Tuesday, October 19, 2004

SOME TIME AGO I pointed to the six still images taken by surveillance cameras in the Atocha train station on the very same moment when the bombs exploded on March 11.

Today, the full video has been released; it's been on all TV networks. Neo, from Internetopina.com has digitized them and made them available both in Windows Media and QuickTime formats [UPDATE. Internetopina.com seems to be overloaded with traffic at the moment; alternatively, you can also go to FoxNews, which has the information and video too -- FA] [ANOTHER UPDATE. If you're have trouble with Internetopina.com, which is really overloaded with traffic, and if you don't find the link at FoxNews, the video is also available at the newspaper El Mundo, both in Windows Media and RealMedia; they also have the previously unreleased video of the reivindication of the attack by one of the terrorists, a tape which was found on March 12 (Windows Media, RealMedia) -- FA]
Be warned: not gory, but extremely, extremely disturbing. You can see the three blasts (the third one is specially big). Later, while police and paramedics where assisting the wounded, there was an alert because somebody thought that another artifact was going to blow up (something that in the end didn't happen, fortunately).

And that's precisely the most unsettling moment, at least the one that impressed me most: seeing all those doctors and policemen leaving the wounded and running away to shield themselves from what they thought was going to be another explosion, leaving the wounded unattended. I just can't imagine what would have been in my mind if I had been one of the people on the floor, with serious injuries, or how helpless I would've felt seeing all these guys running away. On the other hand, of course, I can't judge; fortunately I haven't found myself in such a situation, and it's impossible to know what would be my, or anyone else's, reaction in a moment like that. But as far as I know, the NYFD guys kept going up on the second WTC tower after the first one had already fallen, knowing that it meant they would probably die too: they simply were trying to save as many lives as possible and as long as they could.

I don't know what to think; it's undeniable that the police and medical services did a tremendous job on that fateful day, and I don't want to seem like I'm unfairly criticizing them. It's just that altogether this is so, so unsettling; it was really difficult, almost impossible, to contain the feelings while watching the footage.

UPDATE. I want to thank Glenn Reynolds for the link; I wish I could be more cheerful about it, but the subject is certainly not one to be cheerful about (not that I'm complaining of an instalanche, mind you!). Meanwhile, welcome to all readers, and please take a look around; actually today quite a few major news happened in Spain, as a major terror attack has been thwarted by the Spanish police (information here and here).

UPDATE II. Feces Flinging Monkey comments on the rescue workers:
I am currently working towards my EMT-basic recertification. We have a specific policy on this sort of thing, and it's a good one:

"You're of no fucking use if you're a victim."

There is a reason why the bad guys like to place secondary devices, timed to kill the rescuers who respond; if you kill or disable the rescuers, there won't be anyone around who can quickly replace them. If there is no one left to do the important work of saving the victims, more of them will die.

Yes, this can look a lot like cowardice, and yes, it requires tremendous professional discipline to back away from a hazardous situation when there are helpless people in your care. Most medical folks will instinctively defend their patients to their last dying breath, and would not abandon them for anything. It's a fine and noble thing, but it is not the right thing to do. In a mass casualty incident, that handful of doctors, EMTs and First Responders available to you are like gold. You need to protect them, or else everyone loses.
Read the rest of these interesting comments.

Meanwhile, a reader emails: "I know you want to think the best of the rescue workers 9/11, but the facts don't support your statement.

It is well known that the FDNY radio system was largely inoperable within the WTC towers (Faraday box effect, mostly). After the collapse of the south tower there was mass confusion but orders to evacuate the north tower were given. Few units received those commands, however, from the evidence we have. One of the few we have firm evidence of is the group of surviving firemen who were rescued from the stairwell after the north tower collapsed; they were on their way *down*, and had passed other units on their way up, who didn't understand or believe what they were told about the collapse.

Certainly, they were braver than you and I in every respect, but it's unlikely they were going into what they knew was certain death; it's unlikely that any commander would have supported such a decision. (If the FDNY had an inkling of the structural problems that the WTC faced, they would likely have ordered their men to evacuate.)

They simply didn't know."

As I said, I didn't want to seem like I was unfairly criticizing a group of folks who did a tremendous job, taking care of so many casualties in an operation that, as far as I know, has been praised by specialists all over the world. More so because I didn't have the knowledge of the kinds of protocols emergency workers and first responders must follow. As for the WTC, I don't have the facts and was mentioning what I thought it was what happened; the reader makes a point but, frankly, I can't assess whether he's right or wrong. In any case, I wasn't really making any statement on neither of these aspects; I was merely writing what was going through my emotions, rather than through my mind, as I was seeing those disturbing images; it was more raising questions than answering them.