Excerpts of more than 500 firefighters' oral histories of their experiences on Sept. 11, released Friday along with more than 15 hours of radio transmissions:
''Somebody yelled something was falling. We didn't know if it was desks coming out. It turned out it was people coming out, and they started coming out one after the other. ... We saw the jumpers coming. We didn't know what it was at first, but then the first body hit and then we knew what it was. And they were just like constant. ... I was getting sick. I felt like I was intruding on a sacrament. They were choosing to die and I was watching them and shouldn't have been. So me and another guy turned away and looked at a wall and we could still hear them hit.''
_ Firefighter Maureen McArdle-Schulman.
''It was evident that we weren't going to be able to get to people above the fire. Based on the number of jumpers, we could only assume that hundreds of people were trapped. ... Then the building started to come down. My initial reaction was that this was exactly the way it looks when they show you those implosions on TV. I would have to say for three or four seconds anyway, maybe longer, I was just watching. It was interesting to watch, but the thing that woke everybody up was the cloud of black material. It reminded me of 'The Ten Commandments' when the green clouds come down on the street.''
_ Deputy Commissioner Thomas Fitzpatrick, who was in the lobby of the north tower.
''When the south tower collapsed, what we did was we either ran, got blown or fell down. ... I realized _ we have people up there, the building is loaded with our guys. We got to get them out of there. I tried to call Chief Ganci on the handy talky. I was calling car 3. For some reason we couldn't touch base. ... I was trying to find him, to let him know we still got a lot of people in the north building. We got to get them out of there and that's when tower one came down.''
_ Chief Salvatore Cassano, who was at the command post with Chief of Department Peter Ganci, who was later killed after the two were separated. Ganci was the highest-ranking firefighter who died that day.
''There were still civilians coming down the stairs, and in my opinion, there was no one thing ... that made me decide to get out. I can't tell you. I can't pinpoint anything. It was just _ I don't know what it was. It was just the culmination of intuition or what. I just decided it was time to go ... I received no handie-talkie communications to get out. ... No one told me to get out. ... Absolutely nothing. There was no handie-talkie communications that I heard. Whether they transmitted them or not, I can't say. I didn't hear it. I didn't hear it.''
_ Firefighter Thomas Piambino, assigned to Engine 65.
''Guys were deciding to take elevators, not to take elevators. There was a security guy there who said, 'Actually, I can get you up on an elevator.' ... You could hear maydays going over the radio at that point. It was just so many, I really didn't know where they were coming from. Then we started walking actually back toward tower 1 and a cop and a battalion chief came up to us and said, 'Just start running the other way. The other tower is coming down.'''
_ Firefighter Thomas Turilli.
''We heard a rumble. I heard the rumble and looked in the back of me all I seen was a monstrous _ I can't even describe it. A cloud. Looked like debris, dust. ... When the second tower fell, I never forget that sound. It sounded like a freight train passing by. I never forget that sound, never forget that sound. Like a freight train.''
_ Emergency medical technician John Felidi, describing how he saw the south and north towers fall.
''Once I got to the lobby, I saw debris, obviously from the other tower, but you still couldn't fathom _ it just didn't register that that building had collapsed. ... But there was no one there that said, 'Get your ass out of here. The other tower collapsed.'''
After the towers collapsed, ''at this point, the radio was pretty open because there weren't a lot of survivors really. Guys ran in different directions. It has a lot to do with the choices you made: which direction you ran, what you decided to do, how close to the buildings you stayed, your sense of urgency, all of those things. ... Even at that point, I knew in my mind that firefighters were killed or injured in the last 45 minutes or whatever during what happened, but I still didn't realize the scope of it.''
_ Fire Lt. Warren Smith.