The FBI's New York office was in disarray after agents were forced to evacuate amid the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 — unsure if their building in lower Manhattan would be another target.
FBI agents made their way through thick plumes of smoke and falling debris to rescue as many people as possible and gather more information. After hearing from officials in Washington, D.C., agents knew they had a huge responsibility: to find out who orchestrated the attack.
Barry Mawn, then assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York office, scrambled to find a nerve center near the site. He recalls that critical challenge in the documentary "26th Street Garage: The FBI's Untold Story of 9/11," which is available to stream on Paramount+ on Thursday, September 9.
"We're not going to go any place which is identifiable as being law enforcement or the FBI," Mawn said. "And I said it had to be large enough to house a lot of people. I want it secured, and I want it fairly close to Ground Zero."
"The agents reluctantly said, 'Well, we could go to the 26th Street Garage,'" continued Mawn. The 26th Street Garage is the automotive garage of the FBI's New York headquarters, located a short ride from Ground Zero on 26th Street and the West Side Highway.
Special Agent Kristy Kottis said her immediate reaction to the suggestion of moving the Bureau's command center to an automotive garage was, "How the hell is this going to work?"
"I was a little bit skeptical," Mawn agreed. "It's not going to be ideal."
Looking back, Kottis said, "The 26th Street Garage is the greatest untold story of 9/11."
Watch the full documentary "26th Street Garage: The FBI's Untold Story of 9/11," streaming on Paramount+ starting Thursday, September 9.
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