Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, looking back 21 years ago to the 9/11 attacks on his city, said Sunday on Newsmax that he particularly wants people to remember the sacrifices and bravery of the first responders who carried out "one of the greatest rescue missions in the history of the world" after the planes hit the World Trade Center's twin towers.
"I try to get people to know this, to understand this, that the first responders in NYC on 9/11 [conducted] the greatest mission in the history of our nation," Kerik said on Newsmax's special, "September 11th: We Will Never Forget." "They took 20,000 to 25,000 people out of those buildings, and they took about a million people and evacuated them into the 4 boroughs [of New York City] and into New Jersey, and it was one of the greatest rescue missions in the history of the world."
Those people, he added, "did it knowing the perils that lay ahead, knowing what was inherent, what was coming, and the dangers they were facing. I couldn't be more proud of being in command of the people that had a courage that I'd never seen before."
Kerik recalled the events of the day, remembering that he was in his office when the first plane hit, and he rushed to the scene.
"We tried to get into the Command Center, which was at 7 World Trade, but we could not get in because people were jumping from the top of Tower 1 and they were landing in the streets in front of [Tower] 7, in front of 1, on the streets between [Towers] 1 and 2," said Kerik.
He said he was standing with then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani near Tower 2, or the south tower when the second plane hit it.
However, Kerik said he didn't realize at first that a second plane had hit, but instead thought that the "big orange fireball" that blew up on the tower came from someone blowing up the buildings.
"I didn't see that plane," he recalled. "Then I could hear on the radios, that a second plane had just hit Tower 2, and that minute I knew we were under attack and the response for the entire city had to change."
He said he was also concerned about secondary attacks not only on buildings but on mass transit, so "we called for the evacuation of every major building in the city. I evacuated Police Headquarters and City Hall.
For years from 1996 on, we had planned and practiced for just about every crisis under the sun but nobody ever planned for something like this, of this magnitude," said Kerik. "But on that day one of the protocols was to shut down the entire city, and that's what was ordered, that shut down Manhattan, and shut down all the bridges and tunnels. The only people allowed to come into Manhattan were first responders. Every cop, every fireman, every correctional officer, every city employee was ordered back to work."
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