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.