The city planned Wednesday to release hours of emergency calls from Sept. 11, 2001, after Fire Department officials said they had discovered hundreds of internal recordings made by firefighters who went to rescue people from the burning twin towers.
The department offered no explanation Tuesday why the recordings had not been released previously, saying it would make a statement later. Attorneys involved in the case said they were told that well over 1,000 new calls would be released, although city officials declined to confirm that Tuesday afternoon.
The New York Times and families of Sept. 11 victims had sued the city for access to firefighters' oral histories and 911 calls made from and around the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
The transcripts of about 130 emergency calls were released earlier this year, only including the voices of the city operators, emergency responders and other public employees. The callers' voices were cut out after city attorneys argued that their pleas for help were too emotional and intense to be publicized without families' consent. Thousands of pages of emergency workers' oral histories, as well as radio transmissions, were released last August.
Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta ordered the department to search for previously undisclosed recordings earlier this year.
Attorney Norman Siegel, who represents Sept. 11 families, called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to pledge that no more emergency recordings from that day exist.
"We need the mayor to assure the family members that this is it, that this is everything we have," Siegel said. "If it was 10 or 20 tapes, one could understand that they overlooked some. But if you're talking hundreds, and possibly as many as 2,000 tapes, the serious substantial question is how did this happen?"
The calls expected to be released Wednesday include 10 new 911 calls that people made from the trade center, again with only the operators' voices included. They include two calls that were withheld in March to be used as evidence at the trial of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. Jurors in the Moussaoui case heard excerpts of calls made by Melissa Doi, who spent more than 20 minutes on the phone with a 911 operator from the 83rd floor of the south tower, and Kevin Cosgrove. Both were killed in the attack.
"I'm going to die, aren't I? Please God, it's so hot, I'm burning up," Doi told the dispatcher. The remainder of the call not played at trial — with only the 911 operator's voice — would be released.
Other calls include 911 calls made from outside the trade center, and hundreds of calls made by firefighters and other department employees to an internal dispatch system. Several firefighters were asking where they should report for duty, while other department employees were asking about the available services at local hospitals, officials said. It wasn't clear whether any of the firefighters who made calls were among the 343 killed on Sept. 11.