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 didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't know if we were going to get blown up, if we were going to run into water or get buried alive. Eventually, the smoke started to lighten up a little and we could see that we were starting to get into daylight. We finally made it out of the tunnel. It had to be no more than maybe five to 10 minutes after the North Tower collapsed. And right when we got out of the tunnel, I found 102 Truck to the right. They had about half a dozen people all cut up, banged up and everything. I spoke to Phil, I said are you guys OK and everything? He said yeah, fine, we're going to stay here with these people. I said OK, I'm going to try to find out what's going on and see if we can help, whatever we can do.
The cops took off on their own. The three guys from 101 came with me. This was the weirdest thing. I found 201's rig because they were one of the last companies to go through the tunnel. They were facing north on the West Side Highway. All the doors were open. The dome light was on and the engine was running. It was almost like a dream because first of all, it was like a nuclear holocaust - I mean, you couldn't see barely 10, 15, 20 feet in front of you without getting blinded because it was so heavy, the soot and the smoke at that point.
Before we left Brooklyn, I told my aide that if we make it, you're going to get a transmission from Manhattan through Brooklyn on what's going on on the other side. I said if I don't make it, don't send anybody else in after me into the tunnel, just assume the worst. Whoever comes in, whatever battalion chief comes in, just let him know that you've got more men missing in the tunnel and let him take it over from there, but don't send anybody else in after us.
I got on Engine 201's radio. I gave an urgent to the Manhattan dispatcher. It took me a couple of tries to get through as the 32 Battalion chief. Now, they may have thought I was the actual 32 Battalion because I didn't say acting battalion chief or whatever. However, I gave specific orders. I said no one is to use the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel for access to Manhattan under any circumstances due to heavy smoke, threats of bombs, the stability of the tunnel is unknown at this time, we cannot verify the stability of it. I said nobody under any circumstances is to use it. Once I got confirmation back from them, we started to walk north up the West Side Highway.
I got to the command post and reported in to Deputy Chief Pete Hayden. There was a temporary command post and he was standing on top of Squad 1's rig, which was crushed. While he was busy on the radio, I checked the front of the cab because there was a huge chunk of the towers on top of the cab that had crushed it to the floor. I wanted to make sure that nobody was underneath that thing. And nobody was there. I asked Chief Hayden, what do you want? I said I've got three guys with me, we're ready to go. I had three guys from Rescue 5 that had joined us at that point. They were off duty and reported to the scene. He said look, wherever you can get a line, start operating down Liberty Street. I told the guys to see where they could find a rig. They actually found an engine. I don't know what engine it was. They had a hydrant.
They brought a 21/2-inch line up with them, so we had six guys on the line and we started operating down Liberty Street from the West Side Highway. We got about 100 or 150 feet off of the West Side Highway into that black cloud and then it started - you know how there was that huge piece of the towers, the South Tower that was leaning? And then there was the 90 West Street building that had all the scaffolding around it that had been hit by the building? So I said just keep moving the line in. At that point, I heard Pete Hayden giving the urgent on the radio for everyone to back off of Liberty Street. And then I saw the Division 8 chief. He was the 41 Battalion chief for a number of years, Chief Mosier. He showed up because I tried getting people off and nobody would listen. So he came and he started ordering everybody off and everybody started evacuating off of it, moving to the other side of the West Side Highway.
At that point, all the guys were running ahead of me. Just as I got to the West Side Highway, I fell into a hole, almost chest deep into water. And my leg got caught under an I-beam or whatever. I couldn't move. I tried moving the thing, but I was totally exhausted. I couldn't do anything. I tried getting myself out of it and I couldn't move. I looked to see where the guys were. They were a good 50 yards ahead of me, so I knew that they were safe. I said as long as these guys are safe, thank God, everybody else will be safe.