For those trapped in the towers, the two most repeated words to emergency response workers may have been “please hurry.” Many of the day’s audio recordings showcase a terrible truth: Assessing the deteriorating conditions and sheer height of the building, many of those trapped displayed doubt that firefighters could reach them in time, if at all. On the other end of the line, emergency responders were left placating without making promises that were simply impossible to keep.
The emergency call made by Christopher Hanley, who was attending a conference at Windows in the World restaurant on the North Tower’s 106th floor, exemplifies this mix of urgency and reality. Just minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the floors directly beneath him, conditions on the top floor were steadily worsening.
“I can see the smoke coming up from outside the windows,” Hanley says, to which the emergency operator replies with a simple “All right, we’re on the way.”
“Okay, please hurry,” Hanley pleads.
After instructing Hanley to open a window if he must – a stupid suggestion not only because fire thrives on oxygen, but because the 106th floor of a building isn’t going to have openable windows – the operator provides the understatement of the century: “It’s going to be a while because there’s a fire going on downstairs.”
“Alright,” Hanley says, “please hurry.”
Hanley died that day, as did every single person above the impact zone in the North Tower. Their fates were sealed the instant the plane hit, destroying all stairwells to safety.