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Report: Tape sheds light on WTC rescuers

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Radio transmissions recorded during September 11 rescue efforts reportedly show that firefighters were able to reach the 78th floor of the South Tower where United Airlines Flight 175 had slammed into the building, the The New York Times reported Sunday.

Fire officials had previously believed that rescuers had been able to reach only the 50th floor before the tower collapsed.

New York fire officials have ordered no one discuss the contents of the tape, because it could be needed as evidence in the trial of accused September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

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Four people who heard the tape told the newspaper that at least two firefighters -- Battalion Chief Orio J. Palmer and Fire Marshal Ronald P. Bucca -- were organizing the evacuation of people hurt by the plane's impact in the final minutes before the tower collapsed. Both men died.

The fire department reportedly identified the voices of 16 firefighters on the tape and invited their families to hear it last week.

Palmer's widow, Debbie Palmer, told the Times she would not break her promise to keep the contents of the tape confidential, but said she was in "awe" after hearing it.

"I didn't hear fear. I didn't hear panic," she told the newspaper. "When the tape is made public to the world, people will hear that they all went about their jobs without fear, and selflessly."

Palmer reportedly took an elevator to the 41st floor, then took the stairs to the crash site. On the way, he passed a number of people and told them about the working elevator.

Chief Edward Geraghty was also in the building and called for firefighters with medical training to help treat the wounded, the Times reported.

When Palmer reached the 78th floor he reportedly radioed that numerous people had been killed and called for two engine companies to fight the pockets of fire he could see.

The building collapsed a few minutes later.

The widow of Rich Gabrielle, whom witnesses said was trapped under marble blown off the wall in the lobby of the 78th floor, told the Times the tape eased her fears about her husband's death.

"The fact that Rich, still alive, was not alone -- at least he knew there was help, and thought that they were getting out," Monica Gabrielle said.




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