WTC: This Is Their Story - Part V

Captain John M. Sullivan Covering in 6th division (was in Fire Prevention Bureau on 9/11) 16 years I was up in the Bronx working in Fire Prevention, so I had a fire department car. I heard on the radio that the towers had been hit and I started...


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6_02_wtc7.jpg
Firehouse Collection
This photo was taken during the early stages of the debris removal and recovery of firefighters, police officers and civilians killed in the attack.

Eventually, someone came with a sawzall and they were able to make the cut and get him out. And once he was out, they found a DOA below him in the same spot in the Concourse level. He was trapped by rubble and there was a metal bar, I guess it was a pipe, that we couldn't move because it was probably 20, 30 feet long. It had to be cut. There was no way to get him out from underneath that. He was a very large man, over 300 pounds, so we couldn't maneuver him around that.

You could see where the south tower had collapsed the Concourse, where the south tower was. And then as you went forward, there was the collapse in the center. You know where they had that ball in the middle? That area was collapsed.

There were piles of rubble that you had to climb over. For a while you were walking around and the first thing that was kind of shocking because you got down there and it was the dark and the smoke and everything. And it was really kind of scary because it looked like bodies. And then when you got a little closer, there were mannequins all over the place from the different stores that were partially collapsed.

I'll never forget that sound or when that black cloud came, the dead silence. I've never in my life seen or heard just like that eerie complete - the closest thing you could describe to it is like when it's snowing where you don't hear anything. And it was just black. For a second you're thinking maybe I'm dead. You can't hear. You can't see. I'll also never forget when we were on West Street after we put Lieutenant Ruby in an ambulance, just the devastation when you're looking and you see all the fire trucks and police cars burning. That's where I saw Ray Phillips. It was literally like if you can look into the gates of hell, that's what it was. It's just like the World Trade Center, something that's been there your entire life almost, completely mangled and just everything burning and just the devastation. It was hard to appreciate the enormity of how bad it was. The first time you saw everything on West Street was something that I'll never forget either. And one weird thing- when I was on Broadway, I would have sworn I saw Father Judge. Then I was over on the other side when they pulled everybody back to wait for that collapse and Jack Wells tells me no, Father Judge is dead. It was strange.

Battalion Chief Chris Rearer (was captain of Tower Ladder 17 on 9/11)
19 years

We came back from a run and the battalion chief said a plane hit the Trade Center. I thought it was a small plane. We relocated to Ladder 15 on South Street, the southern most firehouse in Manhattan. It is a tremendous distance to respond, but I wasn't that surprised, we relocate a lot.

Numerous Bronx ladder companies relocated to Manhattan. Ladder 48 went to Ladder 12. Ladder 58 went to Ladder 20. Ladder 59 went to Ladder 10. Ladder 42 went to Ladder 25. Ladder 31 went also. When the second plane hit, I wasn't going to be surprised that we might not even make it to Ladder 15. We took in a few boxes. We had a report of people trapped at 44 Beaver St. That was false.

The second tower collapsed. A captain was talking to the building's fire safety director. People were running in the street. You couldn't see anything. Two firefighters had to walk in front of the rig, which had to drive real slow as not to hit anybody. We had a report of people trapped in the City Hall subway station. We checked the station and no one was trapped. A firefighter came running up to us as we were leaving the subway. Deputy Chief Esposito needs a tower ladder, can you get into the street?

We backed in and removed some obstructions. Tower Ladder 7 was in position. They were worried about building 7 coming down. There was fire in two office buildings on multiple floors. We were supplied first by Engine 41, then Engine 278. Water was relayed from Broadway. We had good water pressure.