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Gary Younge
9/11 last calls reveal horror

The transcripts, released by court order yesterday, show that callers from the top floors of the second tower were told to stay put after a hijacked plane hit the first tower.

"We need to know if we need to get out of here, because we know there's an explosion," one caller said.

The officer asked if there was smoke on the floor, and the caller replied that there was not.

"Should we stay or should we not?" the caller asked.

"I would wait 'til further notice," the officer replied.

"OK, all right," the caller said. "Don't evacuate."

Fifteen minutes later the second plane hit the tower on the 80th floor.

Relatives of the victims have been divided over the transcripts' public release. Not all have seen the transcripts and many fear having to relive the trauma, but others hope that the publication will help them to understand precisely what happened in the final minutes.

Theresa Riccardelli, who lost her husband Francis, declined an offer to read the transcripts. "It's not that I don't have an interest. I can't," she said. "I know the final outcome. My husband didn't get to come home."

The transcripts show both port authority police and those in the towers reacting with what little information they had.

"In general, they show people performing their duties very heroically and very professionally on a day of horror," said a New York port authority spokesman, Greg Trevor.

The transcripts included phone calls and radio transmissions involving 33 port authority employees and three other people. Last week, a judge ordered the port authority to release the transcripts at the request of the New York Times.

In other calls, a man reached police from the roof of one building, while the assistant manager of the Windows on the World restaurant reported people stranded on the 106th floor. "We need direction as to where we need to direct our guests and employees, as soon as possible," she said, citing increasing smoke.

"We're doing our best ... we're trying to get up to you, dear," replied a PA officer. "All right, call back in two or three minutes, and I'll try to find out what direction you should try to get down."

There were also accounts of people, in disbelief, calling about people plunging from the buildings to their deaths.

"I've got dozens of bodies, people just jumping from the top of the building on to ... in front of One World Trade," says a male caller. "People. Bodies are just coming from out of the sky ... up top of the building."

"Bodies?" replied a female operator.

The transcripts are not the first recordings of radio transmissions to be made public. Last year, the agency released a 78-minute tape of fire department transmissions that included the voices of several lost firefighters.

Shortly after the attacks, unofficial tapes and transcripts of emergency calls from people in the towers were broadcast and published.

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