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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview With Woman Who Was Trapped In New York Subway System

Aired August 14, 2003 - 18:43   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And Wolf talked about how so many people have been stranded in those elevators and are still stranded in a number of those elevators. Well, how about the subway system and the railroad? Because that all went down, also -- 227 stations, when we start talking about the underground system. And we had talked earlier with a local conductor helping to evacuate 800 people just in his area out of the subway system.
Also stuck on a subway for almost two hours, Conde Fletcher who's on the phone with us now. Conde, tell us -- kind of take us back to the beginning and tell us what you remember and how you got out of there.

CONDE FLETCHER, TRAIN PASSENGER: Well, first of all, I was sitting calmly on the train and listening for the instructions as to what the conductor's supposed to do in case of an emergency evacuation. Finally, we heard an announcement from the motorman, telling us not once but twice that there's been a blackout in the boroughs of Manhattan. So he came back again to make sure that it was definitely. So we sat there for a good whiles and waited as to who was going to come rescue us from the emergency service. Apparently, what we did, we waited calmly for the conductor, so that they could instruct us in getting out of the subway from the number line D line.

PHILLIPS: And Conde, this is what some of the subway conductors were telling me that they trained for constantly, specifically after 9/11, that they had been going through a lot of training to handle something like this. Tell me what they said to you as the conductor was coming through the various cars. How did they explain to you the situation, and how did they keep you calm?

FLETCHER: Well, actually, the conductor didn't really keep me calm because I have most of my experiences from the New York City Housing Police Department, when Mayor Beame was in office. And also, I'm military trained on the United States armed forces. So therefore, I knew what to do and to not get panicked, to make sure that nobody else get panicked.

And what the conductor was doing was walking through the cars to make sure what the situation looked like before he can access the people that was in the trains. So everybody was walking forward towards the motor car, but the exits was getting very hot. So what I did was just got up and walked to the back so I could get some air, and I found the conductor assisting the people outside so they get out and walked through the tunnel of the exit emergency escape door. And I stood there until I helped everyone, especially with the babies and the senior citizens and all the ladies, so they can get out first because we had a few handicapped people in there, as well.

PHILLIPS: Well, Conde, it always helps to have a dedicated soldier in a situation like this. So you started helping everybody get out of those cars. And then did everybody move down a dark tunnel in order to get out onto the streets of New York?

FLETCHER: Well, yes. Mostly, the people that was in more to the front car was exiting out along with the conductor. And the remaining few that stayed in the back of the car, they also exited out along with the assistance of the conductor until we hit the subway line and up on the railings to exit out of the emergency exit out to the street. So apparently, no one got panicked or scared or anything of that sort. It was just worrying about how they was going to get out and who was going to assist them and what kind of light they was going to get for that length of time.

PHILLIPS: Conde Fletcher, thank you for your time -- just one of the individuals who helped get the hundreds of stranded passengers off the subway and railroad system through the dark tunnels and out back onto the streets of New York.

You're looking at live pictures now. As you can see, it just looks like a mass exodus, as hundreds of thousands of people still packing the streets and the freeway systems and the bridges, getting onto boats down along the water, to try and get home after the massive blackout that hit New York City just after 4:00 PM Eastern time.

The good news is the mayor of New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, coming out and explaining that, hey, this is exactly what they've been rehearsing for ever since 9/11 and that everybody responded properly, emergency management systems out doing what they need to do to get folks home safely, prevent the loss of life. The mayor saying everything is under control and going as planned, and hopefully, business, he hopes and says, will be back to normal come tomorrow, the power, hopefully, back on before dark.

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