From the April 2002 Firehouse Magazine
Lieutenant Bill Wall Engine 47 - 16 years
We were additional units on the fifth alarm for the south tower. We went right down. We went down West End Avenue and we ran into West Street and just went straight down West Street. We parked about a block up from Vesey.
We saw a lot of smoke and flames in the upper floors. You really couldn’t see the south tower from where we were. We walked down the west side of West Street and we were keeping close to the buildings. And when we got to the Customs House, there was a policeman behind one of the pillars. He jumped out and said we got to get in because they’re tracking another inbound meaning another plane, but we ignored him. We kept going.
We went under the north pedestrian to the west side of West Street. And we made our way down to the south pedestrian bridge, crossed under that and we made our way into the Marriott Hotel. Chief Galvin was behind the desk and he was forming companies into groups. We eventually hooked up with 22 Engine, 13 Truck and, I believe, 21 Engine. And Chief Galvin told us to go to the 40th floor because that’s the lowest report they had a fire. The south tower. We were supposed to follow this guy who worked in the buildings. He was going to lead us to an elevator that still worked. But luckily, the guy who took us to the working elevator took us to the wrong tower. We went to the north tower. Saved our lives. Wrong place at the right time. We never got into the south tower. He took us right to the north tower.
We get into the lobby of the north tower and the first elevator bank, there was one elevator out of the six that still had the lights on, but they couldn’t get it to work. Meanwhile, all the other elevators were blown off their doors. So we tried the next elevator bank of six and they finally got one that worked to the 24th floor. I think it was captain of 21 he went up to check. He went up and he came back down. He went up with his guys and someone from the truck took the elevator. And then the other engine went up in the next load, 22, and on the load after that, the truck was going up. They wanted one of our guys to run the elevators since there was only one truck, so I gave the control radio to Fireman Louie Cacchioli.
It seemed like just as soon as the doors closed, the panel went out. But he had actually gotten to the top floor and the rest of the truck got off. And the last guy getting off was the irons guy, and Louie grabbed him back and says you got to stay with me because I need the tools. And as soon as the doors closed, the power went out and they were stuck in the elevator. It hadn’t moved yet. It was still on the 24th floor. They were able to force their way out pretty easy. They just popped the doors open because the elevator didn’t move yet.
The guy from the truck thought his company went to the right and Louie went to the left. And Louie found the staircase and I think he said he got down about six floors, but the staircase was blocked, so he crossed over and found another staircase and he made it to the lobby. And he had to force the door open at the lobby because it was jammed. He made his way out into the street and he hooked up with the chauffeur just before the second tower came down.
Meanwhile, in the lobby, it seemed like just as soon as the elevator doors closed, the power went out. They just went black. We couldn’t see a damn thing. It turned black and then it started rumbling and the wind and dirt was unbelievable. It was just like a hurricane. It threw me against the wall. Steve Viola said he was hurt and Keith Murphy said he was hurt. Steve lost his helmet, it got blown off his head.