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Newly Released Recordings Offer Sounds, Stories of September 11 Attacks

A court in New York has released extensive recordings made at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks four years ago that brought down the World Trade Center towers.

The recordings give many compelling firsthand accounts of that tragic morning in 2001 when a gang of hijackers steered two passenger jets into the twin skyscrapers.

Surviving family members say hearing the voices of the victims - some just moments before they died - helped them understand the chaos and panic that swept over the disaster site.

In one recording, a frantic civilian is heard on an emergency radio channel, begging for rescue from a fire truck where he took refuge moments earlier, as a mountain of debris from the first collapsing skyscraper crashed to the ground. The unidentified man says his air supply is nearly exhausted, and it is clear that he became one of the nearly 3,000 victims of the terror attack.

The recordings released Friday filled 23 compact discs, and a partial transcript was more than 12,000 pages long. Radio communications from the New York Fire Department are included along with recordings by police, medical crews and others present at the catastrophe.

The oral histories - an archive of memories that survivors recounted later - were collected by the New York city government.

Those interviewed include a fire truck driver who thought his crew was part of the staggering toll of 343 firefighters killed on September 11. His comrades eventually emerged from a cloud of choking dust and smoke at the disaster site, however. The driver said he jumped weeping into their arms.