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As we were driving over the 59th Street Bridge I looked south. I could see the plumes of smoke and it got quiet. We both knew that this wasn't going to be fun.
Overturned vehicles and burned trucks lie on West Street in front of building 6, the U.S. Customs House. A fire chief who was experiencing chest pains was attended to, packaged and removed down the portable ladder that is visible at the center of the photo.
We were supposed to meet Chief Casper at Liberty and West. When we got down there, we couldn't get close enough, so we stopped on Vesey and West. I get out of the rig, told Rad to stay with the rig. I look up. I remember seeing people diving off, coming down. I commenced to look down and I went over to where the command center was. And at the command center, I ran into Chief Ingram. I said I have Chief Casper's stuff. He said he's already in the building. I said I'm off duty, but I've got my gear with me, is there anything I can do? He said OK, go get your gear, come back down here, we're going to muster up over here and he pointed to the left side.
When I left the command center, I saw Chief Downey. I told the chief, I'm here, I've got my gear with me, I told him Chief Ingram wants me. He said OK, good. As I was further up the block, I ran into Joe Angelini. Angelini says to me, where you going, Jack? I says I'm going to the rig to get my gear, then I'm going down to the command center, he wants us to muster up down there. Angelini said OK, I'm going to hang with you.
I walked back to the truck, got my gear and commenced going south again towards the command center. As I was going toward the command center, I didn't want to be looking up anymore because of the people jumping. Maybe 50, 60 feet away from the command center, everybody started running towards me and yelling it's coming down, it's coming down. With that, I looked up and I saw plumes of white, black smoke coming out of the building. Now, when I saw the black smoke, then I saw the top start to just slide. I saw that it's coming down. I dropped my gear bag and started running north. Why I ran north, I guess it was because that's the way I came.
And when I got my bag and started walking back down, Joe Angelini wasn't there, so I assumed he went down to the command center. I just turned and when it started coming down, I started running north, but I didn't take but a couple of steps when debris starting flying and I saw a truck there. It was a red truck, it was some truck from New Jersey, I found out later.
I dove underneath the truck and then it was just an all-consuming cloud. You couldn't breathe, it was in your eyes, your mouth, everything and then I said to myself, something's going to come down and collapse this truck on me.
I come out from the side of the truck. I heard people on the other side of the street, so I just started yelling hello, hello. It was tough to yell because I had all the stuff in my mouth and I couldn't really see. And they responded hello, hello, and I said keep talking, keep talking. I just headed in the direction towards the voices.
After the first collapse, when the smoke and everything cleared, I picked up my gear bag and sat down on the curb, took my shoes off. I was in the process of taking my pants off to put my bunker gear on when somebody yelled the other one's coming down. I looked up and sure enough, the other one was coming down, so I ran. I had no shoes on, just my socks, and my pants were half open. I was running and I don't know how far I got.
Now I'm totally covered in whatever the material was. Then when the thing clears again, I tried putting my bunker gear on, but I couldn't get my bunker gear on because my socks were so coated with the debris that I couldn't get my foot in my boots and everything was just dry and dusty and burned. It wouldn't slide. I finally had to take my socks off and put my gear on. Jack McGinty and Billy O'Marra came along and helped me get dressed.