Watch CBS News

"We had to help them:" NYPD emergency dispatchers remember answering the call on 9/11

NYPD emergency dispatchers remembering answering the call on 9/11
NYPD emergency dispatchers remembering answering the call on 9/11 02:24

NEW YORK -- September 11, 2001 was a day many NYPD emergency phone dispatchers won't ever forget. 

As CBS New York's Jenna DeAngelis reports, they provided a link between victims of the attacks and first responders. 

Thousands of brave men and women ran toward the unknown on 9/11, but there were also those who answered the frantic calls. They shared with DeAngelis what it was like being the last voice many of those lost heard that horrific day. 

In the seconds after the attack on the World Trade Center, countless calls from the Twin Towers flooded the city's Public Safety Answering Center. On the other end of the phone, answering the calls for help were police communications technicians, like Pauline Noble. 

"Some of us were the last person they ever spoke to. So we had to stay calm and we had to help them," Noble told DeAngelis.

Twenty two years may have passed, but Noble said she relives that day each year. 

"I thought they were going to get out of the building and stuff like that. I was just trying to be strong for them. They were crying, they were praying," she said. "They were saying, 'Tell my family I love them...' We just were trying to console them."

As Noble and other 9-1-1 operators took in the calls, Rashawne Haynes was among those dispatching first responders to the scene. 

"I just remember just a sense of community, everyone pitching in, everyone wanting to help," she said. 

The work in the call center that fateful day was vital for the men and women responding on the ground.

"They're our lifeline. Without them, without communications in something as chaotic as that, we would have definitely lost more people than we already did," said Det. Robert Zajac, of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit. 

Detectives Zajac and Raymond Ragione both rushed into work and said it was a day unlike any other in their careers.

"Probably 300 floors worth of buildings were in that 16-acre area, and you didn't see a desk, you didn't see a phone. There was nothing recognizable," Zajac said. 

"It's a bad day for the police department, and the guys we knew and lost, and all the other civilians that were lost," said Ragione. "But like Bobby will say, 25,000 people were rescued that day."

It transformed public safety in the city, with a focus on counterterrorism, and resulted in the opening of the NYPD Joint Operations Center, a central safety hub. 

"It gets the information out to put the officers and other agencies where they have to be," Ragione said. 

Decades later, these first responders, while carrying the pain, are still answering the call and working together to keep the city safe. 

"I always say, we would do it again today, if something like that were to happen again," Zajac said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.