Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Firehouse Magazine Reports---Deputy Chief Peter Hayden

The link to the Hayden interview---as well as the Pfeiffer interview---has recently been disestablished, but the cached version is still up. I thought to save a copy here just in case.

From the April 2002 issue, Updated: Monday, September 9, 2002 -

WTC: This Is Their Story

Deputy Chief Peter Hayden
Division 1 - 33 years

Firehouse: Were you in quarters when you heard the incident come in?
Hayden: I was in quarters, yes.

Firehouse: Were you just getting off or just coming in?
Hayden: I was continuing on. I worked the night before. I was in my office when I heard a plane coming in low.

Firehouse: You heard the plane come over?
Hayden: Yeah, I looked out the window. I really couldn't see anything because the building lines obstructed the view, but I heard the crash and I knew right away what it was. I heard the radio right away. I heard Joe Pfeifer, who was already out on the box before I even got out of the office, transmit the third alarm for a plane hitting the Trade Center and he set up a staging area at West and Vesey. I yelled to my aide, come on, let's go and we started out down toward lower Manhattan.

Firehouse: Was that Chris Waugh? Is he your aide?
Hayden: Chris, yes.

Firehouse: How many years are you in Division 1?
Hayden: Continually since 1997, I was back in Division 1, but I had been in Division 1 prior, from 1993 to "95. From "95 to "97, I was the chief of safety for the fire department. From "90 to "93 ,I was a battalion chief in the 2nd Battalion. So since 1990, I've been working down in First Division.

Firehouse: Were you working for the explosion in 1993?
Hayden: At the Trade Center, yeah. I wasn't on duty specifically, but I came in. I was with the 2nd Battalion then.

Firehouse: Were you there for any other major fires or emergencies?
Hayden: Oh, yeah. The most recent one was pretty memorable. We had people trapped in an elevator, with a partial failure of the elevator. We got several people out of the elevator. I think it was on the 78th floor. Pretty hairy rescue operation by the rescue company. It really was.

Firehouse: As you were responding on Sept. 11, what could you see?
Hayden: We went down Broadway, then down Canal and onto West. I saw a large column of smoke surrounding the entire top portion of the building. I didn't see any flame. I didn't see any holes or anything. All I saw was the top portion of it covered in smoke. I asked to verify the assignment with the dispatcher. He alerted me that a third alarm was in. I think he was saying that some rescue was not available, and did I need a third one? I said send them.

Firehouse: As you responded in, where did you park?
Hayden: We parked out on West Street by Vesey. We walked in.

Firehouse: Was debris coming down? Was anybody jumping?
Hayden: There was debris coming down. There were a number of people out in the street who were burned. The front windows of the lobby were all blown out, broken. It was chaos. When we were moving to the lobby, there was a lot of damage in the lobby, some people screaming.

Firehouse: Do you remember the extent of the damage?
Hayden: All the marble tiles were off the wall and smashed on the floor.

Firehouse: The people who were burned, were they badly burned?
Hayden: They were conscious and walking, but they were pretty badly burned. There were at least half a dozen of them.

Firehouse: When you went inside, did you go right through the glass or did you go in through the concourse?
Hayden: I went through a door. I don't know why, but I came in through the door. I went to the left. When I went in, the lobby was to the left. I met up with Joe Pfeifer. He started to brief me on what he had. We already knew that the other plane had struck. And we went through the problem that we were having. They were trying to find an elevator that was working. We were trying to delineate what was going to be the attack stairs, what stage of evacuation have we gotten to, any reports of evacuation and what assignments were made. Port Authority officials were on the scene. We told them to begin evacuating not only the north tower, but the whole World Trade Center complex, start moving everybody out and away.

Firehouse: Did Chief Pfeifer say anything else? Did you receive any other reports at that time?
Hayden: We were getting a number of reports of people burned in the upper floors. I don't know how exactly he had gotten those reports. He told me of reports of people burned on the upper floors. We didn't have any specific floors at that time. We had given out assignments to proceed no higher than the 70th floor. The plane supposedly hit the 80th floor. He said, don't go any higher than 70. That's where we were going to set up our operations post. There was a lot of discussion on what was operating in the building after the initial assignments. We found out there weren't any elevators working. Not too long afterwards, we found out we had no communications from the building either. The repeater system wasn't working. We tried to get that going. We were really at a complete disadvantage. We had no elevator. We had no communication systems. We were getting a number of distress calls, both from our dispatcher and from cell phones, that were coming into the lobby command post near the Port Authority. As we got the distress calls, we were giving out assignments. We were giving specific assignments, if it was a specific report of a floor, of somebody trapped, or if we didn't have that, we had companies coming in and we were designating a group of floors for them to search. For instance, a battalion chief and three companies, you do floors 21 to 25, make sure everybody's down. We had Port Authority engineers. We're working all the time with the Port Authority trying to get, number one, some communications going and also to see if we can get the elevators up and running. One of the engineers was actually going through the elevator intercom system contacting each of the elevators---there were 99 elevators in each of these buildings---and going through each elevator and through the intercom system attempting to contact each car, to see if anybody was in the car. And if they could tell us what floor they were on, we would send somebody up there to get them out of the cars. There were a number of cars where people were reported trapped. The highest one I remember was the 71st floor. I sent a company to the 71st floor. We had reports of people in wheelchairs unable to get off the floors they were on because the elevators weren't working, so we gave specific assignments for those type of distress calls. We had one report, I think it was around the 40th floor, that as many as 30 people on one floor were severely burned and in need of assistance. So we were at a complete disadvantage. A number of the ranking officers of the department arrived on the scene in a very short period of time from downtown Brooklyn into lower Manhattan. There was a discussion early on about the necessity to establish a command post remote from the lobby command post. We felt it was not a very good area to be operating in the lobby, and we agreed to establish a command post at West and Vesey. And eventually, that's where the command post was established by the chief of the department and Commissioner Feehan. So the deputy fire commissioner, chief of department and the staff officers left the building to establish the command post across the street over at West and Vesey. Chief Callan, who was the citywide tour commander, remained in the lobby with Joe Pfeifer and me. We manned the lobby command post and directed the operations from there.

Firehouse: Would you or Chief Pfeifer give a specific assignment when the firefighters were coming up?
Hayden: I gave them, or sometimes I gave it to Joe. Sometimes I'd say, Joe, get a company and send them up there. Some of them I gave out specifically. I don't think there was any set order in how it was done. We used the B stair as the main approach to be our attack stair. That's what we were using to gain access.

Firehouse: Somebody said that that stairwell went right up from the lowest lobby. Is that correct?
Hayden: Right.

Firehouse: Did you get reports from anybody? Were you getting them or was somebody else getting them? Chief Pfeifer said that they had trouble getting some of the reports, but did you hear anything from the upper floors, any reports of guys going up?
Hayden: We had switched to a command channel, so I was operating mostly on the command channel, but I know there were reports particularly from companies who were operating on the lower floors. Obviously, as they got higher, communications were becoming more and more difficult. I think that the highest level we had any reports from was somewhere in the low 50s. That's my recollection. I really don't recall any type of a priority call being relayed down or anything beyond that.

Firehouse: Did you ever hear any Maydays or anything else, or did somebody else hear any Maydays or anything else and then relay the information to you?
Hayden: We heard Maydays after the collapse of the south tower. We heard Maydays then. After the second plane hit the south tower, we had a brief conference.

Firehouse: Did you hear that noise?
Hayden: We felt it. We didn't know what it was right away, but then somebody told us that a plane hit the second tower. At that point, in time we had a brief conference and we started calling everybody down in the north tower after the second plane hit. We had a number of conferences with the staff chiefs about the possibility of collapse. We recognized the possibility of a collapse, but our thought process was that there was going to be a partial collapse, a gradual collapse after a couple of hours of burning, and we thought we had time to complete the evacuation and get everybody out. We made a conscious decision early on that we weren't going to try and put the fire out, for a number of reasons. One, there was too much volume of fire. Second, the building systems were probably not functional. We had too many distress calls coming in. We didn't think the standpipe system was even going to be intact up there. We had to forgo the whole idea of trying to put any fire suppression efforts in there. This was strictly a search and rescue operation. When the second plane hit the south tower, Chief Burns left the lobby of the north tower and went over to assume command of the operations in the south tower. Only a few short minutes after that occurred, we felt it was wise for us to start evacuating this building and we started calling our people down, which was probably about 25 minutes before the north tower collapsed.

Firehouse: Were you aware of companies also in the hotel?
Hayden: We heard on the radio that they had some type of a staging area going there, but I wasn't directly involved in that. That was coming from the command post out in the street.

Firehouse: Did they ask you if you needed anything else or did you ask them for anything?
Hayden: No, actually, we didn't want any more people in there.

Firehouse: The south tower came down. Do you hear the noise?
Hayden: We didn't know specifically what it was. It was certainly a large event, let's put it that way. We knew something had happened. We didn't know whether it was an explosion. We don't know if there was a partial collapse outside. We don't know exactly what it was. I don't think anybody knew what happened, but certainly, if you were in the lobby of the north tower, you were covered in debris. We were covered in blackness. There were a couple of people killed. Father Judge was in the lobby. He was killed. We knew that some very calamitous event had just occurred. At that point in time, there were Maydays being given and orders to evacuate the north tower, everybody out, but we had been doing that for 25 minutes. We had been telling guys to come down to the lobby. We realized nobody on the upper floors could hear us, but we were waiting for them to come down. But there still were civilians coming out of the building too at that time. During that whole process, there was a steady flow of people coming down. We started ordering guys down, but at one point later on, I was talking to Chief Downey about collapse. I remember the conversation well. I was saying, they're not coming down. We're calling guys down, but they're not hearing us. Everybody was very concerned. We wanted to just get everybody down. Then there was a steadier flow of people coming down. We answered as many distress calls as we could. But there was a point in time we said all right, come on, come on down, come on down. I was saying that you have to go over the escalators, walk across the cross overpasses because we didn't want anybody going into the street. There were a lot of bodies hitting the street. We had about 25 elevators. It was a mess. That was the only way to describe it. We knew we were in very deep trouble. They wanted to limit the number of people going in, but we lost control with that because of the off-duty guys coming in and going up the stairs. We could see that. Our main focus was to answer the distress calls, to keep getting people coming down the stairs. But we started calling guys down---come on down, that's enough, especially after the second plane hit because then somebody had given us an unfounded report that there was a third plane coming in.

Firehouse: Chief Callan sent everybody down at that time. Were you concerned about that?
Hayden: Sure. We were under attack. We knew we were in trouble, so we started calling people down. We had a report from OEM that there was possibility of a third plane coming in. That really put the antennas up for us because, number one, if a third plane does come in and hits these buildings, they're coming down for sure. Before we had the partial collapse, we were aware that timewise we thought we had a couple of hours. And I think everybody envisioned the idea we're going to get everybody down and back everybody out a few blocks and watch this event, the top 15 or 20 floors fold in. That's what we though. It didn't happen that way, though.

Firehouse: Now, the south tower has come down. You're in darkness, covered in dust and debris. Where did you wind up and then where did you come out?
Hayden: I wound up in the same place where Joe was. I went back out to see if everything stopped. I went back.

Firehouse: How long do you think it took for it to clear up there, where you had been?
Hayden: Before you could see anything, 15 minutes. You were in darkness in lower Manhattan. It was unbelievable. I went back out to see what the lobby was like and see if we could get out the front door, and I couldn't see anything. There was a lot of debris in the lobby. Then there was a fireman there, and a victim. And when we got a closer look at him we realized it was Father Judge. Some of the guys picked up Father Judge and carried him up the escalator and out onto the mezzanine level, then out into the walkway. We walked around the outer area of building 6 on the mezzanine level. We went down the escalator walkway down on Vesey Street. We carried Father Judge down there, then we turned him over to some firefighters and EMS. Then I walked back with Chief Callan. We walked back down Vesey, and I met Chief Cassano and a number of other chiefs at West and Vesey who had all assembled there thinking that's where the command post was. But we didn't find the command post and somebody said it was down further on the other side of the overpass.

Firehouse: How much debris was down there at that time?
Hayden: Quite a bit, quite a bit. We started walking south toward the overpass with Chief Cassano and we were a little bit north of the overpass when the north tower came down.

Firehouse: What did you hear then?
Hayden: It sounded like a jet roar. You couldn't run far enough or fast enough. There was a fire truck there. I got down on my hands and knees and I crawled underneath the fire truck. I knew that we couldn't run.

Firehouse: Were you hit by debris underneath there?
Hayden: I didn't get hit with anything. The rig got hit with quite a bit of debris, but it didn't collapse. You saw the stuff raining down onto the sidewalk. The rig was somewhat damaged. And then it stopped, and it was once again deadly quiet. You couldn't see your hand in front of your face again. I crawled out and I could hear voices again trying to regroup and everything. But it was a while before I could see anything down there.

Firehouse: How long did it take for that dust cloud to clear there until you got a picture of the damage and debris?
Hayden: To really get a good look, it was a good 10 minutes, I think, before I could really see anything clear what was going on. It was unbelievable, the devastation. West Street didn't exist anymore. It was just covered with debris. The overpass that we were just standing by was completely collapsed and destroyed. Everything was completely down.

Firehouse: Were you getting reports of people missing?
Hayden: We went back to the tactical channel and there was a lot of radio traffic, all kinds of calls for help and Maydays, but nothing specific, not general locations. I went over to West and Liberty and I started working from that sector. Chief Cassano stayed up by West and Vesey. I came down around West and Vesey and I met up with Charlie Blaich, who was already working over there. Charlie and I worked with Chief Mosier, who also showed up.

Firehouse: From that point, if you took a panoramic sweep, what could you see? There's debris. There's dust. How about the building at 90 West? Could you see that? Did it have a fire in there right away?
Hayden: We had a good fire in there. We had the equivalent of a fourth-alarm fire in there. We had fire in 50 and 7 World Trade Center. We had fire in 90 West. We had a smaller fire in one of the apartments in Battery Park City that we dispatched companies up there to put out. We had a water supply problem because I remember the water main was broken. Actually, to get water over in our sector over there at West and Liberty we got one of the fireboats to draft for us. It turned out it was the retired John J. Harvey that started drafting for us. That's what got us water. When somebody total me the Harvey was pumping water, I said the Harvey? Thank God it was there because it pumped for us for about three to five days. Chief Mosier took the operations in 90 West. I gave him X amount of companies. I said just hold it, keep her from jumping the street. The Marriott Hotel was across the street. I said just don't let it get out of the building here, just try to confine it, and he did a great job up there. They got some lines. They were able to hold it and contain it.

Firehouse: The building just south of that was the Marriott.
Hayden: Across the street. That's what I was concerned about, that the fire would jump the streets. We had exposure problems, so Bobby's function was just to contain the fire there. They had a big air shaft in there and he was able to get a line across the shaft and keep it in one wing of the building on the upper floors. And eventually it burned itself out. There was a good fire condition. It was pouring smoke and fire out of there. We were going to a fourth-alarm fire there. If you had to really address this fire, you would be trying to handle it as a fourth alarmer and he had nowhere near that, so he did a good job with that. We also were doing searches along all the debris in front of the Marriott and out on West Street, the void searches.

Firehouse: Other people tell me that there were a lot of firefighters in the street who were visible, and they put out traffic cones to mark them off?
Hayden: Yeah. There was enough there and we were marking off. There were a lot of damaged apparatus there that were covered. We tried to get searches in those areas. By now, this is going on into the afternoon, and we were concerned about additional collapse, not only of the Marriott, because there was a good portion of the Marriott still standing, but also we were pretty sure that 7 World Trade Center would collapse. Early on, we saw a bulge in the southwest corner between floors 10 and 13, and we had put a transit on that and we were pretty sure she was going to collapse. You actually could see there was a visible bulge, it ran up about three floors. It came down about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, but by about 2 o'clock in the afternoon we realized this thing was going to collapse.

Firehouse: Was there heavy fire in there right away?
Hayden: No, not right away, and that's probably why it stood for so long because it took a while for that fire to develop. It was a heavy body of fire in there and then we didn't make any attempt to fight it. That was just one of those wars we were just going to lose. We were concerned about the collapse of a 47-story building there. We were worried about additional collapse there of what was remaining standing of the towers and the Marriott, so we started pulling the people back after a couple of hours of surface removal and searches along the surface of the debris. We started to pull guys back because we were concerned for their safety.

Firehouse: Jay Jonas told me that at one point, when he had finally made his way out of the debris, you were standing on top of a truck?
Hayden: Yes. It was covered in debris. I got on top of the rig only to establish a presence there. There was a lot of confusion, a lot of chaos. That was my command post in that sector. I stood on top of the rig and people could see who I was, that there was a chief in charge and that people could come to me and I'd give them assignments. It worked. I didn't realize it at the time, but it worked. People could point, there's the chief over there, rather than out of all this chaos and destruction, where was there a command post? You couldn't even make out West Street. So I saw the rig. I got on top of the rig and I stayed there. And eventually we got a bullhorn, a radio. I had a bullhorn and we were able to get some type of order in the assignments and what we were doing. We tried to get some type of accountability. I gathered everybody around me. There were hundreds of guys and there was a lot of confusion. I had everybody take their helmets off for a moment of silence, and it calmed everybody down. Then, I said, please assist the chief officers in getting some accountability here. Whether you're on duty or off duty, give them your name, your unit, and give it in to the chiefs. The chiefs made up a list and I had started getting a list of who I had working on the site there, also. It was just an attempt to gain some kind of control.

Firehouse: So you were able to move forward a little bit at that point?
Hayden: At that point. And then also when I got everybody around. I didn't know how many chiefs I had there. I just told them what we're going to do, we're going to split this up into companies. I did it by getting them to stop and take their helmets off for a moment of silence.Once I had the moment of silence, then I started giving out the orders to everybody about what we're going to do. After that, we had some type of organization. That's the only way I could have done it. I couldn't think ñ I needed help. It was a desperate measure.

Firehouse: Chief Nigro said they made a collapse zone and wanted everybody away from number 7---did you have to get all of those people out?
Hayden: Yeah, we had to pull everybody back. It was very difficult. We had to be very forceful in getting the guys out. They didn't want to come out. There were guys going into areas that I wasn't even really comfortable with, because of the possibility of secondary collapses. We didn't know how stable any of this area was. We pulled everybody back probably by 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon. We said, this building is going to come down, get back. It came down about 5 o'clock or so, but we had everybody backed away by then. At that point in time, it seemed like a somewhat smaller event, but under any normal circumstances, that's a major event, a 47-story building collapsing. It seemed like a firecracker after the other ones came down, but I mean that's a big building, and when it came down, it was quite an event. But having gone through the other two, it didn't seem so bad. But that's what we were concerned about. We had said to the guys, we lost as many as 300 guys. We didn't want to lose any more people that day. And when those numbers start to set in among everybody... My feeling early on was we weren't going to find any survivors. You either made it out or you didn't make it out. It was a cataclysmic event. The idea of somebody living in that thing to me would have been only short of a miracle. This thing became geographically sectored because of the collapse. I was at West and Liberty. I couldn't go further north on West Street. And I couldn't go further east on Liberty because of the collapse of the south tower, so physically we were boxed in. But you could see the fires burning in 4, 5 and 6. They became fully involved. We had fire on the 15th floor of one of the high-rises. I gave a battalion chief two companies. I said go up there, put this fire out. I told him, don't call for any help, don't give any signals, just put the fire out and come back and tell me when the fire's out. This is all you're getting, put it out. Fortunately, you know, it wasn't large, it was out one window. At some time that night, it was dark and I had had it. I went down and I got my eyes washed out. They took me to the eye station and then they took me to Bellevue. I had my eyes washed out and then I met up with my brother, who's also a firefighter.

Firehouse: As you've said, it was a cataclysmic event. Were you surprised by the extent of the destruction?
Hayden: Oh, yeah. I just couldn't believe it. Two 110-story buildings gone, and I'm in lower Manhattan and I cant make out streets or anything. Then, when I was assigned to start cleaning up, I thought, where do we begin? Where do we even begin? We couldn't even find the streets. They're in there somewhere.


* Ground Zero: This Is Their Story

Firehouse Magazine Reports
WTC: This Is Their Story

Firehouse Magazine presents the extraordinary stories of the FDNY firefighters at Ground Zero

FF Peter Blaich - Ladder 123
I came in for the day tour, so I got there about 8 o’clock and relieved the guy on the backup on the engine.

FF John Breen - Engine 74
I came in for the day tour. Heard the dispatch over the voice alarm.

Lieut. Ray Brown - Ladder 113
I worked the night before, and I was supposed to work overtime in Ladder 111 and there was an officer coming here.

FF Mike Cancel - Ladder 10
Ladder 10/Engine 10 are located on the south side of Liberty Street across from Tower 2.

FF Tom Caruso - Ladder 48
I was on a 90-day detail to Engine 3. I was at 7th Avenue and Grove Street.

FF Marcel Claes - Engine 24
Civilians were helping each other out as we walked up the stairs in the north tower.

Lt. Gregg Hansson - Engine 24
The alarm came in and we rode out with one extra firefighter.

D/C Peter Hayden - Division 1
I was continuing on. I worked the night before. I was in my office when I heard a plane coming in low.

FF D Dowdican - Ladder 113
I was finishing the night tour. I rode in the cab as an extra man.

FF Heinz Kothe - Tower Ladder 12
I came in for the day tour at 7:30 A.M. I relieved the chauffeur from the night tour.

FF Adam Mazy - Tower Ladder 79
I worked the night tour. I was scheduled for overtime in Engine 34 on the day tour.

FF Steve Modica - Special Operations Command
I was working as the SOC battalion aide. Chief John Pailillo and I were going to Squad 252 for a drill.

B/C John Norman - Special Operations Command
I was home in bed and the battalion called and said, I know you’re on vacation, but there’s a total recall because of what happened to the Trade Center.

B/C J Pfiefer - Battalion 1
I was with Engine 7, Ladder 1, Ladder 8 and another engine. It was a gas leak in the street, it was Church Street and Lispenard.

B/C M Telesca - Battalion 19
Battalion Chief Larry Stack and Brian O’Flaherty were working the Father’s Day investigation.

Rescue Lts - Rescue 1, Squad 252
We heard Marine 6 give an urgent message that a second plane hit the tower. We responded to Squad 41 to get gear.

Lieut. Bill Wall - Engine 47
We were additional units on the fifth alarm for the south tower. We went right down.

D/C Nick Visconti - Division 14
I was in my car. I was listening to the traffic reports because I was going to Queens.

B/C Tom Vallebuona - Battalion 21
We had just had a run. It was a beautiful day and one of the guys came walking down the stairs and said...

Capt. Chris Boyle - Engine 94
I got here probably about a quarter after 10. Everybody was starting to roll in.

FF Mike Fenick - Ladder 48
It’s not a happy feeling. It’s a rewarding feeling. I know it’s a hard emotion to put a finger on.

FF Declan Grant - Ladder 48
Good is not the right word. It was rewarding. At least I wasn’t there in vain.

Firehouse Magazine Reports Firefighter John Breen

I found this at archive.org. Firehouse Magazine has dropped the link after nine years.
WTC: This Is Their Story
Firefighters Elevated to Almost Mythic Status
From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine

Firefighter John Breen
Engine 74 - 3 years

I came in for the day tour. Heard the dispatch over the voice alarm. We were watching the television. Within a few minutes, we were dispatched on the second fifth alarm for the south tower. Two firefighters remained behind. Responding were Lieutenant Nichols, Firefighter Mike Shagy was the chauffeur, Pat Carey, Jeff Johnson, Ruben Carrera and myself. We took the West Side Highway and pulled up one-two blocks away at West and Vesey.

As I walked to the Marriott Hotel I looked up and said how are we going to fight this? The officer told us to walk as far away from the building as possible. One body was visible in the street. We entered the lobby of the hotel. One of the senior guys, Ruben Carrera, said stay close to me. He said loosen your coat, don’t overheat. He said look, I’m scared too. We have to put that in the back of our minds.

We reported to Chief Tom Galvin of Division 3. Engines were on one side and trucks were on the other. I remember seeing Ladder 25, Engine 40, Ladder 35, Engine 54 and Ladder 4, Ladder 11, Engine 23 and Ladder 12. Our orders were to search the top floor, there was a report of people trapped. Engine 54, Ladder 11, we, Engine 23 and possibly one more company was assigned. We took the elevator by ourselves to the 18th floor and walked up to the pool, spa and gym. We searched the area with negative results. We could see where a piece of landing gear wound up in the Jacuzzi. The pool was intact.

We walked back down to the 21st floor and down the hallway to the elevator. We were waiting for the elevator when Lieutenant Nichols said the elevator is running slow, let’s walk down the stairs to where we left the other elevator. We walked south to the south stairwell in single file. We heard the building starting to come down. The building started to sway like a ship. I could hear creaking. It felt like we were in a hurricane. I didn’t think it was the whole tower, but just a section. Everybody froze in place. Somebody said building collapse. I heard it getting louder and louder like an approaching train. You could hear the floors one on top of each other like dominoes, boom and boom.

I stayed where I was and braced for it. I didn’t think I was going to die. Maybe I’ll get stuck in a void and ride it out. I felt like I might get trapped, but I would be able to get myself out. I waited to go through the floor or wall. As it hit a huge gust of wind pushed me flat on my face. It felt like a 260-pound linebacker hit you.

The debris started to blow over me. I started to cough. I wiped my mouth; it was like paste on my glove. I could hear other firefighters coughing, so I knew they were all right. The guys were yelling each other’s names, put on flashlights. I knew everybody in the front was OK. We started to yell for Ruben. Jeff was calling for Ruben. I turned around and it was about 10 feet away where there was just rubble from when the building collapsed. The hallway was intact. The electricity was knocked out. Sheetrock and metal were hanging.

I was in shock, I couldn’t believe I was that close to being trapped. The officer gave a Mayday. Jeff went to the wall of debris and started to pull pieces off to see if there was a void. They couldn’t find any. The officer asked what hotel room I was near. I said 2106-08. I noticed half the room was missing. I could see right out and down. I couldn’t hear any response from down below. I thought maybe the radio wasn’t working when we got no response. The only transmission was from a firefighter from a ladder company. Mayday, Mayday, I’m trapped and I don’t know where I am, I’m running out of air.

We knew we had to get out and get help. We walked down the stairwell. We met Ladder 12 on a lower floor. At the sixth floor there was debris blocking the stairway and you couldn’t go any further. I walked into one of the suites. One of the truckies breached the wall with a halligan tool. They decided they were going to tie off a hose with a substantial knot and slide down the hose out the window. That would be a six-floor drop. Somebody remembered seeing a rope on an upper floor. Two members of Ladder 12 went back upstairs to retrieve the rope.

Lieutenant Nichols said we have to get around the rubble and make it to a lower floor. Jeff Johnson climbed down half a story and cleared the debris. On the fifth floor he found five civilians. Everyone started to follow the way down the stairs. I was the last one to make it to the third floor. On the third floor there was an opening in the stairwell. Jeff and Pat Carey jumped out onto a patio. They took a lightweight beam and situated it so they could crawl out. They called out for the civilians to climb out. One by one they were assisted held by curtains from a room. I felt like I was doing something to help. Ten firefighters and five civilians were making their way down slowly.

Two firefighters, two civilians and myself were left when the second building started to come down. I said not again and braced for it. I said please God, let me get through this one. As it came down it got dark right away. A cloud of dust hit us. One of the civilians was around 80 years old. I saw him moving. I grabbed his hand and said stay with me. As it came down I was thinking there is someone with you, you are not alone. You have some air and near an opening and it won’t be that bad if I am trapped.

After the noise, I started to hear voices from the outside. We’re not trapped too badly. As the dust cleared I could see outside. My luck today is amazing. I looked out and everybody was scattered to get cover in other areas. In front of me was Lieutenant Nichols. Before the patio was open, now it was covered in debris like a bunker and foxhole.

Jeff was yelling. I’m thinking he’s stuck somewhere impaled on debris over him. That’s when Lieutenant Nichols said Jeff was yelling for Pat Carey. I assumed Jeff was OK, now I was worried about Pat. The two of us were able to get the two civilians down. There was a lot of rubble and steel.

I made my way down an I-beam and down several stories of rubble. The first collapse took out the middle of the hotel. The second collapse took out everything else except the four stories at the south end. I was screaming for Pat, wondering where he might be. I thought he was gone.

It was a sunny day, but looked cloudy. It looked like a movie set. Ambulances and fire trucks were wrecked and burning. I saw a rescue firefighter and turned the old man with us over to him. I told him we had firefighters trapped. We met up with Jeff later on. He said he was able to get three civilians out and was trapped on a lower floor.

We made a phone call to the firehouse and found out Pat was in the hospital. He was trapped on the second floor, but made it out. Ruben Carrera is still missing. I was thankful for Ruben‘s help. I believe he helped me get out and was there for me the whole way through.

Firehouse Magazine Reports---Firefighter Peter Blaich

Found at archive.org

WTC: This Is Their Story

From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine

Firefighter Peter Blaich
Ladder 123 - 2 years
(was at Engine 9 on 9/11)

I came in for the day tour, so I got there about 8 o’clock and relieved the guy on the backup on the engine. A fireman, Ray Hayden, was actually standing in front of quarters and he saw what he thought was a small plane and then an explosion right into north tower. You could just make out the tips of the towers from the firehouse on Canal Street, so he got everybody in the house on standby and we were waiting to be dispatched, which we never were. Then, at that moment, it flashed on the news that the north tower was on fire. We weren’t dispatched yet, but Hayden turned everybody out. We took the satellite because we had the satellite with us. 6 Truck went. 9 Engine went and Satellite 1 went.

You could see the top of the north tower still, a lot of fire and a lot of smoke. As we got closer towards the towers, I lost the view I had from the cab of the engine. It was blocked out by the other buildings. Engine 9 pulled up on Vesey and West Street, and the satellite was behind Engine 9 and in front of 9 Engine was 6 Truck.

As soon as we pulled up, I remember getting off the rig and Lieutenant Foti from the engine said everybody grab an extra bottle along with our rollups. He’s a captain now, he was promoted after 9/11. Then he turned to me and he said if I can, take the life-saving rope and try to keep that with me as long as I could because we had jumpers at that point.

So I had the rollup, I had an extra bottle, I had the life-saving rope and then I remember looking up and seeing the first body hit one of the lower towers in the complex. And then I saw another body land not too far in front of us, right on the hood of a car. I had never imagined seeing anything like that, ever.

We proceeded into the north tower and at that point Chief Pfiefer was just setting up the command post in the north tower. It was us, 1 Truck, 7 Engine, 6 Engine, 55 Engine was there. Chief Pfiefer told us and 6 Truck to stay together and to start making our way up the B stairway, which was the attack stairway. And I heard that over the radio too B is the attack stairway. I had a radio because in 9 Engine they have the satellite, so the backup man has a radio also.

We started going up the B stairway. As we got to the third floor of the B stairway, we forced open an elevator door which was burnt on all three sides. The only thing that was remaining was the hoistway door. And inside the elevator were about – I didn’t recognize them initially, but a guy from 1 Truck said oh my God, those are people. They were pretty incinerated. And I remember the overpowering smell of kerosene. That’s when Lieutenant Foti said oh, that’s the jet fuel. I remember it smelled like if you’re camping and you drop a kerosene lamp.

The same thing happened to the elevators in the main lobby. They were basically blown out. I don’t recall if I actually saw people in there.

What got me initially in the lobby was that as soon as we went in, all the windows were blown out, and there were one or two burning cars outside. And there were burn victims on the street there, walking around. We walked through this giant blown-out window into the lobby.

There was a lady there screaming that she didn’t know how she got burnt. She was just in the lobby and then next thing she knew she was on fire. She was burnt bad. And somebody came over with a fire extinguisher and was putting water on her.

That’s the first thing that got me. That and in front of one of the big elevator banks in the lobby was a desk and I definitely made out one of the corpses to be a security guard because he had a security label on his jacket. I’m assuming that maybe he was at a table still in a chair and almost completely incinerated, charred all over his body, definitely dead. And you could make out like a security tag on his jacket. And I remember seeing the table was melted, but he was still fused in the chair and that elevator bank was melted, so I imagine the jet fuel must have blown right down the elevator shaft and I guess caught the security guard at a table, I guess at some type of checkpoint.

We figured by the time we got to the fifth or sixth floor, that’s when the south tower was hit. I had no idea the south tower was hit, and I don’t think that Chief Jonas – Captain Jonas at the time – or Lieutenant Foti knew at that point either. I remember the whole north tower literally vibrated. The only way I can explain it is if you were at the edge of a subway platform and the train was coming in, you felt that wind and the sound, but with an added effect like the floor vibrated. Everybody just cringed and really was not sure what was going on. I just assumed that it was something above us. I had no idea that the south tower was hit.

From the sixth floor, we went to the 12th. At the 12th floor there was a bottleneck of civilians still evacuating the tower. We also needed a little rest from the climb up. Lieutenant Foti had us take the people from the B staircase and lead them over to the A staircase because we wanted to clear the B staircase for us. He wanted to make the A the evacuation staircase. We took our gear, our tanks and everything off, tried to cool down, and then we just led people over to the A staircase. It was a distance, I would say 30, 40 feet.

Then from that point we proceeded up and we went up to as far as the 25th floor. When we got to the 25th floor, it was that same effect, like being on the subway platform, but you could tell like that something was really wrong because we heard windows blowing out on our floor. I remember looking at the top of the door, it crimped in. I remember looking at it and going oh, man, that can’t be structurally good, it was almost like at that moment the door wanted to get sucked out, actually get blown out of the building.

That was the first time also that we encountered a smoke condition. We had to force open the door on the 25th floor from the B staircase. It was crushed and we had to force it open to get onto the floor just to see what was going on. There was a very decent smoke condition. You could stay low enough and be all right, but it was to the point if you stayed in there for a while, you’re going to have to mask up.

At that point, 6 Truck came down from 27 to 25. I remember Captain Jonas and two other firefighters came running back into the B stairway. It was us, 1 Truck, a couple of other companies – 9 Engine, 7 Engine. And I remember him saying, oh my God, the second tower is down, if that can come down, being that this is burning longer than the south tower, we definitely have to get out of the north tower now.

We got a rush of air just flying out of the north tower, it was almost like you were getting wind in there, just whoosh, it came rushing out. At that point, Captain Jonas came running back in and said the south tower’s down. I don’t know how he did it. He was as calm as a cucumber, but he was saying we’ve got to start getting out of here now. He went up a couple of floors and made sure that he notified whoever was above him. He transmitted over the radio what he observed and that we were getting out, and at that point we started our descent. I heard Maydays after the collapse, there were Maydays all over the place.

As we were going down, we were trying to stop and double-check the floors that we got to. We did still encounter some civilians on the 20th floor on the way down. There was one guy downloading stuff off his computer and we just told him you got to go now. He really didn’t want to leave, but we basically forced him out of the building at that point. I would say most of the civilians were out at that point.

We tried to check the floors as quickly as we could. Some floors had smoke conditions on them and some floors didn’t. It was weird. I don’t know if that’s because maybe debris from the tower landed in certain floors and maybe lit certain floors on fire. I don’t know. But there was definitely heavy smoke on one floor and then the next floor you’d go to there would be no smoke.

The lights were out. The emergency lights were on in the north tower at that point. The alarm was going off the whole time we were there. It was a deafening alarm sound to get out.

We got down to the third floor. It was us, it was 9 Engine, 6 Truck and there were about six civilians at that point and one lady, Josephine, who was not ambulatory. She couldn’t walk. We were staying with 6 Truck to help them and a chief told 9 Engine, I want you to take these approximately six other people and get them out and I’ll stay with 6 Truck. We didn’t want to leave, but that’s what we were told, so we did it.

We got down to the lobby and my first thought was when we did encounter Josephine and the six other people that looked like they could walk, our first thought was why the hell are you still in the building? And one of the women told me we can’t go down there, there’s smoke and we can’t get out. So I said oh, what the heck is this now? Then we took them with us down to the lobby and when we got to the lobby, it was nothing but debris, heavy smoke and fire.

I masked up. Lieutenant Foti said to me and Sean O’Sullivan, see if you can still find the way we came in. So we had our masks on and we went out, me and Sean together, and we went over one pile of debris and we found one firemen that was definitely deceased at that point. I don’t know who he was or what company he was from. He was in the lobby towards I guess the south tower side. We tried to drag him back with us, but Lieutenant Foti said listen, we can’t do anything for this guy now and we got to get out of here. We didn’t want to, but we had to leave him and we knew we had the other people to try to get out who were still alive.

And with that, Lieutenant Foti knew that if we dropped down into the loading dock area, we could get across a loading dock and come up on Vesey Street because he didn’t want to take these people through this thick smoke condition and sheared steel and rubble. I didn’t think we were going to get out of the lobby. But we dropped down and the smoke went from bad to tolerable and we were able to take the people across the loading dock out towards Vesey Street.

We were out now on Vesey Street and we were going to head back in and make sure that 6 Truck knew that they could come out this way because we knew that they had Josephine. And we turned to walk back down the loading dock and the whole thing just started coming down, the whole north tower. There wasn’t even time to run. I got hit with some huge debris. I still had my mask on at the time and I guess that might have saved me too. I got hit with a huge piece of debris in the back of my air cylinder, which took the wind out of me and knocked me flat on the ground.

At that point, I was ready to curl up. I figured this is it, the whole thing is going to land right on my head. A firefighter, Michael Price in 9 Engine, pulled me under a Port Authority tow truck, one of the big ones that they would tow trucks with. He pulled me under that thing and it just went black as night. I thought I was going to suffocate under this truck now because a force came – I could have sworn the truck, if it didn’t get lifted up, it definitely got moved to the side.

My helmet came blowing right off my head and the next thing I knew there was nothing but debris and dirt and that plume of crushed concrete all around us. You could hardly breathe. I just remember sticking my head in my coat and trying to conserve as much air as I could, figuring I’m probably going to suffocate because I know this whole thing came down around us and I have no idea if anybody’s going to get us out of here.

We stayed in there. We talked to each other for it seemed like an eternity, me, Mike Price. And then eventually it did clear enough that we could see each other. We couldn’t come out of the truck even the same way we came in. We had to back ourselves up out of the truck. I remember the whole top of the tow truck looked like somebody took a can opener and just peeled it right off. Maybe 10 feet from the truck was the biggest piece of steel I-beam I’ve every seen, and there was a dead Port Authority cop right there. We tried to get his body away from the steel beam, but we weren’t moving the steel beam.

Maybe 30 minutes went by by the time the company found each other. At that point, we definitely knew that 6 Truck, if they were alive, they were probably still stuck in there somehow. Lieutenant Foti said let’s just try to find all our guys first and let people know where 6 Truck is because we knew we probably couldn’t get to them by ourselves. We had no tools or anything.

Then we heard a Mayday from 6 Truck – we couldn’t believe they were still alive and we knew that we had a shot to go back in and get them at this point. We got back to where Engine 9 was, the satellite and 6 Truck was. Off-duty members from 6 Truck and 9 Engine were there now.

I remember my father was on the radio trying to locate me because he came with my uncle on the relocation. One of the lieutenants, Lieutenant Chin from 9 Engine, told me your father’s over by the subway, just go tell him that you’re alive. So I ran over there and then the first thing he did when he got me is he said do you remember how you got back in, you know, how you got out because we can get back in that way.

Lieutenant Foti and me and a couple of other firemen from other companies, in the dirt we drew the best way we thought to get in there, we made a little map in the dirt. We were trying to figure out if we went by the loading dock, we knew that we could get up to that B stairway again. And that’s what we did.

It was pretty big down there. It was huge. And there were trucks on fire down there – the trucks were roaring. There was a good smoke condition.

We wound up getting hose off of another engine company. There was a building across the street on Vesey Street. We hooked up to a standpipe there and we ran a hose out because we needed to extinguish the truck fires in the subbasement because that was really just black smoke.

So we stretched a line from there, put out the truck fires, which cleared up the visibility pretty good, but then we could see that there was no way to get from the subbasement any more into the B stairway. It was just completely destroyed, caved in, rubble, everything.

We could still hear them talking and I said we’re never going to get to these guys, there’s no way we can get anything to get up there. It was completely sealed. It was like they were entombed. We stayed in there trying to figure things out. Other supervisors came at that point, other chiefs, and we knew that they were right above us, but we just could not reach them.

We stayed in there as long as we could and then there were other collapses starting now – small debris started coming down all around us. And that’s when my father said that’s it, we got to get out of here now, so we backed out. And thank God, at the same time, that’s when 6 Truck radioed that they found a way out. We still really didn’t know where they were. I went back after and realized what they did. They were basically entombed from the top and the bottom, so it was great that they got out. I couldn’t believe that they walked out of there.

As soon as we got back and 6 Truck was out, we went back to trying to get water because now we had all this fire and no water– 9 Engine was completely blown out. It was burnt. It looked like it got hit with a blow torch. All the windows were blown out in it. So that was useless, but believe it or not the satellite – besides some debris on it – was fine in all other aspects.

We took nine lengths of satellite hose down to the water. We hooked up to a fireboat down there and we operated the monitor at that point into the seven-story building in front of Tower 1. It pretty much put that out, reached great. We had good water pressure. We were augmented by another engine company from the water to the satellite. They put another engine company in there which augmented us. And the stream was even good enough to almost reach Tower 7. And then what happened was, we heard this rumbling sound and my father pulled us all back and then with that Tower 7 came down. We were still operating the satellite at that point. We ran. It really didn’t come up to where the satellite was, but it came close enough.

At that point, they lined up all the firemen on Vesey Street west of West Street down towards the water. Then they said all the firemen on one side, all the officers on another. And they had a meeting, all the chiefs, and then chiefs came over and grabbed an officer and they teamed the officer up with five firemen.

And 6 Truck all went to the hospital after that. They had to be treated. But 9 Engine, the off-duty members and the on-duty members, and the off-duty members of 6 Truck, we stayed together and we just stayed there trying to pull people out.

Me with only two years on this job, I just feel like I was so naive going in there because I had no idea what I was really walking into. I looked up and tried to get things into focus, but there was so much going on. The bodies – it was overwhelming.

At one point in the B stairway, there were still civilians coming down and we were going up, and I couldn’t believe how small the stairways were. I thought in the Trade Center, you’d have these huge stairways that you could fit a truck or up there or something, but you couldn’t. Every time a civilian came down, with the rollups and whatever extra tools you were carrying, you always had to turn to the side so they could pass you, and a lot of them needed help down so you would put your stuff down and help them down to a floor or two to another fireman, and then you’d go back, try to catch up with your company and make the walk up.

When we stopped on the 12th floor and moved, there was like a mass of civilians coming down now. Now, when we moved them over to the A stairway out of the B stairway, that definitely helped because after that point it flowed for us going up because there were no more civilians at that point coming down. And it had to definitely help the civilians get out of the building faster.

It’s unbelievable to me. William Johnson from 6 Engine, he was assigned to 276 Engine and he was on rotation to 6 Engine. We were going up the floors together. We were in the same probie company together and were like competition. He was always a little faster when we were doing the drills and everything. When we got there, he was like oh, man, we’re going to have a good story to tell when we go back to Brooklyn – and he didn’t make it. They were above 6 Truck at one point, so they had to get up maybe to the 30th floor. I was pretty good friends with Robert Lane. He didn’t make it. It’s almost like there’s no rhyme or reason to this.

Firehouse Magazine Reports---Lieutenant Ray Brown

Found at archive.org

WTC: This Is Their Story

From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine

Lieutenant Ray Brown
Ladder 113 - 22 years

I worked the night before, and I was supposed to work overtime in Ladder 111 and there was an officer coming here. I had called over to Ladder 111 and Lieutenant Chris Sullivan was working Engine 214. I said, I’ll work in Engine 214. The officer who was coming here called up and said, oh, no, I’ll go over there. Then he called up Chris and he was going to do the same switch. Chris got an EMS run before the hour and he stayed in 214, and he died.

They said, turn on the TV. You could see the flames coming out. All the guys were asking me, you worked in Manhattan, you had high-rise fires. I remember telling them this fire’s not going out. We don’t put out high-rise fires that big. When the fuel level diminished, we went in and knocked down the fires.

I was in Rescue 1 for six years. We had a transformer one year. We had a fire in the elevator another year. We rarely had fires down there. We’re in the kitchen. We’re watching it and everybody is thinking the same thing, oh my God, people are going to die. Firemen are going to be hurt. We didn’t even want to even think that. While we’re watching it, the second plane hit, and we got called to respond. I ran upstairs and I got my cell phone and I was trying to call my father. He is a retired battalion chief in the FDNY and the first chief of Rescue Services. He works for the Port Authority.

We were responding to a staging area near the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Almost the whole way there I was frantic. I was calling my father at work. I was calling him on the cell phone. I was calling my mother on my cell phone. I called my sister and I’m wondering where is he because I know he works in Jersey City. He goes to a lot of meetings at the Trade Center. I didn’t get through. It was hairy driving over there because we had a view of it the whole time. We got to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and we were there maybe five or 10 minutes and they sent us.

There were a bunch of companies there. There were a couple of battalion chiefs with us. We were getting hit with the ashes on the other side of the tunnel. You didn’t really want to look at it too long. I had a great crew. I had Dennis Dowdican. He’s been my chauffeur for 10 years. Willie Roberts, who’s the other chauffeur in my 24 group, he’s got over 20 years. Richie Nogan’s got over 20 years. Bob Pino, another excellent fireman, he’s got 12 years. Tom Fisa, 16 years. Bill Morris, 16 years. I had a very experienced crew.

I was telling the guys to sit down, relax, this is going to be a long day. We got called to respond to a staging area in Manhattan. Just as we’re going into the tunnel, Tom Manley – he’s the sergeant-at-arms of the firefighters union, and a member of this company – comes running up and he tells us they hit the Pentagon. He rode through the tunnel with us. We’re driving through and I’m thinking, oh my God, this is war, maybe the tunnel is a target.

I tell my chauffeur go, just get through it, and we got through. We parked the rig at Liberty and West streets and I reported to the staging area and the chief. He said, 113 report to Building 2 at the command post. I went back to the rig and I told everybody get an extra bottle. Everybody check your mask here, get search ropes. I hadn’t even gotten my mask on yet.

All of a sudden, we hear these incredible explosions. And I look up. I thought fire was breaking out on the upper floors. And then the debris starting hitting and I ran. And the reason I ran was because I didn’t have my mask on. All the guys had their masks on, they hid under the rig. I ran across the street. I was getting hit with debris and I got knocked down. That dust, I had it in my mouth. I couldn’t breathe. All of a sudden, it went pitch black. I thought it was the end of the world. My exact words to myself were they dropped the bomb on us and I’m going to die. People talk about a near-death experience, but I was calm, I realized maybe I’m not going to die.

I got up again and I started running and then I got hit with a bunch of stuff. There were people to the left and right of me getting hit with debris. I wasn’t able to stop, but I’m sure they were getting killed. And then I happened to look to my right and I saw a wall. I ducked behind the wall and I heard more debris coming down. It was so quiet. You didn’t hear a sound. You didn’t hear a thing. I heard, help, fireman, help me, I can’t breathe. And I remember telling people, you can breathe and I was telling the people to go to the river. It was like you were in a thick fog. There was maybe two or three feet visibility. All of a sudden, people would start popping up and, you know, you could barely hear them. And you couldn’t even hear them until they were like right on top of you.

I realized I had to get back to my rig and see if my guys were OK. The fire truck was burning. There was so many ambulances burning it was incredible. You really couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of you. At this point, I still didn’t know what happened. I still thought that fire broke out on every floor or they dropped the bomb somewhere. I didn’t realize that the tower had collapsed. I could see fires in upper floors in all the buildings. When I got to the rig and I saw my guys I was relieved that they were all OK and then I felt a lot of pride that they were ready to go to work.

They got some equipment. I ran into Deputy Chief Tom Galvin, who had just come out of the Marriott Hotel. He came running up and he said 65 Engine and 58 Engine are trapped in the Marriott. They tied a search rope to a pillar where 58 Engine was trapped. When Chief Galvin told us about the guys in the Marriott, my chauffeur had an extinguisher and he was trying to put out the rig, and I told him forget about it. There were a couple of my guys who were trying to help civilians and I had to tell them to leave them, because in my mind, if you were walking or talking, you were OK. That was a hard thing to do. There were some people who were bleeding and moaning, but you had to leave them.

I said we’ve got to get into the Marriott. I told the guys get the sawzall. They already had the airbags. We went into the Marriott Hotel and I ran into a guy coming out who told me that there are firemen trapped in there. I grabbed him and told him to come with me. He took us back and when I got there, there were two guys from 58 Engine and one of them I knew. He said our lieutenant’s trapped in here.

I was trying to assess the situation. The best way I’ve been able to describe it is if you took an accordion and you squished it completely, and then tried to cut a little piece out of it. He was OK. He was talking to us. He told us there were two chiefs and there was another company behind them. I also heard a Mayday from a company on the first floor in the Marriott and I responded to them and I told them, we’re going to get you out, then we were starting to cut with the saws.

One of Engine 58’s firefighters, Mike Fitzpatrick, was there. We gave him the portable sawzall and I told another guy we’re under a void. I told John Wilson from 58 to keep an eye on the void. Mike Fitzpatrick and I crawled in and he started cutting to remove debris so we could get the lieutenant out. The lieutenant had asked for a flashlight. He told us he was OK and he kept asking how are his guys, he kept telling us about the guys behind him. It looked like a lot of ducts, pipes, aluminum and shelves. I mean, there was just so much stuff. Huge pipes, small pipes. There were a bunch of heating and ventilation ducts, just a tremendous amount of debris.

We were able to get about 10 feet in before we actually had to start cutting. We only had five to seven feet because we cut away about three or four feet. I sent Richie Nogan and Bob Pino out to get more equipment. I wanted a Hurst tool and I wanted the electric sawzall. I knew we were going to be there a long time. I wanted cribbing. I thought the Hurst tool would be best to spread, crib, spread, crib.

Even the guy next to me asks me, you were in Rescue 1, weren’t you? I said yeah, I was in Rescue 1, but I never saw anything like this. I don’t care how many years on the job you had, how many years you spent in any rescue company, this was just beyond anybody’s capability.

A section of the lobby of the Marriott, the ceiling tiles were still intact. Which is incredible. Basically, the rest of the building came down in the section where he was located. If you were inside that reinforced area, you lived because that’s why I’m alive. While we’re in the Marriott, we’re cutting away and it just seemed like an impossible feat, but I figured given time we were going to get him out. I remember even telling him yeah, we’re going to get you out. He kept saying I’m OK, I’m OK.

After the first collapse, there was nothing on the radio. I was trying to call my guys and they weren’t answering. And then all of a sudden, when I was in the Marriott, then I started hearing Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. My guys kept saying, there’s a Mayday, but I had to tune it out because we had to take care of our own situation. One of my guys stayed with me and two other guys from 58 Engine came in with a partner saw. This wasn’t something that you could use a partner saw on. I was afraid of the vibrations and so I told the one guy to keep an eye on that void on the overhang.

Mike Fitzpatrick and I went into the hole and after that I don’t remember. They told me that I yelled, get out. They told me that they heard a rumble. The guys from 58 were in the Marriott when the first tower came down, so when they heard that rumble, they knew it was a major collapse. I woke up for about a second or two. They found me in the lobby about 15 or 20 feet from where I had been. Apparently, I got hit with some stuff and thrown across the room. The only reason they found me is because they saw my flashlight.

One of the guys came up. He said, are you OK, and I said no, I said, I’m losing it. They got kind of worried and they ended up carrying me out up over 40 feet of rubble. When they got me to the top of the rubble, one of the guys tried to throw me over his shoulder and that’s when I woke up for a second. I had five fractured ribs. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital six hours later.

The guys did a great job. They got me to the fireboat and they took me to a Jersey City hospital. I think I was in the same boat as Al Fuentes. I worked with Al in Rescue 1. I had a concussion. I got stitches on my chin, about 25 stitches in the back of my head. I had five fractured ribs. I was bruised on my back from my hips all the way up to my neck. My lower back was hurt, my neck, my right shoulder was hurt, my hip. Both kneecaps were bruised. I was out almost four months.

The thing that was weird was being in the hospital and not knowing what went on. From what I understand, they had me listed as MIA. They actually listed me as DOA, I believe. There’s an office at 113. My brother was there for 12 hours. He didn’t know what happened. He just knew that my rig was burned. Now I have two cousins on the job also that went down there and all they knew was they saw my rig and they heard that I was the officer that day, but they didn’t know where I was.

When I woke up in the hospital, the doctor said to me, did you hear your men are OK, your father’s OK? I didn’t know for six hours. I knew my brother wasn’t working, so I didn’t have to worry about him. With any line-of-duty death, you know the names, the company, you know how long they’ve been on the job. That’s why this is so mind boggling.

Firehouse Magazine Reports---Firefighter Mike Cancel

WTC: This Is Their Story

From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine

Firefighter Mike Cancel
Ladder 10 - 16 years
(now promoted to fire marshal)

Ladder 10/Engine 10 are located on the south side of Liberty Street across from Tower 2. Before the 1993 bombing, we would respond 15-20 times a day to the World Trade Center. After the bombing it dropped to four or five runs a day. Each building has an individual fire command station. I was working 24 hours. I went upstairs to wash up. I heard a boom. It sounded like a steel plate shifting in the street. John Schroeder yelled out that a plane just went into the World Trade Center.

People were already running into the firehouse. The overhead doors were open. I put on my gear. It was raining like snow, but it was flesh. The streets were covered. The housewatch called the dispatcher and said 10-60, major incident. We followed the engine. I noticed a burned civilian in the street.

As we arrived I looked up. I had the roof position. I saw 10 to 15 floors of fire. It was the most fire I ever saw. We walked into the lobby. I was the last one in. There were two people – a man and a woman on fire, still alive. We used the water extinguisher and a CO2 extinguisher to put them out. I told the chauffeur, John Morabito, to get EMS.

We took the B stairs and headed up. Hundreds of people were coming down. They were calm. We asked some of the civilians to help the injured downstairs. As we walked past the people they wished us well and tapped us on our shoulders. We went 10 floors and took a break. We found some water.

When we made it to the 31st floor, the OV, Serge Pilipczuk, had chest pains. EMS had come up behind us, so they gave him oxygen. I gave my radio to the can man, Sean Tallon. The officer, Lieutenant Steven Harrell, Jeffrey Olsen, irons, and the can man, Sean Tallon, kept going upstairs. The radio repeater wasn’t working. An FBI agent came by and said a second plane is coming, brace for impact. Over the handie-talkie radio, there is another plane, he’s coming around. There was still a good volume of people traveling down the stairs. We went into the hallway and braced against a wall. We were aware that something hit. The other members of Ladder 10 made it to the 40th floor.

I was trying to reach the lobby to notify them of the member with chest pains when the building started to shake. We were being tossed around. I thought the building was going to come down. Someone said the south tower came down. I said, what do you mean it came down? There were frequent Maydays. Firefighters were down and trapped. After 10 minutes, the lights in the north tower, which had gone out, had come back on. From the lobby we heard Mayday, Mayday, evacuate.

We could feel the building starting to twist above us. I called Ladder 10 three times, Ladder 10 roof to Ladder 10. There was no answer. I said we have to evacuate, the building’s coming down. Again, there was no response.

EMS went above us. Firefighters were still walking up the stairs. I said we have to evacuate. I started to walk down with the OV. When we reached the third floor, there was a group of civilians who said it was flooded below, we can’t get out. I went down to check and there wasn’t any flood. A group of 20 or 30 firefighters and civilians came down the B stairs. We met with building personnel. We looked south and saw all the rubble. All the glass was out in the lobby. Look up, make sure you don’t get hit. I had heard that earlier a jumper struck a firefighter.

I took the OV to Vesey Street to be treated by EMS. The north tower collapsed. I ran towards the water. I was worried I lost the OV, but I found him walking in the dust. He looked like a ghost. I took him to the water and he was transported by boat to New Jersey for medical treatment. After a few days, the members of the company operated the GPS – the Global Positioning System – to document the location of the remains found at the site. Others maintained the house. A command post was set up on the second floor of the firehouse.

Firehouse Magazine Reports---Firefighter Tom Caruso

WTC: This Is Their Story

From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine

Firefighter Tom Caruso
Ladder 48 - 6 1/4 years

I was on a 90-day detail to Engine 3. I was at 7th Avenue and Grove Street. I heard the explosion and ran out into the street and saw that a jet hit the Trade Center. I made it back to Engine 3 to get my gear. I jumped on a Con-Ed electric truck and was brought to the scene. I held my helmet out the window and the police let us through.

About three blocks away, I jumped out. At this time, both towers were burning. I took an airpack off a rig and found a halligan tool. I went into the north tower with a makeshift group of firefighters with a captain. A woman jumper hit a man about 35 feet away from us. I saw eight or nine people jump. I was amazed by it.

People were coming down the escalators near West Street. We made it into a stairway. There were numerous people coming down. It was tough going. I heard a transmission about the south tower suffering a partial collapse. We were still walking up. I think we were at the 11th floor. People were still coming down. In another minute or two we came down.

The lobby was pitch black. We were fumbling around. I tried a dozen times to get out. Finally outside I saw Ladder 12 with their bucket up. Then the north tower came down. I was on the opposite side of West Street. I heard the rumbling. I ran to a building and threw my halligan tool through the plate glass window. A whole bunch of people ran inside. It was pitch black. I could see the silhouette of a rig in flames.

We stayed in the store for a few minutes because of the dust. There was an eerie silence. We asked each other who’s here? Three or four engines were burning. Ladders 5 and 12 were smashed. Engine 3 was on the southbound side of the street and was all right. The high-rise unit was smashed under the north pedestrian bridge. We heard a Mayday given by a member of a ladder company.

When I ran into the scene, I never expected the towers would come down. My best friend, Firefighter Sergio Villanueva of Ladder 132, was killed.

Firehouse Magazine Reports---Lieutenant Gregg Hansson

WTC: This Is Their Story

From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine

Lieutenant Gregg Hansson
Engine 24 - 11 1/4 years

The alarm came in and we rode out with one extra firefighter. On the rig were Firefighters Richard Billy, Dan Sterling, Robert Byrne, John Ottotrando and Marcel Claes. We responded down Varick Street – it was a straight run.

There was a good-sized hole in the north tower. It didn’t look nearly as bad. I thought it was a small plane. I was confident that we could go up and operate. We parked at West and Vesey streets. This was the same position as in 1993. We took our three 50-foot sections (rollups) of hose into the lobby. Deputy Chief Hayden was there, and we heard him tell one of the Port Authority people he wanted both towers evacuated.

There were no elevators working. All the glass on the west side of the lobby was broken out. We were standing next to the crew of Ladder 20. We followed them to the southeast corner and entered the A stairs. There were a lot of people self-evacuating. We got the people to come down single file just so we could go up the stairs. We interviewed people as they past us – What floor were you coming from? What were the conditions? People said they were coming from the 20s, 30s and 40s.

Around the 20th floor a person said he had come from the 90th floor. He saw fire. A girl with him had blood on her shirt. She was asthmatic and was having an anxiety attack. We also heard urgent messages with firefighters reporting chest pains. I realized our own guys were having chest pains. I saw a woman who had suffered burns to her arms.

We continued up to floor 27. I left a firefighter with a man in a wheelchair. I told the firefighter to stay with him, if you get help, take him out. Three other firefighters remained with me. We heard Captain Pat Brown from Ladder 3 giving a message about a collapse in the 60s. We heard other firefighters calling Ladder 3.

At the 35th floor we caught up with Ladder 20. We stopped for a break. On this floor was Engine 24, 33, Ladder 20 and 5 and the 11th Battalion. We were waiting to proceed up. We decided to take half of the rollups. There was a person getting oxygen from two EMS workers. Over the chief’s radio, which was on the command channel, we heard the order to evacuate. The chief had a megaphone. We saw Ladder 5 go to the B stairs.

Suddenly the building started to shake. The chief was screaming to get into the stairwell. Lieutenant John Fischer of Ladder 20 went to get his guys, who were one or two floors above. We went down and found the firefighter we left with the person in the wheelchair. One of the firefighters said he left his mask on the 35th floor. I said leave it, just get out.

Captain Burke from Engine 21 was with his company. They said they were going to take the handicapped person and another civilian down with them. There were no elevators. Captain Burke decided to take these people down. We stopped at the 19th floor. There were 10 firefighters and eight civilians. I told them, you have to get out.

At the third floor we were stopped by Firefighter Pat Kelly from Squad 18, who needed help getting a civilian out. The stairway was blocked. We transferred to another stairway. We finally made it outside. There was 10 to 15 feet of visibility. We were standing under the overhang of building 6, the Customs House. We heard a thunderous roar. Next, it got pitch black. Everybody scattered. I didn’t know it was the tower coming down.

I was hit by a lot of debris, concrete. I had dropped my mask when I left the building. I was trying to crawl on my belly. A police officer was shining his light, which way to go. I found Firefighter Byrne. Firefighter Billy was giving a Mayday. I tried to call, there was no response. There wasn’t anybody around. I tried to use a truck radio. I met a Safety Chief in an ambulance and told him both towers had come down. Finally, we made it to Engine 7/Ladder 1, which was being used as a triage area.

Firehouse Magazine Reports---Firefighter Marcel Claes

WTC: This Is Their Story

From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine

Firefighter Marcel Claes
Engine 24 - 12 years

Civilians were helping each other out as we walked up the stairs in the north tower. We stopped to take a break on the 35th floor. We heard a rumble. We thought the upper floors might have collapsed. There was a chief with us and he said drop everything and get out, twice. On the way down, I saw the Second Battalion aide, Faustino Apostel Jr., on the 10th floor. Below that there was a woman walking one step at a time. She was being helped by Ladder 6.

I finally made it to the lobby. I was surprised to see so much debris. Someone said go out the way we came in. A building employee was looking up. We ran outside. I remember seeing Ladder 8 or Ladder 18 on the corner. We went out to the middle of West Street and saw the debris on the ground. We watched three people jump. The north and west sides of Tower 1 were totally involved. I was confused. I said is this really happening? The building started to come down. We ran north on West Street. The dust was passing us. I ran behind an engine. It was total darkness. Something hot went down my shirt. I was gagging on the dust. No one from the company was with me. I went back down the street to an engine that was still running. This engine was being supplied by another engine.

Firefighters started to take lines off. There were many rigs on fire. Lines were stretched to the Customs House. They were searching in there. They used the booster tank water from one engine, and then Engine 239 resupplied that unit. Lines were hooked up to Tower Ladder 12. Someone was using a stang nozzle but they didn’t have much pressure.

We were kept away from building 7 because of the potential of collapse. I felt sick. I had my eyes flushed out. I saw firefighters who told me Engine 24 made it out, but Ladder 5 was missing. I walked back to the firehouse of Engine 24/Ladder 5.

Firehouse Magazine Reports---Firefighter Dennis Dowdican

WTC: This Is Their Story

From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine

Firefighter Dennis Dowdican
Ladder 113 - 23 years

I was finishing the night tour. I rode in the cab as an extra man. We were sent to staging outside the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. We drove down Union Street and had an unobstructed view of the towers. I was looking for an extra mask. I said we are at war. We were told to respond and drove through the tunnel.

The rig was positioned just south of the south pedestrian bridge on West Street. I saw Chief Medical officer Dr. Kelly and Dr. Prezant. Dr. Prezant had some civilians he wanted to help. I told the doctor to walk the people towards the water. I looked up at the towers and said it’s a long walk up. All of a sudden, the building started to look like a pancake. Smoke was going into it. One firefighter from an engine company dove under a car. I ran south on West Street and dove under a car. I could hear debris hitting the vehicle. I figured I couldn’t outrun it.

We were all shook up. We regrouped. I still didn’t have a mask. I didn’t see too many people. It was completely dark and black. I walked towards the Marriott Hotel. A firefighter from a squad company said you know the next one is going to come down. Into the lobby of the Marriott, Lieutenant Brown had gotten to Lieutenant Nagel of Engine 58 who was trapped. Lieutenant Brown wanted to see if they could get in from another way. He needed more tools. We went outside to get them. We heard a rumbling and headed for the center support post of the south pedestrian bridge. We are not going to outrun this. All four of us from Ladder 113 and huddled. I heard the firefighters in front and behind me yell out they were getting hit by debris. I felt the water rise. It came over our boots when the water mains broke.

We said we have to find Lieutenant Brown. Walking to the hotel, the other members said we have Lieutenant Brown. There was a chief who was off duty and he said he was going to carry the lieutenant. Brown cried out in pain when he was lifted. Are you hurt pretty badly? He said I’m losing it. He had a head injury. They found a chair in an ambulance. Brown was carried up, over and around a lot of steel and debris. He was placed on a boat and taken to New Jersey for medical treatment.

Another firefighter from Ladder 113, Richie Nogan, was trapped in the hotel but was able to free himself and make it out and over the debris to safety.

Firehouse Magazine Reports---Firefighter Adam Mazy

WTC: This Is Their Story

From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine

Firefighter Adam Mazy
Tower Ladder 79 - 4 years
was at Engine 3 on 9/11

I worked the night tour. I was scheduled for overtime in Engine 34 on the day tour. I was walking toward my car when the first plane hit. The announcement came over the voice alarm. Engine 3 and the high-rise unit received a ticket to respond. The officer wouldn’t let me ride. He said proceed to Engine 34. When I arrived at Engine 34, Engine 34 and Ladder 21 had already responded to the Trade Center. I jumped aboard Engine 26, who was sharing the firehouse because their station is under renovation. When we arrived, I didn’t have a mask, so I went looking for Engine 34. I took the chauffeur’s mask from Engine 3. I couldn’t find Engine 34, so I went into the lobby of the north tower, then into the lobby of the hotel. Both lobbies were filled with firefighters.

In the hotel I met Ladder 12, who shares the firehouse with Engine 3. The company was told to switch to channel 2, the channel for the south tower, and search upstairs from the 14th floor. We walked upstairs and searched the 14th floor. We went into a room and took a break. I put some water on my face. I looked out a rear window and saw 10 or 15 bodies lying in the courtyard. Earlier, I had seen people jumping.

We searched floor 15, then we split into two teams. One team searched 16 and the other 17, then we regrouped. I opened the door to floor 19. The south tower started to collapse. It sounded like a bowling ball. I thought it might have been a bomb under the building like in 1993. I felt the wind – it sounded like all the doors were slamming closed. The wind came from above us. It threw us down the C stairs at the southernmost end of the hotel.

We started to make our way down when we received a Mayday. A firefighter from a ladder company was separated from his unit. He didn’t know where he was. He had fallen a distance and was losing consciousness. Debris was blocking all the floors in the hallway. At the fifth floor debris blocked the stairway. We came upon several civilians who were located on the fifth floor. Entering the southernmost room, all you could see was white. It was quiet. There were little pockets of fire visible outside. The windows were broken. We figured the only way out was the window. The lieutenant and one firefighter were going to go back up to 19 to get the roof rope that was dropped and check again for the Mayday.

We ran into a firefighter, possibly from Engine 65. He had 50 feet of 21¼2-inch hose from a standpipe pack. If we did use the hose to go out the window, it would only leave us at the third floor. Firefighters were able to clear the debris in the stairway and made it to the fourth floor. Outside the debris was so close to the hotel that you could just about walk out onto the debris. Another firefighter from Ladder 12 decided to go and assist the two members who went back upstairs. We heard over the radio that they did make it back upstairs.

Now the second tower collapsed. I tried to get back inside and dove in under a staircase with another firefighter from Ladder 12. The building shook, it was dark. We were buried underneath the stairs trapped under sheetrock and light sheet metal. I made a space large enough to crawl out.

The I-beams that were too far away after the first collapse were now propped up against the hotel. Before you would have had to jump to the beam, now you were able to slide down. The civilians were assisted down 30 or 40 feet. I fell off the beam. Something tore off my mask. I had to crawl hand over foot up and down over the debris. I traveled south and then west to the Hudson River.

I had wondered if I ever would go to a job where a firefighter died. That morning, I saw people jumping, I thought someone might die. Before 9/11, 13 firefighters died since I came on the job.

Firehouse Magazine Reports---Firefighter Heinz Kothe

WTC: This Is Their Story

From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine

Firefighter Heinz Kothe
Tower Ladder 12 - 11 years

I came in for the day tour at 7:30 A.M. I relieved the chauffeur from the night tour. Firefighter Derrick Wilson was there. He had relieved me and I went home right before the 1993 bombing; now I relieved him.

I heard the commotion over the voice alarm. A few minutes later, Engine 3 responded with the high-rise unit. Chief Palmer and aide Steve Belson in the 7th Battalion responded. I saw the second plane hit and I knew we were going to go.

We all got dressed and were dispatched on the next box. The probie went as an extra roof man. We made the drive in record time straight down Seventh Avenue. The towers were right in front of us. I could see black smoke billowing from the towers. I said, this isn’t going to be a regular fire, we’re going to be there all day.

The guys in the back were looking out the side windows. They were saying, there goes another one (jumper). We pulled up on West Street. Already, all the tower ladders and rear-mounted aerials were going to be of no use. We grabbed extra air cylinders. As we got close to the building you had to watch out for debris falling down.

We followed a chief into the Marriott Hotel. I saw more death going in than after we came out. We really had to watch out as you ran in so no one jumped on you. The chief in the lobby said engines on this side and trucks on this side. We received an order to evacuate the 16th floor and above. We entered the C stairs on the south end of the hotel. Two or three civilians who we passed on the way up said, what do we do, keep heading down.

We walked up and saw other companies searching the lower floors. We made it up to 14 and took a breather. They were showing the probie how to force a door. I looked out a window and could see people on the rooftops of surrounding buildings that had jumped. We walked all the way to the north end and up to 17 or 18. The company was divided into two teams and we met at the south end landing outside the stairway. There was a rumbling and the building started to shake. The door blew open and blew the guys back. We crawled into a corner. The lights went out and the dust came in. I thought it might have been a bomb in the basement.

Some one said, if you start to choke, it might be a chemical, so put on your mask. On the 18th floor, I shined my light down the hallway. About 20 or 40 feet north of the south stairs the hallway was covered in rubble from when the tower collapsed. It apparently split the Marriott in half. Down to the fifth or sixth floor I was able to look out a window and saw a fire truck upended and wrecked. I could see part of the tower facade and said, what happened out there?

We were trying to get through on the radio. At the third and fourth floors you couldn’t go any further. The stairway was blocked. The roof rope was left on floor 17. Lieutenant Petti and Firefighter Angel Juarbe went to get the search rope. They also received a Mayday from a member of a ladder company. He reported that he was trapped and couldn’t get out. As they went upstairs the lieutenant said to see about finding a way out.

At the fourth floor we ran into a civilian we had seen before. A firefighter had found a way through the debris blocking the stairs. They tried to shimmy down a beam. Looking down at the stairs, the ceiling was collapsed, there was a three-foot space where you were able to slide down. I radioed the lieutenant that we found a way out. The firefighter from Ladder 4 said he was losing consciousness, he had fallen several floors. I said turn on your PASS device. He said he couldn’t reach it. Lieutenant Petti was between the eighth and 12th floors. Firefighter Mullen was waiting to show him the way we went.

I heard another roar, a deafening roar. The building started to shake. There was a pillar in front of me. I pressed up against it. It took 10 seconds for the north tower to collapse. I thought I was dead. Everything was rumbling and shaking around you. It tasted like you had 10 cotton balls in your mouth. I was trying to catch my breath. I lost my facepiece. I got my breath back. I fell forward and ping-ponged on other debris. I hurt my foot and ankle.

Outside the building the visibility was 20 to 40 feet. We kept calling on channel 3, but there was no answer. At a fire there is always someone outside to grab your arm and help you out. No one was there. I thought it might have been a nuclear bomb. I expected to see people tangled in debris. I saw no one dead on the way out. All that was visible was paper, rubble, steel and concrete. There weren’t any people, computers or desks.

Someone said we lost 150, 200 firefighters. I said I hope it’s not true.