911 phone calls from Twin Towers given to families


By Jim Dwyer, The New York Times

NEW YORK - No, Joe and Marie Hanley decided at first, they would not listen to the 911 tape of their son, Chris, calling for help from Windows on the World.

And, no, Jack Gentul and his sons agreed, they had no intention of playing the tape of Alayne Gentul, wife and mother, calling 911 from the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Will Sept. 11 ever be over, Debbie Andreacchio wondered, after the mayor's office called her on Monday, on her brother Jack's birthday, to say he had telephoned 911 on that morning four and a half years ago.

These three families were among 27 who learned in the last few days that the city had tape recordings of 911 phone calls made by loved ones from inside the twin towers. Faced with a court order issued three years ago and the prospect of new ultimatums, city lawyers this week offered tapes of the individual calls to the next of kin.

Disruptive as they are, the tapes hold unique power as aural relics and as portals into a lost and unseen moment for these three families. So the Andreacchios, the Gentuls and the Hanleys have decided to go ahead and obtain them.

On Monday, the Hanleys went to the city Law Department, signed some papers and took the recording back to their home on the East Side of Manhattan.

They ejected a disc labeled "Beethoven Concerto for Piano and Orchestra," and pushed in a white disc printed with the name of their only child, Christopher James Hanley.

"Time of the call oh-eight-hundred hour, fifty minutes and thirty seconds," a stranger's voice intoned.

That would be 8:50:30 AM - just four minutes after the first plane struck.

Then a familiar voice came from the speakers.

"Yeah, hi, I am on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center, which had an explosion," their son said.

"The 106th floor?" replied the operator.

"We had a conference up here," Chris Hanley said. "There's about 100 people up here."

Hanley, 35, worked for Radianz, then a division of Reuters. That morning, he was attending a conference organized by Risk Waters, a financial publisher, in the restaurant at the top of the north tower. The plane had crashed into the building between the 94th and 99th floors, 80 feet or so below the restaurant, but the smoke had risen to the very top of the building. So despite its distance from the area of the impact, conditions at the restaurant quickly became difficult.

The available records suggest that Hanley was among the first people inside either tower to reach the 911 system. His voice is clear.

"What is your last name?" asked the operator.

"Hanley," he replied.

"H-A-N," the operator says.

"We have smoke and it's pretty bad," he said.

A moment later, the operator said, "OK, we have the job. Let me connect you with the fire, OK?"

"Yes," Hanley replied, hearing the word fire. "There is fire, smoke. We have about 100 people here. We can't get down the stairs."

Alayne Gentul, who worked in the south tower, the second of the buildings to be hit, had given decisive orders for her staff and others to leave the 90th and 94th floors, according to the accounts of survivors. Then she and others made their way to the 97th floor to clear out others. She was trapped with them when the second plane hit.

Gentul said he discussed the tape with his children. "We are going to request the recordings, but we have no intention of listening to it," said Gentul, the dean of students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. "We thought we would request it to keep the choice open for the children, or for their children."

On Friday, the city is scheduled to release all the calls from the towers, but with the voices of the callers erased, leaving only the operators' sides of the communications.

Jack Andreacchio, who worked on the 80th floor of the south tower, had moved many people off the floor and had actually gotten 10 floors down, when he returned to the 80th floor. The wing of the second plane essentially sliced his floor in half. Andreacchio managed to call his sister Debbie, and describe his plight, and to apologize for the ghastly memory that he was imposing on her. Their call dropped out, she said.