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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I just kissed everybody good-bye. I said I've got to go. I said there's going to be eventually a recall on this. I took off. I took my bike instead of my car because I figured there was going to be a massive traffic jam trying to get downtown Brooklyn from where I live in Bensonhurst. So I went to the firehouse, got my gear at about 10 after 9. I was gone by a quarter after and I was biking it down Ocean Parkway, it was real windy that day coming down Ocean Parkway, so I got maybe about two miles down Ocean Parkway and I saw a garbage truck on the side of the service road. I threw my bike in the hopper and I said to the guys hey, look, I need a lift.
They had no idea what was going on. From the service road they couldn't see the smoke because of the trees. As soon as they got on to the main road, we could see the two columns of smoke. They took me down Ocean Parkway and 161 Truck was following behind us. They passed us and then we all got jammed up at Hamilton Avenue. I knew the officer on the truck, Lieutenant Richie McClutsky, and I jumped off and told Richie, I'm going to throw my bike on the tower ladder turntable and join you guys. I did that. We were able to get off at Hamilton Avenue and zigzag our way through the traffic and it was just like I figured it would be. It was just a bottleneck, a mass of thousands of cars, and we could see Engine 201 and Ladder 113 had gotten ahead of us.
We got to the toll booths for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and Engine 201 went through, Ladder 113 went through and then we were through the tolls, just about to go into the entrance to the tunnel, and Chief Marty Coyne from the 42 Battalion stopped us and he said that's it. He literally grabbed the front of the rig. He said we just got the radio report that there's too many rigs on the West Side Highway and they don't know where to put them anymore. We were fighting with him, no, we want to go through, we'd seen them disappear into the tunnel, but he said no, make a U-turn. So we made the U-turn. We went around and there was a whole bunch of companies coming down that were lining up on Richard Street by Ladder 101 and Engine 202's firehouse.
There was a fourth- or fifth-alarm assignment that was lining up there. So I put my bike in 101's quarters, got my gear and from there I could see the full view of the towers. I was listening on my hand scanner to Manhattan's frequency. The 41 Battalion's there and the 42 Battalion too. I got there maybe 25 after 9, 9:30. And then the South Tower collapsed at about 9:50 or 9:55. All of a sudden you're looking at it and you see like somebody threw sparkles in the air. I guess it was all the windows that blew out. Then you saw the twist and you saw it just coming down like that huge cloud and then it just disappeared.
I was hearing Manhattan up until the point where I saw the top of the tower disappear and then it just went dead. There was nothing on the radio. Whoever the dispatcher was, I could hear him prompting them, calling for any units to respond. Nobody was responding. Then I heard a garbled transmission from Marine 9 or 6 giving an urgent that there was a complete collapse of Tower 2. I turned and looked at all the guys that were standing there and everybody was just dumfounded. They had no idea what had happened, and I was probably the first guy to hear that there was a total collapse of the South Tower. Then, at that point when the tower collapsed there was a shotgun of dust, smoke and glass that came through the tunnel and just hit everybody and then the cloud that came across Brooklyn. All the paper and dust, glass and everything else that hit us. Guys still didn't have an idea what had happened.
It shot right through, right through the tunnel like a gun blast. These two puffs of smoke just came right out. And then the cloud of smoke rolled over from Manhattan across the river, hitting us. I went over to the 41 chief. He was busy on the Brooklyn frequency, trying to get through to the dispatcher, and I could hear the confusion and the mass hysteria on the Brooklyn side. I said there's been a total collapse of the South Tower. I said I just heard a transmission on Manhattan frequency from Marine 6 or 9. There was a total collapse. The dispatcher was trying to reach anybody on the scene for several minutes until the North Tower collapsed.
Now we started seeing people walking through the tunnel. They looked like mummies. They were completely encased in dust. All of a sudden a taxi came speeding out of the tunnel, came through the toll off to Lorraine Street and just threw a guy out to us. He was bleeding from a cut on his head and he was all full of dust. We were asking him what happened, but he didn't know what to say to us. He was totally in shock and dumfounded. Next thing, we started seeing more and more people coming out of the tunnel.