Why did folks like Rooney and Fetchet remain? Well, partly because they were instructed to.

Audio of the South Tower’s intercom system from 9/11 is difficult to find but, as dramatized in “Inside the Towers” (about 8:50 into this video), workers in the unaffected tower were told to stay put immediately following the North Tower explosion – even while many who called NYC’s emergency response number were told to evacuate.

911 trivia: South Tower Intercom: "Please remain at your desks."
911 trivia: South Tower Intercom: “Please remain at your desks.”

Worse, many South Tower workers who began their descent were told to return to their offices on the upper floors. Incredibly, these instructions were given by authority figures who often knew less about what had just happened than those they were ordering back upstairs – many of whom had seen the gaping, burning hole in the adjacent tower from their windows.

There’s no satisfying explanation for why panicked workers – some who’d gotten as far downstairs as the LOBBY – were told to return to their offices. The idea that the identical twin of a building rocked by a major explosion (and which had been bombed just eight years earlier) was the safest place to be is insane. The only viable explanation is that authorities, realizing the massive undertaking of evacuating the North Tower, didn’t want the plaza clogged with unnecessary evacuees from the South Tower.

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