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A short time later, I observed the Command Post parked on West St. just North of Vesey St. We responded there. While forming teams and assembling equipment to make entries to the WTC, Captain Whitaker informed the undersigned that no one is to enter the buildings, there were structurally compromised and could collapse. A short time after this I observed tower 2 collapse into West St.
...Captain Albin informed me to form up all PAPD officers in the auditorium of St. Johns University and to record names of all officers present. Once in the auditorium, an accounting of personnel was conducted. Information was received of a possible secondary explosive device in the building and an orderly evacuation was conducted. Officers were then forming up on West St. when 7 WTC collapsed.
Sgt. Schaefer and I proceeded on and at City Hall (Chambers & Park Row) we encountered P.O. S. Fitzpatrick of the WTC Police Command. He was completely covered in ash and dirt. He advised me that he was releasing a prisoner due to the first plane strike the building. The original arrest was only for a trespass and his priority was to help with the accident.
...We traveled on West Broadway. Due to fire and debris we proceeded from sidewalk to street and back again to access the area. Buildings in the area had damage that could lead to collapse or partial collapse so extreme care was taken as we proceeded forward.
...We came upon the NYPD Chief of Detectives with a couple of his men. They appeared to be appraising the situation. We proceeded past them and were within a block of the WTC when a couple of loud explosions occurred in front of us. Not seeing anyone in need of help and without bunker equipment, Sgt Schaefer and I turned up the street and headed to Church St. in [an] attempt to circle the WTC area.
Sir, in response to your request for my actions during the WTC terrorist attack on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, in which I was the Patrol Sergeant; the following is the most accurate account I can give from my memory and tapes of the radio transmissions. Please note that the given times on this chrono log, were not taken from a Dictaphone machine, but instead timed as the tapes ran simultaneously with a clock. Therefore, the times may vary slightly as compared to the Dictaphone machine.
0853 4-1 radios WTC Police Desk reporting an explosion on the lower level.
0853 WTC Police Desk replies there was an explosion on the upper floors.
0853 WTC Police Desk radios Sgt. DeVona and requests permission to release previous arrestee, permission granted by Sgt. DeVona.
0856 PO Davis reports that PATH trains are still coming into WTC.
0857 WTC Police Desk reports to PO Davis that PATH trains have been suspended into the WTC. PO Houston and PO Wholey start to evacuate PATH station.
0857 WTC requests an available unit to check Turner Construction, 1 WTC B-4 Level, report of broken water pipes.
0901 PO Houston, PO Davis and PO Wholey start to evacuate the B-4 Level, 1 WTC.
0904 PO Lim/K-9 radios to WTC Police Desk that he is en route to 1 WTC where there is a report of people trapped on the 13th floor.
0911 PO Houston, PO Davis and PO Wholey are clear of the B-4 level. PO Houston asks, "Where do you need us?" WTC Police Desk responds the 90th and the 22nd floors.
0912 PO Lim/K-9 reports jet fuel burning on the 51st floor, 1 WTC.
0912 WTC Police Desk radios PO Lim/K-9 asking if that is the smell of jet fuel. PO Lim/K-9 replies, "That's burning jet fuel." WTC Police Desk radios to Ladder 10, did you copy last. No response given.
0912 PO Houston, PO Davis and PO Wholey advise Police Desk of trapped ABM workers on the B-4 level, as per a report from an ABM worker. The desk acknowledges.
0919 PO Houston, PO Davis and PO Wholey report that all of PATH station is clear and (4) four PATH - ESU Officers remain there.
0933 PO Keane reporting from Stairway-C on the 66th floor, 1 WTC states that she heard another explosiion.
0936 Unidentified unit radiios that the stage on the PLaza is on fire.
0943 PO Keane reports that the stage on the Plaza is on fire.
I entered the World Trade Center from Vesey St. and proceeded to Building #1. People were exiting the building onto the main concourse in an orderly fashion. Despite the fact that the sprinklers were spraying water by the revolving doors, people did not seem to panic nor were they running.
While talking to Chief Hall, a NYC Fire Chief came up to me and informed me that the Command and Control Desk inside the Lobby of Tower One was in an unsafe location. He stated that his firefighters were up inside Tower One and had informed him that the fire was ragining out of control.
I proceeded to walk down a corridor towards Building #4 when the corridor suddenly stopped due to a complete structural cave in. There was also a large fire in the area from what seemed like a broken gas line.
With my eyes closed, I felt my way across the street to the wall of the US Post Office. Debris and burning cars littered the street and I fell more than once attemting to cross the street.
Two or three blocks up on Church Street a janitor pulled me inside a building. He washed my eyes with water and gave me some water to drink. He then told me it was unsafe to exit back onto Church St. and led me through a truck dock, which allowed me to exit onto a side street. The cars on this side street were on fire.
The smoke and fire condition increased in the short time we were there. We now were aware that the second plane had struck the south tower and we could see the smoke and fire from that crash. The upper portion of the south tower appeared to have a slight tilt to my left. As I was speaking with Lieutenant Murphy, Sergeant Anthony Parlato came up and we started to discuss the possibility that the Towers could come down.
As we walked to West and Vesey Streets the smoke was very heavy and getting lower by the minute.
On the corner, an officer from F.D.N.Y. stated that, there was a possibility of secondary explosions. These would be caused by ruptured gas mains.
As we got into the building through a blown out window, a body hit behind us and the body parts flew inside and landed at our feet.
On the 22nd Floor, there was a large group of people that had been directed to a different stairwell due to congestion and smoke.
We stopped udner the walkway to the Financial Center and timed the Jumpers so we could run between the falling bodies and enter 1 WTC through a blown out window to the left of the doors.
...As I started writing the names of the personnel at the scene I heard a loud explosion type sound. Looking up at the tower, people were jumping from the tower and the explosion type sound were their bodies hitting the pavement below.
...and arrived at the West Street entrance of WTC 1 through fallen glass and debris and amidst still falling debris and human bodies. There were personnel from numerous departments inside, just beyond the broken glass panels of the lobby...We entered the building to witness a lobby flooded with about six inches of water...
During the time we were standing in the lobby, were heard at least two additional human bodies land on the ground outside. We were initially under the assumption that the sounds were secondary bombs because of the loud explosive nature of the impacts. From the lobby, we could see their remains on the pavement outside.
We all entered the lobby of Building One safely through a broken out window.
The academy staff was helping and assisting people get out of the buil concourse level where there was deep pools of water all around us and the eletrical systems and alarm systems were going on and off all over the place.
Then I heard a tremendous explosion and I looked up and saw Building Two snap at the top and collapse into it self.
About this time we heard another tremendous explosion and saw Building One collapse.
We continued in our efforts until the combination of dust, fire, smoke, explosions and reports of gas leaks, bombs and buildings about to collapse forced us to discontinue our search for victims.
Upon arriving at the fifth floor, water was cascading down the staircase like a fast moving river. This made the descent very perilous at this point. It was difficult to walk through water, as it tended to push you down the stairs.
...I was in tower one on the 13th floor. I was working at my desk, when the first plane struck at 8:44:48...Immediately there after, everyone, including myself, headed for the stairwells in an orderly and calm fashion. As we descended stairwell c, a large cloud of smoke with an odor of fuel, rapidly ascended and overtook us causing many on the lower floors to start choking and coughing. This immediately caused panic as the people on the lower floors were trying to go up while those above us were still making their way down. Confusion took over and we became trapped in the stairwell amidst what I can only describe as a logjam. At this point, we decided that our best option would be to get ack to our floor for fresh air.
All went well until we reached the ninth floor, there, we found water rushing from underneath the door and pouring down the stairs causing a strong current and deep puddles, hampering people's ability to continue.
As I reached the bottom of the escalators...There was a deep puddle at the base of the escalator and water on the floor.
I noticed the glass on the revolving doors was broken and the sprinklers were spraying water. I remember thinking, this is something right out of a movie, this can't be true.
...I heard 5 to 6 bangs, gun shots. I knew they were gun shots and they were coming from the direction of the west side Highway. Half the crowd was running east away from the WTC and the other half was running west away from the gun fire...People looked at me with panic faces saying which way should we go? I thought we were under attack on land now. I thought I was going to die. I didn't know what was happening at the WTC site, but I couldn't direct the people in that direction. Gun shots or a collapsing building, what a coice. I figured, well...they can't shoot all of us. SO, I directed (more like screamed) everyone to head east to the West Side Highway...
At some point we could hear another plane then a hit, then what sounded like explosions one after another or like a train coming fast, at this point the explosion was loud the are went completely black. I was helping an elderly man at this time and I covered him w/ my body when all of a sudden all the air seemed to get sucked out of your lungs then seconds later a wind that knocked us over came back at us with debris and I don't know what else. Then everything went quiet. The man with me and a NYPD Capt. tried to grab me to leave, but I could see that the guys from the bridge were trapped in the stairwell, something was blocking the door. The guys were OK and things started to clear and we went up to about the sixth floor to see if people were still coming which they were. We continued to help people down the stairwell, I believe at this point we heard Tower Two was hit and so was the Pentagon.
Massive amounts of debris, concrete dust and bodies or parts were more frequent at this point. Then there was an eerie silence and it was like yo knew something was going to happen, there just seemed to be one explosion after another. I was separated from the guys from the bridge (GWB) by another explosion, massive again sucking the air out of your lungs and then just a wind more intense this time with larger pieces of debris flying.
Fred Maley and I including other P.A. officers walked west on Barclay Street then south on West Street and stopped just north of VIP Drive WTC Building #1. There was a body on the ground just prior to entering the building. The glass on the first level was shattered and piled around the perimeter of the building...The I remember asking the battalion chief what the loud noise was (a bang) every few minutes and he stated that it was the people that were jumping out of the windows from the upper floors...
...At the area near the top of the Path escalators I ran into Inspector Norris and I advised him of the situation then he advised me to follow him to the WTC Police desk. I believe we were at the desk approximately 5-10 minutes when the whole place seemed to cave in. You could not see very well my eyes were burning and I had trouble breathing, I thought we were buried alive! I immediately grabbed a scott air pack that was lying next to the police desk and threw it on only to realize that it was missing the mask making it useless. I then had to breathe large amounts of dust choking debris while attempting to evacuate trapped civilians out of the building...We got the people to hold hands and someone with a flashlight led the group out of the building through Borders Books store window...While entering the building I fell down what I believe was the escalators injuring my shoulder, and back tripping over unknown debris.
I later proceeded down Church street and met up with an 85-Frank from Kennedy and together we were washing out peoples eyes and directing them towards firemen and first aid personal as they came out of the cloud with water we obtained off of a fire truck. Then together we did a two-man carry on a very large man who stated that he was having a heart attack, towards an ambulance. During this time we heard a tremulous roar as building #2 started falling down and we ran for our lives...
I responded...via a police convoy to the World Trade Center. Upon our arrival, at the staging area our rescue team prepared to enter the facility.
As we prepared to locate our equipment, I saw and heard a loud thunder coming in front of us. It was a connecting bridge. Smoke and debris covered the entire area.
As I recall, running for cover the connector collapsed, I sustained significant inhalation of smoke and debris. After running several blocks choking I entered an ambulance where I washed off the debris and was given oxygen.
While resting inside the ambulance I saw the 1st tower collapse and the second.
...The above Officers and myself proceeded to building one, as we approached we were waved off by Officers in the lobby telling us to watch out for falling debris and bodies before we entered. We all entered the lobby safely through a broken out window.
As I assisted at the WTC Police Desk with providing emergency equipment, 2 WTC collapsed and knocked out all communication and power. At this point in time, all desk personnel were unaware of what was happening and therefore evacuated the 5 WTC police Desk area nd ran towards the emergency exit. This area was extremely dark and it was filled with smoke, fumes, debris and other airborne carcinogens. I told everyone I don't think we should go out that way because we don't know what's happening out there. We proceeded towards the front door after debris fell causing us to turn back. PO Batista suggested we take a wet rag or towerl and cover our faces to prevent smoke inhalation. We then heard what sounded like an earthquake or more debris falling near our vicinity before we could get out. PO Batista suggested that we take cover between doorway structures. Once the rumbling ceased, we exited the WTC Police Desk and I took a police radio and flashlights. I stayed behind and made a path for civilians to follow. Once we were out of the building, PO Brady, PO Murray, Det. Paugh and the Captain's Clerk Brian Smith were able to regroup. We proceeded to make our way towards the Command Post where I began to radio for accountability check. I then made a list of all officers on the WTC Roll Call and the other commands. I made contact with PO Finnegan and Sgt. Duane. PO Finnegan stated he was injured several times and as I proceeded back towards the towers for better reception to get PO Finnegan's location, 1 WTC began to collapse and I turned around and ran for cover.
As I continued to wave them back periodically you would hear a loud boom go off at the top of tower one. After approximately 15 minutes suddenly there was another loud boom at the upper floors, then there was a series of smaller explosions which appeared to go completely around the building at the upper floors. And another loud earth shattering blast with a large fire ball which blew out more debris and at that point everyone began to run north on West Broad street. As the building began to crumble.
As a roll call was being taken of the responding Detectives, Tower #2 began to collapse. This occurred after a secondary explosion on the west side of the tower that appeared to take place in the area of the high 60's. The area above the secondary explosion actually leaned to the west and then the collapse took place.
We entered the lobby area and tried to access [sic] the damage to the building...At this time the sprinkler system had been activated and people were evacuating the area.
As we made our way through the concourse we decided to ascertain where our Mobile Command Post and staging areas were. As we attempted to exit the building, we could hear what sounded like explosions outside.
There was a New York City Fire Fighter in the road that was looking up and waving his arms. I stopped momentarily and all of a something landed on top of a vehicle crushing it. It was then I realized what the explosions were; it was the sound of bodies landing.
When I reached the North walkway I heard a loud noise like a very loud click and then a piece of tower two came loose and then the building began to fall.
We approached the complex from the north side via Barclay Street. Building 7 was burning and we spoke with a FDNY Chief who had his men holed up in the US Post Office building. He informed us that the fires in Building 7 were uncontrollable and that its collapse was imminent. We observed several PAPD vehicles in the area. ESU 5308 was at the bottom of the Barclay Street ramp just short of the inner doors under building 7. A truck was stopped in front of 5308 with its' hazard lights flashing. There were no fires inside the loading dock at this time but we could hear explosions deep inside.
At that point, I heard a low sounding boom and the smoke intensified. There was more debris falling and as I hard a big roar, I saw Tower One coming down.
Q. This is when the command post was still in the north tower?
A. Still in the north tower. A lot of the marble in the lobby was falling off the walls, big slabs of marble were falling down. From the impact, I guess. The lobby didn't look too good. The integrity of the elevators - I started to think about the elevators. They had either blown out, cut off or could possibly have the cars coming down. The lobby was becoming an untenable place, especially if we wanted to continue operations.
went back there because somebody had given me a report. One of the cops behind there said we have people trapped on the 22nd floor. Some company was calling down to the lobby. They were trapped. Debris had come down in front of their door and they were looking for companies or firemen to remove the debris so they could get out. I gave that to Chief Hayden.
I said I don't know what we can do at this point, but just put it on the list. A list of places that we had to search or get to, because everybody was calling us up. And the 22nd, I thought at that point seemed like a relatively safe place to be. The 22nd would probably be the best.
Right after that there was a camera crew there from somewhere. I remember Frank Gribbon saying to me is there any chance this building would fall down. I don't think I gave him a real good answer, but he did tell the camera crew to step back because we were concerned about falling glass. We assumed from the last explosion that there were big big chunks of glass coming down from somewhere. So he told them to get back against the building.
We looked up at the building straight up, we were that close. All we saw was a puff of smoke coming from about 2 thirds of the way up. Some people thought it was an explosion. I don't think I remember that. I remember seeing, it looked like sparkling around one specific layer of the building. I assume now that that was either windows starting to collapse like tinsel or something. Then the building started to come down. My initial reaction was that this was exactly the way it looks when they show you those implosions on TV. I would have to say for three or four seconds anyway, maybe longer. I was just watching. It was interesting to watch, but the thing that woke everybody up was the cloud of black material. It reminded me of the 10 commandments when the green clouds come down on the street. The black cloud was coming down faster than the building, so whatever was coming down was going to hit the street and it was pretty far out. You knew it wasn't coming right down. Judging from where people were jumping before that, this cloud was out much further.
Q. l just have one last question.
A. (Not recorded).
I turned around, I heard something, and I thought the facade and just the façade of the south tower was coming down, and one of the firefighters near me was saying holy #, and I think he felt the building was going to collapse. I wasn't convinced of that at first. I thought maybe it was just some facade falling. All of a sudden there was a rumble and you see the building starting to collapse.
The north tower was now c o l l a p s i n g , but t o me it was a more violent callapse. I don't know why. I think because the first collapse, to me, I thought at first, before it collapsed, it was just the façade going. This seemed to all of a sudden go down. To me it was more violent . It may not have been in reality, but to me it was more violent.
Q. So it was clear while you were going up West Street?
A. Yes. That's when we heard this massive explosion and I saw this thing rolling towards us. It looked like a fireball and then thick, thick black smoke.
Q. Is it possible the second one occurred while you were in the battery?
A. The second one had to have occurred while we were at the battery, because that's when all this white stuff started flying around.
When we saw her, we pulled over to help her. She was saying an explosion -- she didn't say the building went down; she said she was under the building when the plane went down. That's what I remember. We tried to calm her down, because she was upset.
We just went up to the chief and told them that Janice was under the building when the plane hit REDACTED. Then he said, "Well," to the captain, SIX LINES REDACTED.
I know I was with an officer from Ladder 146, a Lieutenant Evangelista, who ultimately called me up a couple of days later just to find out how I was. We both for whatever reason -- again, I don't know how valid this is with everything that was going on at that particular point in time, but for some reason I thought that when I looked in the direction of the Trade Center before it came down, before No. 2 came down, that I saw low-level flashes. In my conversation with Lieutenant Evangelista, never mentioning this to him, he questioned me and asked me if I saw low-level flashes in front of the building, and I agreed with him because I thought -- at that time I didn't know what it was. I mean, it could have been as a result of the building collapsing, things exploding, but I saw a flash flash flash and then it looked like the building came down.
Q. Was that on the lower level of the building or up where the fire was?
A. No, the lower level of the building. You know like when they demolish a building, how when they blow up a building, when it falls down? That's what I thought I saw. And I didn't broach the topic to him, but he asked me. He said I don't know if I'm crazy, but I just wanted to ask you because you were standing right next to me. He said did you see anything by the building? And I said what do you mean by see anything? He said did you see any flashes? I said, yes, well, I thought it was just me. He said no, I saw them, too.
I don't know if that means anything. I mean, I equate it to the building coming down and pushing things down, it could have been electrical explosions, it could have been whatever. But it's just strange that two people sort of say the same thing and neither one of us talked to each other about it. I mean, I don't know this guy from a hole in the wall. I was just standing next to him. I never met the man before in my life. He knew who I was I guess by my name on my coat and he called me up, you know, how are you doing? How's everything? And, oh, by the way did you ... It was just a little strange.
Q. On the television pictures it appeared as well, before the first collapse, that there was an explosion up on the upper floors.
A. I know about the explosion on the upper floors. This was like eye level. I didn't have to go like this. Because I was looking this way. I'm not going to say it was on the first floor or the second floor, but somewhere in that area I saw to me what appeared to be flashes. I don't know how far down this was already. I mean, we had heard the noise but, you know, I don't know.
We met up with D r . Richmond, which apparently he and Commissioner Clair and Dario Gonzalez, the two physicians and the commissioner, were flown in from the state police from Albany, which was good. At that point Captain Olszewski was who we kept with. [35 LINES REDACTED]
Upon entering the Trade Center, we went through the revolving doors but noticed that all the glass was out . So we could have gone right through the building.
It was understood that all the elevators were out at that time.
I believe we followed a Port Authority police officer. We went past the elevator banks. You could see that they were all blown out.
Q. What were the conditions in the stairway?
A. The conditions in the stairway were absolutely clear. There was no smoke whatsoever.
Still in the hallway, we heard a big shake in the building. It's my belief that was the tower two coming down. I'm not positive, but you could definitely feel an incredible shake.
Q. Did you hear any explosion or anything from the first?
A. I didn't. Some people stated to me that there was at that time, but I can't recall actually hearing.
Q. You were at the 35th floor –
A. We were at the 35th floor.
So now I was with Firefighter Sterling and Firefighter Billy. A couple people, civilians, indicated to me that there was an elevator that was working at this time. But I had already gotten transmissions over the air that some elevators had already crashed down to the first floor. I told them no one is getting in an elevator.
We got down to the third floor, and the third floor was partially blocked by some sheetrock. We started to move that when a firefighter from Squad 18 -- I believe his name is Kelly. He is alive . I've seen him since. He said to me that you can't get down that staircase, there's no exit that way, and he needed help with a civilian.
A. That's basically where we were. Then a large explosion took place. In my estimation that was the tower coming down, but at that time I did not know what that was. I thought some type of bomb had gone off.
We went to the lobby of 1 World Trade, and when we got in there, we saw a lot of damage in the lobby around the elevator banks, and we found – I found out that it was hit by a plane, thinking it was an accident.
I have an impression of smoke around the elevators, and bent doors, and it was pretty – the lobby was pretty devastated .
and I think we just went in a window. I think the glass was blown out there. I remember getting the impression that the elevators were blown out,
We felt -- our whole building that we were in, when World Trade Center 2 collapsed, that was the first one to collapse. We were in World Trade Center 1. It was a tremendous explosion and tremendous shaking of our building. We thought it was our building maybe collapsed, there was a collapse above us occurring. It was tremendous shaking and like everybody dove into this stairwell and waited for, I guess, 20, 30 seconds until it settled, and that was our experience of the other building collapsing.
We got to the lobby, and we saw things. We saw an arrest being made of some Arab-looking type guy. I think he had a blue uniform type World Trade Center type maintenance type person. It was my impression. It didn't seem important to me. It seemed like he was being arrested by a Port Authority type policeman. That's my impression. I remember them putting cuffs on him...
So we just ran as a unit to the overpass again, and we took a look up, and it was like one – it was like, holy #. It was like -- because it was like -- I guess the building was kind of -- I don't remember specifically, but I remember it was, like, we got to get out of here. So I think that the building was really kind of starting to melt. We were -- like, the melt down was beginning. The collapse hadn't begun, but it was not a fire any more up there. It was like -- it was like that -- like smoke explosion on a tremendous scale going on up there.
There was a bunch of glass broken and we didn't go in through a doorway. There was all glass broken, there was glass everywhere and there was bodies everywhere.
The elevators looked like they were on fire in the lobby. There wasn't smoke coming out of them, but it looked like they all bubbled up and everything and there was a fire in there.
We forced an elevator door first and we got an lady out of an elevator. The elevator in the B stair, next to the B stair well, closest to the B stair well. We helped a lady out of there and we started walking up to the third floor.
That third floor was clear. There was no damage, nothing. We got up to the fifth floor and there was severe damage. The ceilings had come down, the some walls had caved in. Major sprinkler damage, because there wasn't just a sprinkler. It was just like 2 and a half inch hose hitting you in the face when you were walking up there.
Then we went to the sixth floor and did the same thing. Same sort of damage up there.
The south tower had collapsed. Now, it shook us and knocked a couple of guys down. Everybody ran to the stairwell. All the lights went off, all the # came up the stairwell. It was filled with dust. There was a report that a third plane had hit the building and then we got another report that the 65 floor in the north tower had collapsed. That's what the rumbling was. We had no idea that the south tower had gone.
What happened was that we didn't see it, but a portion of the lobby had gotten knocked out when that tower came down, so we couldn't evacuate people down that stairwell anymore. [They had been using Stairwell B.]
We run up the stairs. We started going back up. Now all these firemen are evacuating the building, we start going back up the B stairwell. We made it to the 5th floor and then there was a report of major gas, a gas leak on the 5th floor. So now I'm heading back up the stairs to the 20 something floor and there was some sort of gas leak on the 5th floor. I smelled it, but I couldn't tell if it was a gas leak or anything, but you definitely smelled something that wasn't there when we were doing the evacuation.
We saw a guy, I think big Port Authority Police or somebody had a guy locked up in handcuffs right in front of us and there was a guy, a rig right there.
This guy, they were locking up this guy a little bit from Vesey, right here. A little bit south of Vesey Street on west.
When the tower started -- there was a big explosion that I heard and someone screamed that it was coming down and I looked away and I saw all the windows domino -- you know, dominoeing up and then come down.
Because they were just adamant about 7 coming down immediately. I think we probably got out of that rubble and 18 minutes later is when 7 came down. So I watched -- we watched.
We weren't sure, and to the right of us whatever building it was, I'm not sure, there was a really good fire going.
Visibility was really low. I remember we kept saying to each other wow, look at the (inaudible).
Q. Building 7?
A. I would think so. I would think that would probably be it before it fell. I remember it was bad and I'm going to get to a point where we came back that way on the way up. We couldn't even go that way, that's how bad the fire was, but by the time I was coming back it was rolling, more than a couple of floors, just fully involved, rolling.
So now it's us 4 and we are walking towards it [they are following the sound of a bullhorn] and I remember it would have at one point been an easier path to go towards our right, but being building 7 -- that must have been bulding 7 I'm guessing with that fire, we decided to stay away from that because things were just crackling, falling and what not.
He had called me and said hey, Jerry, don't try and get back out they you went in, which was a big heads up move, because he said that building was rolling on top of the building that we were passing. That building was on fire and likely to collapse more too.
Q. What did you feel before it started 8 collapsing?
A. Right. I said to myself when I looked up -- you know, looking at it, actually one of the guys, about secondary explosion, you gotta watch the secondary explosions, second devices, things like that, be careful of that, and when it went -- it looked like it went off like a secondary explosion went off, and I said – I actually said to myself, wow, this is actually pretty good, because it's out of the way. The secondary device is out of the way. Hopefully nobody is hurt there, but at least we don't have to worry about a secondary explosion, but at that time then we saw the building collapse, push down on itself. I couldn't believe it.
I got back to my truck. I got triage tags. I went back down to Fulton and Church, whereupon I found the Captain. Lt. Davila, Lt. Medjuck were elsewhere treating patients. I started to treat patients on my own when I heard the explosion from up above. I looked up, I saw smoke and flame and then I saw the top tower tilt, start to twist and lean.
We did go past -- we went up Church, we went up Vesey, past 7 Trade, which at the time didn't look like it was involved, but we found later on that it was.
...I was standing there alone and witnessed the first building collapsing and was watching it and couldn't believe it was collapsing. I thought it was just, you know, explosions. All the windows were blowing out.
By that time I noticed that it was mushrooming and I knew then it was collapsing, so I started to run...
Then that's when -- I kept on walking close to the south tower, and that's when that building collapsed.
Q. How did you know that it was coming down?
A. That noise. It was a noise.
Q. What did you hear? What did you see?
A. It was a frigging noise. At first I thought it was -- do you ever see professional demolition where they set the charges on certain floors and then you hear "Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop"? That's exactly what -- because I thought it was that. When I heard that frigging noise, that's when I saw the building coming down."
So as I was pulling off, I’d say about half a block away, we heard a big boom, and we seen a whole bunch of ashes, everything just started coming towards us. So I actually stopped the ambulance for thirty seconds and I looked. My partner was in the back he said stop the ambulance. So I stopped and I looked, and I seen all the debris coming. So I said close the bus. Cause at this point everyone started running towards the ambulance, I mean, you know, we had one critical patient there, so I said let me just get this guy to the hospital.
Finally some lieutenants came over and they said okay, you guys stay over here, just in case, cause one of the buildings was on fire. The last building to fall was on fire. He said it might drop. So we waited there to see if anything was going to happen. The only thing that happened was that the building dropped.
I was in the back waiting, you
know, so we could wait for patients and I was hooking up the regulator to the O-2, when I
hear people screaming and a loud explosion, and I heard like “sssssssss…” the dust like
“sssssssss…” So I come out of the bus, and I look and I see a big cloud of dust and
debris coming from the glass… through the condominium, the other building, and like,
Like I said, there was a Mayday called. You really couldn't see too much in front of you while we were on Vesey Street. At some point, I started to run into the back of the building, because I was looking for somebody, and then I heard another noise, and that is when I took cover. Iwas by myslef laying on the ground, covered my head, did a lot of praying.
After I felt it was safe, I got back up again. Again, we tried to set up another triage area, but it just didn't -- there was such havoc going on, that there was no control.
Within sometime after that, we were given directions to go along with chief -- myself, EMT Harris, and Chief Pascal were given directions that we were going to Chelsea Piers.
Prior to that, I walked down Vesey again, and I believe at that time the second building collapsed, because again the entire street filled up with smoke, and debris, and again we couldn't see in front of us what was going on.
It was scary, especially when I -- the building -- I heard that noise. I thought for sure there was another building and --
A few minutes after that a police officer came up to me and told me that the façade in front of Seven World Trade Center was gone and they thought there was an imminent collapse of Seven World Trade Center. I felt the location we were at was too close to Seven World Trade Center.
So we advised citywide we were moving the staging area to North End and Greenwich Street.
A. At North End and Greenwich Street we established -- myself and Lieutenant Eppinger from Battalion 08.
Q. Approximately what time was this that you moved?
A. Probably around 11, 11:30. We reestablished at North End and Greenwich Street. We had a new staging area set up over there.
My partner and I grabbed our stretcher, went to put it in the back of our
vehicle, and at that time, I think it was the lobby of the building behind us blew out.
Everybody started running, I didn't see him again that day. He got thrown one way, I got
thrown the other way. I started running towards the West Side Highway, and there was
another building on the corner, I guess it was a federal building, cause it was all the green and gray uniforms with the Smokey the Bear hats, the cops in there. I went to run in the
lobby cause all of a sudden you couldn't see anything. There was smoke, there was
debris, there was everything flying around. I ran into the lobby cause I had no idea what
had happened and the cops that were in there were telling everybody get out, get out, get
out. Where are you gonna go? Stuffs blowing up. So I ran back out and I started
running west again. At that point, there was a car on the corner of I think I was here at
that point, on the West Side Highway.
Q: West Side Highway and Vesey?
A: And Vesey, yeah. I was still on Vesey, cause the building that blew up on
me was on Vesey, it was on the corner next to the West Side Highway. Cause I know I
was running west, I didn't run that way. Thank God, I would have been dead had I run
the other way. But I ran towards the West Side Highway, and I kept running up Vesey.
As I was running up Vesey, the first car blew up on me on the corner of Vessey and the
West Side Highway. That set my turnout coat on fire, that set my hair on fire, and that
set my feet on fire. I kept running. I got news for you, those turn out coats need to be
called burn out coats, cause this thing caught up in flames. They cut two inches off my
hair in less that two minutes, my coat was completely engulfed, and that was the only
way I could see where I was running at that point, because I had a glow from my coat.
There's hundreds of cops all running up there, and I ended up running through this park,
and I couldn't even see where I was running anymore. I kept running North.
Q: Through North Park?
A: I guess that's North Park. It's a big green, grassy area, and there's nothing
there. As I was running up here, two or three more cars exploded on me. They weren't
near any buildings at that point, they were just parked on the street. The traffic guys
hadn't gotten a chance to tow anything yet, cause this was all during the first hour I guess
of this thing happening. So there were still cars parked on the street that were completely
independent of that. Three cars blew up on me, stuff was being thrown. I went home all
bruised that day. Thank God it was only bruises. I just ran into this park along with a
bunch of other people, and stuff was still blowing up, I don't think I looked back, but you
couldn't see anything, everything was just black. I was running and I was falling over
people, cause people were crawling on the ground cause they couldn't see anymore. I
just kept on running north. I could smell water, so I just kept on running towards the
water, cause I knew that my coat was on fire, and I figured well, if I can see a boat over
the water, I'm just gonna jump onto the boat and take that thing to Jersey, cause no one
wants to blow up Jersey. Stuff is still blowing up behind me, as I'm running. I can hear
stuff exploding. I could hear rumbling, the street under me was moving like I was in an
earthquake. I've been in those, so I know what they feel like. It felt like an earthquake.
There was no where safe to go. As I was running north in this park, and then I could start
seeing again a little bit, and I just kept looking in the sky. Cause the captain was saying
there's another plane heading in our direction, I was looking for another plane. I saw
something in the sky, it was a plane, but it was way out. It looked like it was over Jersey
or something, then it wasn't there anymore. I saw a small fireball, and it was gone. I saw
two other planes. One came in one way, and the other came in the other way, and there
was a plane in the middle that was way far off in the distance. Then the plane in the
middle just disappeared into a little fire ball. It looked like the size of a golf ball from
where I could see it. And the other two planes veered off into opposite directions. I just
kept on running north. About fifteen blocks later, I had no idea that that was just the first
tower that had come down.
I was directly in the middle of the street on Washington Street, and there were two guys, three guys behind me, and I was right in the middle of the street and that's when the tower started to come. I happened to be looking up at it, and from the fire floor down, it was just like a really loud crackling noise, it sounded like a million firecrackers, and just a wave, right from the fire floor down, just a wave that started to come down.
At that time getting out of the rig -- I told the proby, "You stay here. Don't go over there." Now there's more people jumping, more chaos. But you start hearing this cracking noise and thundering noise.
At that time I witnessed Mayor Giuliani and his entourage coming down.
Q. From the south end?
A. No, from this end over here, coming down.
Q. They were coming down West Side Highway?
A. West Side Highway.
A. He gets out of his car. There's about ten of them. They're right where my rig is.
At that time you hear all this crackling and thundering noise. We look up, and you see the first building, the south tower, coming down.
I'm walking back to the rig. Say my rig is right here, in this area here. When I get about within a block range of it, now you hear this cracking again, this thunder again. You know from the first one, hey, this thing is coming down.
You look up, and now it's coming and coming at a rapid -- it's just falling. Now I start running again, but this time, being that I'm closer to the north tower, it's coming down with such a force. Debris and everything is coming.
While we were searching, that's when 7 World Trade Center was pretty much on fire, so after awhile, they -- we left, and they pulled a lot of people out of the rubble, because they were worried about 7 coming down, so we went back up Vesey, sat by the rig, because -- we kind of sat there for a long time, because they had pulled people back, because they were worried about 7 coming down.
Q. So before 7 came down, they just verbally told to get out, and the radios weren't up then, right?
A. Yeah, I think our lieutenant said, "Look, we're going to take a break," and then just as we were leaving, they were moving everybody out anyway.
They were just saying, all right, just waving people out by signal, and that's pretty much it. We sat up by the rig which was being fed by the marine unit, and there was a line from us stretched to one of the tower ladders on Vesey, which had to also pull back, too, because of 7 coming down, and we just kind of stayed with the rig until 7 came down and kind of awaited orders and really didn't -- you know, really didn't get any assignments.
I guess they were worried about the stability of everything.
Then we went back to the site. We was on -- we went to a different staging area. We was by -- let me see that map. We were right in front of -- what was the last building that collapsed?
A. We was right there. That was building 7.
Q. You were at a triage area there or --
A. We made our own triage area. There was a couple of more ambulances, like 4 ambulances.
Q. You were in another vehicle then when you went over there?
Q. Do you remember what vehicle number it was?
A. So that was basically - we watched that one come down. It was on fire first. I think the fourth floor was on fire. They said -- we were like, are you guys going to put that fire out? I was like, you know, they are going to wait for it to burn down and it collapsed. So that's when I knew high rise buildings, you know, (inaudible).
Q. Were you there when building 7 came down in the afternoon?
Q. You were still there?
A. Yes, so basically they measured out how far the building was going to come, so we knew exactly where we could stand.
Q. So they just put you in a safe area, safe enough for when that building came down?
A. 5 blocks. 5 blocks away. We still could see. Exactly right on point, the cloud just stopped right there. Then when that building was coming down, the same thing, that same rumbling. That's why I like, for a couple of weeks, every little sound that I heard. It was unreal.
I left then. I walked around the building to go back to the command post and that's when they were waiting for 7 World Trade to come down. I didn't know they were waiting at that time. I called in. They had three floors of fire on three separate floors, probably 10, 11 and 15 it looked like, just burning merrily. It was pretty amazing, you know, it's the afternoon in lower Manhattan, a major high-rise is burning, and they said we know. I think they said they had seven to ten floors that were freestanding and they weren't going to send anyone in.
I went around to the command post.
So when I get to the command post, they just had a flood of guys standing there. They were just waiting for 7 to come down.
Q. Right. You said you made it down to West Street. Did you ever see the area near or around the World Financial Center where the FDNY command post had been before the collapse?
A. No. I made it down Vesey Street to just in front of the overpass of 7 World Trade. People were saying don't stand under there, it's going to come down. And then by the time I made it back around, I went to the front on Church Street and came back around. The area we took that civilian out of had all collapsed. That wasn't there anymore.
So at that point we were a little leery about how the bridge was tied in, so no one was really going onto it, and then they were also saying 7 was going to come down. They chased everyone off the block.
Q. You said before, Chief, that you heard bullets going off. Approximately how many did you hear?
A. Oh, it was like it was just constant. Constant. Whatever, I guess there were packages or something, and as they heated up, they were just pop pop pop pop pop pop pop. They were going off like at a steady rate.
Q. On West Street?
A. That's right. And then he told me to take that ambulance with a few EMTs and if I can go around to the front of the building, to the front of the Trade Center, which would probably -- he led me to believe from the map that it would have been like by 5 World Trade Center, where there were patients all along here. I grabbed a couple of them. I put them in the ambulance, on to vehicle 307, which was there . I took one of them -- the guy in front of me with me in the front was -- I believe it was a new EMT. He was only on the job a few months and as soon as we pulled away, we heard a large fall of something. It looked to me like it was just like a large chunk of the Center from this side fell on top of this area. At that point I was going to turn the vehicle around, but there was like a huge cloud of dirt and debris that was just coming to us, and I pulled away. I went up West Street with a few of the EMTs in there. As we went up West Street there was numerous EMS personnel. Of course we were all running up the street now. When we got like somewhere around Murray Street, I ran into a supervisor there who I used to work with, actually, a couple of years ago, Marty Miller and a couple of other supervisors. There was a Chief also there, but I don't remember his name. At that point I opened up the back of the truck. A lot of that cloud of dust had settled in and they had pulled out a police officer who was with a Scott packing and everything. He couldn't breathe and we put him in the back of the ambulance right there on that corner. We met up with some St. Vincent's ambulances there also. One of the girl -- I know her by first name. I don't know her last name. Her name is Ernestine. She is a medic out of St. Vinny's. She used to work here on Staten Island with us as BLS out of St. Vincent Staten Island. Now she is a medic in Manhattan. I ran into her there and we took that cop and carried him over to the ambulance. We put him in the back of the ambulance. I started him on a treatment. The BLS crew was there. Then within sometime after that, there was more debris that was falling. There was like another cloud, so we moved up further. We went up further with the ambulance. That police officer -- we actually got into a little bit of a verbal thing, because he wanted to go back and we told him you should not go back. He couldn't breathe. We had to literally carry him up to begin with. He started running back and then soon after that, he -- I was -- the radio -- the ambulance was open and all we heard on the radio was that the building was collapsing. The building was collapsing.
At this point, I communicated with Chief Peruggia via the land line, and we were directed to report to 7 World Trade to set up OEM. Both myself and EMT Zarrillo went to the 23rd Floor of 7 World Trade and began to log onto the terminals, as well as inform the citywide dispatch supervisor that we were activating OEM at this time, and operations were to begin.
Moments thereafter, we were advised by the staff at OEM that we were to vacate the building, that they believed there was another possible plane on its way, and proceeded down the stairwell of 7 World Trade all the way down to the ground floor.
A. At that point, we got to the exit, made a decision to evacuate, got the patients, still not knowing which way to go because we really hadn't been able to determine what actually came down or what had happened. The decision was either to go left or right and we ended up going right, between the two buildings, in the alleyway on the north, which turned out to be the right direction because apparently there was a lot of debris and part of 7 down already.
It was weird how it started to come down. It looked like it was a timed explosion, but I guess it was just the floors starting to pancake one on top of the other.
I looked up, and the building exploded, the building that we were very close to, which was one tower. The whole top came off like a volcano.
Q. What was that, was that the second plane hitting?
A. I realized later, which actually I realized in talking with people over a period of two weeks, that had to be the collapse, because since that was the north tower which was hit by a plane first, the other tower was hit by a plane just before we got there. So now both towers have been hit by a plane. The north tower was burning.
So the explosion, what I realized later, had to be the start of the collapse. It was the way the building appeared to blowout from both sides. I'm looking at the face of it, and all we see is the two sides of the building just blowing out and coming apart like this, as I said, like the top of a volcano.
Then we were just waiting for orders from officers on the scene
about what to do, and they told us just hang tight. My partner is telling me that they want
us to stay by our vehicles, in case they find something to do. I wasn’t communicating
with the officers, my partner was. I was just standing by the vehicle watching the
firemen do their stuff, watching the PD do their stuff. That’s basically about it, I was just
taking in the sight of the whole thing. Debris falling from the buildings, smoke, basically
-----mayby this was a bad idea. Keep going?
Q: Keep going, you’re doing fine. You’re doing perfect.
A: As I was standing there watching this whole thing unfold, it was like I couldn’t believe that some people were actually jumping from the building. Then as I looked up, I saw this helicopter hovering from in front of one of the buildings, it was the first one that was hit. Then all of a sudden I heard this huge explosion, I didn’t know what it was cause nobody was telling me anything. I didn’t know until we were called back to Chambers and something, Chambers and West Street, that it might have been a terrorist attack. I was this close to it, and I didn’t know what was going on. After that I heard this huge explosion, I thought it was a boiler exploding or something. Next thing you know this huge cloud of smoke is coming at us, so we’re running. Everyone is, firemen, PD, everyone is running away from the World Trade Center, up Vessey Street. This is North End, we was running around Vessey and around North end to get away from the first smoke.
When we first pulled -- I do remember when we first came in one elevator was blown out. That was on the main floor. We couldn't use the elevators. I don't know if the other elevators were working. I know that definitely one was blown out.
Q. How about the stand pipes? Were they working?
Just as I put my foot on the first stair on the escalator, the building started like shaking. It was like a wave in the floor and a real loud noise. What we did was, me and the police officer started running from the east northeast end of the building toward the west.
Along my right side is the north wall, and it's glass. It's about 25 feet of glass, and about every 25 foot there's a concrete column there. I know this is right at my right side, like maybe three or four feet over my right side.
Anyway, just to describe to you the collapse of the south tower coming down, I really wasn't aware there was a full collapse. I thought it might have been just a localized collapse. It was the loudest noise I've ever heard in my life. It was in both ears. Kind of like those rockets that they launch the space shuttles with, it was like I had one going off in each ear. When I thought it was the loudest noise I ever heard, every second it was just increasing getting louder and louder and louder.
I was running as fast as I could. With this noise getting louder and louder, also what's happening simultaneously was light -- whatever light we had was becoming darkness, like obscuring and getting dark fast, like someone pulling down the shades real fast.
Anyway, it kind of sounded to me as if the collapse was aimed right at me, right at my back. I was running as fast as I could, and when I felt that I was getting overtaken by the collapse, where there was no hope, I threw myself on my knees at the next concrete column that I came up against I kept that on my right side.
I held onto my helmet with my hands and I yelled out, "Jesus, save me." With that the collapse came and I started getting buried. Stuff was falling down. It was loud and just kept coming and coming. It's hard for me to give you a time frame. I'm just going to guess and say this collapse probably took about 30 seconds before I caught some silence, the collapse started to terminate. Maybe it was a little more than that. I don't know. There's no way of telling.
At this point I'm there and the first words I said to myself -- it may sound strange hearing this in the office, but I said to myself, "Am I still alive?" Because there was no way of knowing. I knew I had brain function. Am I already dead? I don't know any of this.
What I did was I said let me see if I can move. So I moved my left arm. I said all right, that wasn't torn off. I moved my left leg. I said all right, that wasn't torn off. With that I went to take a breath, which apparently I held my breath this whole time. I guess it's like some kind of survival instinct, whatever you want to call it.
I went to take a breath. I took in a mouthful of this thick dust of, once again, pulverized concrete, sheetrock, insulation, asbestos, whatever the heck was floating around.
What I did there was I kind of hacked out what I could and put my face underneath my shirt. I was breathing the air that was next to my body, which was fairly fresh. I opened my eyes to look to see if I could see anything, and I saw nothingness, like total blackness. The best way I could describe it to you is if I was buried in my coffin with six feet of dirt thrown on top. Total absolute black.
Anyway, what I did was I had some light stuff covering me. I really wasn't hit with anything too heavy. I kind of threw off whatever was on top of me, and I dug myself out of this pile of dust that I was in, like pulverized sand and powder, actually more like flour than anything else.
Being familiar with the buildings, I knew somewhere along that north wall I would find a doorway that would lead me to my next point of contact, which I'll get into as we go step by step.
I started crawling along that side with the glass to my right, which is my north side. So I was headed west, still going in a straight line, and feeling each pane of glass, as I was hoping to find that doorway. At one point I stopped and I tried to kick my way through the plate glass, but it really wasn't working. I just, undeterred, continued on, and did not go back.
Also what I did before I started moving, in my turnout coat pocket I had a tuberculosis mask. So what I did was I took it out of the package, and I was able to get on this tuberculosis mask to kind of filter the air. It gave me a little bit of help. Then I started crawling.
Anyway, like I said, I started crawling. I hear people moaning from time to time, but things were so critical, the situation was so bad, that I didn't know if I could help them. I kind of felt that if I stopped to help them I wasn't going to make it out. So I thought my best way would be to make it out and try to get help for them from the outside.
So PS, I'm crawling and crawling, operating in total blackness, but being a fireman on the job over 20 years, that's how you operate a lot of times. You operate on blank, you operate on feel. Knowing I had this straight glass wall with these concrete columns every 25 feet, following that pattern was pretty simple, believe it or not.
So I followed the glass and concrete until I found a door handle on one of these panes of glass. I pulled it, and I was able to open it up. What I did was I got on my knees, I opened up the door, and I pulled the chock out of my helmet. I stayed on my knees --
I was at the door, and I pulled the chock out of my helmet and I chocked the door open. I got on my knees, and I faced the area that I had just come from. Like I said, I passed people that were moaning.
I called out to the people. I said, "You need to listen to me. I'm a fireman. I have a door open here. Make your way towards my voice. This may be your only way out. Everybody, come on, you've got to try. Make your way towards this area. Make your way toward me. I'm here."
Perhaps they were civilians, firefighters or police. I don't know. Like I said, it was absolute zero, and they had to make their way towards something. So I stayed there, and I called out to them for a couple of minutes.
It's funny, no one came. But a few days later I told my sister the story, and she was like, "Stop the story, stop the story." I said, "Why, what's the matter?" She said, "I was just listening to the radio. There was some guy trapped in the south tower, second floor, north end. He said the only reason he's alive is someone said, 'I'm a fireman, I've got a door open over here, you need to make your way to my voice.'" He kind of quoted me verbatim. She said the fellow said, "I don't believe that was actually a fireman; it was an angel sent from God. That was my only way out."
Anyway, getting back to my situation, as far as I know, no one was coming. So I turned and I started crawling. In the map that I had in my mind, I knew I had to find these six elevators, a bank of three on each side. From there I would find the escalator and be able to make my way down to the first level and from there try and get out.
So what I did was I was crawling, and once I got outside the doors, believe it or not I had about a foot and a half of visibility. So things were starting to look up for me. I just started making methodical searches as I would searching a fire apartment.
Sure enough, I found what I was looking for. I found the three I was looking for, and just opposite them I found the second bank. I knew that I was very close to this escalator that I was looking for that I needed to find.
So what I did was I was feeling around the area searching, and I found that rubberized handle, whatever that is, and I felt the way it looped up. I felt for where the stairs were, and I felt the tread of the stairs.
I went down the stairs backwards, kind of not knowing if the stairs were collapsed, so I wouldn't take a header and fall down a few levels should the stairs be missing. God was watching over that set of stairs, and I was able to make it down to the first level.
When I got down to the first level, I started crawling around, looking for that way out, that exit door. I kind of realized something, that I was in an area of the building that I was unfamiliar with. The best way to describe it was it's some kind of service area of the building.
I thought to myself what should I do, should I backtrack and make my way up? Also what was going on while everything else was going on, I was detecting more and more smoke in the dust. Fires in that area were starting to take off. I thought to myself without the benefit of a mask SCBA operating in that environment, I might get overcome by carbon monoxide and would never make it out. So I figured I'd roll the dice and really give the area that I was in at this point a good once-over, see what I could do.
I crawled around, and I found some steps going down. I went down these steps, about five steps they were, and I was in a small little lobby, and I found what I was looking for. I found doors with push bars. So I stood up and pushed the push bar to open up the door, and nothing happened. I thought to myself this is a locked exit. That's illegal. It's funny the things that you think about.
So I tried a second time, and I pushed the push bar, pushed the door and nothing happened. So I tried a third time, pushed the push bar, and then I muscled the door as best I could. I was only able to get the door open two or three inches. I could see the sunlight come in through the door. Through the dust I could see the sunlight.
I was able to look out the door, and I saw that everything had collapsed. There was a lot of stuff that had collapsed in front of that door that was blocking that path. Like I said, keeping in mind there's fires in the area, there's smoke in the dust. I had to make my way out of these doors one way or another.
I didn't have any tools or anything, so what I did was I maintained the door in its open position, about two or three inches that I was telling you about. I laid down on the floor, and I put my feet flat on the door and, with my hands, I reached one hand between my feet and one hand above my right foot. With my legs I pushed the door with all the force I had in my body. I was pushing for my life. Even pushing for my life I could only get it open about ten inches. Believe it or not, I was able to work my way out that door opening there.
Anyway, at this point three guys started running toward me. One guy believe it or not -- it may sound weird, but to me an Arabic-looking guy, American though. And the two guys that were chasing were yelling, "Stop, stop, FBI, FBI." One guy was a tall white guy. He had a long-sleeved white shirt and tie on.
Anyway, I watched them chase this fellow toward me. Just as the guy was passing to my right maybe about 12 feet away, the so-called FBI guys, they get a hold of the guy, threw him on the floor and put cuffs on him. I'm watching all this occur like in that slow motion thing.
The next second I heard that loudest noise in the world that I was describing before getting louder and louder. What I did was I made a 180, and I started running north up the west side of West Street.
The only thing is that later on I teamed up with Chief Jay Fischler of 46 Battalion at the time. Now he's in the 8th Battalion. We walked over by number Seven World Trade Center as it was burning and saw this 40-plus story building with fire on nearly all floors.
Then I just remember that, distinct noise like an airplane being on a runway and it's ready to take off. I heard the loud roaring of like the engines, and I thought another plane was hitting the building. Someone yelled run. I looked up, and the top of the tower I saw was starting to move over. It was bending like it was going to come down.
...I remember my helmet falling off, and I was in the fetal position underneath the car. As I turned my head to see what was going on, to see if I could see underneath the car, because I really didn't know what was happening, I thought a plane had actually hit the building, a third plane. It was just this huge blast of smoke that hit me in the face, white smoke. Then it was pitch-black. I couldn't even see.
...I looked over my shoulder. It's pitch-black, and I remember seeing this ball of flames shooting down the street, and then it just sucked right back into itself. It went away.Then it started to clear up.
We started to look up and we could see what looked like the top of this tower coming down at us, and then like a roller coaster, like a wooden roller coaster sound, and just bodies all over the ground, hitting the ground.
Then we heard a rumble, some twisting metal, we looked up in the air, and to be totally honest, at first, I don’t know exactly…but it looked to me just like an explosion. It didn’t look like the building was coming down, it looked like just one floor had blown completely outside of it. I was sitting there looking at it. I just never thought they would ever come down, so I didn’t think they were coming down. I just froze and stood there looking at it. Then I saw everybody running past me and I said, I better start running. I turned around, luckily there’s a parking garage behind us. We ran into the parking garage, and right before I got into the parking garage, I turned around and I could see the debris starting to come down.
...After hearing this and looking up and seeing the building, what I thought was an explosion, everyone was running, I turned around and decided that I should probably take off like everybody else. So when I got to the entrance, I turned around and saw the debris coming down.
I was in back of the vehicle and I heard, it sounded like I thought another plane had struck the building. This loud bang and then it sounded like a locomotive, or like when I used to live in Howard Beach, when the planes used to come in at night, flying right over the house. Everything started shaking and I heard like a thunderstorm. Somebody screamed it’s coming down. I don’t remember if it was on the radio, because the side door of the bus was open. The back door of the truck--I could see out of. I looked, and I bent all the way down to look up as far as I could, and I could see the cloud coming. I thought the building was actually falling over. I didn’t know it was pan-caking.
We were in the process of getting some rigs moved when I turned, as I heard a tremendous roar, explosion, and saw that the first of the two towers was starting to come down.
...I came close to arriving at the corner of Vesey and West again where we started to hear the second roar. That was the north tower now coming down. I should say that people in the street and myself included thought that the roar was so loud that the explosive - bombs were going off inside the building. Obviously we were later proved wrong.
There were hundreds of firefighters waiting to -- they were waiting for 7 World Trade Center to come down as it was on fire. It was too dangerous to go in and fight the fire. I lingered there for quite a while, but the smell and the smoke was finally too much and I decided I wasn't doing any good there.
That's basically what my memories are of the day. The sight of the jumpers was horrible and the turning around and seeing that first tower come down was unbelieveable. The sound it made. As I said I thought the terrorists planted explosives somewhere in the building. That's how loud it was, crackling explosive, a wall. That's about it.
So I started pushing this cart, and I got stuck in the doorway with it, when we started hearing this rumble. I can remember -- I specifically remember this like twisting sound of metal. We were probably about half a block away from the complex at this point.
You heard a big boom, it was quiet for about ten seconds. Then you could hear another one. Now I realize it was the floors starting to stack on top of each other as they were falling. It was spaced apart in the beginning, but then it got to just a tremendous roar and a rumble that I will never forget.
I made it up onto the -- I guess you call it the concourse level, the mezzanine level, and onto the foot bridge when I started to hear -- I thought I heard an explosion of some sort, but I kind of dismissed it. I figured, ah, it's just something burning upstairs. I really didn't think of what was going on.
Okay. I start going across this pedestrian bridge. I'm the only one on this bridge. I'm walking across it, and then I just remember feeling a rumble and hearing this rumbling sound that was really intense. It actually shook my bones.
I turned around to look for the cop, and the cop was gone. I don't know where the hell he went. I didn't know which way to go. I knew number one was on fire. I didn't know which way to go because I thought now the facade or something from number one was coming down, feeling that this rumble was going on.
So I ran. I started to run across the pedestrian bridge, and I got about halfway there when a lot of major debris was hitting the ground, really hitting the ground. You can feel it -- it shook your bones, the things hitting the ground, the rumbling. It was extremely loud.
We got to Chambers and Greenwich, and the chief turns around and says, "There's number Seven World Trade. That's the OEM bunker." We had a snicker about that. We looked over, and it's engulfed in flames and starting to collapse.
We're kind of caught in traffic and people and things, and everything's going on. We hear over the fire portable, "Everybody evacuate the site. It's going to collapse." Mark Steffens starts yelling, "Get out of here! Get out of here! Get out of here! We've got to go! We've got to go! It's going to collapse."
I turned around, and I piped up real loud and said, "Stay in the frigging car. Roll the windows up. It's pancake collapsing. We'll be fine. The debris will quit and the cloud will come through. Just stay in the car." We pulled the car over, turned around and just watched it pancake. We had a dust cloud but nothing like it was before.
We were helping people over large areas of debris and channelling them, trying to keep them calm, bringing them over to a walkway that led to number Seven World Trade Center. When the majority of the civilians were out, I waited a few minutes. There was nobody else coming out. I had a feeling, a gut feeling inside that it was time for me to leave. So I started walking. I went over the walking bridge to number seven. I went into the second level or the main lobby of number seven and walked down the escalator.
Our first thought, normal high-rise operation is you want to get people up to the floors, the fire floors. That's normally done on elevators and we had a problem. There were no elevators in operation. What made it more of a problem is that all those elevators were shut down and there were people in them. So we were actually -- once I had staff that could operate the panel, they could speak to each individual elevator, ask how many people are in the elevator, what floor they were on, and if there's anyone injured, and I was passing that information on to the incident commander.
Q. Can you describe what you visually were seeing around, like outside or on the concourse?
A. On the concourse? I don't remember on the concourse. In the lobby? As I said, the usual people that would show up. I saw at least three chaplains there.
Q. Was there a lot of debris falling at the time?
A. Once the plane hit, there was no debris, or it fell. What we did have coming out of the building were people. We were closer to the west entrance to the 1 World Trade Center. A lot of the glass had been taken out upon the impact of the plane. So we could actually hear outside, but what you heard were the thumps and crashes of the bodies.
A. Continuing operations, obviously, this was going to be difficult. We had no elevators. The only report that I remember was that somebody I believe in the FBI had a telephone conversation with somebody on the 51st floor reporting that there's jet fuel on that floor. It wasn't clear to us exactly what floor the impact was on, but I knew it was higher than that.
We were still working on trying to find maybe there would be freight elevators or any kind of elevator that's working. Are all of the elevators out due to the incident or are some just maintenance problems that we may be able to get moving? That wasn't happening for us.
...the elevators were still stuck. I think there were elevators that were on the first floor, the doors closed. Not that I saw it. I looked at the panel and realized that some of these stuck elevators are right here on the lobby floor and people were assigned to go take care of that.
And the building had red fire, a ring of fire. They started pumping and bouncing and I'm standing there staring. Finally somebody yelled "run."
We're standing there and I look up. The second tower starts with the ring of fire. Some puffing and bouncing.
Q. Just like the first one?
A. So he said, "It's going, just like the first one."
All of a sudden building number seven now has twelve stories of fire and I ran into one of my guys, from my company, and from there he told me where the rest of my company was.
At that time we were looking at the top of the towers and all the rubble and people coming off, and all of a sudden you heard -- it sounded like another airplane, or a missile. It was like a slow shake. The whole ground just vibrated and shook. We just told everybody to run, run into a building, let's go, run, run, run.
We ran off of Liberty. We couldn't get very far. We got into a superette. We threw as many people as were coming into this superette, me and my partner. We never left each other's side the whole entire time. We were like Velcro. We got everybody into the deli superette. I don't know what the hell it was. It was big. It was good size.
After that the debris was just coming down and coming down. Nobody could really stand there anymore.
Q. Then you were putting out fires on the rigs, ambulances, police cars at that time?
A. No, no. By that time we were up by Chambers Street. We're north of Chambers now. Now the Fire Department is trying to gather the people and make some kind of organization out of it and getting companies together at that time. Once they got us back together and organized somewhat, they sent us back down to Vesey, where we stood and waited for Seven World Trade Center to come down.
Q. Stuyvesant High School?
A. Yes, Stuyvesant High School, until they figured out, I guess, there was no gas leak or no
secondary bomb. Or no bomb. I guess they put the PD in there to search it. They moved us back south. We ended up back up on Vesey Street and West Street and just hanging out until tower 7 came down. After tower 7 came down, we went right to work over at tower 7 to put the fires out. That's where we stayed until we were relieved.
Then we hear a rumble, and we see a blast of smoke and a slight ball of flame coming out from the silhouette of the building, and we watched the antenna collapse into the building. To be honest with you, for about five seconds or so I was transfixed. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. From our perspective, it looked as though the antenna was falling towards us, north.
We were motionless for maybe five seconds, until we realized that, hey, the building's coming down and now we've got to run for our lives. We turned at that point and told everybody else, "Listen, the building is collapsing. Run, run, run." I guess had the building toppled north and not collapsed into itself, we probably would have been victims in the road too, because we were close enough for that to have occurred.
We went down Atlantic Avenue going towards the Manhattan Bridge, and the heat was so intense, so intense, you could actually feel it while you were up on the bridge. I mean that intense you could feel the heat.
Everything was pitch-black. You couldn't see anything. All I saw was big bolts of fire, fire balls. I could feel the heat around me. It was pitch-black. I couldn't see anything at all. My lungs, my airways, everything filled up with ash. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't see anything.
It was just basically dark. I had never been through anything -- I thought I was dying. The only thing I could see was balls of fire, just balls of fire. At one point I thought I was on fire because it was that close to me. I could feel the heat. I said to myself, wow, I'm on fire. This is what it feels like to be on fire. I don't know what it feels like to be on
fire. I thought that's what it feels like to be
I remember Chief Hayden saying to me, "We have a six-story building over there, a seven-story building, fully involved." At that time he said, "7 has got fire on several floors." He said, "We've got a ten-story over there, another ten-story over there, a six-story over there, a 13-story over there." He just looked at me and said, "# 'em all. Let 'em burn." He said, "Just tell the guys to keep looking for guys. Just keep looking for the brothers. We've got people trapped. We've got to get them out."
Then we found out, I guess around 3:00 o'clock, that they thought 7 was going to collapse.
So, of course, we've got guys all in this pile over here and the main concern was get everybody out, and I guess it took us over an hour and a half, two hours to get everybody out of there.
So it took us a while and we ended up backing everybody out, and that's when 7 collapsed. Then, basically, after 7 collapsed, I went over and told the Chief that -- by then they had companies with handie-talkies, masks.
Basically, we fell back for 7 to collapse, and then we waited a while and it got a lot more organized, I would guess.
Q. Any particular event that stands out in your mind for -- or struck you as odd or anything like that?
A. Just actually the collapse and the sound it made. It was like a strange sound, rumbling, not the loudest thing you ever heard, not like a boom explosion type thing, but just strange. How fast it was collapsing, you just started running.
The next thing I know, we heard a little bit of a rumbling, and then white powder came from the first collapsed building. I thought it was an explosion initially.
A. Okay. I was working the night before in the 1st Battalion, and sometime about 8:15 or so in the morning we got a call to Lispenard and Church for a gas leak in the street. We were there for a while checking on the gas leak, and then we heard the loud roar of the plane come over, and we turned around and we looked and we saw the plane coming down, heading south towards the Trade Center, and made a direct hit on the Trade Center.
Q. You actually saw it hit?
A. I saw it hit. Within about ten seconds after that or so I gave the first report on the radio and transmitted a second alarm for a plane into the Trade Center, and then shortly after that, the units I was with, I told them all to start in to the Trade Center, and shortly after that I found a radio to transmit the third alarm. I told the dispatcher this was a direct attack on the Trade Center and we had the second alarm coming in on the north tower and to stage the third alarm on Vesey and West.
I pulled in front of the building. I looked up and I saw no fire coming out, no smoke coming out, which would have been the west side of the building.
If I can back up, as we went down the street after the initial explosion of the plane hitting, we saw there was somewhat of a hole, from our position, certainly, maybe three or four of the stories, three stories I think I said. Again, there was no fire coming out. So, when we got there, there was no fire and on the west side there was no smoke. But there was
an obvious hole in the building.
I went into the lobby. There were people injured. I went into the lobby and tried to gather
information, where the plane hit, what floor, and the best we could get is somewhere around 80. As the units were coming in, we checked for the elevators to see if we had any elevator service. There wasn't any. Then what we did was I started to send people up to perform a rescue because we knew there were people trapped above the fire and we were getting reports in the lobby people were trapped in the elevators and people were trapped, and I believe we started sending units up.
Then the plane hit the second tower, the south tower. At that point Chief Donald Burns and Battalion Chief Orio Palmer went into the second tower and I took command of that.
Right before that we discussed the operation of the radio. Any time in a high-rise building, communications is difficult. We tried to get repeaters to work. The Trade Center had a repeater. We tried to get that to work. That did not work for some reason, and there were problems with the repeater in the car also. So communications from the onset was difficult
and both Orio and myself tried to get that to work. We tried it numerous times and we couldn't get the repeaters to operate properly, so we had to rely just on handie-talkie communication, which is at best hit or miss in any high-rise.
At one point after the second plane hit, I think, I'm not positive of the time line, I know Chief Callen asked over the radio to come down to the lobby. But with difficulty with communications, that didn't happen. It didn't fully happen. I'm not too sure who heard that or how many people came down. There was no way of really telling at that point. But right before the south tower collapsed, I noticed a lot of people just left the lobby, and I heard we had a crew of all different people, high-level people in government, everybody was gone,
almost like they had information that we didn't have. Some of them were moved across the street to the command post.
Q. Who were you with at this time?
A. You name them, they were there.
Q. With you?
A. Yes, in the lobby. They were moving the command post. So, I guess, after that companies were coming in and we were listing them on the command board so we had an account of everybody. Unfortunately, the command board is not around any longer.
Then in the lobby we heard the south tower is collapsing. I'm not sure, like I said before. I get mixed up with south and north and two and one. But right before the south building collapsed, we heard a loud rumbling noise, and those that were left in the area, we knew something was collapsing, and I noticed in the lobby area where you go around the corner to an escalator that leads up into the Customs Building, and as things were collapsing into the lobby of the north tower, I pushed everybody around the corner. I knew where I was so I pushed people around the corner.
Then Father Judge was there and he was lying on the ground and I went over to him, took off his collar, I opened up his shirt, checked for a pulse, and I knew at that point that he didn't have any.
Q. Where was he?
A. He was with us in the lobby all the time.
Q. In the lobby?
A. Right. He was saying some prayers and he was very anxious in the lobby. I could watch him. He was very concerned, very different, Father Judge, as I know him. Apparently, what it was, it was a heart attack. We didn't know at the time it was a heart attack. We thought he was hit with debris.
Q. He didn't have any obvious injuries?
A. He didn't have any obvious injuries. Then again, we're in black with just a couple of flashlights.
Then it started to clear again a little better and we got up and I looked down the block and I saw some law enforcement taking a guy away in handcuffs and he was very agitated.
Q. Would that be on the other side of west?
A. On the west side of West Street.
Q. Towards the river?
A. Towards the river.
Q. Did you ever find out what he was --
A. No. But the cops were real agitated and it was early on. I couldn't imagine what they would arrest somebody for.
When we entered the lobby, there was a lot of damage in the lobby, broken glass, tiles
dislodged and laying on the floor, you know, the decorative panels all around the walls.
Chief Pfeifer was in control. We responded in. We tried to gain control of the building systems, meaning the communications systems, the elevators. None of the building systems were working. The elevators were all out of service. The communication lines were not working.
The initial orders were to try and get the elevators in operation. We met up with the fire safety director from number One World Trade Center, Jim Corrigan, who is now deceased, and we told him of our problems, what we needed to do, what we needed from them to gain control of the building systems. He put his engineers to work on that.
So the potential and reality of -- or possibility of a collapse was discussed early on.
But we were at a level of commitment. We also received numerous distress calls. We realized we had a lot dying and fire up there. When the civilian staff arrived, then Commissioners Feehan, Fitzpatrick and Commissioner Von Essen, we discussed strategy and tactics. I specifically remember telling Commissioner Von Essen that we were not attempting to extinguish this fire. It's just strictly a search and rescue operation. We were not trying to put this fire out. We had thousands of people coming down the stairs, and that was our focus, to answer as many distress calls as we could and complete whatever searches we could. That was the focus of our strategy there at the time.
At one point in time, there were numerous bodies coming down, and I really lost track of time there. There was a discussion that we had to get out of the lobby. It was not a good place to be.
We talked about setting up the command post across the street outside the building at West and Vesey. I remember saying we can't go out into the street because of the numerous bodies that were coming down. It was actually dangerous to try to enter or exit the building
onto the street. We said let's go up and cross the escalator through six and cross the overpass at West and Vesey and come down and set up a command post on West and Vesey. They left the building to establish a command post over there.
There were numerous discussions in the lobby. The chief of safety came in. He discussed his concern about the collapse. His advice to us was to let the building just burn, you know, get the people down and get out. We said that's exactly what we're planning to do.
We were making a concerted effort to get the elevators down and answering all the distress calls. We were working with the engineers.
We were working the intercom in the lobby between the elevators, trying to get an idea what floors they were on. The engineers told us we have people on this floor, that floor, 66th floor, 71st floor, stuck in the elevators. We answered as many of the distress calls as we could.
We concentrated on trying to get some type of hand line hardware communications. We attempted the repeater system. The repeater system was not in service. The repeater system wasn't working. So we were at a distinct disadvantage because we had none of the building systems to work with.
Once we talked about establishing the command post on West and Vesey with Commissioner Von Essen, Commissioner Fitzpatrick, Commissioner Feehan and Chief Downey. I was under the impression they all left and went over there. Obviously Commissioner Von Essen did go there
when he was with Chief Feehan. I was told that on the way over there Commissioner Von Essen was there and was interrupted by the Mayor. They went off in another direction, very fortuitously getting out of harm's way there.
At that point the Mayor shows up. I was standing away from the command post, and the Mayor showed up. And one of his aides asked where the Fire Commissioner was. I remember the Mayor being with Commissioner Kerik and himself and a lot of their aides and escorts or whatever. Somebody said the Commissioner was in One World Trade Center, north tower, that was hit already.
...I went to the building, looked for the Commissioner, and they said he had just left. So now we've crossed each other's paths. I came back to the command post across the street at Two World Financial, and the Commissioner was there talking to the Mayor.
A. At that point I don't know exactly when the Commissioner and Mayor had left. It was pretty soon after they had left that Richie Zarillo, who works with EMS -- I believe he's an OEM liaison -- came running up to me. I was not on the ramp at this time. I was like almost at the sidewalk location.
He said Steve, where's the Chief? I have to tell him, you know -- I said tell him what, Richie? These buildings are in imminent danger of collapse. I said how do you know that, you know? So he ran with me. I ran over and grabbed Chief Ganci and said Chief, these buildings are in imminent danger of collapse. He looked up at me --
He said that these buildings are in imminent danger of collapse. I went right up to the Chief because I was a few steps away. I said Chief, these buildings are in imminent danger of collapse. And he said to me who would would tell you something like that?
And he looked at me and he had that determined -- I have to say probably scared look on his face, who would tell you something like that. I said Richie, come over here and tell the Chief what you just told me. He got the words out of his mouth. I think it was maybe 25, 30 seconds later, maybe, the building came down.
Q. Did Zarillo ever say what he based that opinion on?
A. I believe the Chief said where did he get that from? He said from OEM. We were trying to determine exactly how he got it. In retrospect, how did he get it? He was walking towards us. Was he coming towards us anyway and he got it from Peruggia. There was like a relay type of thing, which maybe we should have and didn't have our OEM radios on at the location. There was a lot of havoc going on.
I believe you were there, Jim, and you saw it also.
So at that point the building comes down.
Q. Let me stop you there for a second, chief. When you were in the lobby of 1 World Trade, can you describe the interior and the condition of the lobby?
A. Yes. I was surprised that all the glass was mostly out. I wasn't sure how it got out. I didn't think we took it out. I just assumed that it was the vibration of the aircraft hitting it. And I did notice some pieces of marble that looked like it was dislodged from the core area.
Q. Was there any discussion at that point in time, before we get back to your story, with anybody or any of the personnel that worked in the World Trade Center about the condition of elevators, whether they were working or not?
A. Not to my knowledge. I'm sure it was done. I mean, in fact, I know it was done because I've seen the video, but not when I was in there, and I really wasn't concerned about it at that point.
Then Steve Mosiello, Chief Ganci's executive assistant, came over to the command post and he said we're getting reports from OEM that the buildings are not structurally sound, and of course that got our attention really quick, and Pete said, well, who are we getting these reports from? And then Steve brought an EMT person over to the command post who was I think sent as a runner to tell us this and Chief Ganci questioned him, where are we getting these reports? And his answer was something, you know, we're not sure, OEM is just reporting this.
The next thing I heard was Pete say what the # is this? And as my eyes traveled up the building, and I was looking at the south tower, somewhere about halfway up, my initial reaction was there was a secondary explosion, and the entire floor area, a ring right around the building blew out. I later realized that the building had started to collapse already and this was the air being compressed and that is the floor that let go. And as my eyes traveled further up the building, I realized that this building was collapsing and I turned around and most everybody was ahead of me running for the garage, and I remember thinking I looked at this thing a little bit too long and I might not make this garage. But I did.
That's when the second collapse started to come down. All kinds of noise. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, very loud. Nobody knew what it was. Everybody stopped when we heard it. Everybody took it very seriously when the firefighters started running. When they start running, it's like maybe time to catch up, before you even ask a question and we didn't know
if that was -
We started hearing the first building had come down completely. Initially we heard there were like 5 or 6 stories that were still standing. Then we heard that it was gas mains or cars going off. That's what we thought the thumping was initially. But I think it turned out to be the second building coming down, because right after that there was this monumental cloud. It was worse than the first one.
I did sign out a radio over there, but at that point it was lost. I was waylaid by an ATF guy, who was in such a -- in his exuberance to elave where he was, he took off like a linebacker, knocked me clean off my feet and I wasn't the only one.
He hit my watch. He knocked my watch off, knocked my watch off. Somebody found it in the rubble. Turned it in to Metrotech.
She was following two police officers and some ATF guys and some non-uniformed personnel, but I wasn't sure who they were. Who -- there was a -- I believe it was a construction trailer. They looked like construction trailers. Could have been a police trailer, that was half a block further up the street.
I headed towards the trailer with the idea of at least getting behind it, because I had took the attitude of somebody else that they were around building one when it came down. They started running. They got about a block and then they realized that they couldn't outrun it, and they should stay exactly where we were. Whatever was gonna happen would happen.
I figured I'd get as far as the trailer. I'd duck under it or beneath it, just follow the rest of cops and firemen to see where they are headed. We managed to get in it just around the time the cloud hit. Everything got pitch black. There was no power.
I did a fast head count there. The only person I could find was Amedegnato. I didn't know where the Chief was. I lost Villani, didn't know where the medics were. There were no other units with me besides she and I, whowere in that trailer. There was a couple of cops and some firemen, and whoever was the occupants of the trailer.