We continue to present the extraordinary stories of those FDNY firefighters who were on the scene and operating in different areas before, during and after the collapse of the World Trade Center's 110-story twin towers following the terrorist attack on 9/11. The interviews were conducted by Harvey...
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As we got to that corner of the Marriott, it was the Tall Ships Restaurant entrance. The doors were wide open. There were people inside the Tall Ships. We ran along the edge, which would be the exposure 4 side of the hotel. Just as we rounded the corner to Tower 2 to go in the deeper sidewalk - Tower 2 was set back farther into the lot - just as we rounded that corner, there was a tremendous roar above us. There was no question in the world what it was. It was very obvious that the building was collapsing.
I know I did not even look up. I spun on my heels and as I ran by everybody running for my life, I yelled to Charlie and the other paramedics to follow me because I knew where I was going. Then I retraced my steps back to the entrance of the Tall Ships Restaurant and ran into the lobby, hoping that this building would protect us.
As I ran into the lobby, it was crystal clear. And about two seconds later, it was pitch black. There was tremendous dust, tremendous wind, 35 miles an hour I'm guessing at this point, blowing in my face. Everything that wasn't nailed down was blowing at me. People started to scream and the noise kept getting louder and louder.
I knew that I could not continue running forward, so I turned around again and started running back to the entrance where I had come in, but I realized that I could not go out in the street because I would be killed by the steel that was falling. So I became trapped, not physically trapped, but trapped so that I couldn't run anywhere. There was nowhere to run. The roar was getting louder. I couldn't see anything. I couldn't hear anything at all except the roar.
I got on my hands and knees and started crawling. I found a steel column and I knew that this would be my only hope. I grabbed onto the column, wrapped my arms around it as tight as I could and tried to become one with the column. This roar just seemed to keep getting louder and louder. I had thought that this whole thing was lasting four minutes and from what I understand, it lasted between 20 and 40 seconds.
The wind now was I'm guessing upwards of 75 miles an hour, maybe more. It was blowing my legs up in the air. It was hard to hold onto the column and not get blown out into the street. I lost my helmet. I lost my pager. I thought that this would be my grave and I just sat there and waited to get crushed.
Surprisingly to me, the roar stopped. The wind slowed down and I began to realize that I was still alive. I still couldn't see anything. I stood up and started walking with my hands out in front of me toward what I thought was the entrance where I came in and I ran into a truck with its headlights on. And I still to this day do not know what that truck was. I thought that it was a box truck and the first thing that came to my mind was that it was a truck bomb, so I turned around and started running away from it yelling at everybody that it was a bomb, run the other way, it was a bomb.
So everybody started following me. There were I'm guessing 30 people around me as we began to be able to see a little bit. We ran into a rolldown gate, which I later heard had separated the restaurant from the hotel and that's the rolldown gate that they pulled down when the restaurant closed.
The gate was down. We lined up on the gate and put our fingers under it and tried to lift. We got it up about two inches and then all these fingers came from the other side. There were people trapped on the other side of it. I was told that it was 131 Truck on the other side because they gave the same story I did.
We lifted the gate maybe two feet. From behind us a girl said we found a way out, follow us, so we all turned around and started following her. And this is still fright mode where everybody is still in shock and panic. There was a fireman outside on top of the rubble yelling to us to follow him, that he was outside and he knew where we could go to safety. I don't know who that fireman was.
Eventually, they got that rolldown gate up. It's not clear to me, but I think that when I left, it was up two feet and I heard that that is how they escaped. They came out and followed us. They followed us out. Apparently, the people that lived that were in the hotel lobby were people that were either in the north end or the south end of the lobby.