August 16, 2008
Why was Giuliani’s Office of Emergency Management bunker in WTC 7 empty and “deactivated” as the 9/11 spectacle unfolded?
In 1999, NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani constructed a $13 million emergency command retreat on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7—an armored, self-contained facility designed to provide a safe haven for leadership in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. But several first responders interviewed after 9/11 claim that the Office of Emergency Management’s Emergency Operations Center (OEMEOC) was empty and “deactivated” as early as 9AM on the morning of September 11th, a time when just such an emergency was in full swing.
As early as 8:24 AM, Air Traffic Controllers had become aware that American Airlines Flight 11 was in trouble and had possibly been hijacked. Any doubts were soon dispelled when, at 8:46, the enormous passenger jet slammed into the upper floors of the North Tower, the 110 storey skyscraper that stood one block south of WTC 7. It seems reasonable to assume (and has been stated as fact) that, as the spectacle unfolded, throngs of government officials and high ranking rescue personnel were flocking to the OEM bunker in WTC 7 to man their stations.
Jennings and Hess
But testimonies recorded after the attacks from rescue workers and OEM personnel tell a very different story. Barry Jennings, Deputy Director of the NYC Housing Authority’s Emergency Services Department, reported to the OEM bunker with a colleague, NYC’s corporation counsel Michael Hess, just before the second plane, Flight 175, hit the South Tower at 9:03. Unbelievably, they weren’t able to access the OEM: “We got up to the [OEMEOC], we couldn’t get in, we had to go back down.” Police then escorted them to a freight elevator and they were finally able to return to the 23rd floor and enter the facility.
“To my amazement nobody’s there. I saw coffee that was still hot, still smoldering. They had screens all over the place, the screens were blank. So I didn’t know what was going on.” How the OEM bunker could be empty at a time when the brand new facility—built for just such a contingency—should have instead been bustling with activity is incomprehensible.
The fact that Jennings and Hess were only able to access the OEM after returning to the lobby and taking a freight elevator back up appears to indicate that the elevator door for the 23rd floor was locked, not the OEM bunker itself. It would seem that the entire floor was inaccessible, even to personnel with the proper clearances.