Families spend hours poring over transcripts of
dispatches on 9/11
Published in the Asbury Park Press 08/13/05THE ASSOCIATED
YORK — Emotional family members of firefighters killed on Sept. 11,
2001, spent Friday morning poring over newly released transcripts
and recordings to find out what happened to loved ones trapped in
the World Trade Center towers.
Bent over laptops on the 29th floor of an office building in
midtown Manhattan, they spent three hours coming closer to their
relatives' last moments on that morning of terror.
Most of all, they were trying to hear or read anything that might
give them clues to exactly where and how their loved ones met their
"I heard "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday.' But there was no response,"
said Antonia Fontana, who lost her son, Lt. David Fontana of Squad 1
in Brooklyn. His remains were delivered to the family "in bits and
pieces. We got the ninth piece of David back in January of this
Fontana said the transcripts and tapes showed that firefighters
never received the radio messages ordering them to get out.
Batteries in some radios died; others never worked.
"I knew this, but today I heard it," she said, her lips
quivering. "This is the truth."
Dispatches of frantic emergency calls, recorded on nearly two
dozen CDs, were played as everyone took notes, comparing and
discussing details. Two fire officers who survived the attack helped
the group understand department jargon in the released materials.
"I never heard any of this before — the chaos," said retired Lt.
Jerry Reilly, who escaped the trade center's north tower. His eyes
teared up as he explained that "the radio communication was
terrible. But I knew before 9-11 — that these new radios were
terrible in the field. And we got no training for them."
Sally Regenhard, mother of 28-year-old Christian Regenhard,
charged that a breakdown of communications among firefighters led to
her son's death and that the response to the attack "has been
sanitized by the city of New York in an effort to put all this under
She and her husband, retired police Sgt. Al Regenhard, learned a
sliver of information about their son's last minutes during the
three-hour session. He had been filling in that day for a
firefighter in Engine 279 of Red Hook, Brooklyn, which was told to
head toward the south tower; she even learned the name of his
"It's very emotional. It's very difficult," she said. "But it's
no harder than knowing every day that my son is gone."
Al Fuentes, a retired fire captain, said communications were so
bad before he was pulled out of the rubble that some firefighters
resorted to hand signals to connect with survivors trapped in the
Marriott Hotel, damaged by falling debris.
The department made public the hours of radio transmissions and
transcripts of more than 500 firefighters' oral histories after The
New York Times successfully sued for the records. The rush to the
trade center saved an unknown number of civilians, but cost 343
firefighters their lives.
Rosemary Cain, of Massapequa, who lost her son, George Cain, of
Ladder 7 in Manhattan, said: "It's a disgrace that the families have
had to fight for every single little bit of information that they
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