In blunt speech, free of the mythic glaze that varnished much 9/11 discourse, some firefighters wondered why an endless line of rescuers had been sent to an unquenchable fire that raged 1,000 feet up.
"I think if this building had collapsed an hour later, we would have had a thousand firemen in there," said Firefighter Timothy Marmion of Engine 16, who carried a woman on a stretcher from the staircase to an ambulance. "If it would have collapsed three hours later, we would have had 10,000 firemen in those buildings."
Had the buildings not fallen, the gear-laden firefighters would have needed about four hours - almost as long as it takes to fly across the country - to reach workers trapped on the high floors.
"We were just as much victims as everybody that was in the building," Firefighter Derek Brogan of Engine 5 said. "We didn't have a chance to do anything. We didn't have a chance to put the fire out, which was really all we were trying to do."
Aron Pilhofer provided computer analysis for this article.