Transcripts 81-100



Just as I put my foot on the first stair on the escalator, the building started like shaking. It was like a wave in the floor and a real loud noise. What we did was, me and the police officer started running from the east northeast end of the building toward the west. Along my right side is the north wall, and it's glass. It's about 25 feet of glass, and about every 25 foot there's a concrete column there. I know this is right at my right side, like maybe three or four feet over my right side. Anyway, just to describe to you the collapse of the south tower coming down, I really wasn't aware there was a full collapse. I thought it might have been just a localized collapse. It was the loudest noise I've ever heard in my life. It was in both ears. Kind of like those rockets that they launch the space shuttles with, it was like I had one going off in each ear. When I thought it was the loudest noise I ever heard, every second it was just increasing getting louder and louder and louder. I was running as fast as I could. With this noise getting louder and louder, also what's happening simultaneously was light ? whatever light we had was becoming darkness, like obscuring and getting dark fast, like someone pulling down the shades real fast.

Anyway, all this talk about planes crashing and guys using words like "kamikazes" and whatnot. At that point we hear a plane ? it turned out to be two planes, and they were closing in on us and the motors were getting louder and louder. All eyes went up to the sky and were looking. I kind of thought to myself as I looked at guys running for their lives and for cover that now we're going to get kamikazed. The rescue workers, they are trying to take us out. I stood there and looked at the sky all around in all directions and couldn't really tell where the sound was coming from. It was getting louder and louder. Then I spotted them, they were coming out of the west, like out of Jersey City, that way. They were two F15 fighters. I saw them, they were fully armed and the dual tail. I started yelling, "Hey guys, guys, look, those are our planes, those are our planes." Other guys started yelling it. I'll tell you, everyone stood on their feet and everyone was cheering. I'll tell you, at that point even though I was kind of beat up at the time -- I wasn't going to give up, but I was beaten up. I stood up straight, I looked at those planes as they circled us and protected us, and I really felt proud to be American.

The only thing is that later on I teamed up with Chief Jay Fischler of 46 Battalion at the time. Now he's in the 8th Battalion. We walked over by number Seven World Trade Center as it was burning and saw this 40-plus story building with fire on nearly all floors.



I saw another EMS triage location with Captain Nahmod and Chief Peruggia were treating patients and I guess a little bit after I got past that point, there was a loud roar. This is probably I would say about 5 minutes after I got on the scene, maybe a little bit longer. I figured another plane was coming. I stopped for a second, looked around and I didn't see anything and then I began to run towards the West Side Highway, where I saw MERV 1, figuring to get as far away from buildings, not knowing what was going on. I got to the corner of 140 West, where the New York Telephone Company building was, saw a little -- like a little indent into the building. It was a construction barrier or wall that was built. I went behind the wall I guess with another Firefighter, Police Captain and a couple of civilians. We put our backs against the wall because of not knowing what the heck was going on. Then in a couple of seconds, the roar stopped and I guess like in a split second it was just pure black.

At that point I could actually visually see the top floors of the north tower starting to give way and that began to collapse. At that point we all began to run north.



I stop before Church, look up - is the second tower that got hit -- and I said, "Pete, don't go any further. This fucking building is coming down." I'm sorry I cursed.
Q. That's okay. This is your recollection, your words and your observation.
A. With that, within two seconds I hear a rumble. I'm still looking up. I didn't do anything. I'm still more or less -- not frozen but I'm standing there in awe how this building is still staying up.
Q. You're on
Liberty. Are you west of Church or east?
A. I'm before Church. I never made it to Church.

Q. You never got ?
A. Never made it to Church.

Q. In between Broadway and Church?
A. Between Broadway and Church, looking up. I stopped. Not that I froze, but I stopped. I said, "This fucking thing is coming down." With that I heard the rumble within a couple of seconds, and then I saw the brown, thick, malted milk dust cloud and smoke and whatever else coming down. It was rolling down with a roar like you couldn't believe. I turned around and I start fucking running. Everybody's running for their fucking lives. Somebody runs by me, knocks into me, I fall down. The last thing I needed running away from a falling fucking building is to fall down. But I manage to get up, start running again. By then the building had pancaked down. The force of it just hit me in the back and blew me like ten feet into a police van.
Q. Was it just the air, the force of the air? The debris?
A. Air, dust, dirt, debris. Not heavy debris. It felt like I was shot in the back with a shotgun, pellets. All these pellets were hitting me, the force. The dust engulfed me, pushed me, literally -- I guess I was off my feet for ten feet. Then I banged into the police van, dropped down to the floor, scrambled to get around the building that was on the corner for protection.

Midway in that trip from the west side to the east side, I hear more planes coming. I did not know it was our jet fighters. That was told to me later on by Dr. Hittman.
Q. Okay.
A. I just huddled up against the side of the building. There's no place to hide. You couldn't see anything. There is a building there; that I can determine. I just stayed up against it while I thought there was another plane coming in. But it wasn't. It was our jet fighters.

Then as I'm walking up to the Manhattan Bridge, there was a car bomb. A car bomb went off in some car, because the cops were saying, "Come on, people, shit is happening. Let's go. Keep moving, keep moving. " You could see another plume of smoke. Somebody yelled, "It's a car bomb, a car bomb."

The first words out of my mouth when I slammed that trunk lid was to tell these people, "Get out of here. This building's coming down." I always felt those World Trade towers were a firefighter's nightmare. I always told my wife I do not want to be working when we have a fire in there.

So about 20 years ago I'm in front of the firehouse. It was a Friday night. I'll never forget this.
Q. In
A. Manhattan, 33 Engine, which is buried under the rubble. I'm standing in front of quarters. It's the
12 to 3 watch, summer night, beautiful night. A civilian is walking by, stop, he's looking in, the apparatus doors are up. I start talking to him. He turns out to be an architectural engineer. He builds high-rise buildings, skyscrapers. I said, "Let me ask you a question. Can I ask you a question?" He said, "Yeah, sure." I said, "The World Trade Center --" He says, "Yes." These are my words, Kevin, on my father's grave and my mother's grave. I said, "Let me ask you a question. If a 747 out of Newark topped off with jet fuel crashes into the 80th story of one of the stories, will it topple the top 30 stories?" "Oh, no, it's not designed to do that. It's not designed to do that the way we constructed this. We took things like that into consideration in the building of it. That would not happen." It didn't topple.
Q. Right, well, that's true.
A. At that time when I ask this guy this question, I'm picturing a plane going in, blowing out loads of floors, fully loaded, 747 I quoted, topped off with jet fuel, would it topple the 30 stories. He said no. Did I think when I said that day these buildings are coming down, I didn't think they were going to pancake all the way down. I'm looking up at that second building saying how are those stories above it staying up. The hole was huge. It looked like toothpicks, four toothpicks in the corner were holding the rest of the stories above it up. In me saying that these buildings are coming down, I thought it was going to collapse, it was going to topple.
Q. From above?
A. From above, like 30 stories, 20. Whatever was left above the plane crash in either tower would just give way and go this way and come down into the street. I did not think the whole building would pancake down. They were designed, from what I understand, to do that. 20 years ago the guy didn't tell me that. He didn't turn around and say, "Oh, no, you don't have to worry about the building toppling. However, you have a strong possibility of it pancaking down on itself because it's primarily steel construction. Steel expands one inch for every thousand degrees rise in temperature. So you're popping rivets, you're twisting beams." But again, he didn't say that. He just said it's not coming down.
Q. And they spoke a lot about impact. Apparently the building was designed to withstand an impact from a 707, which was the plane of the day. But it doesn't appear anybody considered the impact of a fire with all that combustible material added to it.
A. Right, that fireball, that massive amount of jet fuel burning instantly. It all goes instantly. That's it. I was amazed at why I thought they were coming down, and I was amazed at that question the way I worded it 20 years ago, was the truth. The reason why I used the 747 in asking this guy that question back then was because 747 was the biggest plane we had. Topped off with jet fuel, it's going to have the maximum amount of fuel. Right out of
Newark, you're not going to burn much to hit the World Trade Center.
Q. A flight to
Europe or somewhere else.
A. I didn't think of terrorism back then either. I'm just saying an accident, the fog, something, a plane is going to go into the
World Trade Center. I'm going to give you a scenario, what do you think, you're an architectural engineer. So I found that kind of strange as well as that day looking up at them saying they're coming down, saying it to people, saying it to myself with the second one, and then actually seeing it come down, looking up at it as it's starting to come down.



Then I just remember that, distinct noise like an airplane being on a runway and it's ready to take off. I heard the loud roaring of like the engines, and I thought another plane was hitting the building. Someone yelled run. I looked up, and the top of the tower I saw was starting to move over. It was bending like it was going to come down. Everybody started running. I ran up the block, and I didn't know what to do. I was all confused. I mean, everyone was running. People were falling on the floor. Nobody was helping to do anything. Everybody was just running for their life. I know I made it about a third of the way up the block, and I went to go get underneath a car, the trunk area of the car. I slid underneath there. And as I slid underneath there, this big blast just came and knocked me down the rest of the way.



I hadn't gotten my assignment yet. We were talking. Then all of a sudden we heard a noise. People started running. People were saying that the building was collapsing. At that point I heard the noise. It was enough for me to react and run. I didn't turn around to look. I just heard the noise coming down, and it was like a jet engine, just getting louder and louder.



You saw the towers right in front of you, and the first tower was hit. I couldnt tell at first if it was papers or birds, but something white was you know, like flickering up in the sky. It just seemed weird. But anyway, we got into Manhattan. The Chief was trying to prepare us for everything. He said, 'you know, just get ready, this may be a bad day. You might see a lot of dead people. You might see a lot of bad things'. He was also saying that, just be prepared, cause it might be a terrorist act. At this point we still had no idea what was going on. We just heard that a plane hit the Twin Towers. He said, be ready for secondary explosives. Just, you know, stuff like that, just trying to give me an idea of what he wants me to do when we get down there.

So we're sitting there trying to set up the command board. I really don't know how long we're there for, to be honest, I have no idea. Then we heard a rumble, some twisting metal, we looked up in the air, and to be totally honest, at first, I don't know exactly but it looked to me just like an explosion. It didn't look like the building was coming down, it looked like just one floor had blown completely outside of it. I was sitting there looking at it. I just never thought they would ever come down, so I didn't think they were coming down. I just froze and stood there looking at it. Then I saw everybody running past me and I said, I better start running.

They had all their gear sitting there, I guess they were just waiting for orders, just sitting there. After hearing this and looking up and seeing the building, what I thought was an explosion, everyone was running, I turned around and decided that I should probably take off like everybody else. So when I got to the entrance, I turned around and saw the debris coming down. I didn't know if I was gonna die or get trapped. I was just like, I kept thinking, I don't want to be alone. I need to find somebody. I went into the parking garage, I made it about 5 feet. I saw some firefighter up against the wall, he was on the ground right close to the wall.

I remember standing on, I think it was on West Street, and it was the first plane I had heard in awhile. I started flipping out. I turned around and I'm looking at the Empire State Building, and I'm like, it's gone. All I heard was the rumbling of an airplane, and I'm like, they're taking out the Empire State Building too. It was some kind of F-15 or something came like, screaming over our heads. That was the greatest thing I saw all day long. I'm like, they're not hitting us with anymore planes. It's just like I said, a lot of the stuff I'll be getting here and there. It's all bits and pieces.



So we looked at each other and said wow, something must be going on, let's see if we can, you know, something good to buff. So we switched over to citywide and we started hearing all these reports about we have fire showing at the World Trade Center, explosion. So we go woah, so we drove over to Kent Avenue and as we got around Kent and North 6th, we could see that the North Tower had been struck.

I was in back of the vehicle and I heard, it sounded like I thought another plane had struck the building. This loud bang and then it sounded like a locomotive, or like when I used to live in Howard Beach, when the planes used to come in at night, flying right over the house. Everything started shaking and I heard like a thunderstorm. Somebody screamed it's coming down. I don't remember if it was on the radio, because the side door of the bus was open. The back door of the truck--I could see out of. I looked, and I bent all the way down to look up as far as I could, and I could see the cloud coming. I thought the building was actually falling over. I didn't know it was pan-caking. I was like, I'm not getting out of here. So I dove on the floor of the truck. I was praying, if something hits this bus, don't let it collapse the box. If it goes, I hope there's a big enough void that I'll be alright.

We started hearing on the radio, all units within the vicinity of the World Trade Center, you need to evacuate the immediate area because the North Tower is beginning to lean. So, we started hoofing it, and we found another crew was there. They had no stretcher in their bus. There was this paramedic, and I know I've seen him, but I can't remember if I've seen him in Manhattan or from when I worked in the Bronx.
Q: One of our units?
A: One of our guys. I said, does that truck run? He said absolutely, everybody get on. So we jumped in the back right as the
North Tower collapsed.



We were trying to get a handle on running the EMS operation when suddenly what appeared to be in slow motion was a humongous black cloud starting to descend from the sky. That black cloud was, later I realized, the collapsing of I believe the north tower. In retrospect, it happened in slow motion, but yet it happened so quickly. I don't remember which one it was. We turned, and we ran down this driveway. As I'm running down this driveway, I probably said why am I doing this? Why am I running down a driveway into a parking garage that would be a natural flow for debris? Again, in my mind I had been to building collapses, and building collapses usually come down at an angle.



The second tower was already struck. I got there probably a half hour after the second tower got hit . So we were there for about maybe 20 minutes, 25 minutes, maybe. Time is like really sketchy. When we pulled up, it looked like a Sunday afternoon. There was nobody around, but there were cars everywhere and you can hear the sirens . You can actually hear the fires burning up in the buildings.



I also saw Deputy Commissioner Gribbon in there and at some point, I saw Commissioner Von Essen. While he was talking to a couple of people from the Department, I stood to the side and was watching him speak to them and in the background I could see Mayor Giuliani and his aides, walking along, I guess in front of the World Financial Center there.

We were in the process of getting some rigs moved when I turned, as I heard a tremendous roar, explosion, and saw that the first of the two towers was starting to come down.

When the dust started to settle, I headed back down towards the World Trade Center and I guess I came close to arriving at the corner of Vesey and West again where we started to hear the second roar. That was the north tower now coming down. I should say that people in the street and myself included thought that the roar was so loud that the explosive - bombs were going off inside the building. Obviously we were later proved wrong.

I ran into Chief Nigro, who I saw at a field communications unit there and I went over to chat with him. As I remember he was quite upset, quite distraught, but in a quiet way. I must have lingered there. There were hundreds of firefighters waiting to -- they were waiting for 7 World Trade Center to come down as it was on fire. It was too dangerous to go in and fight the fire.

That's basically what my memories are of the day. The sight of the jumpers was horrible and the turning around and seeing that first tower come down was unbelieveable. The sound it made. As I said I thought the terrorists planted explosives somewhere in the building. That's how loud it was, crackling explosive, a wall. That's about it. Any questions?
Q. Any other feelings or thoughts that you might want to have included in this?
A. No, it was just unbelieveable. Seeing how close Commissioner Von Essen and the Mayor were to that location was also quite startling. That's about it.



No sooner than, I don't know, it seemed like a few minutes -- and I have to just share with you at this point, my times might be off. At the corner of my eye, the second plane now comes into the building. I know that there was a time line that you shared and...
Q. 9:06.
A. 9:06 was the second plane?
Q. Right.
A. Okay. At that point I would say that we knew it wasn't an accident. I mean, two planes on a clear, sunny, warm day, into the
Trade Center, we knew that there was something very unusual going on. At the time of the impact, we were able to feel heat that was generated from the explosion at the command post, which was across West Street, and West is a fairly large street with that island in there, and debris was showering all over West Street.

So at that point I believe I was conversing with Chief Kowalczyk about the operation and the deployment of some resources, both ambulance and Chief officers, further down West Street to deal now with this other plane into the tower that we were going to have to contend with. No sooner than that, I guess the best words that I could describe this, it felt sort of like an earthquake. The sky darkened and you heard this thunderous roar. It was like a volcano, if you will, not that I ever experienced a volcano, but I guess that's the way I could describe it, and this cloud just coming down. The ground was shaking and this roar and at that point everybody from the command post ? I forgot to tell you where.