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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We shut down our large-caliber stream so they could search the rubble. Squad 288, searching the voids, found a victim. We handed them tools, a Stokes basket, a Honda generator and a Hurst tool with metal cutting blade. They found a civilian with two broken legs. Some of our guys relieved us at the pile. We had a rearmount aerial in our original quarters that the crews manned as well, as we were sent to Ladder 5 for three days responding on their boxes.

Firefighter Van Johnson Tower Ladder 124
22 years

I was standing in front of the firehouse when the second and third alarms were transmitted. We watched the news helicopters showing the actual fire. They were sending Brooklyn companies.

When the second tower was hit, we relocated to Ladder 5 in Manhattan. We responded over the Manhattan Bridge. We arrived at Ladder 5. Off-duty members were grabbing their gear. Engine 231 relocated to Engine 24 in the same firehouse.

Within 10 or 15 minutes, we saw the smoke from the fire change drastically. The smoke went from jet black to light. That is when the first tower collapsed. We responded to the scene. We drove down Church Street the wrong way. It was chaos. People were running away. The chauffeur hit the brakes. The mayor and his entourage passed us going to the firehouse we just left to use as a temporary command post.

We couldn't respond any further. We were being hit by dust. We picked up a few firefighters along the way. Hundreds of people were running by the apparatus. We ended up near 10 Truck's firehouse. There was a man who was severely burned and on fire. We extinguished the fire. All his clothes were burned off. We left him with an EMS worker.

We heard screaming from the rear of the firehouse. Three civilians sought shelter after the first tower came down. It forced them into the rear of the firehouse. One person had a broken hip and another had a broken arm. The man with the broken hip apparently had a lot of money in the briefcase he was carrying. He wouldn't let go of the briefcase.

A person fell from another building and struck a police officer. I helped carry him away with the aid of another police officer. We heard a tremendous roar. We thought it was another jet coming in. The north tower collapsed. We were starting to be buried with debris. Everyone had dust go up his nose and down their throat. We ran into a building. The force of the wind, it took three of us to pull the doors shut. We proceeded down to Liberty Street. There were rigs on fire, ambulances burning. Seeing the rigs destroyed, you got a feeling that many companies were lost. It looked like midnight, dead calm. I could hear the Mayday from Ladder 6. There was another report from a company trapped under a rig. We wound up looking for Chief Ganci in the debris with Ladder 111. He had worked in both companies. It was ironic that these are two of the companies who found him buried under three or four feet of debris in the middle of the street near the Winter Garden. In some areas the debris was eight feet high. Firefighters were using torches, hand tools and sawzalls.

Buildings 4 and 5 were fully involved. Someone had moved our tower ladder and it was operating near building 4. A tool depot was initiated at 10/10. There were hundreds of tools, shovels, hand tools, Stokes baskets.

I guess I was in shock. I couldn't comprehend what had happened. Almost getting killed. We didn't know where to look and there were fires everywhere. It looked like a war scene. The fires burned all day into the night. Because of the debris, we couldn't get the tower ladder into a better position.

It was my son's first day on the job. He was assigned to Ladder 36 in Manhattan. It was his first day and he heard that his father was lost. My son finally met up with me in the hospital later that night. I was shocked to see a rig from my volunteer fire department at the scene.

Firefighter Jack Rooney Special Operations Command
29 years

I was actually meeting with Chief (Ray) Downey when the first plane hit. We came out of his office and like everybody else we thought it was a Cessna or something like that. So I said do you want me to drive you? He said no, you're not working, so he got (John) McGinty to drive him. With that he was walking out and John Moran came out of the office got in the car with Downey. I went upstairs and started to change my clothes, and somebody yelled another plane hit. I ran downstairs to the kitchen and naturally it was on TV. At that point they said Chief Casper had called and he wanted his gear brought to the thing. Rad (Ocasio) was going to bring Casper's stuff to him. I had my gear all packed. I just threw it on the truck.