9-11 Issue Introduction - Part VI

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Hayden: Across the street. That's what I was concerned about, that the fire would jump the streets. We had exposure problems, so Bobby's function was just to contain the fire there. They had a big air shaft in there and he was able to get a line across the shaft and keep it in one wing of the building on the upper floors. And eventually it burned itself out.

There was a good fire condition. It was pouring smoke and fire out of there. We were going to a fourth-alarm fire there. If you had to really address this fire, you would be trying to handle it as a fourth alarmer and he had nowhere near that, so he did a good job with that. We also were doing searches along all the debris in front of the Marriott and out on West Street, the void searches.

Firehouse: Other people tell me that there were a lot of firefighters in the street who were visible, and they put out traffic cones to mark them off?

Hayden: Yeah. There was enough there and we were marking off. There were a lot of damaged apparatus there that were covered. We tried to get searches in those areas. By now, this is going on into the afternoon, and we were concerned about additional collapse, not only of the Marriott, because there was a good portion of the Marriott still standing, but also we were pretty sure that 7 World Trade Center would collapse. Early on, we saw a bulge in the southwest corner between floors 10 and 13, and we had put a transit on that and we were pretty sure she was going to collapse. You actually could see there was a visible bulge, it ran up about three floors. It came down about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, but by about 2 o'clock in the afternoon we realized this thing was going to collapse.

Firehouse: Was there heavy fire in there right away?

Hayden: No, not right away, and that's probably why it stood for so long because it took a while for that fire to develop. It was a heavy body of fire in there and then we didn't make any attempt to fight it. That was just one of those wars we were just going to lose. We were concerned about the collapse of a 47-story building there. We were worried about additional collapse there of what was remaining standing of the towers and the Marriott, so we started pulling the people back after a couple of hours of surface removal and searches along the surface of the debris. We started to pull guys back because we were concerned for their safety.

Firehouse: Jay Jonas told me that at one point, when he had finally made his way out of the debris, you were standing on top of a truck?

Hayden: Yes. It was covered in debris. I got on top of the rig only to establish a presence there. There was a lot of confusion, a lot of chaos. That was my command post in that sector. I stood on top of the rig and people could see who I was, that there was a chief in charge and that people could come to me and I'd give them assignments. It worked. I didn't realize it at the time, but it worked. People could point, there's the chief over there, rather than out of all this chaos and destruction, where was there a command post? You couldn't even make out West Street. So I saw the rig. I got on top of the rig and I stayed there. And eventually we got a bullhorn, a radio. I had a bullhorn and we were able to get some type of order in the assignments and what we were doing.

We tried to get some type of accountability. I gathered everybody around me. There were hundreds of guys and there was a lot of confusion. I had everybody take their helmets off for a moment of silence, and it calmed everybody down. Then, I said, please assist the chief officers in getting some accountability here. Whether you're on duty or off duty, give them your name, your unit, and give it in to the chiefs. The chiefs made up a list and I had started getting a list of who I had working on the site there, also. It was just an attempt to gain some kind of control.

Firehouse: So you were able to move forward a little bit at that point?

Hayden: At that point. And then also when I got everybody around. I didn't know how many chiefs I had there. I just told them what we're going to do, we're going to split this up into companies. I did it by getting them to stop and take their helmets off for a moment of silence.Once I had the moment of silence, then I started giving out the orders to everybody about what we're going to do. After that, we had some type of organization. That's the only way I could have done it. I couldn't think - I needed help. It was a desperate measure.

Firehouse: Chief Nigro said they made a collapse zone and wanted everybody away from number 7 did you have to get all of those people out?

Hayden: Yeah, we had to pull everybody back. It was very difficult. We had to be very forceful in getting the guys out. They didn't want to come out. There were guys going into areas that I wasn't even really comfortable with, because of the possibility of secondary collapses. We didn't know how stable any of this area was. We pulled everybody back probably by 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon. We said, this building is going to come down, get back. It came down about 5 o'clock or so, but we had everybody backed away by then.

At that point in time, it seemed like a somewhat smaller event, but under any normal circumstances, that's a major event, a 47-story building collapsing. It seemed like a firecracker after the other ones came down, but I mean that's a big building, and when it came down, it was quite an event. But having gone through the other two, it didn't seem so bad. But that's what we were concerned about. We had said to the guys, we lost as many as 300 guys. We didn't want to lose any more people that day. And when those numbers start to set in among everybody… My feeling early on was we weren't going to find any survivors. You either made it out or you didn't make it out. It was a cataclysmic event. The idea of somebody living in that thing to me would have been only short of a miracle.

This thing became geographically sectored because of the collapse. I was at West and Liberty. I couldn't go further north on West Street. And I couldn't go further east on Liberty because of the collapse of the south tower, so physically we were boxed in. But you could see the fires burning in 4, 5 and 6. They became fully involved.

We had fire on the 15th floor of one of the high-rises. I gave a battalion chief two companies. I said go up there, put this fire out. I told him, don't call for any help, don't give any signals, just put the fire out and come back and tell me when the fire's out. This is all you're getting, put it out. Fortunately, you know, it wasn't large, it was out one window.

At some time that night, it was dark and I had had it. I went down and I got my eyes washed out. They took me to the eye station and then they took me to Bellevue. I had my eyes washed out and then I met up with my brother, who's also a firefighter.

Firehouse: As you've said, it was a cataclysmic event. Were you surprised by the extent of the destruction?

Hayden: Oh, yeah. I just couldn't believe it. Two 110-story buildings gone, and I'm in lower Manhattan and I can't make out streets or anything. Then, when I was assigned to start cleaning up, I thought, where do we begin? Where do we even begin? We couldn't even find the streets. They're in there somewhere.

Lieutenant Steve Terulli
Rescue 1 (was an instructor at Rescue School on 9/11)
11 years

Lieutenant John Citarella
Squad 252 (was an instructor at Rescue School on 9/11)
13 years

We heard Marine 6 give an urgent message that a second plane hit the tower. We responded to Squad 41 to get gear. We arrived and met Chief Fred Sheffold and Joe Marchbanks, both from the 12th Battalion.

We saw six people jump from the north side of Tower 1. There were four or five cars on fire near the south side of Tower 2. We heard that a jumper hit a firefighter from Engine 216. All four of us ran into the lobby entrance of the hotel from Liberty and West streets. We met Deputy Chief Tom Galvin in the hotel lobby. Engine 58 was there with their rolled-up hoses.

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Firehouse Collection
All that remains of the 22-story Marriott Hotel is this four-story section on the southeast corner of Liberty and West streets. Some members of Engine 74 and Ladder 12 who were working inside survived both collapses.

We were ordered to the 90th floor in the south tower. The deputy said take Engine 58 with you and start walking up. Chief Sheffold said, did you say 90? Sheffold said, hold on. Just then, the south tower collapsed onto the hotel. It sounded like a train noise.

I made a ball, but when I got hit I flattened right out. I tried giving a Mayday three or four times. It took five minutes for me to get out from under the debris. I saw Chief Stack from the Safety Battalion. There was a pile of debris up to the ceiling of the lobby, which reached 20 feet high. I heard someone calling for help. We took a roll call. Lieutenant Citarella was pinned under a large pile of debris. I started to tunnel in to remove him. Pipes, sheetrock, insulation, wood and brickwork were passed out to Chief Stack and his aide. I asked the chief for a sawzall and to transmit a Mayday. He said there wasn't anyone else around.

I backed out of the tunnel I had made to get my mask. I pushed the mask in front of me and gave the facepiece to John. He could now breathe easier. There was a six-by-six-foot I-beam on his leg. I was able to move the beam one half inch. John was able to back out on his belly. He gave me a kiss, and I said welcome back.

The chief said, let's get out of here. We walked out towards the north tower. We came out near a four-foot-high wall. Chiefs Peter Ganci and Ray Downey, Deputy Commissioner Feehan and Captain Al Fuentes were in the middle of West Street. Chief Brian O'Flaherty of Safety was injured. We helped him over the wall. Downey came over and told us to report to Chief Ganci now. Downey stayed with Stack. There was a civilian with a leg injury and both chiefs stayed with the man. We crossed what was left of the street. We fell down a few times.

When we reached Ganci, he said to me, let me use your radio. Feehan couldn't believe his eyes that we made it out of the hotel. The radio didn't work. Ganci said go north. We ran north on West Street for about 25 yards and the north tower started to collapse. We were maybe 15 yards past the north pedestrian bridge when the air knocked me down under a tow truck. Dust got into my eyes, ears and mouth.

After a while, the sun started to come through the dust and smoke because the tower was down. I saw a few fighter jets fly by. I could hear explosions and heard ammunition going off.

Battalion Chief Michael Telesca
Battalion 19 (detailed to Safety Battalion on 9/11)
23 years

Battalion Chief Larry Stack and Brian O'Flaherty were working the Father's Day investigation. I had the investigation for the firefighter from Staten Island who died of a heart attack, and an apparatus accident. I had to file a lot of interviews.

Larry Stack was on the road. Brian was in there already and somebody yelled into the office look at the tower. I have a perfect view from my office. I looked at the tower. Now I start hearing the radio pick up and I hear Pat Brown saying, 3 Truck, we're available for that. He takes it in. I hear Orio Palmer talking about the crossband repeater. Joe Callan is asking what alarm's been transmitted?

With that, Larry Stack walked into the kitchen and he said, everybody get dressed. I called everybody in from Safety, left messages on everybody's machine to come into quarters. We loaded up the car with all our gear and it was Brian Meyers, who is Larry's aide, Larry Stack, Brian O'Flaherty and myself in the car. We drove across the Manhattan Bridge. We parked on Church and Vesey by the back of St. Paul's Church.

I got dressed first real fast. Larry called up his wife and told her he had a real bad job going on and it could be a long day. I sized up the building. I said to Larry, I count a minimum of five completely involved floors in 1 World Trade Center, and I said there are two to three in the south tower. I said that's what I could see, fully involved. Then I turned to him and said, you got over a 50-minute burn time now on the steel.

At that point, we started heading over. I said to Larry, what's our game plan? He said we have to get up to the command post. We have to get radios from Field Comm. We have to get some lights, some masks and the only thing we're concerned about is the structural stability. I said OK. We walked down the escalator stairs into the concourse level. There were three sprinkler heads going off and there was about two inches of water on the floor. And I remember telling him, why are sprinkler heads going off here, there's no fire damage here whatsoever, there's no reason for sprinkler heads to be going off.

We saw Special Operations Battalion Chief John Pailillo, Deputy Chief Galvin and 22 Truck. We headed right past them. As soon as 22 Truck came through the doors, we went into the lobby of the Marriott and then walked in maybe 50, 100 feet and all of a sudden, we heard an explosion. We stopped dead in our tracks and Brian goes, ooh, that doesn't sound good. And there was a second of nothing. Then you felt a heavy vibration like an earthquake, then you start hearing the pancaking collapse.

Brian said it's coming down, and we all just scattered. I just looked around the room and I thought I have to get next to something and I saw the biggest column. I just threw my arms around it. As soon as I did, I got whacked on the head. It laid me out. I lost my helmet. Then I just went to the fetal position and I'm saying, you're going to die here today. And then we rode it out. There was no visibility, it was completely black. I remember several times having to make myself throw up just to get this stuff out of my throat so I can inhale.

Visibility was still next to nil about a minute later. I thought for a while I was the only survivor and then I heard somebody yell out an eerie scream, help me, I'm trapped and then I heard Larry call out and Brian Meyers and I yelled out Larry, who's that? It's Mike, I'm all right. I've got Brian here, and we were all within four or five feet.

In a few minutes, we saw a flashlight. We started looking for a way out. I remember running into Brian O'Flaherty coming out of a room. I said Brian, I already did that. Everything was a dead end, we weren't finding any way out.

Certain portions of the lobby had a lean-to collapse, but there was enough to walk around. I never found my helmet; that was weird. I ended up with another chief's helmet. I just found a helmet on the floor, threw it on my head.

I yelled out, does anybody know this building? One guy had blood from head to toe. He was standing next to a guy with an Achilles tendon injury. I said you're going to have to walk. I said to him, where are the stairs, get me to set a stairs. And I remember thinking this thing can't hold the weight, it's going to pancake, it's going to come down more, let's get lower so we don't get crushed on this level if it comes down a second time, and settles down.

He took me over some debris to a set of stairs, and a sweet smell was coming out of it. I got into a mask. What are we going to do, we've got to try and find it. I shot down to the bottom of the stairs and found an electrical room that was completely collapsed, pancaked. Two of the rooms I couldn't even push the doors open in. I couldn't get in there and everything else was a hallway. It was a dead end so I came back up. I said where are there any other stairs? He said there's another set deeper. Let's go, take me to it. The floors were collapsed. I remember holding onto, sliding on a BX cable electrical line. I was hand over hand on a water pipe at one point.

We went over all of this stuff and I got to the stairs. I went down two complete levels, return stairs, twice down so I assumed it was two levels. And when I came out, it was into the garage area. There was debris down there, some parts were completely collapsed on cars. There were other parts that were rubble, but the cars were intact. I went through there maybe 50 feet, then I saw the ramp going up to the street and I noticed the four-foot rolldown that prevents trucks from driving in. I saw the top of that and I saw a little light, daylight at the top of it. Oh, the nicest thing I ever saw in my life was that daylight.

I said stay here, I'm going to go up. I went up to the top and said, come on, let's go. Brian and those guys were following. I must have taken about 10 or 12 civilians with me and they were just following me. I was moving fast. They followed me the whole way. One of the firemen didn't have a flashlight and he lost the civilian in front of him. I just found that out from Brian Meyers. He said he didn't know which way they went, then he saw an exit sign. They found a way out through the wall right out to West Street. This is where I saw them.

So I came up. I climbed on top of the four-foot ramp and I climbed up on the top of the debris pile. I yelled at them. They followed me up and I waited and I gave it 30 seconds. I saw some debris coming down and I just started heading out on West Street. I thought I was on Liberty at that time. I headed about halfway, 100 feet or so, and I turned around and I looked up and I see the tower's gone. I see the collapsed debris. I'm looking down at the roof of the Suburban to see the rigs. I looked down, there wasn't a soul there. I saw no firemen, nobody. Everybody's gone out here too.

With that, I continued out and they started calling me - the people, fireman, fireman, help me. I turned around. I said come on, let's go. I said you're ambulatory, come on, you got to help yourself now. As I crossed over, I got to where the command post was. I ran into First Deputy Commissioner Bill Feehan and Chief of Department Pete Ganci standing there. They're both completely, completely gray ashen, there's soot to their eyes. And I turn to them and I said to them - I said, Brian, Larry and our aide didn't follow me out. I said, I just got out, they didn't follow me out, they have no radios.

Captain Al Fuentes comes over with Chief of Rescue Services Ray Downey. And the two of them, they don't look like Pete and Bill do. They weren't talking. They were just looking up at the building. I told Ray the same thing. I go, Ray, Brian O'Flaherty, Larry Stack and the aide didn't follow me out. Now I look over. I had lost my glasses in the collapse, but I'm looking over and I think I see Larry. I found out from Brian Meyers later on that in the original collapse Larry's coat was pinned against something and he had to get himself out of his coat and he left his coat, so that was Larry's profile I see. I tell Ray Downey and Ray goes right there. I'm showing him the thing. I start going with him. He goes, no stay here, Mike. I go right there, you see the ramp right there where those people are, that's where I came out of. So Ray and Al start heading over there.

I was hobbling. My foot was killing me. I'm heading up West Street. I kept walking up, walking up, and then two firemen grabbed me under my arms and we were all heading up. I remember a news guy coming over trying to say something.

Then we heard the explosion of the second one, which was the same sound I heard when I was down in the lobby. I remember turning around and looking at the north bridge. I remember looking over my shoulder and going oh, and I saw you're on your own. The guys dropped me, and I don't blame them, you had to run for your life. The cloud was coming. And I kept heading up West Street. I kept going, kept going. Another guy helped me, a captain from Brooklyn. I kept going up to the first ambulance. A couple of people helped me and I jumped into the first ambulance. I went to Columbia Presbyterian.

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FDNY Photo
John Breen

Firefighter John Breen
Engine 74
Three years

I came in for the day tour. Heard the dispatch over the voice alarm. We were watching the television. Within a few minutes, we were dispatched on the second fifth alarm for the south tower. Two firefighters remained behind. Responding were Lieutenant Nichols, Firefighter Mike Shagy was the chauffeur, Pat Carey, Jeff Johnson, Ruben Carrera and myself. We took the West Side Highway and pulled up one-two blocks away at West and Vesey.

As I walked to the Marriott Hotel I looked up and said how are we going to fight this? The officer told us to walk as far away from the building as possible. One body was visible in the street. We entered the lobby of the hotel. One of the senior guys, Ruben Carrera, said stay close to me. He said loosen your coat, don't overheat. He said look, I'm scared too. We have to put that in the back of our minds.

We reported to Chief Tom Galvin of Division 3. Engines were on one side and trucks were on the other. I remember seeing Ladder 25, Engine 40, Ladder 35, Engine 54 and Ladder 4, Ladder 11, Engine 23 and Ladder 12. Our orders were to search the top floor, there was a report of people trapped. Engine 54, Ladder 11, we, Engine 23 and possibly one more company was assigned. We took the elevator by ourselves to the 18th floor and walked up to the pool, spa and gym. We searched the area with negative results. We could see where a piece of landing gear wound up in the Jacuzzi. The pool was intact.

We walked back down to the 21st floor and down the hallway to the elevator. We were waiting for the elevator when Lieutenant Nichols said the elevator is running slow, let's walk down the stairs to where we left the other elevator. We walked south to the south stairwell in single file. We heard the building starting to come down. The building started to sway like a ship. I could hear creaking. It felt like we were in a hurricane. I didn't think it was the whole tower, but just a section. Everybody froze in place. Somebody said building collapse. I heard it getting louder and louder like an approaching train. You could hear the floors one on top of each other like dominoes, boom and boom.

I stayed where I was and braced for it. I didn't think I was going to die. Maybe I'll get stuck in a void and ride it out. I felt like I might get trapped, but I would be able to get myself out. I waited to go through the floor or wall. As it hit a huge gust of wind pushed me flat on my face. It felt like a 260-pound linebacker hit you.

The debris started to blow over me. I started to cough. I wiped my mouth; it was like paste on my glove. I could hear other firefighters coughing, so I knew they were all right. The guys were yelling each other's names, put on flashlights. I knew everybody in the front was OK. We started to yell for Ruben. Jeff was calling for Ruben. I turned around and it was about 10 feet away where there was just rubble from when the building collapsed. The hallway was intact. The electricity was knocked out. Sheetrock and metal were hanging.

I was in shock, I couldn't believe I was that close to being trapped. The officer gave a Mayday. Jeff went to the wall of debris and started to pull pieces off to see if there was a void. They couldn't find any. The officer asked what hotel room I was near. I said 2106-08. I noticed half the room was missing. I could see right out and down. I couldn't hear any response from down below. I thought maybe the radio wasn't working when we got no response. The only transmission was from a firefighter from a ladder company. Mayday, Mayday, I'm trapped and I don't know where I am, I'm running out of air.

We knew we had to get out and get help. We walked down the stairwell. We met Ladder 12 on a lower floor. At the sixth floor there was debris blocking the stairway and you couldn't go any further. I walked into one of the suites. One of the truckies breached the wall with a halligan tool. They decided they were going to tie off a hose with a substantial knot and slide down the hose out the window. That would be a six-floor drop. Somebody remembered seeing a rope on an upper floor. Two members of Ladder 12 went back upstairs to retrieve the rope.

Lieutenant Nichols said we have to get around the rubble and make it to a lower floor. Jeff Johnson climbed down half a story and cleared the debris. On the fifth floor he found five civilians. Everyone started to follow the way down the stairs. I was the last one to make it to the third floor. On the third floor there was an opening in the stairwell. Jeff and Pat Carey jumped out onto a patio. They took a lightweight beam and situated it so they could crawl out. They called out for the civilians to climb out. One by one they were assisted held by curtains from a room. I felt like I was doing something to help. Ten firefighters and five civilians were making their way down slowly.

Two firefighters, two civilians and myself were left when the second building started to come down. I said not again and braced for it. I said please God, let me get through this one. As it came down it got dark right away. A cloud of dust hit us. One of the civilians was around 80 years old. I saw him moving. I grabbed his hand and said stay with me. As it came down I was thinking there is someone with you, you are not alone. You have some air and near an opening and it won't be that bad if I am trapped.

After the noise, I started to hear voices from the outside. We're not trapped too badly. As the dust cleared I could see outside. My luck today is amazing. I looked out and everybody was scattered to get cover in other areas. In front of me was Lieutenant Nichols. Before the patio was open, now it was covered in debris like a bunker and foxhole.

Jeff was yelling. I'm thinking he's stuck somewhere impaled on debris over him. That's when Lieutenant Nichols said Jeff was yelling for Pat Carey. I assumed Jeff was OK, now I was worried about Pat. The two of us were able to get the two civilians down. There was a lot of rubble and steel.

I made my way down an I-beam and down several stories of rubble. The first collapse took out the middle of the hotel. The second collapse took out everything else except the four stories at the south end. I was screaming for Pat, wondering where he might be. I thought he was gone.

It was a sunny day, but looked cloudy. It looked like a movie set. Ambulances and fire trucks were wrecked and burning. I saw a rescue firefighter and turned the old man with us over to him. I told him we had firefighters trapped. We met up with Jeff later on. He said he was able to get three civilians out and was trapped on a lower floor.

We made a phone call to the firehouse and found out Pat was in the hospital. He was trapped on the second floor, but made it out. Ruben Carrera is still missing. I was thankful for Ruben's help. I believe he helped me get out and was there for me the whole way through.

Firefighter Heinz Kothe
Tower Ladder 12
11 years

I came in for the day tour at 7:30 A.M. I relieved the chauffeur from the night tour. Firefighter Derrick Wilson was there. He had relieved me and I went home right before the 1993 bombing; now I relieved him.

I heard the commotion over the voice alarm. A few minutes later, Engine 3 responded with the high-rise unit. Chief Palmer and aide Steve Belson in the 7th Battalion responded. I saw the second plane hit and I knew we were going to go.

We all got dressed and were dispatched on the next box. The probie went as an extra roof man. We made the drive in record time straight down Seventh Avenue. The towers were right in front of us. I could see black smoke billowing from the towers. I said, this isn't going to be a regular fire, we're going to be there all day.

The guys in the back were looking out the side windows. They were saying, there goes another one (jumper). We pulled up on West Street. Already, all the tower ladders and rear-mounted aerials were going to be of no use. We grabbed extra air cylinders. As we got close to the building you had to watch out for debris falling down.

We followed a chief into the Marriott Hotel. I saw more death going in than after we came out. We really had to watch out as you ran in so no one jumped on you. The chief in the lobby said engines on this side and trucks on this side. We received an order to evacuate the 16th floor and above. We entered the C stairs on the south end of the hotel. Two or three civilians who we passed on the way up said, what do we do, keep heading down.

We walked up and saw other companies searching the lower floors. We made it up to 14 and took a breather. They were showing the probie how to force a door. I looked out a window and could see people on the rooftops of surrounding buildings that had jumped. We walked all the way to the north end and up to 17 or 18. The company was divided into two teams and we met at the south end landing outside the stairway. There was a rumbling and the building started to shake. The door blew open and blew the guys back. We crawled into a corner. The lights went out and the dust came in. I thought it might have been a bomb in the basement.

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