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9/11: 45 Questions

Sorting it out, looking ahead

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 8, 2002


Q: Is there a final count on the number of people who died in the Sept. 11 attacks?

Q: Is there a final count on the number of people who died in the Sept. 11 attacks?

A: No. But after a year of labor by police, medical examiner's staff, lawyers and even the city diplomatic affairs staff, New York City is finally on the verge of establishing its final death toll. After surging as high as 6,729 in late September and dropping below 3,000 in January, the final list (including the 10 hijackers) should end up at about 2,800. The remaining number of unresolved cases now stands at 70. The need to settle on a solid list is given urgency by the approach of the anniversary of the attack and the city's plans to read each victim's name during the main ceremony at ground zero. In Washington, 189 died at the Pentagon and on American Flight 77 (including five hijackers). In Pennsylvania, 44 passengers, crew members and hijackers died on United Flight 93.

* * *

Q: How many people who were inside the World Trade Center that morning made it out alive?

A: An estimated 15,000 people made it to safety. Almost all of them were on floors below the points of impact.

* * *

Q: Who was youngest victim of Sept. 11? The oldest?

A: Christine Hanson, 2, of Groton, Mass., was the youngest. She and her parents were aboard the plane that crashed into the south tower. The oldest victim was apparently 85-year-old Robert Grant Norton of Lubec, Maine, a passenger on the plane that struck the north tower. The Sept. 11 victims came from at least 38 states, the District of Columbia and a dozen nations. New York state paid the highest toll in the attacks, losing at least 1,767 residents. New Jersey had 715 victims, followed by Massachusetts with 92 and Virginia with 84. Five victims were from Florida.

* * *

Q: Do we know definitively how the hijackers subdued the crews of each plane?

A: Federal investigators have told the New York Times that box cutters were used, and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer also referred to their use. Exactly how they were used, and what else may have been used, remains unknown.

* * *

Q: How effective are the current airport security measures designed to keep such weapons off aircraft?

A: No doubt the measures are better than those that existed before Sept. 11, but how much better is an open question. Over the Labor Day weekend, the New York Daily News sent reporters to attempt to board 14 flights of six major airlines at 11 airports, carrying contraband including box cutters and pepper spray. They boarded without difficulty, the newspaper reported. Four of the airports -- Newark International, Logan in Boston, Dulles in Washington and Portland International in Maine -- were also breached by the terrorists a year ago.

* * *

Q: The airlines got a big federal bailout in the weeks after 9/11. Is air travel largely back to the levels it was before the attacks? If so, why are some major airlines having such trouble?

A: Despite the $5-billion bailout, the airline industry is struggling. Fewer people are flying, and the ones who do -- most notably the business travelers who traditionally buy the most expensive tickets -- are paying less by using low-fare carriers like Southwest and JetBlue. Air traffic dropped 32 percent right after Sept. 11, according to the Air Transport Association, and in July it was still down 10 percent.

* * *

Q: Have cockpit doors been reinforced?

A: Cockpit doors were reinforced with steel bars after Sept. 11, but they are still vulnerable. By April, the airlines are supposed to install even stronger doors that can withstand small-arms fire, shrapnel from a grenade and the battering of a 250-pound man.

* * *

Q: Are there still flying restrictions over New York and Washington, D.C?

A: There will be temporary restrictions in both cities this week because of Sept. 11 ceremonies. Otherwise, in New York the only restriction is around the Statue of Liberty. In Washington, rules prohibit small private planes within a 15-mile radius of the Washington Monument, an area that covers most of the city and its immediate suburbs. However, the rules allow airline flights to operate at Reagan National Airport.

* * *

Q: What has become of Osama bin Laden, the man President Bush called the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks?

A: For weeks, Bush vowed that America would get bin Laden "dead or alive .... If he thinks he can hide and run from the United States and our allies, he will be sorely mistaken." Bin Laden has managed to elude capture, however, and now Bush rarely mentions his name. Many administration officials presume bin Laden is hiding in the mountains along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is also possible that he is dead, a victim of intense bombing or his own frail health.

* * *

Q: What about Ayman al-Zawahiri, the physician and Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader who is widely regarded as bin Laden's chief deputy?

A: His whereabouts are also unknown.

* * *

Q: How many people were killed by anthrax?

A: Five. More than a dozen others became ill.

* * *

Q: Did authorities catch the person or persons responsible for mailing three anthrax hoax letters with St. Petersburg postmarks in October?

A: No.

* * *

Q: How much has the war in Afghanistan cost, and how much longer is it likely to last?

A: Since American airstrikes began Oct. 7, the campaign has cost more than $15-billion. U.S. and coalition airplanes have conducted more than 21,000 flights over Afghanistan, dropping more than 20,000 munitions. There are about 8,000 U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan now, with another 55,000 in the region. Seventy countries joined the campaign against terror, and 24 sent forces to Afghanistan. Military officials say the U.S. presence in Afghanistan probably will continue for years as American forces search for remaining enemy and help train a new Afghan national army.

* * *

Q: After the war in Afghanistan began, many foreign troops came to MacDill Air Force Base to work at Central Command? Are they still here?

A: Yes. The United States began building an antiterrorism coalition the day after the attacks, and counts 70 nations supporting the effort. Military representatives from 39 nations are still present at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, according to spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice. Balice would not discuss specific roles played by the 39 nations, but in general they have provided intelligence and participated in planning.

* * *

Q: How many American servicemen and women have died in the conflict?

A: Sixteen Americans have died from wounds sustained in combat. The first was CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann, 32, of Winfield, Ala., in late November. The 16th, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher James Speer, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., was killed Aug. 7. Twenty-three other Americans have been killed in noncombat incidents, and more than 340 have been wounded.

* * *

Q: How much money has been contributed to charities set up to help the 9/11 victims, and how much has gone to the victims?

A: A lot, on both counts. A full accounting of how the hundreds of millions of donated dollars were spent may not ever be possible because the funds often are distributed through a network of smaller nonprofits. And while many individual charities are reporting their activity, no single agency or repository compiles the accumulated donations so the public can see a total picture of collections and expenditures. Roughly, however, Americans mounted the biggest charity drive in national history, giving about $ 2.7-billion. More than half has been distributed by 240 charities to help bereaved families and displaced workers and residents in Lower Manhattan for the next several years. In a survey in June, the Washington Post found that families of firefighters who died have already received, on average, about $1-million each -- 10 times the figure that had typically gone to the families of others killed in the attacks. This happens because some charities solicit specifically for certain groups of victims.

* * *

Q: Isn't there a federal program distributing money, too?

A: Yes. Just last month the federal government announced the first awards to compensate the relatives of victims, offering 25 families an average of $1.36-million, from a low of $300,000 to a high of $3-million. Few details were disclosed, citing the privacy of families, but the group represented a diverse universe of those who died a year ago, including police officers, firefighters and workers at the World Trade Center. When Congress created the fund in September as part of an airline bailout package, many officials praised it as a fast and straightforward alternative to litigation. To be eligible for the fund's anticipated average payment of about $1.5-million -- after various deductions have been made -- families have to waive their rights to sue anyone other than terrorists.

* * *

Q: How much money was raised after President Bush asked American children to donate $1 each to help Afghan children?

A: Nearly $9-million, according to the American Red Cross, which administers America's Fund for Afghan Children. The money has been spent on medical supplies, schools and clothing.

* * *

Q: How many people were fraudulently reported missing to collect insurance benefits or money from support agencies?

A: At least 60, according to Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the New York City Medical Examiner.

* * *

Q: How are New Yorkers doing? Have they bounced back?

A: The city is nothing if not irrepressible. Nevertheless, many New Yorkers still struggle with the emotional fallout. Some experts go farther, saying the continued threat of terrorism is contributing to anxiety and depression across the nation. But the problem is especially acute in New York, where a survey conducted by the New York Academy of Medicine found one in 10 people were clinically depressed one or two months after Sept. 11. Not surprisingly, mothers of young children are especially anxious about the prospect of future terrorist attacks, concerned about who will take care of their children if they die. The children suffer, too, of course. Kids around the world saw graphic television footage of airplanes smashing into buildings, burning towers collapsing into rubble and people leaping to their deaths to escape the flames. The effects are being studied.

* * *

Q: Aren't some long-term effects likely?

A: In some fashion, almost certainly. But the indirect consequences could have been more severe than the direct harm if terrorists had used chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological materials, according to researchers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a British medical school. Reporting in a recent issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, the researchers highlighted the potential for an outbreak of "mass sociogenic illness," where acute physical symptoms, like loss of consciousness, can be triggered by unusual odors or even rumors of contamination following a widely reported chemical, biological or nuclear incident. Also, permanent economic damage may be done to agricultural and manufacturing communities whose products may be avoided out of fear of contamination.

* * *

Q: Might the Sept. 11 anniversary trigger more bad feelings?

A: Yes. Therapists say they expect to see more anxiety, depression and substance abuse this month as memories are stimulated.

* * *

Q: Is there still a problem with contamination from asbestos and other hazardous materials near the trade center site?

A: It's possible. An independent analysis of air around ground zero shows the collapse of the World Trade Center towers spewed enormous amounts of potentially dangerous tiny particles unrecognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's air monitoring. The findings by scientists at the University of California, Davis contradict repeated assurances by EPA Administrator Christie Whitman that the air around the wreckage largely was safe to breathe. The collapse of the 110-story skyscrapers crushed concrete, glass, computers, electrical wiring, carpeting, furniture and everything else in the building, then burned and broiled the compressed, pulverized mass for weeks. UC Davis released its findings amid mounting questions of why firefighters, cleanup workers and some residents report coughing and other respiratory problems. The EPA is considering updating its pollution standard to account for the finest particles.

* * *

Q: Is the ground zero cleanup complete?

A: Yes. About 1,640,707 tons of debris were hauled away in 108,342 truckloads. More than 3.1-million hours of labor were required to finish the job.

* * *

Q: What is the status of the plans to rebuild at the World Trade Center site?

A: When the six preliminary redevelopment designs were unveiled recently they were derided as dreary and unambitious. The city went back to the drawing board, and put the project out for bids. As many as five teams are to be selected Sept. 30. Drawings and plans must be submitted by Nov. 30. Three new designs will be completed by the end of the year and shown to the public, and a final plan is to be chosen early next year.

* * *

Q: Is the Pentagon completely rebuilt and have people returned to work there?

A: Yes. The rebuilding came to be called the Phoenix Project, and workers began moving back in last month. A massive renovation of the entire Pentagon and its grounds was begun nearly a decade ago. By some odd quirk of fate the terrorists guided their airplane-weapon into Wedge 1, the only segment of the building where the renovation work was almost complete. Workers did over again, in less than a year, what had just taken them three years to do. Chief among the improvements was the hardening of concrete and brick walls with additional structural steel. Blast-resistant windows, weighing 1,600 pounds each, were fabricated to replace the old single-pane, double-hung sash fixtures. A super-strength polymer mesh was used to reinforce walls and prevent pieces from flying off like deadly shrapnel. A sprinkler system was installed.

* * *

Q: Are people moving back into or near New York City's ground zero?

A: Yes. Residential buildings around ground zero are nearly as full as they were before the terror attacks, according to a survey by The New York Times. Vacancy rates in the buildings adjacent to the World Trade Center were at 45 percent in the months after the attacks. They are now just below 5 percent. In large part, according to the Times, the rebound is the result of deep discounts from landlords and rebate promises by the government. Nevertheless, "It was a mistake to believe this area was going to fold up," said Timothy S. Carey, president of the Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority, which owns 92 acres of riverfront property near ground zero. "We're a community that's already been reborn."

* * *

Q: Visitation at the World Trade Center site has been heavy in the last year. Is it still?

A: Yes. Officials estimate that 3.6-million people this year will visit ground zero. For those who cannot make the trip, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has put together a traveling exhibit of artifacts. Among them: pieces of fuselage from the two planes that hit the trade center; mangled office equipment; twisted street signs.

* * *

Q: Is there still uncertainty about exactly why the twin towers failed structurally?

A: Some. A study conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers determined that the two structures could have survived the impact of the hijacked 767 airliners, but fell victim to the ensuing fire. That intense heat, according to the society's report, caused the buildings' steel columns to soften and buckle. A more detailed investigation, one that might take two years and cost $23-million, is being undertaken by the federal government. It is expected to result in tougher building codes designed to make skyscrapers stronger.

* * *

Q: What became of Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond firm that lost 658 of its 1,050 employees at the World Trade Center?

A: Cantor, which lost more employees than any other firm, has hired 150 new people and moved to offices that begin on the third floor of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper. In January, the company announced that in its first quarter since the attacks it had earned a profit of just under $20-million. It turned $4.9-million of that over to the families of the dead -- the first installment of Cantor CEO Howard Lutnick's pledge to give a quarter of all profits to those survivors for the next five years.

* * *

Q: Flags seemed to be everywhere after Sept. 11, as many Americans sought some public way to express support for their nation. Did anyone measure the sale of flags?

A: American flag sales peaked at $51.7-million last year, $34.8-million of it for star-spangled banners shipped from China to meet domestic demand. In the week after the attacks, one of the nation's largest producers of American flags, Annin & Co. of Roseland, N.J., produced more than 50,000 flags -- about 10 times the normal amount. At the Flag Co. in Acworth, Ga., sales of 12- by 18-inch American flags have increased by more than a million in the past year.

* * *

Q: How have Muslims been treated in this country since the attacks?

A: It would be difficult to generalize. A recent poll by a national Islamic civil rights group found that 57 percent of American Muslims say they experienced bias or discrimination after Sept. 11. However, the same poll, conducted by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations in late July and early August, found that 79 percent of American Muslims also experienced kindness or support from friends or colleagues of other faiths. That kindness often took the form of verbal reassurances, support during the anti-Muslim backlash following the attacks and even offers to help guard local mosques.

* * *

Q: What do Muslims think of the news coverage?

A: Another finding of the survey was that 45 percent of respondents said Fox News was the media outlet that exhibited the most biased coverage. PBS, the BBC and ABC were named as media outlets worthy of praise for their coverage.

* * *

Q: Has media coverage been balanced?

A: The United States has many vigorous news organizations, so there is no single answer to this question. But some believe that journalists have not been quick enough to question and criticize U.S. policies since the attack, and thus showed unwitting complicity to government strategies to rally public support. University of Washington researchers analyzed coverage in the five issues of Newsweek and Time published immediately after the attacks and concluded that they minimized voices of opposition, highlighted the importance of core American values, shifted blame away from the United States, emphasized the U.S. role as the only superpower on the international stage and demonized the enemy.

* * *

Q: How many people have been detained or deported by the U.S. government in the last year?

A: It's hard to know for certain, since the government has released very little information. But about 1,200 people have been detained. Most were young Muslim men. Some were held briefly, some for months, some are still being held. Some have been charged with overstaying their visas, some have not been charged with anything, nor have they been allowed to see a lawyer. Last month, the Justice Department appealed a court ruling that it release even the names of the people being held, arguing that doing so would put the nation at risk of additional terrorist attacks.

* * *

Q: Why do some groups have a problem with this? Don't all citizens have to give up some freedoms in time of national emergency?

A: Sometimes, perhaps. But many organizations believe every incursion into personal liberty must be challenged and scrutinized, even if it is eventually allowed. The Bush administration's critics feel that Attorney General John Ashcroft has led a dangerous assault on the constitutional protections afforded all Americans.

* * *

Q: In the month after the attacks, President Bush's job approval rates soared. What was their highest point and where does he stand today?

A: A month after the attacks, a Washington Post-ABC News poll put the president's job approval rating at 92 percent, the highest ever recorded for any president. It has slipped since then, but was still at a lofty 69 percent last month. Other polls have shown similar high numbers.

* * *

Q: Why is the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia suddenly strained?

A: The two countries have long been friendly, and the Saudis have long been considered important, pragmatic allies in the Middle East. Today there is trouble. The Financial Times of London reported recently that Saudis are withdrawing tens of billions of dollars from the United States, "signalling a deep alienation from America." Top Saudis denied it, among them Prince Waleed Bin Talal, one of the richest men in the world, who is still heavily invested in Citicorp, AOL-Time Warner and other companies. The U.S.-Saudi relationship came under severe strain after Sept. 11 because 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. Accusations that Saudi Arabia's austere brand of Islam breeds terrorism and its charities finance Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network have been perceived in the kingdom as attacks on Saudi society and its religion. Making matters worse, an analyst from the Rand Corp. said at a Pentagon briefing recently that Saudi Arabia supported "evil" in the world, exacerbating concerns among Saudis that they have become demonized here and their money is no longer safe here.

* * *

Q: Doesn't the United States need Saudi Arabia to stage its much previewed attack on Iraq?

A: Maybe, maybe not. The Saudis have said they will not allow the United States to use their soil for an attack. The current speculation is that the United States would most likely use bases in Kuwait and Qatar, where it has been building up war materials.

* * *

Q: Has the Bush administration made the case for an attack on Iraq?

A: They're working on it, but there is great opposition around the world and plenty in Congress, too, including some from Republicans. The administration has tried several lines of justification for an invasion, including the all-purpose evil of Saddam Hussein and the notion that elements of al-Qaida have dispersed into Iraq. The White House continues to assert that President Bush remains committed to removing the Iraqi leader. Any runup to war always involves planting in people's minds "that this must be done because this person represents evil in the world," according to Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

* * *

Q: Despite the hostilities, do we still import oil from Iraq?

A: Yes, but less than before. U.S. imports of Iraqi oil dropped from more than 1-million barrels a day earlier this year to 137,000 barrels a day in July, according to industry estimates. U.S. oil companies slashed their Iraqi purchases because of concern over future supply and frustration over cumbersome purchasing and pricing procedures. Iraqi production also has been severely hampered by U.N. sanctions and a decimated oil infrastructure. If war breaks out, Saudi Arabia will be looked upon to make up any supply losses. Saudi officials have tried to reassure the markets that they are prepared to take actions to stabilize oil markets. But some analysts, and some Arab leaders, say that if Iraq is attacked it will foment such political pressures across the Persian Gulf that Saudi officials -- and other major Arab producers -- might have to rethink their oil policies.

* * *

Q: What does Tom Ridge do as director of homeland security? What will change about him and his job if Congress creates a new Department of Homeland Security as President Bush has requested?

A: At first, the former Pennsylvania governor had little more than a staff of five and the attention of late-night television comedians, who liked to joke about his color-coded threat warning system. Now, 10 months later, he oversees more than 150 employees and directs a security monitoring center in northwest Washington. Should Congress approve the president's proposal for a new Cabinet-level agency -- and if Ridge becomes its secretary -- he would have vastly greater powers.

* * *

Q: Between the airline bailout, money for airport security, aid to the families of victims, and the war in Afghanistan, what's the ballpark estimate of the federal tab since 9/11?

A: The federal government so far has spent $82-billion for a foreign war on terrorism, homeland security and New York's recovery. There is no end to the spending in sight, either, particularly if the United States takes military action against Iraq.

* * *

Q: Is that spending directly the cause of the deficit in the federal budget, which until recently had showed a surplus for four years?

A: It depends on whom you ask. President Bush and Republican allies in Congress contend that the shaky economy, coupled with the costs of the war against terrorism, are the primary causes of the drop in the projected budget surplus. But Democrats contend that last year's tax cut is the biggest cause of the deterioration in the government's fiscal condition. One thing is indisputable: the cost of fighting terrorism has contributed to one of the biggest surges in the size of the federal government in decades.

* * *

Q: How can we ever know again if we are safe?

A: For any individual American, experts say, the answer is you face little personal threat. But the nation, though safer than it was a year ago, remains extremely vulnerable. An attack might come from a lone gunman, suicide bombers in a crowded airport, a chemical attack, a dirty bomb of leftover radiological material, a group of suicide bioterrorists who sicken themselves with smallpox and wander through several cities, even a stolen nuclear warhead detonated at a downtown dock. "If Sept. 11 demonstrated anything, it's that it is illusory that we can wrap ourselves in a security blanket," said Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at the nonprofit Rand Corp., and a consultant to the federal government. Yet experts note that the danger to any one person must be kept in perspective -- auto accidents killed 41,821 people in 2000, while last year's anthrax attacks killed five.

-- Times staff writers David Ballingrud and Robert Hooker assembled this report with help from Times researcher Caryn Baird. Information from the Associated Press, Knight Ridder News Service, Scripps-Howard News Service, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Sacramento Bee, USA Today, Parade Magazine, The Atlantic, Civil Engineering Magazine, The Cato Institute, The Financial Times of London and The Council on American-Islamic Relations was used in compiling these questions and answers.

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