Jurors hear vivid tapes of two trapped in 9/11 attack
At Moussaoui trial, relatives speak out about their anguish
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- For more than four years, they waited to walk into a courtroom and to finally hold someone responsible for the wreckage of their lives.
In the long days and nights since Sept. 11, 2001, they testified yesterday, children had spent more time at counseling than in school. Parents, unable to sleep, had spent hours in their children's rooms. A young widow had given up her fight against breast cancer. Another had thrown herself across her husband's grave.
Other voices were heard yesterday, too -- the voices and final screams.
For the first time, the government played 911 audio tapes of two people trapped inside the World Trade Center, each screaming into the phone while trying desperately to summon emergency crews to burning offices high above lower Manhattan.
''I'm going to die, aren't I?" cried Melissa Doi, 32, who said she was lying across the floor, trying to find fresh air in the south tower, as it became engulfed in smoke and fire.
Sixteen stories above her, on the 99th floor, Kevin Cosgrove cried, ''I'm not ready to die!"
Emergency dispatchers tried to reassure them. ''We're getting there. We're getting there," they said.
Both died in the flames.
So did Peter Hanson, his wife, Sue Kim, and their 2-year-old daughter, Christine Lee, the youngest person to have been killed in the terrorist attacks.
The family was trapped on United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the south tower of New York's World Trade Center.
Twice Hanson called his father. During the last call, in which he described some passengers vomiting as the plane rumbled nearly out of control, he said, ''Don't worry, Dad. If it happens, it will happen quickly."
The testimony and recordings were part of the prosecution's case seeking the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui, an admitted terrorist. Jurors concluded last week that Moussaoui had caused at least one death on Sept. 11, 2001, because he did not alert the FBI to the terrorist plot, making him eligible for execution.
Prosecutors said they expected to wrap up this final phase of the Moussaoui sentencing trial tomorrow. Yesterday was devoted to the victims who died in New York. Today, the government plans to provide testimony from the families of those killed at the Pentagon.
Prosecutors said they would conclude with testimony tomorrow from loved ones of those aboard the plane that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Prosecutors are expected to play the cockpit voice recording, which only relatives of the dead have heard.
At the start of testimony yesterday, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema acknowledged that the victim testimony had been heartbreaking.
Fifteen relatives of the nearly 3,000 dead testified yesterday. Almost all cried. Many sobbed.
''There's just no way of avoiding some emotion in a case like this," the judge told the lawyers.
The first tape to be played was the cry of Doi, an employee of IQ Financial. Recently the government released recordings of the dispatchers' voices on the tapes. This time the victims were heard.
''I'm on the 83d floor!" she screamed. ''Are you going to be able to get somebody up here? We're on the floor and we can't breathe and it's very, very, very hot!"
''Please!" she said, over and over. She said five co-workers were huddled around her. ''Everybody's having trouble breathing. Some people are worse," she said.
A dispatcher asked how much smoke there was.
''Of course there's smoke," she snapped. ''I can't breathe. There is fire because it's hot. . . . Help help help!"
The firemen have been notified, the dispatcher told her.
''I'm going to die, aren't I?" she screamed. ''I'm going to die. I'm going to die. I don't want to die. . . . It's so hot. I'm burning up. . . . Oh, my God!"
On Floor 99, Cosgrove could not get out either. He was 46, and he worked as a claims vice president for
''We're getting there. We're getting," the dispatcher told him.
Cosgrove could be heard panting into the phone. ''I need oxygen," he said. ''I'm not ready to die." Then, abruptly, came shouts about broken windows, one long, wrenching scream, what seemed to be many voices, then silence.
Hanson's two calls from the plane were described by his father, C. Lee Hanson. In the first call, Peter was calm.
''He told us the plane had been hijacked," his father told the jury. ''His voice was soft, not too nervous. He told me that they stabbed somebody up front. He asked me to call United Airlines and tell them it had been hijacked."
Lee Hanson called the airline but could not get through. He alerted his local police department in Connecticut. Peter Hanson called back.
''He thought a stewardess had been killed," his father said. ''He said certainly somebody else was piloting the plane. He said it was a very bumpy ride and people were throwing up all over the place. He said he thought they were going to crash the plane into a building."
Three times he heard his son call out: ''Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God." The father said, ''I thought I heard somebody scream in the background, too. I looked at the TV and saw the plane fly into the World Trade Center."
Mary Ellen Salamone of New Jersey said she knew her husband, John, worked high up in the trade center. He was a stockbroker for Cantor Fitzgerald. Having heard nothing from him amid all the turmoil that day, she said, she tried repeatedly to reach him.
She never got through. Neither did her husband when he tried leaving a phone message at home. ''He called about 10:10," she said. ''But it was just static."