September 12, 2001, Section A, Page 2Buy Reprints View on timesmachine TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers.
In a desperately needed dose of hope during a long night of frustration, two men were pulled alive from beneath 30 feet of debris near the World Trade Center. But even that small victory came at an awful price: Doctors needed to amputate the leg of at least one of the men in order to free him, the authorities said.
Officials said the men were law enforcement officers, but it was unclear early this morning whether the men were firefighters or Port Authority police officers.
''At least there is some hope we can get more people out,'' Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said in confirming the rescue.
There were other moments of light during an evening of emotional darkness that doctors said called for more skill in handling body bags than surgical tools.
A man, barely clinging to life, was found beneath the debris in the basement of the north tower. Six or seven firefighters, huddled for four hours in an open space beneath the twisted remains of 1 World Trade Center, were saved and treated at St. Vincent's Manhattan Hospital.
And well past midnight, firefighters struggled to reach some more people pinned in the basement of the north tower. The office workers were said to have communicated with colleagues above ground, perhaps by cell phone, helping rescue crews pinpoint their whereabouts. Two dozen doctors were rushed to the area as firefighters continued digging.
Laboring under lights powered by emergency generators, more than 1,000 firefighters and other rescue workers stepped up the pressing search for survivors last night, urgently but methodically sifting through tons of twisted rubble around the World Trade Center.
Rescue crews used diamond-chipped buzz saws to slice through the rubble, fearful to use acetylene torches because of fear of flammable gas. Some were equipped with infrared imaging cameras and others were using dogs to help search for signs of life. ''It's like pickup sticks,'' said one official, who said that they have to be careful not to dislodge the rubble in a way that would injure the people they are trying to rescue.
Asked how the rescue was going, Tony Rodrigo, a firefighter from the Bronx, was depressingly candid.
''It's not,'' Mr. Rodrigo said. ''I could see them,'' he said of people buried in the rubble, ''but I couldn't get them.''
Another firefighter said rescuers had resorted to digging through the debris with their hands, an excruciatingly slow operation that yielded only two or three bodies over a seemingly endless period.
''All we could do is pick up the rubble,'' the firefighter said.
The mood of the evening was evident at the Brooks Brothers store across the street from the trade center. Inside, the men's shirt department had been converted into a makeshift morgue. Outside, etched in the ash, were the words ''God bless America, land that we love.''