Friday, November 20, 2009

Ten Images Taken by Peter Turnley at Ground Zero

Peter Turnley's 9/11 story, as told at the digitaljournalist: An American Moment
An American Moment

By Peter Turnley
I arrived at "ground zero" around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11. I had driven from Cambridge, Mass., leaving immediately upon hearing the news of the attacks. I arrived at a bridge in the Bronx, trying to cross into Manhattan. I pulled up to a police barricade that was turning all cars away and showed my NATO press pass from work in Kosovo. The police looked at the pass, shrugged their shoulders, and said hesitantly, "go ahead." I had just gotten off my cell phone with a photo editor from a prominent newspaper who was seeing a wide selection of photographs coming in. He told me he had never seen so many strong photographs coming out of a story so quickly, as there were so many good photographers at the scene immediately.

I knew from a fairly long career of covering news the feelings of being "early" or "late" on a story. This time I wasn't very concerned with either. Hearing about the great photographs already made, I felt a sense of pride and fascination at the performance of my colleagues and their contribution in bringing this incredible moment closer to others. As I crossed into Manhattan and descended the ghostlike empty streets on the east side of the city, I had a strange sense of feeling lucky just to be near by. I stopped quickly to get a soda in a store in Spanish Harlem, and I could already feel an atmosphere of a wide community of people united by a sense of events and history transforming their lives.

I parked my car several blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center on the east side of lower Manhattan, and set off on foot with my cameras hidden underneath a dark coat. It was now just dark, and seeing police stopping people at street corners, I mixed in with groups of workers, firemen, and policemen, walking toward ground zero. As I got to the site of the destruction, I saw only a few photographers or colleagues. I decided that those working earlier must have left, or that access to the area at that time was being very tightly guarded. It occurred to me that it was going to be very important to see this scene throughout the night and to be there at first light the next morning.
I discreetly made my way through a makeshift morgue and triage center for injured victims that was established in a Brooks Brother's store at 1 Liberty Plaza, and found a dark stairway leading upstairs. I went up and found an empty floor of racks of clothes all covered by two inches of dust, and in front of me was a wall of blown out windows, looking over the destruction of ground zero. I found a small office that seemed discreet enough that I wouldn't be in anyone's way or be found there. I sat down to spend the whole night until 7:00am, mostly by myself, looking out and photographing the incredible scene in front of me. I will always remember the unique and surreal feelings of solitude and intimacy I felt with this scene that long night. Around 3:00am, I began to feel very cold and walked into the Brooks Brothers display room and borrowed a cashmere overcoat covered with two inches of dust. I carefully put it back in the morning before leaving.

I had covered several major earthquakes previously, in Armenia, Iran, and in Turkey. The scene in front of me reminded me in many ways of that kind of destruction, with one important difference; at the site of those earthquakes, there had been each time a massive presence of the human toll of the destruction, dead bodies and mourners everywhere. To my surprise as I looked out at this scene I could see almost no visible remnants of the human consequences of this tragedy - only rubble and rescue workers everywhere, but no victims.

I worked almost nonstop for the next ten days. I was preoccupied more than anything with trying to document the human dimension of these events, its effects on the incredibly courageous and generous rescue workers, the faces and grief of widows, families and friends of the dead, and the collective response of the people of New York and America toward a process that seemed to have changed the course of their lives forever.

Recently, I was standing in the United Airlines ticket line at 6:30am at Boston's Logan airport, waiting to board a plane to New York (more or less the same time and place where the hijackers of two of the planes had stood only a few weeks before.) I mentioned to a woman standing next to me that this particular scene was bringing home to me a certain dimension of the Sept. 11 attacks that I had not felt before. I told her as well that I had spent several days photographing at Ground Zero and in New York. She asked me if there was one thing that I remembered most. I thought for a second, and surprised myself as I teared up a bit embarrassingly. I told her that yes, it was the memory of looking out that first night on Sept. 11, and seeing so many, mostly working class people, who had showed up so quickly to use their human energy and skills to do the right thing. I recalled being so moved to see so many workers that had come so naturally, long before anyone was publicly referring to this heroism. I spent that first night witnessing people risking their own lives to help others in unbelievably uncomfortable, dangerous conditions. I asked myself if I would have such natural reflexes, and I hoped that I would. I was so moved by this group, again mostly working class people, showing us all a lesson in tremendous humanity. I felt grateful and fortunate to be able to try to show others, with my photographs, their majestic example and selfless courage.

Peter Turnley Tells HIs Story in the Nieman Reports

September 11, 2001: telling stories visually: `what moved me was a sense of a life being transformed by an experience in a way that there was no going back.' (Coverage of Terrorism).

Article from:Nieman Reports

Article date: December 22, 2001

Author: Turnley, Peter

More results for: peter turnley september 11 12

Photographer Peter Turnley was in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the morning of September 11. Having used his camera during the past two decades to tell stories about conflict and refugees, about natural disasters and human revolutions, Turnley, a 2001 Nieman Fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning photo journalist, knew he had to get to the site of the World Trade Center attack. He shared with current Nieman Fellows his story of how he came to be one of the only photographers to capture images of the catastrophic devastation through the night of September 11 and into the dawn of the next morning. He also spoke about the role visual representation plays in helping us try to comprehend the toll of this experience on people who have been touched most directly by it. Excerpts from his remarks accompany a gallery of photographs Turnley took during 10 days he spent near Ground Zero.

I'm very passionate about visual storytelling. Always have been, and I don't miss any occasion to promote the power of visual storytelling because in journalism, particularly when it comes to photography, it's a bit of a service industry, often used to illustrate words. I feel very strongly that when photography is well done, it can be a very full-bodied compliment to words as a form of storytelling and communication. To those who work in newspapers and magazines and who are not photographers, try to think of visual storytelling in a different way.

I knew this was going to be a tough logistical story to cover. I figured Manhattan would be closed off, and I was going to be late. Journalists know what it feels like to be late on a story, but that's often a misnomer because there is no time frame. When I left for New York, I told myself, "You're definitely not early here, not with a city full of photographers." But this story was going to be around for a long time. Particularly in war situations, the most important pictures are not in the midst of the bang-bang; they are after the battle when one sees the human impact.

As I am driving, I'm imagining what this is going to be like, what it is going to look like. I'd covered four earthquakes, so I had a sense of that, but each time I heard the news on the radio ("Today, planes have hit the World Trade Center, another has hit the Pentagon, and another plane has crashed in Pennsylvania."), it would hit me and I'd think, this is just unbelievable. That was really an important part of that drive down for me, that notion of incomprehensibility.

It's now about five p.m., I'm in Manhattan, and it's getting dark. Manhattan was like a ghost town; there were no cars on the road. I drive toward the World Trade Center, and I get to a point where I can't go any further and start to see television satellite trucks and lights about 15 blocks from Ground Zero. And nobody can go beyond this point. So I put my cameras under my dark coat and try to walk past some policeman. I get about 10 yards past and somebody says, "Hey, stop. What are you doing?" He brings me back to the barrier. I start to think about how I am going to get to where I need to be. I don't feel like because I'm in New York City, with American laws, that my sense of purpose in needing to document what has happened is going to change any more than if I was in Ceaucescu's Romania trying to show what oppression looks like there. It looks dark to my left, so I started kind of going around streets, heading east. I get to a place where ambulances and fire trucks and rescue workers and police cars are going. I start to walk that way, and I don't want to blow it because, as I say to myself, "I'm getting real close. This is not the time to get thrown out of here." At one corner where there were a lot of policemen, I hid underneath an awning and just watched what was going on for about a half an hour. I didn't see a single cameraman or photographer or journalist. But I did see two people wearing fire and police jackets with cameras so I asked them whether there were any photographers at the site. "Not a soul at this point. Everyone's been thrown out. There's not a single photographer there."

Turnley managed to get to Ground Zero by about 6:30 and was surprised to see very few other journalists or photographers there. After looking around for a while, he found his way to an office on the second floor of Brooks Brothers, just across from the site. He described his surroundings as "surreal:" Computers flashed, cash register drawers were left open, and two inches of dust encased the clothes. "I had a view right on Ground Zero," he said.

I covered the Armenian earthquake in 1988, then one in Iran and in Turkey. In Armenia, there were 35,000 people killed. I was totally unprepared for what I saw; I had never seen death on that level. There were bodies everywhere, coffins everywhere. The first thing I expected in looking out over this site was to see a lot of human suffering, a lot of human destruction. I wasn't seeing that anywhere. I was standing where they'd set up a triage center and makeshift morgue, right where Brooks Brothers store is. I still had my cameras underneath my coat and was just hanging out. At that point I see a photographer arrive, take a picture, and immediately get thrown out by the police in a very forceful way. And I said to myself, "Just lay low. You're late getting here but this is a really important scene to shoot tonight. And if you're here all night, you'll be here at first light tomorrow morning and no one is going to be able to get back in this area. And that's going to be a really important scene to see and document."

I spent the whole night by myself in this office looking out at this scene, at one of the biggest disasters of my lifetime, sitting by myself. It was an incredible experience of solitude, a chance to think. What struck me absolutely, sitting there at midnight, was looking at these rescuers. It's cold, really windy, smoky. And I say to myself, "Look how many human beings, decent people, working-class people, have gotten out to do the right thing with their lives, to use their skills to help." Welders were busting their butts to cut through beams. It was dangerous and dirty. Beams were flying through the air. I was so impressed by how quickly they were organizing themselves and using their skills to put wire around the beams and lift them up. I actually asked myself the question whether I had that kind of strength and courage. And I wasn't sure, but I hope I do.

There was this humming silence. It was very quiet and that really added to this sense of profound destruction, of the world coming to an end. Just quiet, but the quiet was punctuated by the humming of these welding generators. The smell was very acrid. It burned your nose. The smoke burned your eyes and there was dust everywhere. That next morning I stayed until about 11 o'clock and then I did get thrown out by police. I had a whole night of film in my pocket, and I was ready to leave. Every day after that, for the next four days, I made my way back in and spent several hours at Ground Zero each day.

When a Nieman Fellow asked Turnley if in taking these and other intimate shots of people, he was ever accused of preying on their grief he responded by talking about how he works to relate to the people he wants to photograph.

There's no principle, no rule. It has to do so much with one's self, with the person who is behind the camera. There's nothing objective about that dynamic. You can most definitely show someone in your eyes and in your face and in the way you look at them that you want to honor them, that you're not taking something away. If you avoid their glance, of course they will be angry. I think it's a wonderful dynamic because that lack of objectivity means that it's all about that sort of sense of interrelationship with people. So a lot of people are surprised that people all over the world, in situations of suffering, want other people to know and to feel and to think about their suffering. They want people to take heed of it. They want them to consider it. And, very often, they're in fact honored by the presence of a camera, if it's wielded in the right way. In New York, I didn't encounter any hostility.

Turnley, in responding to a question about whether there are moments when he is taking photographs that he feels he could be doing something to help people, rather than taking their pictures, talks about the value of the work he does.

I'm fascinated by the human experience, and I don't feel a sense of guilt about that. I hope that the reason I do what I do is not so I can go home and look at these pictures in a closet and get some sort of kick out of it. It's to communicate with you, so that we can think of this as a collective experience, that this doesn't just stay there. That events in your country or something that might have happened to someone in your family, if it had a dimension beyond only the private matters of your family that other people could contemplate and maybe it could help them take their lives further. I've very frequently picked up victims and gotten them to a hospital in difficult war zones. If I have the option of whether I knew I could help someone or make a picture, I can't imagine that I would not choose to help them.

At the World Trade Center, there were other people who were much better prepared than I was to rescue these victims. I felt that what I could best do with my energy was, in fact, pay tribute to the men and women who got out in those difficult conditions and made those gestures of help. The reason I would justify that cameramen and photographers and journalists be present in these situations is not because they're making money or because they're parasites--it's because 50 years from now, it's important that people contemplate the decency that so many people demonstrated in trying to do the right thing in a situation that was difficult. I don't know how that can be communicated without images, without words, without film.


PETER TURNLEY graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in French Literature, the Sorbonne of Paris, and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris, where he received a graduate degree in International Relations. During the 2000-2001 academic year, Turnley was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He has also received Honorary Doctorates from the New School of Social Research in New York and Saint Francis College in Indiana.

Peter Turnley’s photographs have graced the cover of NEWSWEEK over 40 times. In addition to working as a contract photographer for that publication from 1984-2001, Turnley’s photographs frequently appear in international magazines such as STERN, PARIS MATCH, GEO, LIFE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, THE LONDON SUNDAY TIMES, VSD, LE FIGARO, LE MONDE, and DOUBLETAKE.

During the past twenty years, Peter Turnley has covered nearly every major news event of international significance. He has photographed world conflicts in the Balkans (Bosnia), Somalia, Rwanda, South Africa, Chechnya, Haiti, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq (2003), the Gulf War (1991), and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Turnley has maintained an on-going commitment to document the plight of the major refugee populations of the world. He has been a witness to many of the defining, geo-political moments of the past quarter century: the fall of the Berlin Wall, the revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989, the end of communism in the Soviet Union, the regimes of Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin; Nelson Mandela’s release from prison after 27 years, and the end of apartheid in South Africa. Peter Turnley was also present at “Ground Zero” in New York City the night of September 11, 2001.

Political, cultural, and religious leaders who influenced the course of world affairs and culture in the past two decades have been the subjects of portraits by Turnley. These include Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana Spencer, Pope John-Paul II, Yassir Arafat, Gerhard Schröder, Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin, Boris Yeltsin, Fidel Castro, Francois Mitterand, Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Quadaffi, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, George Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan.

Turnley has conceived each step of his photographic career as part of a larger whole; an on-going photographic expression of the key moments of history and a humanistic view of the “Family of Man”.

Turnley’s photographs have been published the world-over and have won international awards including the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, numerous awards and citations from World Press Photo, and the Pictures of the Year competition of the University of Missouri.

Born in 1955, Peter Turnley has traveled to over eighty-five countries and made images that represent a timely and lasting vision of life in these venues. At the same time, he has continually photographed, in black and white, the life of Paris, his adopted home. The often tender, humoristic and sensual images offer a distinct balance to the stark challenges of his world of photojournalism.

Turnley worked as the assistant to the famous French photographer Robert Doisneau in his early days in Paris in the late 1970’s. Encounters and friendships with such great photographers as Edouard Boubat, Henri Cartier-Bresson, André Kertész, and Josef Koudelka, in Paris further influenced his vision. Peter Turnley has been inspired by a multitude of other photographers, both contemporary and predecessors. Among them is his twin brother David, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer. He is grateful for support he has received through the years from the people of the photo agencies Rapho, Blackstar, and Corbis, and particularly grateful to have been mentored by the great photo agency director, Howard Chapnick of Blackstar.

Peter Turnley has published four books: BEIJING SPRING, MOMENTS OF REVOLUTION, IN TIMES OF WAR AND PEACE, and PARISIANS. His photographs have been included in scores of other publications including the DAY IN THE LIFE books from AFRICA, AMERICA, SOVIET UNION, ITALY, IRELAND, SPAIN, and HOLLYWOOD. Turnley also contributed to the book A PASSAGE TO VIETNAM, and A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE US ARMED FORCES. His work also appears in PARIS DES PHOTOGRAPHES, and THE ART AND SPIRIT OF PARIS.

Peter Turnley’s photographs have been exhibited worldwide. IN TIMES OF WAR AND PEACE, the title of a major retrospective at New York’s International Center of Photography (ICP) showcasing the work of both David and Peter Turnley. This exhibition was also featured at L’ASSESSORATO ALLA CULTURA in Verona, Italy.

Turnley has also had major solo exhibitions at the AGATHE GAILLARD GALERIE in Paris (PARISIANS), and the LEICA GALLERY of New York (PETER TURNLEY IN BLACK

AND WHITE) at the BENHAM GALLERY of Seattle. Collector prints of Peter Turnley’s work are represented by Lee Marks Fine Art and the Galerie Agathe Gaillard in Paris. Collector prints are also available for purchase through

Turnley teaches workshops in Paris for the Maine Photographic Workshops. One is called the “Paris in the Spring Portfolio Workshop” and the other is a late summer workshop called “The Humanistic Traditions of Street Photography in Paris”. Turnley has taught at the Santa Fe Workshops and the Eddie Adams Workshops. During the fall of 2001 he was a Teaching Fellow with Professor Robert Coles for his class “The Literature of Social Reflection” at Harvard University.

Turnley’s corporate and commercial clients have included The Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, and Nike.Peter Turnley presently lives in both New York and Paris and travels worldwide for editorial, commercial, and corporate assignments. His life-long photographic archive of more than 25,000 images, and his most recent and on-going work is represented by Corbis and can be found on-line at

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ABC Transcript 9/11/01 9:42am to 9:54am

Date: 09-11-01 13:12:58 UTC
Air Time: 09-11-01 09:12:58 EDT
Length: 0:41:41

This item is part of the collection: September 11 Television Archive

Producer: ABC 7, Washington, D.C.
Production Company: ABC 7, Washington, D.C.
Language: eng

At 9:42am EDT, (29:17/41:41) film shows smoke rising behind the Old Executive Office Building. (29:35/41:41) Clair Shipman is on the phone.

(34:25/41:41) Breaking News banner

Anchors Carol Costello, Don Hudson, break into network coverage

Hudson: We want you to let you know that we’ll get back to ABC’s special coverage, but we ourselves, what started in New York is now happening in Washington, and we want to get more into that this morning.

Costello: That’s right, I’m Carol Costello, Don Hudson, we want to go live to Sam Ford right now, he is live at Reagan National Airport with an update on the air crash at the Pentagon, Sam Ford tell us what you can.

Ford: Well, Carol, as you can see, there is this loud, huge cloud of smoke behind me and that is the location of the Pentagon. We had come here to National Airport to, you know, to continue our coverage of the situation in New York because the airports had been shut down, no sooner had we gotten here and stopped the car then we looked up and there was this cloud of smoke billowing from the Pentagon. There had been a traffic accident here at national and a number of emergency vehicles were dealing with that and suddenly we saw this and I would say within a couple of minute they were all tearing out of here, heading toward the Pentagon. We asked folks here--one of the police officers told me, that he had heard, a plane had gone into the Pentagon, obviously more of the situations in New York. People here are extremely nervous and some are saying that they wanted us to leave this area, we don’t know if they’re going to shut down the airport, or evacuate this place, this is, this is a concern at this point, people are still here, but there is concern about the safety of this place, obviously, with these bombs going off, or planes crashing into buildings all over the place, but that’s it here, as you can see the smoke…Sam…see paper flying…Sam…about…yes Carol,

Costello: Sam, a question for you: we understand that there is a tail section of a plane sticking out of the Pentagon and a plane did hit the Pentagon. Is that true?

Ford: Well, at this point Carol we are at National Airport, so all we can really see is the flame. Now I understand we have some photographers over at the Pentagon, I cannot tell you exactly but from our vantage point all we see smoke

Costello: Sam, if I could interrupt, we do have an eyewitness who actually saw this event take place they’re on the phone with us now… is it Mr. Or Mrs. German?

Germet(?): It’s Mr. Germet

Costello: Mr. Germet, tell us what happened?

Germet: I saw a big explosion, a ball of fire, my window rattled, and I looked out there was a big ball of fire and smoke coming out, and I’m looking at it right now, it missed the Navy Annex, and it missed the Pentagon, its like missed so many high-rise buildings and it hit probably the parking lot or the cemetery behind the Navy Annex, that’s what it looked like.

Costello: Mr. Germent, did you actually see a plane?

Germet: I didn’t see a plane, I heard the explosion I thought it was a fly-by because I looked toward the airport, my window rattled I looked south, I saw a ball of fire and just smoke coming out.

Costello: Are you feeling nervous right now Mr. Germent?

Germet; Yes, very much so, I thought I was hit, I mean, the building shook so much.

Hudson: Well he’s not the only one that’s for sure, as keep you on the phone and Sam as well, we’re now getting reports that the White House has been threatened, here, we’re also getting reports the Capital has been evacuated, the West Wing of the White House evacuated to go along with all this. What started at 8:40 this morning in New York of course, is now threatening of course our city, our safety, a lot of folks,

Costello: The pictures, the picture that you are looking at right now are from our live cameras, we can see smoke pouring near the Pentagon, Mr. Germent, do you want to add anything? I can hear you are still on the phone with us?

Germet: I’m trying to get out of here because I live a few miles from the Pentagon…I don’t know what is going on.

Costello: OK you get going Mr. Germent, we understand, thank you for joining us, lets go to a White House shot that we have right now. The White House West Wing has been evacuated as we understand, we know the President Bush is not there but he is on his way back to Washington, you can see the armed guards on top of the White House keeping watch, but at this point, they, as well as we, don’t know exactly what is going to happen, but everybody is on standby as you might expect.



Hudson: And as you mention, in case people are wondering, and didn’t see, President Bush in Florida for an educational issue down there. He made a brief announcement about this and said he was on his way back here to deal with it, and of course, saying the terrorist acts will not be tolerated, and that they will be looking into it, but AFTER he made that comment is when the thing, when it happened at the Pentagon, at that time only the two planes had crashed into the twin towers, the World Trade Center in New York.

Costello: We wish we could tell you more about what is happening in our own backyard at the Pentagon we don’t know if there were any injuries, we do know that there was a construction scene on the scene at the time, we know, we do know that when they heard something, um, explode, they turned around and they started to run. We do not know if anyone inside the Pentagon, or around it, was hurt.

Hudson: OK, we have another person on the phone, Janet, are you with us?

Janet: Yes I am

Hudson: We understand that you witnessed this plane—a plane—crash into the Pentagon?

Janet: Yes sir, I did.

Hudson: What, tell us exactly what you saw.

Janet: Well, I live in a high-rise building just outside of, a Roslyn and I was actually glued to the television and I have an office here and it’s all glassed in and I saw a plane just coming right in front of my window, flying at a, a path that the commercial planes do not fly, not coming in the direction to land at National Airport

Hudson: How big was the plane?

Janet: Um, It certainly looked larger….every once in a while there is a flight path difference for smaller, private planes that come in, this was not a small private looking plane. It looks more like a commuter-type plane, but it was sizable, yes

Costello: And you said it was heading directly to the Pentagon?

Janet: It was heading in the direction of the AIRPORT, and I thought this plane is way too low and there is no runway that—it goes in that direction, and it didn’t turn at all, and as soon as I saw it, I knew that it was way too low and not on a flight path that I’ve ever seen before living here.

Costello: And what did you hear?

Janet: I couldn’t hear anything, um, from where I am, I just saw the plane just disappear out of my sight beyond the trees, and then I just saw a massive pillar of smoke and then a few minutes later they, I heard—it’s basically, obviously where the Pentagon is, I can’t see the Pentagon, it’s covered in trees

Costello: Are you in a safe place right now?

Janet: Ah, as far as I know! I’m in my apartment where I live, so, I am on the 13th floor of a high-rise in Roslyn.

Hudson: We can see on the bottom right hand corner of our screen, you can see the firefighters (9:52) spraying, at the Pentagon, trying to put out that fire, Jan, did, were you already aware of what happened in New York when you saw this coming?

Janet: Yes sir, yes sir, I was, I was glued to the television ah, because I actually running an event in New York at the end of the week.

Costello: Aw, you poor thing, OK, we’re going to go back to our Sam Ford who is at Reagan National right now

Hudson: Thank you Janet

Costello: Sam, we understand that the FAA has taken action, can you tell us what that is.

Ford: Yes Carol, because of this situation the FAA has shut down all aircraft flights across the country. They, I think, it is a situation where it is too dangerous, right here at National airport you normally would have planes taking off and landing, there are no planes taking off or landing here, the skies are clear and there is smoke covering the area. This gentleman is named Todd Nelson. You were just picking up what, debris. What is this some sort of….

Nelson: It looks like insulation. I was just standing here watching, and all sorts of paper, and debris, and insulation…

Ford: I’m sorry yes, this is, what?

Nelson: All sorts of paper and debris and insulation were just flying down and landing on us over here and it’s just amazing.

Ford: Yea, some sort of insulation or some sort of debris that, it looks like, it appears to have come from the Pentagon crash, it’s coming through the air. You can see papers flying through the air—things like that. So, that’s the word from here. We’re hearing that the FAA has shut down air traffic…

Next segment in the archives


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Real Heroes, Fake Stories' Lynn Spencer Op Ed

The New York Times, September 14, 2008
Op-Ed Contributors
Real Heroes, Fake Stories
By John Farmer, John Azzarello, and Miles Kara

IT is one of the most stirring accounts of heroism to emerge from 9/11: a fighter pilot from Andrews Air Force Base near Washington returns from a training mission, finds out that a plane, United Airlines Flight 93, has been hijacked and is heading for Washington, then takes off without refueling and low on ammunition in pursuit.

According to “Touching History,” Lynn Spencer's recent account of what “unfolded over the skies” on 9/11, the pilot, Maj. Billy Hutchison, took off and flew over the Pentagon, asking the civilian air traffic controllers to give him a vector from his current location along with a distance to the target.

“This method works, and Hutchison quickly spots the aircraft on his radar,” writes Ms. Spencer. “He quickly comes up with a plan: he will try first to take the plane down with practice rounds fired into one of the engines, and then across the cockpit. ... If that does not sufficiently disable the aircraft, then he will use his own plane as a missile. He thinks again of his son and prays to God that his mission won’t end that way.”

It is hard to imagine a more thrilling, inspiring — and detailed — tale of fighter-jock heroism. There is only one problem with it: it isn’t true. It is about as close to truth as the myth of the Trojan Horse or the dime-store novels about Billy the Kid.

As we pointed out in the 9/11 commission report, the radar records of the day indicate that Major Hutchison did not take off until more than a half-hour after United 93 had crashed near Shanksville, Pa., and a good 20 minutes after the wreckage had been located. He could not have seen United 93 on his scope, and could not have intercepted it. Like thousands of others that day, he did his duty. He was brave. But his tale isn’t true.

The Billy Hutchison story is an example of a phenomenon that the 9/11 commission staff encountered frequently: heroic embellishment. If something good happened that morning, an amazing number of people took credit. Take, for instance, the decision to land all civilian aircraft. As the report notes: “This was an unprecedented order. The air traffic control system handled it with great skill, as about 4,500 ... aircraft soon landed without incident.” But whose idea was it?

In the aftermath of 9/11, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta claimed that he ordered all civilian aircraft to land: “I said ... ‘get the damn planes down,’ ” he told ABC News. Richard Clarke, the National Security Council’s antiterrorism director, has written it was he who prompted the order, by saying to Jane Garvey, the Federal Aviation Administration’s director, “O.K., Jane, how long will it take to get all aircraft now aloft onto the ground somewhere?”

In fact, the commission established that the order was issued by Ben Sliney, the aviation administration’s national operations manager, on his own initiative, after hearing that the Pentagon had been hit.

Most of the exaggerated claims from 9/11 are harmless, springing as they do from some combination of the unreliability of witness recollection, the psychological need for consolation after a defeat, and the human love of a good story. They are, more than anything else, a commentary on human nature.

Others, however, are not harmless, not innocent, and cannot go unchallenged. In fact, they fuel distrust of the government, give rise to conspiracy theories and threaten to set back America’s efforts to avoid future 9/11’s.

Take, for instance, the tale of Major Hutchison, which is part of a larger and totally discredited story. After 9/11, military and government officials undertook an aggressive public relations effort. In testimony before Congress and the 9/11 commission, in numerous interviews, and in an official Air Force history, these officials told the country that by the time United 93 turned toward Washington, President Bush had issued the shoot-down authorization, Vice President Dick Cheney had passed it on, fighters were standing by over Washington and, as the military’s commander at the Northeast Air Defense Sector headquarters in Rome, N.Y., told ABC News of the authorization to shoot down the planes: “We of course passed it on to the pilots. United Airlines Flight 93 will not be allowed to reach Washington.”

Yet the commission established that none of this happened. Once we subpoenaed the relevant tapes and other records, the story fell apart. Contrary to the testimony of retired Gen. Larry Arnold, who on 9/11 was the commander of continental defense for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, fighters were not scrambled that morning to meet the threat posed by United 93. In fact, the fighters were sent up in response to an unrelated and mistaken report that General Arnold and others had not disclosed to the commission. Flight 93 hadn’t even been hijacked when the planes were ordered scrambled, and General Arnold’s command found out the plane was hijacked only after it had crashed. The authorization to shoot it down came after it had crashed, and was never passed on to the pilots.

No one is telling that tale anymore, but the damage was done. Because the story couldn’t withstand scrutiny, the public was left free to believe anything, and to doubt everything. Many still believe that a cruise missile hit the Pentagon; that 9/11 was an “inside job” by American and Israeli intelligence; that the military actually did shoot down United 93.

Worse still, by overstating the effectiveness of national command and control by the time United 93 was heading for Washington, the government obscured the central reality of that morning: that the Washington establishment talked mainly to itself, disconnected from the reality on the ground and in the air. Because bureaucrats obscured that disconnect, they didn’t fix it, in terms of national security or any other complicated federal emergency response. Thus the whole world got to see a very similar reaction in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit, and residents of New Orleans struggled to survive on their rooftops while officials in Washington issued reassuring statements.

The afterword to “Touching History” was written by General Arnold, despite his having been forced to retract his testimony to the 9/11 commission. (“I was wrong,” he told the panel at its final hearing. “I was wrong.”) He praises the book’s “corrections to the record” because they recognize the heroism of people like Major Hutchison and expose the “political agenda” of the commission.

Yes, the commission staff looking into these events did have an agenda. Our team included a retired military officer who was badly burned in the Pentagon attack, and a former federal prosecutor whose wife lost both her brothers in the World Trade Center. We believed that telling misleading stories about what happened undermines the public’s confidence in government, spawns conspiracy theories and compromises efforts to prepare for future events. Truth, not wishful thinking, is the most enduring memorial we can leave.

There were heroes on 9/11, people whose split-second decision-making saved lives. All too frequently, as in the case of many civilians and first responders in New York and the passengers and crew aboard United 93, those heroic deeds cost them their lives.

America lost that day. At critical moments, our nation was undefended — something the passengers on United 93 realized when they decided to work together to bring the plane down. We should not allow such real heroism of that day to be diminished, or the grim reality of that day to be obscured, by the self-serving agendas of would-be heroes.

John Farmer, John Azzarello and Miles Kara were staff members of the 9/11 commission.

Black Box Found at Crash Site as Investigation Goes On

09/13/2001 20:14:52
September 13, 2001 THE INVESTIGATION "Black Box Found at Crash Site as Investigation Goes On" By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 5:18 p.m. ET WASHINGTON (AP) --

Searchers found the black box of one hijacked airliner in Pennsylvania and received a signal from the black box of the plane that crashed at the Pentagon, officials said Thursday. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the FBI was working on "thousands and thousands of leads'' in the investigation of Tuesday's terror attacks.

Search crews will not be able to retrieve the black box at the Pentagon, which could contain information about the last minutes of the hijacked commercial jetliner, until they are able to enter the collapsed area of the Pentagon, where the plane's fuselage rests.

They were to begin moving into the collapsed area sometime Thursday night, said Arlington
County Fire Capt. Scott McKay.

While there have been no arrests, Ashcroft said, authorities have interviewed many people in
connection with the hijacking of four airliners and the attacks on the World Trade Center in
New York and the Pentagon.

A total of 18 hijackers were on the planes, Ashcroft said. There were five on each of two planes and four each on the other two. All have been identified, officials said.

He said he had was heartened by the public's interest in tracking down those responsible. "The FBI is working thousands and thousands of leads,'' he said.

Ashcroft said the FBI's 800-number hot line had received 2,055 calls. In addition, its Web
site had received more than 22,700 tips, he said.

"Some of these leads have been helpful to the investigation,'' Ashcroft said.

He noted that authorities were still searching for the flight-data and cockpit voice recorders of all four planes that crashed -- two in New York, one at the Pentagon and the other in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Mueller said all 18 hijackers on the four planes were ticketed passengers.

Earlier, the Justice Department said that at least one hijacker on each plane was trained
at a U.S. flight school and that well over 50 people may have been involved in the hijackers'
well-financed operation.

A number of people that could be involved in the plot were detained overnight for having false identifications, Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said earlier Thursday. She declined to say how many were detained or where they are being held.

Officials are close to releasing the names and possibly the country of origin of the hijackers. Nearly all have been identified, Tucker said.

The FBI's massive investigation stretches from the Canadian border to Florida, where some of the participants learned how to fly commercial planes before the attacks. Tucker said flight schools in more than one state were involved in the training of the hijackers, several
of whom had pilots' licenses.

Multiple cells of terrorist groups participated in the operation and the hijackers had possible ties to countries that included Saudi Arabia and Egypt, said law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Officials said authorities were gathering evidence that the terrorist cells may have had prior involvement in earlier plots against the United States, and may have been involved with Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. That includes the USS Cole bombing in Yemen and the foiled
attack on U.S. soil during the millennium celebrations.

In Florida Thursday, FBI agents were interviewing three Saudi Arabian flight engineers
who are taking classes at Flightsafety International's flight school in Vero Beach, Fla., company spokesman Roger Ritchie said. He declined to name the engineers.

The school does not have simulators for Boeing 767 and 757 aircraft such as the ones
involved in Tuesday's attacks, Ritchie said.

Thomas Quinn, a New York-based spokesman for Saudi Arabian Airlines, said many of the
airline's pilots came to the United States for flight training.

About 40 of the people involved in the attacks have been accounted for, including those killed in the suicide attacks, but 10 remain at large, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing
an unidentified source with knowledge of the investigation.

Some of those involved in the plot left suicide notes, but they are not believed to have been the hijackers, a government source told The Associated Press. It's unclear whether those who left the notes actually killed themselves.

Reports of Gunfire at Ground Zero on 9/11

Why didn't these testimonies recalling law enforcement activity make it into the comprehensive 9-11 Commission Final Report? What "Arabs" were arrested?

(List in Formation)

Citarella/ Terulli

I saw a few fighter jets fly by. I could hear explosions and heard ammunition going off.

Pfeifer, Joseph
Pfeifer: I have no idea, but it started to lift a little bit. We stood up, but couldn't see anything
and then we hear pop, pop, pop. We hear gunshots and somebody yelling get down, get down. Now we figured we were being shot at. We tried to hide behind another car. We found out later a police officer was taking out a window. Then we got up again and we noticed some law enforcement having a guy in handcuffs, so we figured that was the guy that was shooting. In reality, it wasn't. Then, at that point, the cameraman went one way and I went back to the scene.

Then after a while it started to clear. Actually, I was with a civilian. Actually, I was laying over him because he had no helmet or anything. Then we got up and we couldn't see, but it started to clear to like a brown, cloudy smoke, and I hear pop, pop, pop, which sounded like gunfire to me. Then right after that I hear people screaming get down, get down. It's not normal. I worked in the ghetto long enough that you get down.
Q. Of course.
A. Because it sounded like gunfire and I've heard gunfire before. It could have been something totally different. I have no idea. I grabbed the guy I was with and told him, hey, we have to get down, we have to get some cover. Then it started to clear again a little better and we got up and I looked down the block and I saw some law enforcement taking a guy away in handcuffs and he was very agitated.
Q. Would that be on the other side of west?
A. On the west side of West Street.
Q. Towards the river?
A. Towards the river.
Q. Did you ever find out what he was --
A. No. But the cops were real agitated and it was early on. I couldn't imagine what they would arrest somebody for. Again, it could have been almost anything creating that sound. I have no idea. But I figured that was three strikes at that point. And then I came back to the scene and tried to figure out what took place here and what we had.

Delendick, Father John, Priest Fire Department
"A. Also I ran into a bunch of guys from the Secret Service, about 25 or 30 of them, all in their suits. I don't know the name of the street that's behind the World Financial Center.
Q. It might be North End or --
A. It must be North Avenue. They were walking along North, crossing Vesey, and they were going down further. I stopped one of them and I said where are you going? He said one of our members is in the building and we have to go find him. I remember saying to him I don't think it's a good idea going down there right now. He said no, we've got to find him. I said fine, go right ahead, do what you have to do."

D'angelo, Michael EMT "Division 1

"I made my way down towards the water, where they were -- where those New York Waterway ferries were bringing over water and such...I saw that the US Secret Service were bringing somebody, an Arab man in a suit, covered in soot, walking away in handcuffs. I remember that distinctly, because the guy looked right in my eyes."

Becker, Brian Engine 28 Lieutenant (F.D.N.Y.) 10/9/01

We got to the lobby, and we saw things. We saw an arrest being made of some Arab-looking type guy. I think he had a blue uniform type World Trade Center type maintenance type person. It was my impression. It didn't seem important to me. It seemed like he was being arrested by a Port Authority type policeman. That's my impression. I remember them putting cuffs on him, and I remember one of the firemen saying, "Look, they're arresting the guy," and I said, "Never mind that. Never mind that." You know, it was not our concern. There was chaos in the lobby. It was random people running around. There was no structure. There were no crowds. There was no -- no operation of any kind going on, nothing. There was no evacuation. It was just people running around, a few Port Authority police, and I think Engine 4 made it down."

Bendick, Thomas Division 1 E.M.T. (E.M.S.) 10/15/01

I was letting the water go through my mouth and the cop is saying the water is dirty, what are you doing opening your mouth. I said at this point it doesn't really make a difference clearing what's in my mouth."

"At the same point, a plain clothes, which I assume was a police officer, fired three rounds of his revolver into the door of the Manhattan Community College, the glass doors, which caused a panic. Everybody was screaming shots fired, get down. I actually visually saw the guy fire the 3 shots. He wasn't in a uniform. He was in plain clothes. I was actually screaming, no, calm down, he is shooting the door out because like I say, he just caused a huge panic, because now, obviously everybody knows it's a terrorist attack, and this guy is shooting his gun off. So he blew the doors out to the college, because they were glass doors. He climbed in, called people, try to get to safety.

Cacciola, Grace Lieutenant Division 1

Then there was gunshot across the street and supposedly this is just what we were hearing over the PD radio. Somebody had shot out one of the windows and think it was Manhattan Borough Community is that what is directly across the street. I’m so bad. Another school across, directly across the street. They had shot out one of the windows to open the door to put people into there so when the kids heard the 3 gun shots everybody started stampeding back towards us so we had to calm them down and get them to start going north again.

Broderick, Richard EMT Battalion 10

When we were there some kids---we didn’t know they were kids at the time---started throwing something from the roof of the building, off of and it was hitting the ground hard. Everybody started running, started panicking. The police went running in with their guns out. The next thing you know they had tons I’m exaggerating but we had like dozens cops in riot gear standing in front of us. I remember passing the Federal Reserve Bank.

Q: Maiden Lane is the Federal Reserve.

A: Because I happened to see the Marshals and everybody out with the shot guns and machine guns.

Police Office D. Vasquez

In the vicinity of the trade center: "All of a sudden we saw the top of the W.T.C. cave in and start to collapse. I heard five to six bangs, gunshots. I knew they were gunshots and they were coming from the direction of the West Side Highway. Half the crowd was running east and the other half was running west away from the gunfire. I was pinned against a fence and people were getting stepped on. I pushed through the people. I didn't see any fellow officers. People looked at me with panic faces, saying, `Which way should we go?' I thought we were under attack on land now. I thought I was going to die. I didn't know what was happening at the W.T.C. site, but I couldn't direct the people in that direction. Gunshots or a collapsing building. What a choice. I figured, well, they can't shoot all of us. So I directed, more like screamed, for everyone to head to the West Side highway."

On the 23rd floor: "So the Port Authority ESU cops came up. They gave us some oxygen. There was an FBI guy I think on that floor or one of the floors just below it as we were walking up. He told us the Pentagon got hit and the other tower got hit. He misinformed us by telling us that NYU Hospital got hit. I remember him saying that to me. And he said, "We still have four planes in the air, and we don't know where they are."

9/11 ABC News report: 557kB WMV download

“And though the stillness was broken at times by stray bullets exploding from the heat, there were very few cries for help.”

9/11 in Firefighters' Words: Surreal Chaos and Hazy Heroics By KEVIN FLYNN and JIM DWYER January 31, 2002

The Hunted From Baghdad: frightening reports of gay pogroms,

By Matt McAllester New York Magazine

Published Oct 4, 2009

What complete and total garbage---Jewish disinformation on a par with Saddam's taking preemie babies out of incubators and leaving them to die in Kuwait City hospitals. Can anyone be taken in by such nonsense? You don't have to go much beyond the first paragraph, with its Super-Glued rectums, but "Nuri" being raped 24 times seems both excessive and thematically counter-indicated. The occupying American soldiers who burst down Iraqi doors during three AM raids often found the male residents scurrying to collect themselves, as male on male sexual "messing around" is commonplace in a culture that strictly segregates the sexes. McAllester, New York Magazine, and gay rights groups should be ashamed of themselves.

Sami, one of the perhaps thousands of gay men recently attacked in Iraq, in an undisclosed location abroad.

On a bright afternoon in late March, an 18-year-old named Fadi stood in a friend’s clothing store in Baghdad checking out the new merchandise. A worker in a neighboring store walked into the boutique with a newspaper in his hand and shared a story he had just read. It was about "sexual deviants," he said. Gay men’s rectums had been glued shut, and they had been force-fed laxatives and water until their insides exploded. They had been found dead on the street.

That evening Fadi met up with his three closest friends---Ahmed, Mazen, and Namir---in a coffee shop called the Shisha café in the Karada district of Baghdad. Karada is a mixed Shia-Christian neighborhood that has a more relaxed, cosmopolitan feel than many parts of the Iraqi capital. Fadi and his friends had been meeting there nearly every evening for a year, Fadi coming from his job cleaning toilets for Americans in the Green Zone and the three others from college. The coffee shop was relatively new and attracted a young crowd. The walls were colored in solid blocks of orange, green, and blue, the glass-topped tables painted red and black. It was the closest thing to hip that Baghdad had to offer. For Fadi and his three friends, who secretly referred to themselves as the 4 Cats, after a Pussycat Dolls---like Lebanese group, the Shisha was a refuge from the hostile, often violent anti-gay climate that they had grown up with in Iraq.

Fadi has a warm, irrepressible laugh; his eyes narrow under thick black eyebrows whenever someone tells a joke. He told his friends about the newspaper story, but insisted it couldn’t be true.

"They’re doing this to frighten us," he said.

In recent weeks, with rumors of gay death squads and torture on the rise, the four friends had lowered their profile. They no longer went to the Shisha every night. "We’ll see what tomorrow brings," Fadi said, on the last night they met there.

On April 4, at about 8 p.m., Fadi’s cell phone rang. It was Mazen’s brother.

"Mazen and Namir have been killed," he said.

The maimed bodies of the two friends had been discovered together in the vast Shia district of Baghdad named Sadr City, which is a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shia militia. Mazen had had his pectoral muscles cut off. There were two drill holes in Namir’s left leg, below the knee. Both had been shot in the head, apparently from close range.

"Two young men were killed on Thursday," an unnamed Sadr City official told the Reuters news agency in a story published that same day. "They were sexual deviants. Their tribes killed them to restore their family honor." In the same story, Reuters cited a police source as saying that the bodies of four other gay men had been found in Sadr City on March 25 with signs on their chests reading PERVERT.

Fadi called Ahmed. They spoke for an hour. They were devastated by their friends’ deaths, of course. They were also terrified. Under torture, Mazen and Namir may have given up their names.

It has never been easy being gay in Iraq. During the Saddam Hussein era, open homosexuality wasn’t technically outlawed, but it was effectively forbidden, and harassment and torture of gay people, if sporadic, were not unknown. After the American-led invasion of the country in 2003, a similar atmosphere persisted. Fadi was 12 years old during the American invasion, so he had little knowledge of what it was like to be gay under Saddam, but as far back as a year and a half ago, he was walking past his local hussainiyah (a Shia gathering place similar to a mosque) when a man at the entrance of the building called out to him. "Come in for a minute," the man said. Fadi knew there was no point in running because they knew where he lived. He assumed the man calling him over was from the Mahdi Army. He walked to the door of the hussainiyah thinking, This is the end for me. After some ten hours of being whipped, kicked, and spit on, Fadi was told to pick himself up off the floor and get dressed. "This is a warning for you," one of his tormentors told him. "Tell people like you what happened to you."

As virulent as the violence against gay people (men mostly) was, it operated at a kind of low hum for many years, overshadowed by the country’s myriad other problems. But in February of this year, something changed. There was no announcement, no fatwa, no openly declared policy by a cleric or militia leader or politician, but a wave of anti-gay hysteria hit the country. An Iraqi TV station, with disapproving commentary, showed a video of a group of perhaps two dozen young men at a private dance party, wiggling their hips like female belly dancers. Terms like the third sex and puppies, a newly coined slur, began to appear in hostile news reports. Shia and Sunni clerics started to preach in their Friday sermons about the evils of homosexuality and "the people of Lot." Police officers stepped up their harassment of openly gay men. Families and tribes cast out their gay relatives. The bodies of gay men like Mazen and Namir, often mutilated, began turning up on the street. There is no way to verify the number of tortured or harassed, but the best available estimates place that figure in the thousands. Hundreds of men are believed to have been killed.

Next: The lack of gay allies in Iraqi society.

A gay killing in Iraq. (Photo: Bilal Hussein/AP)

The eruption of violence in February appears to have been an unintended consequence of the country’s broader peace. In the wake of the surge in American troops and the increase in strength of the Iraqi military and police forces, Iraq’s once-powerful Sunni and Shia militias have wound down their attacks against American forces and one another. Now they appear to be repositioning themselves as agents of moral enforcement, exploiting anti-gay prejudice as a means of engendering public support. Gay Iraqis seem to believe that the Mahdi Army is the main, but not only, culprit in the purges. "They’ve started a new game to make people follow them. No more whores, no more lesbians, no more gays," a friend of Fadi’s told me. "They’re sending a message to people: 'We are still here, and we can do anything we want.’ "

It doesn’t help that gay people have virtually no allies in Iraqi society. Women, ethnic minorities, detainees, people who work for the Americans---just about everyone else in the country has some sort of representation. But there are no votes to be gained or power to be accrued in any Iraqi community---Shia, Sunni, Kurds, Christians, Turkmen---by supporting gay people. Gays in Iraq today are essentially a defenseless target.

When the purges began in February, the violence seemed to erupt in certain areas, specifically Sadr City and Karada. It was in Karada that a young Iraqi man named Nuri got caught up in the fury.

Nuri was riding in a taxi on a February afternoon when the cab was stopped by the commando unit of the Iraqi police at a checkpoint. To be stopped at a checkpoint was no big deal to Nuri, or any Iraqi. The police put up surprise roadblocks all over the city to catch insurgents and criminals. An officer asked for Nuri’s identification, then told him to step out of the car. The officer asked for Nuri’s cell phone, and Nuri handed it over. Then the officer threw Nuri against the car and handcuffed him."What have I done?" Nuri asked.

The officer didn’t answer. He sniggered, put a hood over Nuri’s head, and shoved him into a police vehicle. In the car, Nuri heard the officer talking on his radio, telling someone that he had found Nuri and would put him in with "the others."

Five other men were being held in the room Nuri was taken to. They were all gay, and several of them had friends in common. "Are we on a list or something?" they asked. "Why us?" The police took the men away and interrogated them individually. "Do you know where you are?" one of the men asked Nuri. "You’re in the Ministry of Interior. You’re in grave trouble."

Nuri was told that $10,000 would buy his freedom. When he said he barely had any money, he was placed in a cell overnight. The following morning, his interrogators came back and asked if he was sure he didn’t have the money. Nuri said yes, he was sure. The men then handcuffed him, tied a rope around his ankles, threaded the rope through a hook in the ceiling, hoisted him upside down, and stripped him to his underwear. He passed out. When he woke up, he was still suspended in the air. In the evening, the men let Nuri down, and asked him again for the money.

The questioning continued the following day. Nuri’s captors asked for the names and contacts of other gay men, but Nuri refused to divulge any. They called him a tanta---a queen. They told him things would get much worse for him if he didn’t tell them all they wanted to hear. "Killing gays is halal," one of the men said, meaning it was permissible under Islamic law. "We’ll get points in heaven for it."

Over the next three weeks, nine men, working in teams of three, took turns torturing Nuri. For three days, toward the end of his captivity, the men put a bag over his head and raped him. On the first day, he estimated that fifteen men assaulted him. The second day, six men. The third day, three.

At one point, Nuri’s captors took him to the top floor of the ministry building, where, through a small window, he could see the bodies of the five men with whom he had shared a cell. They appeared to have been executed. "It’ll be your turn next," the men told him.

One of the torturers later got Nuri alone, and told him he would let him out for $5,000. Nuri, with the man’s help, arranged for a friend in London to wire the money to a friend in Iraq, who passed it to the officer. Late one night, 25 days after Nuri had been detained, the man came to Nuri’s cell, led him out of the building, and told him to get into the trunk of his car. He was dropped by the side of a road on the outskirts of the city.

Next: How the Human Rights Watch got involved.

Fadi in his temporary home city.

Fadi and his friends used to meet at the Shisha café in Baghdad. The café has since closed and reopened.

On April 13, Fadi’s mother, sister, youngest brother, and two of his cousins drove him to the airport. As his plane took off, Fadi could see Baghdad fading into the distance. Soon, there was nothing but desert beneath him. He knew that he might never see his home again.

When Fadi landed in the safe Iraqi city, he checked into a hotel, and slept for most of two days. He spent the next several days wandering around, still cautious but somewhat relieved, taking in cafés and shops and even a local amusement park. When the staff at the hotel asked him why he was in town, he said he was there for a journalism course.

Long and Moumneh were set to arrive on April 18, and Fadi was excited and nervous to meet the people who he believed had saved his life. That morning, he bought fresh orange juice and strawberries for them. He waited impatiently outside until they got to the hotel. When he saw a white man and a Western-dressed Arab woman get out of a car on the other side of the road, he rushed up and threw his arms around Moumneh.

Long and Moumneh spent two weeks in the Iraqi city. As men arrived from Baghdad and elsewhere in the country, the two aid workers helped them get settled, interviewed them to verify their stories, made arrangements for travel to the safe city in the nearby country, and set up places for them to stay once they got there. At first, Long and Moumneh didn’t introduce the men to each another so that they wouldn’t attract any more attention than necessary from local security officials, especially since a number of the men were staying in the same hotel. Fadi noticed Sami around the hotel after a few days, but the two men weren’t introduced until some time after. (Nuri had come through and moved on to the next city before Fadi and Sami had arrived.)

For the most part, the Iraqi city was a way station, and the men spent their days waiting. Long and Moumneh provided them with living expenses, and took them to a local site or two, but mainly encouraged them to stay indoors and avoid scrutiny. Sami and Fadi quickly became friends. The two men shared their stories, good and bad, of being gay in Iraq, and Sami became something of an older-brother figure to Fadi.

On April 25, Fadi and Sami left Iraq and flew to the city in the region where they now live. Fadi had been dreaming about visiting this city all his life. From the sky, he recognized some of its landmarks. The two men passed through Immigration, and were met in the arrivals hall by a prearranged contact. That evening, Fadi rushed to one of the city’s gay nightclubs and drank and danced, amazed that he could be open about his sexuality. For the first time, he woke up next to someone in the morning.

This summer, I visited the city where Fadi and Sami were living. All but three of the 26 men who have escaped the purge with the help of Long, Moumneh, and others were there at the time (Nuri and another man had been placed safely in a European country; a third was living in a Middle Eastern nation). Fadi had adjusted quickly to his new home, and was busing tables in a restaurant. Sami had not yet found work. They all worried about how they were going to support themselves, how long they would be living in this limbo, and whether the local police might arrest them and send them back to Iraq. Some had already been stopped by local authorities. One had been beaten up for making an advance to a man on the street. They all lived in bare-bones apartments with few, if any, of the comforts of home. All were hoping for countries like Australia, Canada, Sweden, or the United States to accept them as permanent refugees. But they worried about how they---gay Iraqi men who don’t, for the most part, speak English and are separated from nearly everyone they love and all they grew up with---would make it in Sydney, Toronto, Stockholm, or New York. Unlike most refugees, the gay Iraqis could not rely on being welcomed by their former countrymen on arrival in their host country. Even in a country where being gay is accepted, they believed, non-gay Iraqis would still be hostile to them. I overheard one man say that should he make it to somewhere safe, he didn’t even want to meet other gay Iraqi refugees already there.

The men had reason to believe they may not be safe anywhere. One young Iraqi, a doctor named Mu’ayyad whom Long had put me in touch with, fled his home about a year and a half ago, without outside help, after a relative told him that his uncles planned to slaughter him in their tribal village to remove the stain they felt he had placed on their family’s reputation. Mu’ayyad escaped to another country, found work in a hospital, and one day caught sight of his uncles in the hospital. They had apparently come all the way from Iraq to kill him. He fled once more. With Long’s help, he is now seeking refugee status in a Western country.

At times, the men’s frustration boiled over on the people who helped save them. One day during my visit, I was asked to leave before a meeting between the gay Iraqis and the aid workers helping them got started. I was told later that it had been extremely tense, especially when the aid workers told the men that their monthly stipends would be reduced and that they had to try harder to find work. Later in my visit, Long arrived. To some extent, these men owe him their lives. But I watched as he had to deal with their anger and their fears. There was a tone of resentment in their complaints, as if they had been given false promises of a trouble-free life.

"I’ve made a decision to go back to Iraq," one young Iraqi told Long, as I sat listening. The man was angry. He’d been stopped twice by the local police, he said. He was sleeping on the floor of his shared apartment. He said he’d been promised that he would meet with the Swedish Embassy as soon as he arrived. "I think I’ve been lied to."

"It’s going to be hard," Long told the man, but reassured him that he was "very close" to finding a third country to call home. The man backed off his threat to return to Iraq. Perhaps he believed Long, perhaps he thought the move would be suicidal.

All of the men who had escaped Iraq were still very fragile. The evening after I arrived, I met a slim man in his late twenties named Mukhaled. A driver for a Baghdad delivery company, Mukhaled had been in only one relationship in his life, with a man named Ali whom he met in high school. Ali was a year younger than Mukhaled. They lived in the same neighborhood and, as far as anyone knew, were just friends.

One day in April, armed men burst into Ali’s house and shot him dead. There were incriminating photographs of Mukhaled and Ali in Ali’s bedroom, and other personal information that could lead the death squads to Mukhaled. For the next two and a half months, Mukhaled slept at the homes of different friends, and sometimes in a park. He lost twenty pounds. His black hair became streaked with gray. He worried that people were following him and planning to kill him. And then one day a woman named Rasha called him. She said she had been given his name and number by a gay friend of his. She said she was from New York, but was phoning him from a safe city inside Iraq, and asked if he needed any help. Mukhaled left Baghdad for the safe city inside Iraq on July 3, and moved to the second refuge city shortly after that.

One afternoon, as Mukhaled and I drove around his new city, he took out his cell phone and played me his favorite song: "Un-Break My Heart." He sang along, in halting English, and I asked him if he knew what the words meant. He said that yes, someone he knew who spoke English had once translated them for him. The song was about a woman mourning the death of her lover. He looked out the car window and resumed his mumbled singing.

Fadi and the others still follow events in Iraq closely. Some of the men who have tortured gay men in Iraq have filmed their acts, and video clips have passed from phone to phone. Fadi had one on his phone, and one morning he and Sami showed it to me.

In the clip, a round-faced boy who looks about 13 or 14 years old is standing in front of a wardrobe in what appears to be a private home. He is in a brown-and-white striped dishdasha, the cotton robe Arab men often wear. He looks terrified.

"Take off your dishdasha," a voice says from behind the camera, in a commanding tone.

Reluctantly, the boy obeys. He is wearing a bra and what seems to be a pair of large red-and-white women’s underwear.

"What are you?" the voice says. "Are you male or female? Are you a girl or a boy? Why are you wearing female clothes?"

The boy holds the dishdasha in front of his body. "Please don’t do anything to me," he says.

Someone off-camera thrusts what appears to be a stick or a stiff cable toward the boy. He takes a step back into the corner and gingerly moves the dishdasha away from his body. Standing there naked, he pleads for mercy.

Fadi and Sami told me that the boy had been killed after the tape was made.

On my last afternoon in his adopted, temporary city, I went with Fadi to an Internet café. He called Ahmed, in Baghdad, and asked him to get online so that they could exchange news. The exchange went like this:

AHMED: u wouldn’t believe what they’re doing
AHMED: they r punishing them
FADI: how r they torturing
AHMED: superglue up their arseholes
AHMED: or they make them drink petrol and set them alight
AHMED: so they burn
AHMED: or they stick two people together
AHMED: terrifying situation
FADI: wwwwwwwwow
FADI: when’s this happening
AHMED: from before but still going on. gays r hiding
AHMED: there r no gays on the street
AHMED: very very few
FADI: when did it start being so bad
AHMED: before u left was nothing
AHMED: imagine I’m even scared of meeting people on manjam
AHMED: or other sites
AHMED: because they could be gangs
FADI: when exactly did the gluing etc start happening
AHMED: once we were in kindi hospital
AHMED: I saw with my own eyes two guys stuck together but they wouldn’t let photograph them
AHMED: I wanted to put them on the internet
FADI: u saw this with own eyes
AHMED: the two in the hospital
FADI: when did u see the two stuck together
AHMED: I don’t remember. believe me
AHMED: I’m scared to go out a lot

I asked Fadi to ask Ahmed how he was doing. He typed the Arabic script into the instant-message box to his friend who was still in the kill zone.

FADI: importantly how r u bearing up
AHMED: sooooooo
AHMED: tired

The Iraqi ambassador in Washington, Samir Sumaida’ie, responded to questions for this article with an e-mailed statement, through a spokesman. "Iraqi law does not discriminate against homosexuals," he said. "Crimes committed against them are not condoned and are treated in the same way as any other common crimes---according to law. Law enforcement, however, sometimes lags behind due to the limitations in the abilities of the security forces. Social attitudes are also an impediment to investigating and prosecuting many cases."

United States officials have been aware of the gay killings in Iraq for several months and have raised questions about the Iraqi government’s role in the rise in violence and its response to the purges. But the Iraqis sometimes express repulsion at gay people, sources familiar with American diplomatic efforts say. And there is only so far Americans can push the Iraqi government without inadvertently causing a backlash on gay Iraqis. The U.S. State Department says it is working to accept as many Iraqi refugees as it can into the country, but Scott Long insists not enough is being done. "Only in the past year has the U.S. really started meeting its obligations to endangered Iraqis by ramping up the numbers it’s willing to accept. But it’s critical for authorities to commit to recognizing LGBT Iraqis as among those endangered, and as fitting into the U.S. numbers. We’re waiting for a public commitment."

Fadi and Sami are still living in the safe city abroad. Today, only twelve of the 23 men who had fled there remain. A few went to a Middle Eastern city. Mukhaled and a number of the others returned to Iraq, although they had not gone back to their homes. "Bad as things had been in Iraq," Long says, "they were still terrified of the future and didn’t feel they had the skills, including language skills, to make it as refugees in a third country." Long says he remains gravely concerned for the well-being of those who have returned. Nowhere in Iraq is really safe, he says.

Nuri is living in a second city in Europe. Ahmed is still living in Baghdad. Earlier this month I received word from Fadi that Ahmed had been badly beaten on the street a few days earlier. He remains afraid for his life.

Some of the names in this story have been changed to protect the people involved, and some details that might identify them have been omitted for the same reason.