Square, which is in the lower reaches of Manhattan, he saw a plane go over at about a thousand feet, apparently the American Airlines flight, and then do what he described as a sharp right turn right toward the World Trade Center. He then lost sight of it.

COURIC: And one eyewitness here in this AP report says he was getting off a PATH train to the World Trade Center and saw bodies falling out of the building as he approached it. Police told him to get out of the building immediately. He ran outside and watched people jump out of the first building. And then there was a second explosion.

LAUER: This--this footage we're seeing right now shows that the damage is so severe. I mean, we had seen what seemed to be two fairly self-contained impact craters before, and now it appears something much more dramatic has happened to at least one of those towers.

COURIC: These pictures are beyond belief.

BROKAW: We have a report that the second plane may have flown out of Newark, New Jersey. This is an official who was speaking on the condition of anonymity. Again, there is no confirmation of that. We just know that there were two planes that went in. The first one, apparently, was an American Airlines flight that was from Boston to Los Angeles. We're now seeing it from the harbor view, this continuing damage and destruction to the World Trade Center.

COURIC: Incidentally, Tom, I just want to interrupt you for two seconds because apparently Jamie Gangel has some more information on us. Jamie:

JAMIE GANGEL reporting:

I've spoken again to US officials with access to the highest intelligence and they are now confirming that it does appear that at the Pentagon, it was a plane. Again, they are saying they believe now a third plane was involved at the Pentagon.

BROKAW: And, of course, this has been a nightmare, Katie, for national security officials for a long time. We talk about nuclear bombs and those kinds of exchanges or invasions, but everyone has been terribly worried about the suitcase-sized bomb of some kind or an airplane or an attack on our subways in a large city. And this--obviously, no one had anticipated three airplanes that were deliberately aimed at critical targets in America. We can only hope that it's open for--over for today, but offi--officials are taking no chances on all of that. They're evacuating all critical buildings because, as Mr. Johnson said earlier, this is an open society. James Kallstrom, from the FBI, also pointing out that almost anyone can come in here. They have access to so many instruments that can be used as instruments of attack and terrorism. And that's certainly has been the case today.

COURIC: Let's go to our State Deport--Department correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

Andrea, what can you tell us?

ANDREA MITCHELL reporting:

Well, this from the FBI. The State Department has been evacuated. There was a meeting going on in the operation center. Other top officials were in the situation room at the White House. Colin Powell is in Bogota, Columbia, on a two-day trip. But this very interesting information, Katie, Matt and Tom, from the FBI, they have been operating a massive exercise from their hostage rescue unit. All of their top teams, about 50 personnel, helicopters, equipment, were in Monterey, California, for the last two days, scheduled to fly back today commercially. So all of those people are out of place. It's fair to say, according to sources that we've talked to here at NBC, that the FBI rescue operations and other FBI operations are really in chaos right now because they can't reach their officials in New York. All of their phone lines are down. And now you've got all of their special experts on this stuck in Monterey, California, trying to get a military flight back because there are no longer commercial flights. So they are seriously out of pocket, and there is a real breakdown of the FBI anti-terror coordination team which is, of course, the principal team that would lead any effort and was so effective under Jim Kallstrom in New York City during the World Trade Center bomber--bombing, and the TWA explosion which, of course, turned out not to be terror.

COURIC: Andrea, is the State Department taking this claim of responsibility from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine seriously? Are they giving any credence to that? Or are they dismissing it? Or how do they feel about who might have been responsible for this?

MITCHELL: I think it is far too early for them, even the best experts in the government, to figure this out. They have one instant reaction, as you know, and it could be wrong. But their immediate reaction in a case like this would be to look toward Osama bin Laden and the collateral groups connected to him, simply because he has proved with the embassy bombings in Africa that he is the one ter--an--terror leader who's capable of this kind of highly coordinated attack. When bombings went off in Tanzania and in Kenya almost simultaneously, it was extraordinarily well-coordinated. They proved their case to a jury effectively, and have managed to--to develop a great deal of information from sources from, in fact, turning some former members of his network.

BROKAW: Andrea...

MITCHELL: So they believe, Tom, that he is the most likely person, but it's far too early to say anything.

BROKAW: We want to tell you that American Airlines has confirmed that one of its flights, American Airlines Flight Number 11 from Boston's Logan Airport scheduled to go to LAX, left at 8 AM this morning. Forty-five minutes later, it was diverted into the World Trade Center. It was the airline that was involved. We can only assume on a popular flight like that, that it probably had a--a capacity load of passengers and crew on board. There was a hijacking. That was the first plane that was involved. We don't know about the second plane yet, nor do we know the origins of a third plane that deliberately flew itself into the Pentagon this morning near the heliport. NBC Jim Miklaszewski now has been forced to evacuate that building...

COURIC: And we...

BROKAW: ...so we'll have to wait until we hear from him.

COURIC: And we saw some pretty dramatic pictures from the Pentagon just moments ago. Matt:

LAUER: Let's go back to a few seconds ago, this is now about an hour after the first impact. We saw some dramatic footage of a portion of one of the Twin Towers actually, it appearing to fall away from the rest of the building. Can we go to the tape now? Here we go, right here. This is--I mean, when you look at it, the building has collapsed. That tower just came down.

COURIC: Let's go to Bob Bazell who is at St. Vincent's Hospital.

Bob, what's going on there? What can you tell us?

BOB BAZELL reporting:

Katie, St. Vincent's Hospital is one of the hospitals that's closest to the World Trade Center. In the last few minutes ambulances have been coming in right after--one right after another. Most of the people they're bringing in have second and third degree burns, very serious burn victims. They say the smoke inhalation people are--will probably be the most serious, but they're not even close to getting to them yet. There's a triage operation that's going on in the area. Ambulances are being dispatched to every hospital in New York City. The entire staff of this hospital has come in from wherever they are, and this is true at hospitals across New York City. They're standing there, as soon as an ambulance pulls in, dozens of medical workers rush up to it. But it's--it's a carnage that's just beginning. Everybody here, the emergency service workers I spoke to who have been down in the World Trade Center site say this is just the tip of the iceberg. There's going to be massive amounts of casualties.

COURIC: Bob, what--what are they telling you about people? Were there many people inside the building, or is that just--is it just too early to tell where the people were?

BAZELL: It's just too early to tell. There were certainly, you know, probably hundreds, even thousands of people in the building even though it was before 9:00 on the start of the usual work period, because it's just such a large area. So the number of casualties is just enormous. And it--it--they're just beginning to sort it out and just trying to get to the first few that they can get to. But the ambulances are just coming in. They're lined up. Every ambulance in New York City has been summoned. They're standing in a queue. They go in as soon as they can get a--a victim and bring him up here right away.

BROKAW: Bob, we're also looking at the lower end of Manhattan. As a result of the collapse of one World Trade Center, that whole financial district is now engulfed in smoke and debris. And there's probably going to be a lot more smoke inhalation problems as a result of...

BAZELL: Well, almost certainly, Tom. I--I was actually standing and saw that collapse, and everybody here just gasped and--even the--even the medical workers and the ambulance attendants, when they saw that, these people who are use to tragedy, grabbed each other and hugged each other, and some started to cry.

LAUER: Well, think of what just happened...

COURIC: And, of course, one wonders about the triage unit that's been set up.

LAUER: Exactly, who are close to the base of that building trying to evacuate people, and when a building of that size falls, it does not fall on its own footprint. I mean...

BAZELL: No, absolutely. I--I am--you know, I'm several blocks north of there, so I don't know what that area looks like, but one can only imagine.

BROKAW: Well, the consequences go on, not just to the World Trade Center and to the poor people who were trapped and caught there. But, of course, that is the heart of the world financial markets which have now been shut down effectively as well. So the ripple effect continues this morning as we all try to adjust psychologically and intellectually to what we're witnessing here. It's--it is difficult to comprehend, that this country, the strongest country in the world, has been the target of a major coordinated terrorist attack. And the end is not over yet. Even if it's confined to just the--these three targets, the ripple effect goes on. All air traffic has been shut down, there will be no financial markets in place today. Business has been stopped across the country.

COURIC: And, of course, who knows the human toll that--that will be the result of this action. Matt and I--Matt actually just pointed out to me, on any given day, 50,000 people, Tom, work at the World Trade Center.

BROKAW: And at 8:45 in the morning, if they're not in the building, they're around the building. That--that's a beehive of activity down there. There is no more active area in terms of pedestrian traffic.

LAUER: I--I hate to keep going back to the collapse of that tower, but if you consider that this plane hit at midstructure and it would have probably taken out the electrical in the building where elevators wouldn't work. And people struggling to get some way out of that tower. And it takes a long time to come down over 100 stories, and to think about the possible loss of life that just occurred by the collapse of--of that southeastern tower is just amazing. Mina Catheria is with the "Today" show and she apparently saw the collapse of one of those towers. Mina:

Ms. MINA CATHERIA: Yes, hi, Matt.

LAUER: Tell me what you saw.

Ms. CATHERIA: We're on the corner of Duane and West Broadway, walking down towards the Twin Towers and it just collapsed. It looked like a--it looked sort of like the building just demolished: smoke, clouds. I mean, smoke--clouds of smoke everywhere. People running towards me. I was going towards the Twin Towers, people were going away from the--towards it--away from the towers. And it was just people running like--I've--I've never seen a scene like it.

LAUER: OK, have you--from where you were, Mina, did you see many of the injured being treated? Is there--is there any indication as the type of perimeter that the EMS people are dealing with?

Ms. CATHERIA: No, Matt I hadn't--no, I hadn't gotten that close yet. They were sort of blocking off the street. And now what they're doing is totally clearing out the area. And more and more emergency officials are coming in to help.

LAUER: Can--can you just give me an idea of the reaction of people down there, Mina. Just--just pedestrians...

Ms. CATHERIA: Everyone--everyone in tears. People who are--were--I met some woman who was in the building to the right of--of--where the first--first thing happened, and just all crying, having--wondering if people that they know in the buildings next door are--are OK.

COURIC: Jamie--Mina, thank you very much. Mina, take care of yourself. Jamie Gangel, our national correspondent is--is on the phone now with some more information. Jamie:

GANGEL: Katie, as you well know, buildings around town are being evacuated. The State Department has been evacuated, the White House has been evacuated, and the Pentagon has been evacuated. Intelligence officials tell me that they do believe at the Pentagon that that was a third plane going down. They have had--the intelligence sources that I've talked to say that they have not received any claim of responsibility yet.

COURIC: Jamie, have you gotten any information from Reagan National Airport as to air traffic in the area this morning, or anybody who might have somehow traced this--this plane or figured out from where it came or where it was going?

GANGEL: They still do not have any of those details yet. It is almost impossible. They--they were confused for a long time as to whether it's a bomb or a plane. They say now that it appears to be a plane, but they say that that is all the information that they have. As you know, the FAA has shut down all aircraft now, and they are now going back and trying to sort that out. But they do not have any information on that yet.

COURIC: Do they know what type of plane it might have been?

GANGEL: There is no--un--unfortunately they just don't have that yet.

COURIC: All right, Jamie. Thank you very much, Jamie. We'll be talking with you.

BROKAW: You know, it goes without saying, this is the most serious attack on the United States in more than 100 years. Not since the War of 1812 and certainly the damage that we did to ourselves during the Civil War, has this country suffered this kind of damage within its interior. Obviously, Pearl Harbor, which triggered World War II was a horrific event as well, but there has never been an event to match the magnitude of this one in which everything has been shut down in terms of air traffic, the national capital has been immobilized, the White House, State Department, Pentagon has been attacked, the financial markets have been shut down, there is an untold loss of life here in Manhattan, the nerve center of America, say nothing of what's going on at the Pentagon.

LAUER: When's the last time--this is a shot of New York City and downtown Manhattan that many people have never--can't remember: It's the shot of one tower.

COURIC: It looks like a made for--it looks like a movie, frankly, as this is unfolding, and it combines the horror of the TWA Flight 800 bombing and the Murrah Federal Building, because it's--both these incidents, of course, coming together in the most horrific way.

BROKAW: By now, I would guess that everyone is up across all the time zones in America. It's 7:15 in the West, obviously. But for those of you who are just joining us at 8:45 Eastern time--8:42 Eastern time today, an American Airlines flight--Flight 11 from Boston to LAX was crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings. Fifteen minutes later, another plane hit the other one. That has--that building has now collapsed. Within an hour of those two attacks, the Pentagon was hit now, we're told, by a plane. An untold number of casualties there. President Bush has been on the air. He was in Florida at the time saying apparently this was a terrorist attack. Everyone now believes that, and carefully coordinated from the air. And the consequences of it in terms of human loss and the effect on this country are still to be determined.

LAUER: We want to go now, Tom, to Kathleen Zichy who is with NYU Downtown Hospital. They've been treating some of the injured.

Kathleen, can you hear he?

Ms. KATHLEEN ZICHY (New York University Downtown Hospital): Yes, I can.

LAUER: Can you tell me about the injuries you're seeing and the--and the numbers of people you've been treating?

Ms. ZICHY: We have seen a steady stream of patients for--for approximately an hour and a half with--many appear to be superficial injuries, but I--I can tell you that I've seen the most serious ones because I believe they're going in through the ambulance bay. So we have a very high level of activity here. Our first priority is on the care of those patients. And we do not have an exact tally at this time because of the level of activity at the hospital. We've also been responding to family members and friends who have come seeking information to the hospital.

LAUER: And just quickly, Kathleen, how far is the hospital from the--the World Trade Center?

Ms. ZICHY: The hospital is perhaps a--a five-minute walk from the World Trade Center, and we were the first responder when the Trade Center was attacked in '93. So, unfortunately, we have some prior experience.

LAUER: What--what kind of medical support is there downtown? How many hospitals in the immediate area there that could help with the injured?

Ms. ZICHY: We are the only hospital south of 13th Street in New York City, so we serve a very large proportion of the city. For that reason, our emergency room is a--a very high priority of this hospital. And the staff has been doing a heroic job in terms of responding to the patients.

COURIC: Kathleen, what about the triage unit that is on the ground there? Are they NYU--a team of NYU medical people on the scene as well?

Ms. ZICHY: Yes, there are. I--I cannot respond to that question because I'm not on the scene, and I don't have that information.

COURIC: But you do have medical people, your personnel, there at the scene?

Ms. ZICHY: That is my understanding, yes.

BROKAW: Katie, what we're worried about now is that the other building may come down. They've obviously evacuated that whole area as a result of the crash of one World Trade Center. Now I'm told that there is concern about the second one collapsing as well. Plainly, there has been an enormous amount of structural damage in the upper floors of all that, and it is more than 100 stories high. Wouldn't take much to bring it down.

LAUER: Kathleen, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Ms. ZICHY: Thank you.

BROKAW: We're told now that a spokesman for Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian--the leader of the PLO with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, that he has--that Arafat has condemned what has happened here in New York. He says that the PLO has no role in it whatsoever. They're completely shocked and appalled by what is happening. There that was just one earlier report that it's a radical Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility, but that was later denied as well. We don't know yet who is, in fact, responsible for this, but it was very carefully planned and coordinated, and fair to say it has been a devastatingly efficient and effective attack on the heart of this country.

COURIC: And Pat Dawson is on the ground near the World Trade Center.

Pat, are you there? Pat Dawson, can you hear me? OK, he's having some audio problems. We'll get to Pat in just a moment.

LAUER: Just amazing. You have to stop and think about, you know, the hijacked plane and the terror of the passengers on board...

COURIC: Oh!

LAUER: ...as--as it could have been up to an hour that they realized something was dramatically wrong with this flight. And then thinking that perhaps they were going to John F. Kennedy Airport here in Queens, actually, and the plane suddenly veering into world--into the World Trade Center tower.

COURIC: Yeah, you can only imagine how horrible...

BROKAW: What is striking to me is that we didn't have any early report of the--of the hijacking.

LAUER: Hijacking.

BROKAW: You know, a lot of people monitor that air traffic talk that goes on, and it wasn't until this happened...

COURIC: Well, the plane left Boston at 8:00 this morning.

BROKAW: And 45 minutes later...

COURIC: Yeah, it was about 42 minutes later that this occurred.

BROKAW: And it flew right over lower Manhattan. A number of people saw it at a very low altitude and then take this sharp right turn and wondered, according to eyewitnesses, what in the world was going on. Moments later, of course, the World Trade Center was hit. It was about an hour after that that Jim Miklaszewski told you, Katie, that he'd felt an explosion at the Pentagon and now we now learn that there has been a plane that's been flown into the Pentagon. There have been people who have been hurt there, and we hope no one has been killed, but it seems likely that there were probably casualties of a serious magnitude there as well.

The White House has been evacuated, the State Department is being evacuated...

COURIC: There's the Pentagon.

LAUER: Sears Tower.

BROKAW: Here's the Pentagon now.

COURIC: Pat Dawson apparently--let's just take a quick shot--look at the Pentagon, and as you see smoke continues to billow out of that structure. As Tom just mentioned, it's unclear how many people were hurt, and if, in fact, it was a plane. There is speculation that they believe it was a plane. Let's go to Pat Dawson who is down by the World Trade Center.

Pat, can you hear me?

PAT DAWSON reporting:

(Inaudible)...right down here. We cannot tell you much more in terms of specific information, other than to say that there are probably, at this stage, I would say, hundreds, perhaps in the thousands of emergency workers who in the last hour and a half have managed to work their way down here to lower Manhattan, and basically try to get into the spray. They are--we are standing right here about 10 to 12 blocks north of the World Trade Center. These fire--firemen that you can see--firefighters--firefighters are walking down towards the site now, and they literally have been arriving by the dozens over the past hour or so. As we say, probably in excess of a thousand or more emergency workers from New York City and surrounding area, converging on this site now to try to make some sense of it. As you can imagine, at this point, there is a certain level of chaos because they're just trying to sort out who's alive, who's not.

We did speak to, as I said before, some of the emergency workers. They are police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; that is the organization that has jurisdiction over those two buildings specifically, as well as bridges and tunnels. I spoke to two of them who are actually down there when that building collapsed. They said that they speculate that the loss of life had to be horrific, that there were not that many people down there on the streets at that point, that most of them who had been evacuated, that is civilians. But on the other hand, they said that there were literally hundreds of emergency workers who were down at that end. They have no idea the level of loss of life at this point. When I asked one of them why he was going back in, as he suited up, since he could barely breathe, he said, 'It's my job, and they may be--there may be some of my brother officers in there. There may be other people in there.' So those officers going into here, as you can see, all kinds of fire workers going in there, literally in the thousands now, converging on this site.

We cannot give you much of an organizational sense beyond telling you probably what you already know which is that two separate aircraft have tru--struck the two towers of the World Trade Center. If memory serves, I think each of those towers stands 110 stories. Some of the dust, as you can probably see now, is flowing in our faces. It really depends on which way the wind blows as to whether or not we're enveloped in some of the dust and the smoke. As you can see from these pictures, the amount of dust from the fire that's still burning, flames and ash, it is extraordinary at this point. And at least a few emergency workers have said that they really aren't so sure that other tower will stay up now. They really didn't think the first one was capable of coming down, but it did. And so they're basically saying, 'Keep back as far as you can.' On the other hand, facing that danger, as we have been telling you, many, many hundreds of these workers are heading over those lines, down towards that burning building to try to rescue those people who are in there, be they emergency workers, be they civilians.

The original crash took place just about quarter to 9, by my reckoning. I don't know the exact time, but about quarter to 9. And when that took place, obviously at that hour, the building would not be packed with people, but it's still late enough in the morning that there would be enough people...

LAUER: We were listening to Pat Dawson who is standing near the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. And Katie and Tom, I was thinking while Pat was talking, you've both spent some time out at Oklahoma City at the--at the Murrah Federal Building after that explosion. It took more than a week to sift through that rubble of a building that was how many stories? Probably...

BROKAW: That was about 30 stories, as I remember.

COURIC: I'm sorry to interrupt you both, but apparently we've gotten a report that now a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department. Again, that's an initial report that I'm hearing from our producers in the control room. Can we go to any one for more information on that? Apparently no more information on that.

BROKAW: Where is--where is Andrea Mitchell? Is she at the State Department?

COURIC: Well, the State Department has been evacuated, as well as the White House, the cap--the US Capitol has been evacuated, obviously the Pentagon has as well. We'll go to Mik.

Mik--Mik, what is the latest from the Pentagon?

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI reporting:

Katie, security officials here at the Pentagon have not only evacuated the building, but they're clearing the entire area. Security sources have reported that they have received information of another plane hijacking. That it's about 20 to 25 miles out of Washington, DC, headed in this general direction. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a few moments ago, was refusing to leave the building. We ran into the chief naval officer, the top naval officer, Admiral Vern Clark. They were loading him quickly into a...(technical difficulties). They were taking Admiral Clark to an alternative command site. Hello, do you hear me?

LAUER: Yeah, we can, Mik.

COURIC: Yeah, we do, Mik. Go ahead.

MIKLASZEWSKI: OK, I'm sorry. There's--there's no confirmation of this latest threat, but security officials here are taking it very seriously. We were standing with Secretary Rumsfeld's security detail who, as soon as they got the report, went running into the building. And we were--we were herded away. But they have set up an alternative command site somewhere in the area. The Pentagon has set up a crisis scene to deal with this situation. But so far, the latest reports are that a--that another plane of some kind may have been hijacked and headed in this direction. Katie:

BROKAW: Yeah, we also should tell you, Mik, this is Tom Brokaw, that the FAA now says that all international flights headed for the United States are being diverted to Canada. This at a time when, as Jim Miklaszewski is telling it, there's an unconfirmed report that there's been another hijacking. All takeoffs were stopped, but there were planes in the air, obviously, at the time of these first two attacks on the Twin Trade Towers and then on the Pentagon.

LAUER: Andrea Mitchell is standing by with more information. She was at the State Department. Andrea:

MITCHELL: The State Department, as you know, has been evacuated. Secretary of State Colin Powell is now en route home from Lima, Peru. He does not get to his destination of Bogota, Columbia, today. So that trip canceled, he as all other officials, heading back. State Department officials and the White House officials and the NSC have all been evacuated as well. Although, Condi Rice, was earlier, in the situation room. And CIA Director George Tenet has been holding meetings in his office in Langley, Virginia.

And as we reported earlier, key FBI team members from their rescue efforts and anti-terror coordinating team were stranded in Monterey, California, where they were on a secret--secret exercise--military exercise...

LAUER: Right.

MITCHELL: ...against exactly this kind of event.

LAUER: Andrea, let me interrupt for a second. Can you tell us any more about reports we're getting that a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department?

MITCHELL: I do not have confirmation of that.

COURIC: All right.

MITCHELL: But they did evacuate the State Department. But we do not have confirmation at this moment about a car bomb outside the State Department. You know...

COURIC: Andrea, thanks. I'm sorry to interrupt, but we're want--going to go back to Jim Mik--Miklaszewski at the Pentagon. Mik:

MIKLASZEWSKI: I've got my eyes peeled here, Katie. I don't see anything, but security forces in the area have just blared out over their loud speaker that any pedestrians who are anywhere near the Pentagon take cover immediately. There was, as I said earlier, an indication that another plane may have been hijacked and headed in this general direction. So far all we see are security helicopters circling the Pentagon. Again, the skies are crystal clear blue, and I can't see the speck of an airplane, but security forces here obviously alarmed enough, not only to tell people to--to keep some distance from the building, but to take immediate coverage.

COURIC: Can you tell me a little bit more--well, actually, let's look at these live pictures at the World trade Center. The other tower of the World Trade Center has just collapsed. You are looking at live pictures of the second twin tower at the World Trade Center collapsing as a result of the crash of an airplane into its side. That, I believe, was the first tower that was struck this morning at 8:42 Eastern Time. It is now fallen to the ground and collapsed.

BROKAW: So far Manhattan has been changed. There's been a declaration of war by terrorists on the United States.

COURIC: Pat Dawson--excuse me, Tom. Pat Dawson is down at the scene. Pat:

DAWSON: Where's Ling? Where's Ling? Where's Ling?

LAUER: Pat, can you hear us? Obviously, there is pandemonium downtown. Pat is not far from the World Trade Center, as you can hear from the sirens. And you can only imagine the confusion and the terror that is in that area after not one, but both Trade Center towers have now collapsed.

BROKAW: More than 100 stories of steel, concrete, electrical. There it is. That's a videotape replay.

COURIC: We are back at 10:30 Eastern time on this Tuesday morning, this horrific, incredible, not to be believed Tuesday morning. You are looking at live pictures of the World Trade Center, where just a few minutes ago, within the last minute actually, the second twin tower collapsed. Just to recap, if you're just joining us, around 8:42 Eastern time this morning here in New York City, a plane crashed into the right twin tower of the World Trade Center, about two-thirds of the way up the building, leaving a huge gaping hole, a huge fire and tons of billowing smoke. About 25 minutes later, a second jet, believed to be a 727...

LAUER: Seven thirty-seven...

COURIC: Seven thirty-seven...

LAUER: ...or some reports of a 757 even.

COURIC: ...then crashed in the second twin tower. The first plane, incidentally, was enroute from Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles.

LAUER: Here's the video, I think, of the second plane striking the tower.

COURIC: That's right. We're not sure the origin of that plane is my understanding. The first plane that caused that hole on the right-hand side in the other twin tower was from Boston to LAX to Los Angeles. It was flight 11, American Airlines. We have confirmed that that plane was hijacked. What happened following the hijack--hijacking, rather, is unclear. We should note that about an hour after the first collision, at the Pentagon reportedly another plane crashed into the Pentagon, which is just outside Washington, DC, in Northern Virginia. All air traffic has been stopped.

LAUER: Government buildings have been evacuated as have other buildings across the country. The Sears Tower in Chicago was evacuated. You can imagine that other buildings in major cities and small cities around the country are probably being evacuated as well.

BROKAW: There's an unconfirmed report of a car bomb at the State Department. We have not been able to pin that down. There is also--Jim Miklaszewski was told that there was an unconfirmed report of another air hijacking. We share this with you, not in an attempt to in any way exacerbate what is all ready a terrible situation, but so much has come true today based on these earlier reports that we want you to have as much information as we can possible get. At the Pentagon, all people outside were told to take cover just moments ago, but Jim Miklaszewski said the skies were clear.

COURIC: There was an unconfirmed report of another hijacking of a plane headed towards Washington. Again, we don't want to sound alarmist...

BROKAW: Right.

COURIC: ...but that is something that Mick heard while he was at the Pentagon. We also want to mention that the president is enroute from Longboat Key, Florida, where he was there to visit an elementary school to talk about literacy. Obviously, clearly, his agenda has changed dramatically. He will convene a meeting of the National Security Council as soon as he gets home. Colin Powell is also on his way back from Lima, Peru. He was scheduled to be in Bogota, Colombia.

BROKAW: And probably not at the White House. They'll probably take him to a safe location. There are a number of them, some in the hills of Virginia, as you know, and my guess is that Air Force One is in the unusual situation of having a fighter plane escort on its way back from Florida today. That's where we stand.

LAUER: If you think about the loss of life that we could have seen this morning, if you think about the fact that when full the World Trade Centers hold about 50,000 people, no telling how many people were at work before 9:00 this morning and then shortly after 9:00 in the other tower but if you look at this picture here, Tom and Katie, at lower Manhattan, it appears that terrorists have succeeded this time in doing what terrorists tried to do back in 1993.

BROKAW: This is war. This is a declaration and an execution of an attack on the United States. Two of our most conspicuous symbols of the American system of capitalism, the Pentagon, which of course in the headquarters of the most mighty military in the world was attacked today as well. The White House has been evacuated. The State Department has been evacuated. Financial markets have been immobilized. All flights taking off after these attacks were grounded.

COURIC: International flights have been sent to Canada.

BROKAW: Turns out it's trans-Atlantic flights only...

COURIC: Trans-Atlantic.

BROKAW: ...going to Canada now. So there has been great chaos visited upon this country to say nothing, as you pointed out, Matt, so importantly of the still untold loss of life, and it's going to be horrendous. We don't know yet what the exact numbers are but we can only tell you by looking at those pictures that you can guess as well as we can that there are going to be a lot of people that are not going to be able to escape this.

LAUER: Back in 1993 when the bomb blew up in the basement of the World Trade Center, so many survivors talked about how long it took them with no power in the elevators...

BROKAW: To get down.

LAUER: ...to walk down the smoke-filled stairways. And you think about how many people were still trying to escape those buildings when first one and then the second tower collapsed.

COURIC: And of, course, the triage unit that has been set up, area hospitals are all receiving victims and, as Matt said, 50,000 capacity when everybody is in the building, but many people at 8:42 AM here in New York are at their desks, working in their offices. One young man or one man was reached by phone and was asked 'What is happening there?' And he said 'We are blanking dying here.'

LAUER: Not to mention...

COURIC: ...and they were screaming and yelling and pure chaos, understandably, going on in the background.

BROKAW: There's a picture of Lower Manhattan, ladies and gentlemen, the most important city in the world in so many ways, and now it has been attacked by terrorists at the World Trade Center, and the damage is beyond our ability to tell you in great detail.

COURIC: Let me mention that--oh...

LAUER: I was going to say. Here's what the president said. He canceled an education appearance in Florida. Here's what he said just a short time ago.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Ladies and gentlemen. This is a difficult moment for America. I unfortunately will be going back to Washington after my remarks. Secretary Rod Pace and the lieutenant governor will take the podium and discuss education. I do want to thank the folks here at Booker Elementary School for their hospitality.

Today we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. I have spoken to the vice president, to the governor of New York, to the director of the FBI and have ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and the families and to conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act.

Terrorism against our nation will not stand. And now if you'd join me in a moment of silence.

COURIC: That was George W. Bush about an hour ago speaking from Longboat Key, Florida. He is enroute to Washington, DC. We're looking at some pictures on the ground, or we were, of apparently some of the victims..(audio difficulties)...he is on the ground.

DAWSON: Quite extraordinary. These are the emergency workers who are coming back. It was just about 10 minutes ago that we described to you the possibility of that north tower collapsing. About five minutes after we went off the air it did collapse. Once again, we have no idea at this point the loss of life. I can only tell you there were hundreds of emergency workers down there about five or six blocks. It took probably about, I would say, no more than 50 or 60 seconds for that dust cloud--dust and smoke to literally make it the five or six blocks up here and begin to envelope us at which point we started to move out of the way. There were literally dozens and dozens of firemen who were trying to run past us. In fact, our cameraman even put one of the captains in his car and drove him down to a command post. The people you see here are pretty much all emergency workers, many of them that I have seen in the last two to three minutes, quite frankly, are coming out of here, and remember this, these are professionals. They're coming out of there looking literally stunned, in shock many of them, struggling for breath, obviously in serious distress. Breathing problems are the biggest problem for those who have managed to make it safely out of that area down below us.

You can't see much more than a block south of me right now, and the World Trade Center probably stands about 10 blocks south of where I am at this moment. And as you can see now, the dust is beginning to pick up here. It really depends on which way the wind blows as to whether or not we get heavy dust or not, but at this point I can tell you that in the first few minutes, emergency workers were trying to just basically get out of there, to survive. You could see that written in their faces. The situation was so desperate they just wanted to get out of there.

Now many of them are beginning to regroup. A couple of them asked me where their commander might be. They're trying to get together and go back in there and try to take care of the people who obviously are in serious trouble. There's no other way to describe it. The language here at times, if I slip into language which seems a little melodramatic, forgive me but this is a circumstance which is very, very difficult to describe in many ways without sounding melodramatic. Certainly in more than 20 years of covering horrific events, this is something that I've never seen before.

As we say, the emergency workers now beginning to try to gather themselves over there. You can see a police emergency service unit. They're trying, basically, now to reestablish some kind of a safe perimeter, and many of the emergency workers, basically, just happy to be alive, certainly that picture tells it all. Many of them just happy to be alive at this point having survived what is an extraordinary event, the collapse of two towers. As we said earlier in our report, 110 stories each. I will tell you that what fell, what I saw fall had to be at least 40-50 stories of that building at first. The skeleton was left at about, I would say, the 50th or 60th floor after the shell, after the structure of the building fell down, the skeleton--the steel skeleton was literally sheaved off, and it took probably about another 30 seconds before the skeleton collapsed into the street. That was the last we saw of the World Trade Center. And that was maybe 10 minutes ago when those--that final skeleton, the metal skeleton--steel skeleton collapsed into the street.

LAUER: That was NBC's Pat Dawson. Again, he's standing about 10 blocks from where the World Trade Center Towers used to stand. You're looking at the collapse of one of those towers right now. We now have an AP News alert out of Pittsburgh. Officials at Somerset County Airport are confirming the crash of a large plane just north of the airport. That's about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Again, officials at Somerset Country Airport confirm the crash of a large plane north of that airport, which is located about 80 miles to the southeast of the city of Pittsburgh. We do not know whether that crash of that plane is related to what has become an obvious terrorist attack both here in New York City and in Washington, DC, at the Pentagon.

BROKAW: Now we just got late word that State Department security officials are denying those reports of a car bomb at the state department. Betsy Stewart is at the C Street entrance and also says there's no sign of a car bomb. Betsy Stewart is one of our producers who's very familiar with the State Department.

The building has been evacuated. Top officials are still believed to be in the operations center, however. Those are highly secured areas in terms of penetration physically and otherwise. Colin Powell, as Andrea reported earlier, who was headed for Lima, Peru, but he has done a U turn and he's coming back. The president is on his way back. He'll have a National Security Council meeting we think probably at around 11:30 or perhaps around noon. That is likely to take place either at Andrews Air Force Base or some more secure location. The White House has been evacuated especially with this report of another plane going down this time in the Pittsburgh area. There were planes in the air when the order went out that there would be no more takeoffs, so we don't know how much more damage these terrorists had in mind.

COURIC: Let's go to Bob Hager who is, of course, NBC's aviation expert. Bob, what kind of information are you getting from your sources?

BOB HAGER reporting:

Not a lot, Katie, from the FAA. For instance, they are not talking about any possible hijacks, that normally they can tell when there's a hijacking in progress because the pilot--the original pilot of the plane has various buttons that he can push that set off a code and tell them that they were hijacked. But maybe as a matter of security, they're not saying anything about that. They did stop all takeoffs in the US at 9:25 this morning, and then for pilots that were in the air, the question came up what to do about them, and they were given some disgression to continue on to their destination so long as it was not the New York or Washington area or divert to an airport if that's what they wanted to do.

I personally--I saw the blast at the Pentagon, not the blast take place but moments after. I had been at National Airport trying to get up to New York and you could see that smoke billowing out of the Pentagon. I can give you a little description of what it's like on the streets of Washington because it was quite crowded trying to work my way back here to NBC. They have now given not only the White House and those key buildings like the US Capitol, but at this point they've given all federal employees the word to leave their offices and get home...

COURIC: All right.

HAGER: ...so there are traffic jams in Washington.

COURIC: OK, Bob. I'm sure you're going to get more information for us momentarily, but first we want to go to Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon who has some more information. Mick:

MIKLASZEWSKI: Katie, they're still clearing people away from the Pentagon, still security forces believe that there may be another incoming plane headed in the Washington region. There was a very telling dramatic moment just a second ago when a US Air Force F16 flew very low level, did a wide, sweeping turn around the Pentagon and back over the--over Washington. And as one Air Force officer standing near me said, 'My God. They're now flying air cover over Washington.' A very dramatic moment, a milestone in what Tom has already described as a declaration of war--terrorist war against the US. Katie:

BROKAW: Let's go back and show you the pictures of lower Manhattan where the situation only gets worse, not better. That is the financial district of the world, it's also a residential area and a great commercial area. Both twin Trade Tower buildings now have collapsed onto the ground. There is an untold loss of life. The ripple effect goes on with all the smoke and dust that has spread out across that very densely populated area. It goes down below ground as well as in the high-rise buildings there. There are many residential structures in that area as well. Some heroic rescue workers were down there trying to get people out of the building when first--the first building came down and then the second building did as well. Without any sound, I'm looking at this. There is a kind of a surreal quality, but that is the epicenter of a great, great national tragedy and a great loss of life, no question about it this morning.

COURIC: We're talking about people who were hurt, perhaps killed in this blast, many of them have been brought to area hospitals including St. Vincent's Hospital. Bob Bazell is there. Bob, what's the latest?

BAZELL: Well, Katie, ambulances continue to stream in. Several New York City streets have been closed, major avenues have been closed off so that ambulances can continue to come in. In addition, the New York City subway system has now been closed down, and several buildings that were not involved in the World Trade Center area have been shut down, and people have been told to go home, but a lot of them are wandering aimlessly on the street. Many people openly weeping and hugging each other. This is clearly--is a time that, as Tom described, is very close to the beginning of a war and the--but the casualties do keep coming in. Burns, smoke inhalation, very severe and again, all the medical people that I've talked to say this is just the tip of the iceberg. We expect casualties to be coming in all through the night and way into tomorrow and beyond.

COURIC: Bob, if you could just stand by for a moment because we have this report from AP that I'm just simply going to read. 'A large plane crashed Tuesday morning just north of the Somerset Country Airport about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Airport officials said the plane, believed to be a Boeing 767, crashed around 10 AM, about eight miles east of Jennerstown, according to county 911 dispatchers, WPXI TV reported. The crash came the same morning that terrorists crashed two planes into World Trade Center in New York City, and the twin 110 story towers collapsed. Explosions also rocked the Pentagon and the State Department,' although that was refuted moments ago, 'and spread fear across the nation. There was no other immediate details on the Pennsylvania crash, and it was not clear whether the crash was related to the others.' Again, that was a report, a bulletin that was just issued by the Associated Press.

BROKAW: You know what is so stunning about all of this, Matt and Katie, is there has been no--no indication whatsoever that this very carefully, coordinated massive attack was going to occur. There's been a complete intelligence failure here. And there will be, obviously down the road, a price to pay for that.

COURIC: Well, that's actually not all that surprising, Tom, because we've often talked in the past following every terrorist event about how vulnerable the United States is, and many terrorist experts say how unprepared they are and the question of course is, can you ever prepare for an attack like this?

BROKAW: That's true, but we also have people out there who are in listening posts and we've penetrated these kinds of organizations. But to have this kind of an attack, this sophisticated, this efficient, striking at the heart of the nation's capital, striking at the heart of New York City, now if this is true that this plane went down as a result of this attack, we don't know whether it's the end of it. This is a massively well-coordinated attack of some kind that is nothing short of a declaration of war on this country.

LAUER: And terrorist experts are now saying and intelligence experts are now saying there are very short--or very few number of terrorist groups that are capable of this kind of planning, and a couple of names come to mind, and I'm not going to throw them out now because we certainly don't have any reports. Before I go to Jamie Gangel, I just want to say that some of the descriptions coming from eyewitnesses in Lower Manhattan of these explosions occurring are chilling. One man talked about getting off a PAF train, that's a subway train here in Lower Manhattan and looking up at the building after the first explosion and seeing people jump out of the windows. We have no idea how high up but hearing people on the ground screaming each time another person jumped out of a window attempting to get to safety and then when the second explosion occurred, he felt the heat of the explosion on the back of his neck.

Jamie Gangel is our national correspondent. She's joining us now on the phone. Jamie:

GANGEL: Matt, you know, speaking of those intelligence officials that you were just mentioning, now finally we can no longer reach on the phone anyone at the CIA. Apparently, the CIA has been evacuated. We know the National Security Agency, which is the electronic eavesdropping agency which is south of Baltimore near Ft. Meade, Maryland, that they have been shut down. What we're hearing from both places is that all nonessential personnel have been told to leave, and I can only imagine that probably they are tying to move some of their operations out of those buildings as well for backup procedure. But in addition to whatever intelligence was or was missed in all of this, we now have, perhaps some problems gathering intelligence as those buildings are now being shut down.

LAUER: All right, Jamie. Thank you very much.

Tom, let's go back and talk about something that you mentioned a second ago that just shows the--it shows the enormity of this situation in addition to what we assume will be horrendous loss of life. All planes in this country have been grounded. I mean, you think about the impact that has and, I mean, is there ever a time we can imagine something like that ever happening before?

BROKAW: The most powerful nation in the world and national security officials and terrorist experts have been saying for some time a small band of very willful and sophisticated people can bring us to a halt, and they have done just that. There's a psychological terror as a result of all of this as you can only imagine how it plays out across the country today, people looking in who don't live in New York or live in the nation's capital are wondering what happens around me? It is hard to overstate the consequences of all this, and this is just the beginning. We'll be living with this story and dealing with the consequences of it for some time. The United States will change as a result of all of this. We already thought that there was a lot of security in America at the airports and so on, and yet there was a successful hijacking at Boston Airport today and the consequences of that we're seeing on the screen here this morning. So this is going to change this country profoundly in not just the coming days but the coming months to say nothing, as you have been saying, Matt, of the horrific loss of life that we are witness to.

LAUER: Well, on that subject, you know, Katie and Tom, to complete a thought I started before, you both were out at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a much smaller building, and it took rescue workers more than a week to find all the people trapped in that wreckage. We have a building here that--two buildings of each 110 stories. It's mind-boggling to think of what it's going to take over these next days and weeks to find survivors or victims of these explosions.

COURIC: Of course, it continues to be a terrifying situation because there are a number of planes up in the air as this took place and a number of unconfirmed and frightening reports about those planes that we heard earlier from Jim Miklaszewski that somebody had gotten word at the Pentagon that perhaps there is another plane whether they were talking about the one north of Pittsburgh or--it's completely unclear, but--and it's also unclear whether these planes were enroute to a--to a destination had been grounded themselves, in other words that they were emergency landings or what. I think it's very difficult to get any communication with airports all across the country because they're, I'm sure, completely chaotic.

BROKAW: Katie, you know from your time in Oklahoma City and all the time you spent with the victims there, the psychological effect of all this on--on this country and how it's going to affect our whole sense of security and in a way our sense of innocence about this is "Fortress America." It couldn't happen here. We said that about the Murrah Federal Building, we even said it about Columbine High School. This is an incident of a whole different magnitude.

COURIC: I have to say, I've never, ever, I mean, witnessed anything quite as horrific. I hate to keep saying it because we have seen these kinds--types of things play out in movies and, you know, in worst-case scenarios and in dramatic renditions of this kind of incident, but certainly no one has ever seen this kind of thing unfold, and it is really shocking.

LAUER: We want to go now. On the phone we have Neil Livingston, who is an expert on terrorism. Mr. Livingston, can you hear me?

Mr. NEIL LIVINGSTON: I can.

LAUER: You know, we were talking about what it would take in terms of planning and coordination to pull off an attack like this with so many prongs, at least two attacks here in New York City, one in Washington, DC. We don't know if the crash of that plane outside Pittsburgh is related, but give me an idea of how many groups there are in the country that would be capable of something like this.

Mr. LIVINGSTON: Well, there are very few groups in the world capable of this kind of action. And you have to remember also that we have the people who hijacked these planes were going to a certain death as well. So they were suicide bombers, in effect, and that probably suggests that this was not something like the Medellin cartel or one of the other groups that has the financial wherewithal, the infrastructure to carry out coordinated attacks. I think that obviously the finger of suspicion, and we're always very cautious about pointing that in any particular direction, but we have to look to the Middle East. We have to look to Osama bin Laden. We have to look at some Palestinian groups right now.

LAUER: But even in the past when we were talking about Osama bin Laden and his group, there have been intelligence experts who picked up conversations, transmissions that occurred before an attack to give some kind of indication, even if we didn't understand them until after the attack. Is it unusual that with so many prongs to an attack that--that there wouldn't have been some type of warning through intelligence sources?

Mr. LIVINGSTON: Well, it's--it's a myth that we always know that these things are coming down. Part of our problem is--and we just had a warning go out to our embassies and military bases in the Far East. That could have been a feint. That could have been a diversion. We have so many warnings these days that people--they tend to fade into the background noise. Unless we have real specific information about an upcoming attack, generally we don't take action. And these groups are very hard to penetrate. They're--they're focused with bonds of kinship and people who have known each other for years, so it doesn't surprise me that we didn't know that this was coming.

LAUER: All right, Mr. Livingston, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

COURIC: Benjamin Levy is at the scene near the World Trade Center, actually he's going to tell us precisely where he is and what he saw. Benjamin, can you hear me?

Mr. BENJAMIN LEVY: Hello?

COURIC: Hello, Benjamin?

Mr. LEVY: Yes.

COURIC: Hi. It's Katie Couric. Can you tell me where you are and what you have seen or what you are seeing.

Mr. LEVY: Well, right now I'm in lower Manhattan but I was working--I work at the federal building behind City Hall and we were just sitting at our desks about 9:00 AM this morning and we heard a big explosion. Then about five minutes, maybe 10 minutes later, we saw the other plane hit the building, the second tower. And then we just evacuated, and as we started to walk away we turned around about maybe 15 minutes after we left the building and the second tower just disappeared from sight. And I tell you, I've never seen anything more horrible in my entire life.

BROKAW: Did you see any people, any casualties, Mr. Levy?

Mr. LEVY: We--we bumped into a guy from Tower One who said that he had a chance to get out of the building after the plane hit the first one. He had a chance to get out of the second one. But he said that--he said that people were jumping out of the windows to get away from the fire.

COURIC: Where are you now, Benjamin?

Mr. LEVY: I'm in a hair salon in Lower Manhattan talking to you guys.

COURIC: Well, obviously that was...

BROKAW: And was the whole federal building evacuated, Mr. Levy? Were you...

Mr. LEVY: Yeah. Well, we started running out of the building as soon as we saw the second explosion. And then--I work on the 22nd floor. As soon as we were down at the bottom, they sounded the alarm and then they announced evacuation, but most of us were already out.

COURIC: How far physically are you actually from the World Trade Center?

Mr. LEVY: Right now or where I work?

COURIC: No, when you--when this happened?

Mr. LEVY: About six blocks away.

COURIC: Six blocks away and you were able to get out pretty easily, and there were no kind of electrical problems in your building as a result of the impact of the fire or anything like that?

Mr. LEVY: No, we got out pretty good, thank God, and...

BROKAW: And that whole area down there, the City Hall, the World--the federal building and all the other commercial buildings, they've all been evacuated as well?

Mr. LEVY: Well, yeah. As we were leaving the police were telling all the shop owners to shut their shops and go home.

BROKAW: And that must be enveloped by the smoke and dust and everything that we see now because that covers the entire lower end of Manhattan, which is a considerably large area, not only physically but in terms of the financial networks, the commerce that is down there, a lot of residential areas.

Mr. LEVY: Yeah, you could--you could smell the smoke, and you could smell it but it wasn't--we were walking way from it.

COURIC: Benjamin Levy. Benjamin, thanks so much for talking with us. We appreciate it and we're glad you're safe.

BROKAW: Katie, I've got just a little run down here if I can, Matt, here for just a moment about what's going on around the country. The State Department officials have been moved into the State Department training center in Arlington, Virginia. The State has been evacuated, obviously. In Minneapolis, St. Paul International Airport shut down. The IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis, the tallest building evacuated. In Georgia, all flights at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport closed. The CNN Center, the world headquarters for Cable News Network, was closed to the public, and in Maryland, officials are tightening security throughout the state. Of course, that's the home of Andrews Air Force Base. Navy installations throughout the Hampton Roads, home of the world's largest Navy base have been placed under increased security. In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia International Airport has been closed and, of course, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are being closed as well.

COURIC: That's all national monuments, Tom, I believe, have been evacuated.

BROKAW: Right. In California, the state has been put on the highest alert. They're on tactical alert in Los Angeles. The Department of Energy Nuclear Weapons and Research Complex in Oakridge, Tennessee, put under heightened security.

LAUER: It is now coming up on 10:59 East Coast time. We'll give you a recap of what we've seen so far in just a moment. Just a quick note from one of the hospitals downtown in New York City where they say that hundreds of people have been burned from head to toe. This if from Dr. Steven Stern at St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village. About 50 or 60 nurses and doctors standing by in scrubs, the entire entrance to the emergency room was lined with stretchers covered with white sheets. Doctors said the victims mostly had burns.

COURIC: Of course, they're being treated at a number of area hospitals including St. Vincent's. NYU Downtown is just about five minutes away. There the spokesperson told us earlier they've had a lot of experience dealing with problems at the World Trade Center from that February terrorist bombing in 1993. And obviously they have all been mobilized, and emergency crews are working feverishly outside the World Trade Center.

By: Brant

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