WTC: This Is Their Story

Firehouse® presents the extraordinary stories of FDNY firefighters who were on the scene and operating in different areas following the 9/11 terrorist attack.


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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We ran out across the rubble toward West Street. I continued across West Street until I got to the World Financial Center. I ran to the World Financial Center and all I knew was that I wanted to get to the river and get as far away from these buildings as I could. I went into that building. I tried to break through a glass door that was locked and I couldn't break through it. I had no tools. I was trying to throw a chair through it, but the glass was too solid.

At this point, I could hear my boss Calvin on the OEM radio calling for help and that brought me out of my panic for lack of a better word. It brought me back to reality. I went back out onto West Street and ran north along West Street over all the rubble. I communicated with Calvin on the radio, I kept asking him where he was, where he was. And I started to get a general idea where he was, so I started running north on West. I ran by Chief Feehan (First Deputy Commissioner William Feehan), who was standing amongst the rubble. I shook his hand when I ran by him and he told me to be careful.

I kept running north to Vesey Street where I made a left and headed west on Vesey Street going toward where Calvin was. I found Calvin sitting against a building in Battery Park and the EMS was with him. They had oxygen on him. I asked him if he was OK and he said he was OK. Come to find out later, a fireman had rescued him out of the garage underneath the Financial Center where he had been trapped.

My other boss, John Odermatt, came up behind us, saw that Calvin was OK and told me that I needed to go with him, we needed to re-establish city government somewhere else, we knew we were under terrorist attack, we didn't know what else was going to happen.

We ran north again on West Street and then I ran east on Barclay. At some point there I lost John. We got separated. I ran north on West Broadway. I had been trying to get my family on my cell phone, but the cell phones were not working.

As I ran north on West Broadway, people behind me started to scream, and I turned around and looked over my shoulder and watched as Tower 1 collapsed knowing that my friends Terry and Chris and a lot of the guys were in there. We continued to run north because we didn't know how far that building was going to fall toward us. We were at West Broadway and Warren Street.

Now it just became overwhelming emotionally that this was happening and I was watching my friends die. I wound up seeing some girls going down one of the side streets, seeing some girls go into a building. So I ran down the street because I wanted to use the phone. I banged on their door. They let me in their office and I asked them if I could use their phone and they gave me the phone. I was able to call my brother Chris, who is a Providence, Rhode Island fireman to tell him that I was alive. And that was an hour and 42 minutes after the first plane hit and we had it entered in our phone bill record.

Then we went north and we established city government up at the firehouse of Engine 24 and Ladder 5 and proceeded from there.

I did not hear any Maydays or urgents in any of the towers. The fire radio was in my back pocket and it was on the Manhattan frequency. It was not on the handie-talkie. If I had heard Terry or Patrick giving Maydays, I wouldn't be here right now. I would have been going to them just as I went to Calvin, but I didn't hear it.

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Ciro Napolitano painted this image reflecting the night after 9/11. It shows his wife is putting their children to bed as smoke rises from the World Trade Center site in the distance. The toy ladder truck on the floor, numbered 118, represents Ciro? first company. This image, available as a signed and numbered limited edition print, is being sold to raise funds for the UFA Thomas R. Elsasser Fund. This image is available through FSP Books, see ad on page 111.

Lieutenant Ciro Napolitano (was assigned to Engine 254 on 9/11; now captain covering in Division 3)
16 years of service

I was home when I heard about it. We popped on the TV and the first tower had already been hit, not even a minute before. Then, all of a sudden, I saw a blur and there was the second explosion. Right away I knew, I said this is a terrorist attack.