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Transcript Released of Emergency Phone Calls in NY Sept. 11 Attacks - 2003-08-28

In New York, the agency that owns the World Trade Center site, the Port Authority released more than 2,000 pages of transcripts of tapes of emergency telephone calls and radio transmissions made after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

As expected, the transcripts offer heartbreaking details of efforts to escape the World Trade Center, evacuate the buildings, calm those trapped on the top floors and, in the end, deal with frantic calls from families and friends.

According to the transcripts, employees throughout the complex called Port Authority police to report smoke and fire, and asking if and how they should leave the buildings. One transcribed call came from a manager of "Windows on the World," the restaurant that sat atop one of the towers. None of the guests or staff at the restaurant at the time survived the attack.

The transcripts were released as a result of a lawsuit filed by The New York Times. Earlier, the newspaper and the Port Authority had agreed to make the documents public. But Port Authority officials changed their minds, saying the transcripts would be too wrenching for the families of the victims. The newspaper then filed a lawsuit seeking the transcripts. Last Friday, a judge agreed with the newspaper and ordered the agency to release the transcripts by 5 p.m. Thursday.

The decision to make the transcripts public has been controversial, particularly among some of the victims' families. Some support the ruling. Sally Reganhart lost her son, a firefighter only on the job for a few months. She says information provided by the transcripts could save lives.

"Every day is a realization that we have to live without our loved ones for the rest of our lives," he said. "The only goal that I have is to make sure that something like this will never happen again. There is no way to assure that or to work toward that without knowing what happened that day."

But other families oppose the ruling. Sonny Goldstein, who also lost a son, says the release of the transcripts is making victims' families relive the nightmare of September 11.

"This is not going to help anybody. This is not going to save anybody in the future. This is always going to hurt the people that are involved in it," he said.

The Port Authority has asked the media to refrain from using what it calls "gruesome, gratuitous or personal details."