9/11/01: Mayor's emergency center falls

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The Mayor's Emergency Operations Center was among the scores of offices destroyed in yesterday's explosion, further crippling already chaotic rescue efforts as authorities were initially left with no central command post.

Dubbed "Rudy's Bunker" by his critics, the Mayor's Emergency Operations Center was designed to withstand everything from hurricane winds to rocket attacks.

"For threats that we will confront over the next 50 years, this facility is as secure as it needs to be," Jerome Hauer, then director of the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management, said at the unveiling of the high-tech command and control center on June 7, 1999.

But the bunker on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center came crashing to the ground yesterday along with most of the World Trade Center complex.

Building 7, just north of the north tower, was struck by flaming debris after the plane crashes. While it stood for several hours, by 4:30 p.m., it was burning and near collapse, with orange flames shooting from floors seven through 10. It fell around 5:30 p.m.

The center - a gigantic room filled with an array of  elecommunications and security systems - occupied about two-fifths of a 50,000-square-foot area renovated at a cost of at least $13 million. The facility, used by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his aides during snow and rain storms and other emergencies, could handle 230 people during a major crisis.

Normally, it was staffed 24 hours a day with three people.

The center was accessible by a special freight elevator with its own power supply. Under low lighting, it featured rows of computer consoles tied into weather, communications and emergency systems. On the walls were television monitors and projection screens.

The mayor had a separate office with a receptionist's desk. The center also was equipped with eight beds, bathrooms with showers and a kitchenette.

At the opening, Hauer admitted that the command bunker might not be impervious to everything, but that it was strong enough.

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Col. Robert Fitton, a visiting official from the U.S. Department of Defense, described the center as "state of the art" and added: "It's one of the better ones I've seen."

Also destroyed in the disaster was the headquarters of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which occupied six floors of the north tower, known as One World Trade Center. The Port Authority manages and operates all transportation terminals, including the three major airports, and bridges and tunnels in the metropolitan area

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