FIREFIGHTER HUGH METTHAM
Suddenly the north tower starts to rumble and shake violently. We all head to stairwell B and huddle near the door while the floor we are on shakes and rumbles for 30 seconds for more. Lights go out, and we are thrown into total darkness. Stairways and hallways fill with smoke and dust as the rumble and roar subsides. All of us start to speculate on the cause of the rumble. It could be another plane crash or localized collapse. Someone in the darkness mentions a bomb. There is little time now to ponder what just happened. What could shake the north tower so violently?
We reached the sixth or seventh floor and are met by many firefighters coming down the stairs, informing us that the upper floors are collapsing and that there's a heavy odor of gas and fuel.
I start to walk fast in northerly direction on West Street. 15 seconds later, near the corner of Vesey and West Street, we hear a terrible roar behind and above us. The upper section of the north tower begins to collapse and push out a wave of smoke, ash and debris.
LIEUTENANT WILLIAM WALSH
After about 15 minutes, we conclude our operations there. Lispenard is about one block south of Canal Street. I believe the chief gave the code for a gas leak, 10-40, code 1. all the units were about to go 10-8 when we heard thus load roar. Everybody thought – or at least to me it sounded as though there was going to be a Con Edison steam explosion. This was about a quarter to 9 I’d say. So everybody looked up to where they thought they heard the sound coming from, and we saw an American Airlines plane. To me it looked as though it was going treetop level right down West Street. Then he appeared to rise a little bit. We were under the impression – he looked like he was going down, but we didn’t hear any mechanical difficulty. We couldn’t figure out why an American Airlines plane would be so low in downtown Manhattan. We sort of expected him to veer off and go into the Hudson. But he rose a little bit, his altitude, levelled off, and he was headed straight for the Trade Center. So just before he got to the Trade Center, it seemed as though he gained power. We were just watching this airplane on target for the World Trade Center. All of a sudden, boom, he disappears into the Trade Center. You hear this sickening noise as if two pieces of fibreglass had hit. You hear this loud explosion. He just disappeared into the Trade Center.
So we parked the apparatus right in front of the glass overhang on West Street, which is the main entrance to World Trade Center number one. We all gathered our tools, and we headed to through the front door. Now, the front door is a revolving door. There is a vestibule of about ten feet, let’s say, and there's another revolving door. There I noticed two civilians that had more than third degree burns. They were in pugilistic position. They were black, burnt. Their skin and their clothes were burnt off. They were smoldering, and they were trying to get up. They were just moving around. I had estimated they had less then half a minute left in their lives.
What else I observed in the lobby was that – there's basically two areas of elevators. There's elevators off to the left-hand side which are really the express elevators. That would be the elevators that’s facing north. Then on the right-hand side there's also elevators that are express elevators, and that would be facing south. In the center of these two elevators shafts would be elevators that go to the lower floors. They were blown off the hinges. That’s where the service elevator was also.
Q. Were these elevators that went to the upper floors? They weren’t side lobby elevators?
A. No, no, I’d say that they went through floors 30 and below.
Q. And they were blown off?
A. They were blown off the hinges, and you could see the shafts. The elevators on the extreme north side and the other express elevator on the extreme south side, they looked intact to me from what I could see, the doors anyway.
About this time, 10:15, 20 after or so, I feel a rumbling of the building. It felt as though – I got knocked from one side of the hallway to the other side. It felt like you were in a subway car standing up and the subway car was making a turn and you were getting shifted back and forth. That’s the way it felt. We later found out that this was World Trade Center number two collapsing. It had hit World Trade Center number one, and I guess it hit the Marriot Hotel.
The wind was blowing south that day, and you had a clear view of the World Trade Center. I could see where it was heavily on fire. I assumed it was about the 95th floor or so. All of a sudden, it starts coming down. That put panic into me. I just dropped my tools, and I started running north as fast as I could. But then the debris started coming down, and to me it sounded like the roar of a freight train. In the background you could hear beams hitting beam like an erector set falling down.
I went down as far as Vesey Street, and it was all a big dust cloud. I heard over other people’s handy talkies that there were electrical fires and gas fires. It was just a dangerous situation down there.
I just remembered seeing two floors of heavy fire from the north side of World Trade Center one and the West side of the World Trade Center one. All of a sudden things collapsed one floor, and then within a second or so it just imploded.
FIREFIGHTER TYRONE JOHNSON
Maybe about five minutes into the process of going up the steps, that's when the building collapsed on us. At that time we were thrown all around the place. Guys were laying around, covered up. I was messed up and covered up. Beams were thrown. Guys were injured. Just maybe a quick couple minutes -- it seems like a lifetime, though -- a few minutes I uncovered myself, got a hold of the rest of the guys in the company and we found our way out of the building. We just searched our way out. We saw the light, and we crawled out of the building.
Q. Did you have to crawl up?
A. We had to crawl down, maybe down half a floor, and then crawl up to get out the door. Once we got out of the building, we started walking towards the water, which is on the West Side Highway. At that time walking maybe we ran across other firemen milling around. Then we heard another rumble. Then I turned to my left and looked up. It was the second tower coming down. After that we just ran, ran, ran, ran. A black cloud of smoke just caught up to us while we were running towards the water. We got covered again. I got knocked down and covered again. I got up and made my way to the ambulance and I was taken to the hospital. Basically that's it.
FIREFIGHTER JAMES DUFFY
We were waiting around. 122 Truck was over there right next to us. 22 Truck was in the lobby also. Then we were just waiting to go into the south tower. As we were waiting, we looked up and all I saw was -- I heard this huge noise, and I saw hundreds and hundreds of people running towards us. They were running out of the south tower to the Marriott, to the lobby. We just turned. We started to like run also. We got about ten feet before getting blown across the lobby. We got blown across the lobby, just got covered with debris.
FIREFIGHTER THOMAS SPINARD
Well, I just came on that day during a 24. I relieved the chauffeur probably about 8:20 or so. We got a box on Church and Leonard of an odor of gas. So Engine 7 and Ladder 1, Battalion 1, responds. It turned out to be a false alarm. As we were at the box, a plane passes us overhead real low. You could hear it; you could feel it. We turned around, and it just impacted the building, building one.
I believe we were the first engine hooked up. There was a rig right along the curb there. It was a ladder. It was a tiller, so I don't know, whichever one, maybe 6 or something. I'm not sure. There was a guy laying in front of it, a civilian. We also had two civilians blown out to the middle of West Street on the divider there. It's about two feet high with dirt and grass they were sitting up there. I don't think they walked up there. They were just blown up there. They were all women. They were naked. They were burnt up. They were alive, but they were -- maybe they made it; I don't know. The ambulance took them away. The guy down here who was laying down in front of the rig, the ambulance took him away also. As I was hooking up, I had debris falling, people, glass, file cabinets. I saw a file cabinet come out. There were just chairs -- they were looking to break the windows with anything, I guess.
While we were still in the middle of the street, another plane comes in, makes a big circle, comes around from like the Statue of Liberty direction, and hits two. We can't believe that another one is coming in. Joey got on the radio, "Another plane just hit the second tower." I don't know if he said mayday or what, but he yelled "Another plane hit the second tower." At that point debris was flying all over, the fireball, fuel was coming down, fireballs were coming down.
We're still around there. The people who were removed at this point by the ambulance were in the street. I saw three people down there. They were all removed. I don't know what time later a loud rumble -- it sounded like an explosion. We thought it was a bomb. We ran under the bridge, me, Joe Cassaliggi and two police officers; I think one police officer and one Secret Service. We ran under the bridge. There's a column there, over here, right on the sidewalk, a big six foot round masonry column. We get behind that, and number two tower comes down and debris comes right around us. Heavy debris is hitting the front of the column, light debris is make it around, dust and little particles, and then the dust cloud hits us.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add?
A. I didn't go into the lobby, but I could see into the lobby. It seemed like there were people burnt. Guys were saying there were people burnt on the elevator, people burnt in the lobby. I heard them say there was marble blown off the walls. I imagine the concussion came down the elevator shaft or something and blew everything out.
FIREFIGHTER MICHAEL YAREMBINSKY
We entered the building on the west side doorway. We got into the lobby –
Q. That’s the north tower?
A. North tower. When we got into the lobby, the first thing we saw or what I saw was there was a body covered up in the lobby, a dead body.
When we got to 22, we heard there was a Port Authority command post on 22. So we were stopped there. My officer wanted to find out some information, my officer Lieutenant Andy Desperito. He went over to the command post. We noticed in the hallway that the elevator shaft had been blown out. There was nothing there, no doors, no framing, nothing. When you looked down, all you saw was the cables for the elevator and the brick work that was surrounding.
Q. Was it burning?
A. No burning, no smoke coming out of it. When he came back, on his way back when he was walking towards us, the entire building started to shake. This is when we were on the 22nd floor, in the hallway. Initially we thought that our building was coming down, or some part of it was collapsing. What we found out right after that was that the south tower had just come down.
LIEUTENANT JAMES MCGLYNN
We were heading across Houston before we made the left on West End Avenue. At that time I saw the plume of heavy fire engulf the north tower, what looked like the north tower. I thought it might have been a bomb. I didn’t know what it was. It turned out later that I found out that that was the second tower being hit.
We made it up to approximately the 31st floor. On the 31st floor we felt the building begin to shake. It appeared that that building was starting to come down.
Q. Your building?
A. The north tower.
It's obvious now, what happened was that vibration that we felt was the south tower collapsing. It wasn’t this building. It was the south tower that had come down.
I believe I was between the second and third floor on the half landing, and it started to shake and vibrate. Then I heard the sound of the floors imploding one on top of the other. You heard it coming, and you heard it getting louder and louder and louder and louder and things are coming down on top of you. I hit the floor, and I rolled to the wall and just kind of covered up into a fetal position and started saying my prayers. Finally that stopped, and the debris started coming. When the loud banging stopped, I said, okay, at least I'm not going to get crushed or I'm not going to get crushed on impact. Then the debris kept coming, and it started covering me up and I thought, oh, God I'm going to die and just get buried alive. I said I would just rather die quickly than get buried alive, then that stopped. Then I felt this strange thing like air rushing up. The only thing I thought, “Am I falling? Am I going to heaven?” I didn’t know what was going on. I think my explanation is that that was the outside of the building tumbling on the street and then forcing air in and then it having nowhere to go but it came up. That’s my only explanation of what happened there. Then that stopped, and I just waited around and kind of nothing else happened. I stood up, kind of brushed myself off and kind of felt all my body parts.
But there was contact with outside units, and they said, “Okay, we know that you’re there, but we can't come for you right now.” They said they had a 40-story building, which I guess was –
Q. Was it Seven World Trade that was on fire? Across from the north tower.
A. I think it's this, Northeast Plaza.
Q. Northeast Plaza?
A. That came down too; right?
A. I think that’s what it was. That came down. Well they said that’s fully involved at this time. This was a fully involved building. I said all right, they’re not coming for us for a while. Now you're trapped in this rubble, and you're trying to get a grasp of an idea of what's going on there. I heard on the handy talky we are now fighting a 40-story building fully involved. Now you're trapped in rubble and the guys who are fighting the worst high-rise fire in the history of New York or history of the world, probably. I don’t know, 40-story building fully involved, I guess that was probably the worst.
I just climbed out of there and followed the ropes down, followed the I beams up and over. At the same time we were walking out, and sure enough, that building was still involved. I'm like, is it going to come down next? Just when you thought it was over, you're walking by this building and you're hearing this building creak and fully involved in flames. It's like, is it coming down next? Sure enough, about half an hour later it came down.
FIREFIGHTER JOSEPH PETRASSI
We had our roll-ups and bottles and we walked up, and I believe it was around the 20th floor that we stopped to take a breather. I'm not sure if it was at the 20th floor or 22nd, that's unclear, but we felt a shake, the building shake, and things just started getting like different. A little bit after that the Lieutenant said, well, we've got to make our way down, and we pretty much took whatever people were in the stairway, came down with them.
We made our way down to the lobby. The lobby looked like it was blown out, like the elevator doors. We came out of the building and we were looking up and the tower seemed to blow out, but it was on fire, and the Lieutenant said to run and we ran north up West Street. You could the feel the stuff hitting you on the back as you were running. It felt like it was right behind you.
FIREFIGHTER RICHARD RATAZZI
We got in front of the Marriott when what sounded like another plane coming in. Everybody was -- a group of guys, I can't remember which companies they were all from, everybody just stopped and looked up and that's when the middle of the Marriott blew out at us.
I went into I guess where they were setting EMS up in the building. I found the sink, I was flushing my eyes out. I got another drink of water, I was throwing that up. I proceeded out to the backside of the school, I ran into Firefighter Drum and Firefighter Meyers from Engine 39. They assisted me back out to West Street, because I believe they were evacuating that area. There was a gas leak.
FIREFIGHTER JOHN SNOW
So I guess it was another, I'd say, ten minutes before we finally got a assignment. I remember the captain saying, I guess the Chief told him, we're not trying to put the fire out now. We're going to try to save people. So we, along with 22 Engine and 13 Truck, we went over to the elevators and myself and I think it was Mike Byrne, he opened – someone had said that there was someone inside an elevator in the lobby and we managed to pry open the elevator and there was a woman in the back. She was scared to death. We got her to come out. And then 13 Truck got an elevator to work, because we were assigned to go up to the 27th floor of the north tower. This was the out from 13 Truck, he started operating the elevator. Guys went up in two or three trips. I guess within five minutes 22 Engine, 13 Truck and myself, 21 Engine, we were on the 27th floor. We took it to the 24th or 25th floor and then we walked up a couple of flights and I'm not really sure of the time frame as far as how long we were in searching that floor, but I knew there was a tremendous crash of the south tower coming down, but we didn't know at the time it was the south tower. We just thought it was upper floors maybe that -- maybe an upper floor that had collapsed, because there was a tremendous crash and everybody just hit the deck.
So we started moving out towards West Street. It was myself, Mike Byrne, Jimmy Foley started walking towards West Street and I guess we just hit West Street when we heard the roar or the rumbling. We just looked back and heard the rumbling of the tower coming down and everybody just ran up West Street towards where an overpass was.
Q. Was that the north overpass?
A. Yes. Heading north. It was kind of like you knew that the dust and everything was catching you.
FIREFIGHTER PATRICK CONNOLLY
Basically I live in Queens and my house looks right at the tower, and I was jogging and not too far from Haz-Mat 288 and saw the first explosion and immediately, you know, saw what was developing and knew it was something pretty serious. My brother Brian who works for Ladder 17, he was at home so I decided to run to his house and just let him know, make sure he was aware of what was going on. When I got to his house we turned on the TV, and when we turned on the TV we saw the second plane hit.
So when we come to the intersection of Vesey Street and West Broadway, you have to go left or right. We were going right heading towards the West Side Highway and as soon as you turn right, about seven steps after you turn right there is an overhead foot bridge that would lead from 7 World Trade Center into 6 World Trade Center. We were coming over just there, right there and as we approached that, the underside of it, I said to my brother, "I said, this thing is gonna come down on top of it." And he said, "Then we'll just run to the other side of it." So as soon as we got under it we ran to the other side of it and the debris was falling so we were kind of cautious when we came out. We came out and maybe about one step past it and as we came past it my brother had said to me -- you know, the whole way down he was explaining to me that this is nothing like what you deal with, what you're expected to deal with. He said, "There is a lot of people gonna be hurt on the outside." He was a policeman so he was all concerned about a secondary device. So he was saying that, you know, he kept drilling that into my head: "Secondary device," "Secondary device," "Secondary device." You know, it's not over. There is something else that's gonna happen. He goes if that first tower came down, he said, this might go down too. He was telling me not to go into the buildings. He said, basically, if you see firemen we're gonna look for them and help them immediately and if we see pedestrians, whoever we saw we're gonna help them. Basically, when we got underneath to the other side of that foot bridge, to the west side of that foot bridge, he said to me, "You know, we should probably split up at the next corner in case we get jammed up in this thing together." And I was just like, you know, totally naive. I just said, "No. You're crazy." And as soon as I said that, I felt the ground shake and I looked up and the whole top of the tower was starting to fall and my brother turned and he didn't even look up. He turned and there was already about a foot of debris on the floor and as he turned he went to push off with his legs, but he was pushing too hard and he slipped in place and fell.
I got to the corner of West Broadway, I made a right turn. As soon as you make a right turn on West Broadway right there, not even a foot north on West Broadway there is a service entrance to 7 World Trade right there and I saw another fireman standing right there. He was standing right there. Chides me like "In here, bro. Dive in here." The door was closed, but it was inset, you know, 18 inches as is normally, a normal 36-inch door would be. As I make a left, I saw my brother who was directly behind me. And I just left my feet. I drove for the one corner and as I dove for the one corner I saw that my brother was out here, right out in the wide open spot. The next thing, I just started getting crushed from above. I was just getting hit. But nothing hard. Like just, you know, considerable smacks and stuff like that, but nothing that you couldn't take. Nothing that was pulverizing me. And I took my T-shirt, shoved it into my mouth, held my nose closed, took one last breath and waited to die. Apparently it got a little bit harder and the noise got really severe. It sounded like a severe wind storm, a severe rainstorm. The next thing I know, like maybe a half a minute passes by and it suddenly got very quiet again. So I get very quiet. I kind of threw my shoulder like that and all the things that were on top of me kind of shifted off and I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that you're alive. I tried to scream for my brother, but I had the shirt in my mouth. I tried to pull the shirt out a little bit, and all the air was forcing into my mouth so I shoved it back in again. I knew that the door was there on my left-hand side. That's the only thing I knew. I didn't see that other fireman. The who was calling me, I didn't see him. I didn't see him, I didn't hear him, but I knew the door was there. So I hit it like that (indicating), like three times like that and then I heard three knocks coming back from about 5 feet off, which was where my brother was. So I kind of felt better about that. At least I felt he was okay because we couldn't communicate really through talking and I just kept hitting the door and hitting the door and hitting the door, and eventually maybe ten minutes later I felt my brother's arm grab my arm. So of course obviously you're emotional, you're grabbing each other and hugging each other and going through the whole gamut of emotions and while we're doing that, the door pops open. We're not sure, you don't know what to think. Is it an explosion? Is the building starting to settle and forcing the door out? We didn't know. And then as the door opened up the fireman that was calling me was on the other side of the door. Somehow he forced the door and was pulling us into the space, into the -- now basically into the belly of 7 World Trade and he explained that he was a Fire Marshal, named Joe Brosi and my brother Brian, he knew Joe before he was a Fire Marshal working 17 truck. So he and my brother, they were partners. It was like a real strange coincidence.
PARAMEDIC KENNETH DAVIS
The second building had just started to come down and you could feel the rumble in the ground, and we were like, it can't be the train because you know it's not running. So we all started to run down the street and the building had come down.
PARAMEDIC JOSEPH JEFFERSON
I went around to the other side to try and see if I could get the equipment out, and as I was standing there, I heard this rumbling and I looked up and the building was coming down.
Q. Was that the first building coming down?
A. That was the first building, yes.
A. So I took off and I ended up hiding on – I ran past – I guess that’s 90. The building that was the next over is 90 West. I remember I passed that building (inaudible) into the building. So I turned around to run into the building, but the stuff was coming down so fast that I wasn’t able to get into the building. So I ended up hiding in the windowsill trying to cover up basically the stuff was coming past me like an avalanche, you know, it sounds like a freight train.
I stood there for a couple of seconds and then I heard a couple of secondary explosions and some vehicles were engulfed in flames, you know, they were on fire.
EMT JOSEPH CONZO
From this map here, we entered the Marriot Hotel on Liberty, on west side and Liberty and as soon as we were entering in there with our equipment, we heard what seemed to be a third plane hitting, but I found out later it was the collapse of the World Trade Center 2.
FIREFIGHTER TIMOTHY BROWN
We finally set up -- prior to this I believe it was the west side of the core of the building there were elevators. Someone had come to me and said that there were people trapped in one of those elevators. So I ran around the corner, and the hoist way doors were open, but the elevator car was only showing about two feet at the top of the door. You could see all the legs of the people that were in the elevator. I would guess there were about eight people in the elevator. The elevator pit was on fire with the jet fuel. People were screaming in the elevator. They were getting smoked and cooked. There weren't a lot of firemen there at the time. I grabbed some of the Port Authority employees and asked them where the fire extinguishers were and told them to get as many fire extinguishers as they could so we could try and fight this fire. As they were doing that, firemen started showing up, and I started asking them to get big cans, let's try to put this fire out.
As we ran towards the rear, which is the three side of the hotel, and rounded the corner to go into Two World Trade Center, in the doors, we heard the roar above us. I know I never looked up. I don't think anybody ever looked up. But there was no question what it was. It was a very tremendous sound, which I think we hear on the tapes. So we just turned and ran for our lives. Now it was the flight/fright thing, because everybody knew we were all going to die. We ran back along -- I knew right from the start that I was going to go into the lobby of the hotel to try and get protected. As I ran by the medics, I yelled at them to follow me. Charlie and one of the medics, who I don't know their names, followed me into the lobby of the hotel. The other guy ran back toward the pedestrian bridge. Charlie tells me everybody lived of that group. We ran into the lobby. No sooner did we get into the lobby of the hotel, which was crystal-clear when we went in, then it went completely black in an instant with the dust. The roar was just getting louder. The dust started blowing in our faces. I'm guessing around 30, 35 miles an hour the wind was. Everything started blowing toward us that wasn't nailed down.
By the front of the truck, I thought it was a box truck. I did not recognize it as a fire truck, although it could have been. I thought it was a bomb. The headlights were still on, very eerie. I turned around and ran the other way, thinking that it was a bomb, telling everybody to run the other way. We ran into a steel rolldown gate that was down. Someone had said we can get out this way, so now there were more people around.
LIEUTENANT JAMES WALSH
As I was coming up West Street, I started hearing sounds getting very loud, and I never nothered to look back because the sound got extremely loud. It was the roar of a plane, which I didn’t really know. It was the airliner coming in. I remember running back up West Street towards where my chauffeur was from the high-rise rig, and running at the same time I was trying to get down at the same time it seemed like. Then I heard the explosion, continued running up to Scott, and I said what was that? I was under the impression that maybe it was a fighter plane because it got so loud. He said no, another airliner just hit the south tower.
I think the moment he finished saying it the third time, I heard the sound and I looked. It sounded like gas or an engine or something, and it was the south tower starting to collapse, and I think it was – the sound I heard was the sound of the fire and gasses being compressed by the top part of the building above where the plane hit coming down and pushing the smoke and gasses out. I think that’s what I heard. The last sound I heard, I was probably about five feet from chief Downey.
The building didn’t fall the way you would think tall buildings would fall. Pretty much it looked like it imploded on itself.
FIREFIGHTER KENNETH ESCOFFRY
On the morning of September 11th about , I was relieved, and a few of us were standing in front of quarters when we noticed a plane came directly over the firehouse maybe around , somewhere around that time. One of the guys mentioned that the plane looked like it was really low. Before we could really think of what he said, the next thing we heard an explosion. We saw the smoke.
We went up to the mezzanine level, and in the corner, which was exposure 4, we noticed it looked like it was jet fuel that was just running down the side of the building. The fire wasn't spreading or anything. Within that 30-second time we were up there, an
Q. Let me ask you a question. Do you know what staircase it was? Was it A, B, C staircase?
A. That was the staircase in exposure 4. I'm not sure.
Q. You're not sure. Okay.
A. Once that explosion happened, the door to the staircase slammed shut.
About an hour later me and George decided let's go out, because we were having difficulty breathing because we didn't have a mask. On the way out between tower one and six, we heard something like an incoming missile, and we started to run. That's when the second tower came down.
Q. Tower number two?
A. Right. That was the first tower that came down.