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To: "Robert Lederman" robert.lederman@____
Subject: Breslin on FDNY radios 9/11
Date: Tue, 25 May 2004 12:09:00 [View Source]

When silence is deadly

Jimmy Breslin
May 23, 2004

The five central communications offices are located in parks. The idea
is to keep them isolated," the Fire Department communications man was

"I know the dispatch center on Woodhaven Boulevard," I said.

"Woodhaven and Park Lane," he said. "That's a big difference from
Giuliani's command center at 7 World Trade Center. Sure it blew up. I
guess it was a real estate deal that put it there. Over a million in
rent. That had to be the reason. Why would you ever go there otherwise?"

"The commission didn't ask anything about it," I said. "He talked about
how he had to walk the streets looking for a new one. He made it sound
like he was alone in the Sahara. They never asked him what happened to
the first command center."

"That's your politicians," my friend said. "I'm glad I've never been
around them. What about all that diesel fuel in the bunker. It came
spilling down."

We were talking about the deaths of 343 firefighters at the World Trade
Center because they couldn't hear a police radio from a helicopter
advising everybody that the north tower was unstable. Everybody should
get out.

"How did they miss the helicopter call?" I asked.

"Because they didn't use the radio that could let them talk to the
police. In each of the five central communications centers, there is a
Motorola Transceiver, which operates on 470.8375 megahertz, used by
special operations such as police aviation. I could've picked it up and
talked to the Aviation One up there over the tower.

"I wasn't allowed to use it. In each central communications center it is
turned off. It is physically not near the dispatcher. In order to touch
the radio, you had to go across the room and go behind the supervisor.
He would stop you. Because the policy of the Fire Department was not to
talk to the police.

"The radios behind the supervisors are turned off. The only time they
are turned on is Sunday morning at 8 o'clock when they are tested. Then
they are turned off again and put behind the supervisor and nobody can
touch them.

"The head of all communications for the department is Stephen Gregory.
He has been through chiefs and commissioners for decades. I was at a
meeting once and somebody got up and said, 'Can we call on the police
radio?' Gregory said, 'We don't talk to police on these radios.' Nobody
called him to the commission. I don't think they even knew who he was."

So five central radios could have reached a helicopter that flew over
the north tower of the World Trade Center and heard the pilot's warning
about the building being unstable. The five radios were silent because
they were shut off. For one moment in all their time of sitting silently
in the office dust, these radios could have saved so many. And the
building collapsed and all these beautiful men, firefighters of this
city, died in rubble and flames.

This past week in New York you had a gaudy commission holding hearings
on the 9/11 catastrophe. They renewed your deep belief that a Washington
commission consists of people from a company town who carry one basic
ability: to bore and miss all central points.

The five central radios were not used at the World Trade Center. The
fire commissioner was Von Essen. They might have asked him why
firefighters couldn't hear anything at the north tower and they died. He
was supposed to be in charge. All I ever saw him do was stand two inches
behind Giuliani and have his face showing just above Giuliani's shoulder
in a bid for a lens to carry him to stardom. A few questions about the
radios that failed, and about police radios hidden behind bosses, might
have revealed him to be just what he has been called, a Boy Scout.

The Fire Department, in a no-bid contract, paid $14 million to Motorola
for a set of radios that did not work and brand new ones that are
supposed to, if they can pass the tests or whatever.

This might have inspired somebody to ask Rudolph Giuliani a legitimate
question or so. First, as noted above, about his abysmal judgment by
placing a command center that was sure to disintegrate, and it did. And
then ask this preposterous fake about useless radios in the shrieks of
fire and death, radios that were his responsibility.

The cheap squabbles over them had been going on for a couple of years
and he never did anything. Some hero. Some leader.

Each witness who came in front of the commission said that, oh, it is
impossible to think that grown men in important city services, the cops
and firemen, would have a childlike rivalry that would affect their work
in our city. And when the witnesses said the rivalry doesn't exist,
except for one or two little brushes over the years, the commissioners

These people were testifying under oath.

I don't know about you, but I make the 343 dead firemen become 343
homicide cases. It was unconscionable criminal negligence.

The $14 million no-bid contract, whose paper is splashed with suspicion,
belongs in a grand jury looking for larceny.

The dislike between cops and firemen can be so deep that an old chief
would sit in his office and growl that nobody can touch that radio on
the shelf because that's the one that goes to the police and we don't
talk to the police. And suddenly they had to talk to police because it
was life or death, and they didn't know one from the other.

The police helicopter told the police in the shaky building. The police
got out of the place. Apparently, they did not bother to tell the
firemen. Who did not get out.

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