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I sent out a couple of more guys, so we got about four or five people out of the stairway before 43 Truck made it into the stairway. We sent out David Lynn, Matt Comaraski was out. Lieutenant Cross was out. Fireman Bacon was out, and then I kind of held back. I was the last one out of our group. The only person we couldn't take out with us was Josephine Harris because she wasn't walking before the collapse. She certainly wasn't walking afterwards. So I had to wait for 43 Truck to get there and I kind of briefed them I said you need a Stokes basket for her.
I told them about the Mayday from Mike Warchola. I didn't realize the 12th floor wasn't there. I told them about the other chief, and Engine 39 was at the base of the stairway. And so I basically turned the operation over to them at that point.
We worked our way down, there was a ledge. You had to climb down and basically we had to start heading toward West Street. We were told don't go that way because you had craters and everything else. As soon as we exited the building, the Customs House, the ammunition depot for the Secret Service, starts blowing up. So we had all that to deal with at the same time.
We just kept making our way across and down. This crater had to be two stories deep that we had to shimmy down and then climb up the other side. Mind you now, everybody's pretty well beat up. One of my guys has a separated shoulder, one guy's got a concussion, one guy's got bruised ribs, so everybody's not doing really well, plus they climbed 27 stories with heavy gear just before that, so they're pretty well shot. They needed some encouragement to keep moving, you know. Every once in a while they'd stop. I said no, don't stop, you don't have to move fast, but you got to keep moving, just keep going, keep heading west, keep heading towards the river.
Eventually we could see, eventually. Once we got out of that crater, then we could see west. It was starting to clear out by the time we exited, the dust was starting to settle out, so we had decent visibility. Once we got past 7 World Trade, then the smoke cleared up, you know.
All the dust made like a fine powder. It was like trying to crawl on a slew of beams that are coated with talcum powder, so it was slippery. You had to be very deliberate in whatever you were doing. I kept my search rope because I thought that maybe we would need it making our trek across, and I kept my officer's tool. I think everybody else jettisoned everything else.
It had to take us a half hour by the time we left the stairway to reach a point of safety. You know, it was it was a long trip. We had to actually go through the World Financial Center. They had ambulances staged on the other side of that. The first thing I wanted to do was go to the command post and report in, but when I was out, I knew I was talking to eight guys on the radio. I wanted the command post to know that I'm out. If you got a search party looking for me, stop them, get them to a point of safety.
Chief Hayden was on top of a fire truck running the show and I just yelled up from down below. I said Chief Hayden, Chief Hayden. And then somebody gets his attention. He looks down and his eyes are full of tears. It's good to see you, Jay. I just stuck my hand up and I was happy to see him, too. He did one heck of a job there. He was there standing on the roof, him and Deputy Chief Jim Di Domenico.
We all got treated for eye injuries right away. Some guys, like Matt Comaraski, he was swept away right away. So was Bill Butler. They were taken by ferry to Jersey City immediately for medical attention. I think Rich Picciato too.
Just hearing different stories of survival from guys that were outside the building. Mike Rodbeck from Engine 210 called me up. He just narrowly escaped. I think he separated his shoulder. Jack McGinty from the officers' union I heard had a real close call. I heard Mike Telesca was unbelievably close a couple of times.