From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine
Chief Joseph Pfiefer Battalion 1 - 20 years
Firehouse: What companies were you with?
Pfiefer: 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. The meters went off. They called Con Ed. Everything was checked. It was basically routine on a nice, sunny morning.
Firehouse: The film crew that was riding, was it one person or two people?
Pfiefer: I had one guy riding with me. They had been there for weeks, whenever the probie worked. They were doing a documentary on the probie in Ladder 1.
Firehouse: Did you hear the plane come over or did you see it?
Pfiefer: Yes, we’re standing in the street. The gas leak’s all over and then we hear a plane going over, a very loud plane, which you never hear in Manhattan. We all look up and we see this commercial airline flying by very low. We follow it and it goes right into the Trade Center. You could see it didn’t veer off. It appeared to aim at the Trade Center, smashed into the upper floors, created a big fireball and then disappeared into the building.
Firehouse: What did you do then?
Pfiefer: I jumped in the car. Everybody else got into the rigs. I transmitted the second alarm for a plane into the building, into the World Trade Center. Twenty seconds after that, I transmitted a third alarm. I asked for the second alarm to report into the Trade Center and for the third alarm to stage at Vesey and West. And I told them at that time it was a direct attack.
Firehouse: Did 10 Engine come on the air also in that time period?
Pfiefer: Yes, 10 came on after that. They were in quarters. They heard it too and then after I gave the second, they gave a verbal.
Firehouse: Now you’re in the car and you’re traveling down?
Pfiefer: Yes, traveling down West Broadway. We have a direct view of the Trade Center. And opposed to what you’ve seen in subsequent pictures, we didn’t have fire showing at that time. When I pulled up, which would have been on the west side of the building, I got out of the car and looked. There was no fire and there was no smoke at that point, at least from that view.
Firehouse: Was anybody jumping at that time?
Firehouse: On average, how many times would you go to the Trade Center in a week or a month?
Pfiefer: It’s a complex of buildings, so maybe about 15, 17 times a month.
Firehouse: How many years have you worked down here?
Firehouse: What did they have at that command center that’s in the corner? Do you have fire alarms for the building?
Pfiefer: Yes, the fire alarm panel. They have floor diagrams and next to it is the elevator status. And you had the all-star crew. You had me and you had Hayden. You had people in that new era, Orio Palmer, I mean Donald Burns. If you had to pick the all-star crew, you had them.
Firehouse: When you walked in, did somebody give you a rundown?
Pfiefer: We walked in. There was glass, all broken, and there were a number of people burnt in the lobby. I went over to command post and they didn’t have exact information. They were estimating from calls somewhere around 78. But that was just speculation. The elevators were out for the most part. One opened up at one point and let people out. I don’t know how that worked, but the elevators were out. I sent companies to double-check that.
Firehouse: You sent companies to check the elevators. Do they come back and tell you that it was negative?
Pfiefer: Yes, they said there were no elevators working. That was also confirmed by the control panels.
Firehouse: Did Chief Hayden come in right away?
Pfiefer: Yes, he was just four minutes behind me.
Firehouse: Did you formulate any type of plan?
Pfiefer: The game plan was to pair up the engines and to only take half the amount of hose. This way we could switch back and forth. And the trucks to get me some information.
Firehouse: There’s three stairways in that building. Did you tell them any which one to use?