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When we stopped on the 12th floor and moved, there was like a mass of civilians coming down now. Now, when we moved them over to the A stairway out of the B stairway, that definitely helped because after that point it flowed for us going up because there were no more civilians at that point coming down. And it had to definitely help the civilians get out of the building faster.
It's unbelievable to me. William Johnson from 6 Engine, he was assigned to 276 Engine and he was on rotation to 6 Engine. We were going up the floors together. We were in the same probie company together and were like competition. He was always a little faster when we were doing the drills and everything. When we got there, he was like oh, man, we're going to have a good story to tell when we go back to Brooklyn - and he didn't make it. They were above 6 Truck at one point, so they had to get up maybe to the 30th floor. I was pretty good friends with Robert Lane. He didn't make it. It's almost like there's no rhyme or reason to this.
Firefighter Steve Modica
Special Operations Command
I was working as the SOC battalion aide. Chief John Pailillo and I were going to Squad 252 for a drill. When we received the alarm, it came in as a second alarm for the World Trade Center. You could see the whole top of the building was engulfed in not so much flame - you could see a little bit of orange, but mostly black, black smoke. We had heard it was a plane, so upon receiving the alarm, a second alarm for a plane crash, we thought it must be a light plane or a helicopter. As we were responding, somebody said 10-60, so at that point we realized that it must be a pretty intense situation.
There was a northwest wind that day and most of the smoke was being blown off towards the southeast. It looked like a pretty good wind up at that height. The smoke didn't even rise. It just kind of went sideways and right off to the southeast. It looked like there was a big black stain on the outside of the building. It was kind of hard to tell exactly what it looked like, so I said maybe when the plane hit, it exploded and just scorched the side of the building. As we got closer, we realized that it was a hole. You could actually see that it was a hole in that north tower.
We parked the car just north of Vesey Street on Church Street. We started to put our gear on and that's exactly when the second plane hit. The radios just went completely wild. Guys were yelling another plane, my God, another plane hit. Somebody said it was an airliner, it was a big plane. Somebody yelled out it was a military aircraft. You saw a flame burst, but you couldn't exactly see what had happened. It was inconceivable that this could be happening, so we really didn't believe it.
We saw the ball of flame. We thought it was maybe a sort of an explosion in the north tower or something like that. We started to walk down Vesey Street heading towards West Street and we stayed on the north side, I guess that would be the Verizon Building. It had a sidewalk shed up there. The whole block was a sidewalk shed, so we stayed under that. On the way down we noticed very large plane parts on Vesey Street, and you could tell at that point that this was not a small aircraft. There was a lot of stuff falling.
We actually saw bodies, but they weren't landing on Vesey Street. They were landing up in the plaza level. That's where mostly you could see them coming down, but we didn't see any fall directly in front of us. We heard a lot of crashing sounds, which I assume was the jumpers. The frequency was it was very rapid. It wasn't what you would think of a normal fire situation, where you have a jumper and then it was quiet for awhile and then another jumper. This was quite frequent.