N E W Y O R K, Aug. 6, 2002 -- The FBI has what is believed to be the only uninterrupted audio recording of the entire attack on the World Trade Center — only by chance. ABCNEWS has obtained a copy of the tape.
In an outdoor café in the Marriott World Trade Center hotel, nestled at the foot of the twin towers, two men sat down to have a chat on Sept. 11.
Stephen McArdle, a tax consultant who was cooperating with the FBI and wearing a hidden transmitter, began the conversation by commenting, "I love this place." His breakfast companion, a tax assessor who was allegedly taking bribes answered, "Isn't it great?"
But as they casually discussed the basics of bribery, amid the morning sounds of the restaurant, the first of the two planes hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
On the hidden transmitter audio tape, McArdle says: "That's an explosion, that's an explosion."
"He is wearing a transmitting device that is transmitting whatever he's hearing back to the FBI," explained reporter Greg Smith, who uncovered the tape for the New York Daily News.
"They blew up the World Trade Center … Oh my God," McArdle says on the tape.
As Smith explained, McArdle then, like everyone else, ran. Sounds of sirens blaring in the background as well as voices of terrified bystanders can be heard.
"He was there when the second plane hit," said Smith. "The second plane is even louder. It's really a very frightening sound."
"You hear the voices of firefighters and the voices of cops," he added.
Indeed, a voice on the tape can be heard screaming, "Everybody out!" And then the voice of a woman screams, "That's my husband inside!"
McArdle and the tax assessor both survived. The two FBI agents who were monitoring McArdle's wire had to run for their lives, even as their tape recorder continued to pick up the sounds. What had started as a wire on a corruption case had become an audio history of the ultimate crime.