FIREFIGHTER ERIC BERNTSEN
That's when we heard the building start shaking. I looked up into the Marriott, because you could see up into it from where we were standing, and just saw black, like dust. I saw stuff falling off the ceiling and I saw just black dust coming down. I turned and I ran a couple of steps west, a couple of steps east, and then we turned up north, up into the concourse, because I didn't see anything falling in that area at that time. So I felt that was the safest direction to go. I jumped into a corner. The lights went out. I jumped into a corner under an archway. I thought maybe that might provide some better support. I just held my helmet. I figured we were going to get like a pancake collapse on top of us. After the building stopped shaking and there was no rumbling noise any more, Vinny Picciano of 212 regrouped the company by saying 212, regroup, get back.
When we got out on to Vesey, there was a Port Authority cop with us and he said that they were given reports that the second building was going to come down. So we made a decision we'd better leave. We came out of the door on
On the way down there, we were listening to the radio. I believe I switched over to the Manhatten frequency. As we were going down the Bruckner, you heard the dispatcher, unless he had us on citywide – talking to the units that were at the scene. You heard different things going on. The dispatcher announced that elevators were dropping. I remember them saying at first to stay out of one of the elevators that serviced the 44th floor. Then less than a minute later they said not to use any elevators. This is as we’re driving down the Bruckner, things were hearing on the radio. He said to stay out of all elevators because the elevators were dropping.
As we got like half a block away, you could hear a gigantic rumble. It sounded like a jet flying overhead. Everybody immediately looked up, and you could see just a big cloud of dust coming down to the ground. I didn’t see the actual top of the building coming down, but you knew what it was.
LIEUTENANT WARREN SMITH
There were a lot of guys on the 31st floor trying to figure out what was going on. Guys were resting. We were hearing a lot of reports on the radio from guys needing oxygen, firefighter down, just guys trying to up too quickly. So as I was making my way to that chief to find out what was going on, the other building went down. We did not know what it was. Because I had received reports from the FBI guy that there were other planes, I thought it was another plane hitting our building because it just shook like we were in an earthquake.
FIREFIGHTER FRANK CAMPAGNA
As we were going up, they said on the lower level the second plane hit the other building. Me personally, I felt it on another level up, so I think the timing was off between everybody. We just kept walking up. As far as we knew, there were no planes or anything coming in. There wasn't even a plane that hit that building. We just knew there was a fire up there. Any other explosions that we felt from inside were maybe extra machinery or something like that. Those were the words that we were getting. So we just kept going up the stairwell. We got up to about the 17th floor, and we felt another pretty big explosion.
There was nobody in the intersection, nobody in the streets in general, everyone just saying come on, keeping coming, keep coming. That's when it went. I looked back. You see three explosions and then the whole thing coming down.
Q. What floor did you say you were on when you think the south tower fell down?
A. I would say about the 17th.
FIREFIGHTER BERTRAM SPRINGSTEAD
So maybe, I don't know, five seconds later, that's when tower two must have started coming down. The building started shaking, a tremendous rumbling. Light bulbs were falling out. File cabinets were tipping over. We were in that corner of tower one that's kind of close to tower two where they kind of like point at each other there. That's the corner we were in. I don't know what the hell was going on, but whatever it was, it was right outside the window that we were standing like five feet from.
We get back there. It was dark. Most of the light bulbs had fallen off, so you really couldn't see much. I guess it was from the dust cloud outside there was no light coming in. We didn't know at the time. We just thought it was another plane or something, another explosion or whatever. We really didn't know what it was.
We just happened to be on the staircase with an FBI guy. He had an FBI jacket on. He turns around to me and goes, "We've got to get out of here." I said, "What are you talking about? We're getting out. Let's go. Everybody's walking out." He said, "No, you don't understand. There's more planes coming." I said, "What the hell are you talking about, more planes?" He said, "There's two more planes on the way for these buildings." "What do you mean, two more planes?" I didn't even know there was more than one plane at this point. We didn't know there was a second plane. So then we started walking out. It didn't matter. You weren't going anywhere. It was slow walking. We got to about the 5th or 6th floor. It was getting a little smoky, dusty, whatever. Don started to put his mask on. I said, "Don, why don't you save it?" It wasn't that bad yet. I said, "Why don't we get down and see if we need it to get out of here before we waste it up here." So we just started covering up, and we made it all the way down. We came to the lobby, and the lobby was a disaster. It never registered that the other building had collapsed. We came outside, and we walked the same way we came in. We went back to the -- you didn't go through the doors. All the glass was broken on the ground floor when we came in the first time, I guess from the elevators collapsing or I don't know. All the glass was gone.
Q. You were the OV. Okay. Did you get any sense that the elevators were running at any time when you got
there or at any time was there any talk about --
A. The elevator doors were blown off.
Q. Blown off?
A. Yeah. You could see they were a disaster.
Q. Was there evidence of fire or smoke in that area? Did you get the sense that fire had been in that shaft or was in that shaft, the elevator shaft?
A. No, no, I never thought -- I just assumed that they must have plummeted from being cut --
Q. I see.
A. The airplane just -- that's probably why the plate glass was blown off too. We didn't walk through the doors; we walked through – all the glass in the lobby was out.
Q. Even when you got there?
A. Yeah. So we walked through the glass to get into the building.
Q. Wow. Oh, yeah, I could see that, the elevators coming down might do that.
After tower two collapsed, we didn't know it at the time but there was one radio transmission that came through that said the 65th floor just collapsed. But we didn't know what that was or who gave it. I heard on the radio 65th floor just collapsed. I don't know who gave it or for what building. It had to be our building, because we were on a different radio channel. That was it.
FIREFIGHTER EDWARD SHEEHEY
We were probably just at
FIREFIGHTER KEITH FACCILONGA
So we're walking over there, we heard a big roar. Nobody really knew what the roar was until the chauffeur from 220 said, "Oh, my God, not again." We turned around and started running directly up Liberty Street away from the Trade Center, running east on Liberty. We crossed Trinity. On the way a couple of guys bailed out and went into some of the buildings. Some guys hid in Burger King. Myself, I kept running. I tripped a couple of times. I got pelted and half buried along the way.
FIREFIGHTER DAVID MORIARTY
I had been looking up again, and suddenly somebody to the front of us -- I don't know if it was a civilian or firefighter or cop or what -- said, "She's coming down." We were within a half a block of the north tower. It was my intention -- I was probably the senior guy on the back step that day – that we report in to some command center down there. Our officer would report in and we would probably be going into the north tower or somewhere with an assignment for a high rise job. But that shout went up, and the crowd in front of us suddenly surged towards us. Everybody turned and started coming back north. I looked up, and it appeared as if the north tower -- it almost appeared to be liquefied. The very top of it began to cascade out and down, almost in a rolling motion. As I watched it, the street started to fill with this tremendous sound of just noise. It reminded me of a jet aircraft engine when a jet takes off. It was that loud.
FIREFIGHTER TIMOTHY HOPPEY
In the interim while we were standing there on the curb at
After that it was kind of pandemonium. The
FATHER JOHN DELENDICK
Most people going to the south tower went to the Marriott and went through the Marriott to get there. The top of the building kind of started to rumble, and we all looked up. It looked –
Q. Let me interrupt you for a second. Were you there when the second plane hit?
A. No. When the second plane hit, I was still in
I remember asking Ray Downey was it the jet fuel that blew up. He said at that point he thought there were bombs up there because it was too even. As we've since learned, it was the jet fuel that was dropping down that caused all this. But he said it was too even.
A. So his original thought was that he thought it was a bomb up there as well.
We didn't know the building came down. We just knew the top of the building exploded and didn't know what happened to the rest of the building. You just couldn't see anything.
A whole group of us started moving north again. I'm not sure who I was with. We just started moving north. When we got to the corner of West and Vesey, we heard that kind of same rumbling noise. And someone just yelled run, and we all started running. Some people ran north. I ran with a whole bunch of people going towards the river.
FIREFIGHTER PATRICK SULLIVAN
As we started walking, I was looking straight up at the tower and I saw the top of the tower coming down. I saw the black smoke, sort of like pushing out, and I saw debris starting to come out from the building, probably from one floor depressing on the other, blowing everything out and I knew it was coming down.
There was a Deputy Chief's rig on fire that was extended to 113's rig. There was a big ambulance, like a rescue company truck, but it wasn't a rescue company truck. It was a huge ambulance. It must have had Scott bottles or oxygen bottles on it. These were going off. You would hear the air go SSS boom and they were exploding.
FIREFIGHTER KEITH MURPHY
I'm watching the television and again they are showing the towers and all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I see a blip go by, which I determined later was a plane. Then there was a huge explosion, second tower. I ran up to the house watch to tell the guys did u guys see that plane. I think another plane hit and before I could even get the words out, our dispatcher was saying report of a second plane into
At the end of this elevator lobby, there was -- It just looked to me like something had exploded. I don't remember how I heard it or who said it, but someone said I think an elevator -- when the plane hit, it severed the elevator cable and it came all the way down and crashed. I don't know a hundred percent if that’s what happened, bit it looked to me like that could have been true. It looked like something had fallen down, hit and like exploded out. I mean the whole area around it was maybe 25, 30 feet of really severe damage.
That was when the - I determined that's when the north tower collapses. We are standing there and the first thing that happened, which I still think is strange to me, the lights went out. Completely pitch black. Since we were in that core little area of the building, there was no natural light. No nothing, I didn't see a thing. I had heard right before the lights went out, I heard a distant boom boom boom, sounded like three explosions. I don't know what it was. At the time, I would have said they sounded like bombs, but it it was boom boom boom and then the lights all go out. I hear someone say oh, shit, that was just fore the lights out. I would say about 3, 4 seconds, all of a sudden this tremendous roar. It sounded like nothing I had ever heard in my life, but it didn’t sound good. All of a sudden I could feel the floor started to shake and sway. We were being throw like literally off our feet, side to side, getting banged around and then a tremendous wind started to happen. It probably lasted maybe 15 seconds, 10 to 15 seconds. It seemed like a hurricane force wind. It would blow you off your feet and smoke and debris and more things started falling.
I didn't know the building even collapsed at this point. Looking back now, the sound, the noise, everything, it's the only thing that could have happened, but still not realizing. I'm thinking it’s this plane crash.
Q. Okay, just to get it straight, all that time you thought you were in the north tower, but you were -- you thought you were in the south tower but you were in the north tower?
A. Correct, yes.
FIREFIGHTER GERARD CASEY
We put our gear on, started going moving forward, and that's when we heard the rumbling. Somebody screamed, "The building's coming down." I had one shoulder strap on, I dropped my mask and I turned around and made it to -- I tried to run towards the restaurant to get out.
FIREFIGHTER JOHN PICARELLO
Q. John, you said you're in the lobby now. You saw Chief Stack with Chief Henry, and you were assigned to go to the 75th floor. Some of the units had already started up. You go?
A. Yeah. We go meet up with them. So we were there a few minutes, and we started to walk, make our way through the lobby to the other side. I'd say we got maybe ten steps. We didn't go very far. I heard sort of like a rumbling sound. We stopped, looked at each other, and took off. We just took off away from the doors. Instead of running out, we ran to our right, which would be toward the walls. It just happened really quick. I just remember running. Stack was in front of me. Henry went to my left with the other guys. In about a second or two, you just heard like a ba-ba-ba-boom, and everything just came down and everything was pitch-black.
I don't know how far I walked, just a little ways, and started to hear that rumbling sound again. I looked up, and the first thing I saw was the aerial on the top of the tower just rocking one way and rocking the other way, and all of a sudden there it goes.