WTC: This Is Their Story - Part I

Firehouse® continues to present the extraordinary stories of those FDNY firefighters who were at the scene of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.


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 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 Eisner.

Battalion Chief Mark Ferran Battalion 12, Manhattan
20 years

I was watching TV at home. I saw Tower 1 burning. I called the 12th Battalion and was talking to the aide. In the background, Chiefs Fred Sheffold and Joe Marchbanks yelled out to stay home. I said I wish I were working. I'm never going to say that again.

I reported to work. Several companies were starting to stage at Engine 35. I grabbed a radio and responded with Engine 35 down the West Side Highway. We arrived at Chambers Street. The first building had already collapsed. I told the lieutenant from Engine 35 to remain at staging. I met Chief Mike Keenan from the 49 Battalion. I started down to the command post to see how I could help.

As I passed Murray Street, the north tower started to sink. The antenna went straight down. I ran toward the Hudson River. The dust cloud passed right by. I could eventually see the lights on the rigs flickering on West Street. I reported to Deputy Chief (Pat) McNally, Division 14. He said switch to the command channel. (Battalion) Chief Rich Picciato heard me on the radio, he said he's trapped in the B stairs in the north tower on the fifth floor. He said he was with Ladder 6, they're all right, but you have to come and get us. Don't leave this channel.

I found Ladder 43 and asked them if they were available to do something. They answered yes, so I radioed Picciato that Ladder 43 was on the way. I also told Division 14 that Ladder 43 is looking for him. We were just north of the north pedestrian bridge. The bridge was partially collapsed blocking the street.

We climbed a ladder up to the veranda of building 6, the Customs House. A firefighter was lying dead in a stokes basket. The firefighters were in shock. We were looking for Tower 1. Someone said if we enter this building, through a window, you have to cross over a total collapse. It was like a mountain in front of you. Rich, I radioed, we are in a building on the corner. Picciato had a bullhorn with a siren. I said blow your siren. Did you hear that? No. We thought about going through the parking garage. We couldn't see down the street.

There was a 10-story gash in the side of building 7. The southwest corner was taken out when Tower 1 came down. We went back out to West and Vesey streets and into the Verizon building. We exited the rear to Barclay Street and walked around the rear of building 7. We walked to West Broadway and then to buildings 5 and 6. We met a firefighter from Ladder 18 who said he knew the way. We went down an escalator. Into the concourse level 50 feet in we had to make a right turn and then were able to see all the way to the next escalator.

7_02_wtc1.jpg
Firehouse Collection
Firefighters operate among debris. It didn't take them long to realize that heavy construction equipment of grapplers and cranes were needed to lift the heavy steel.

At this location there was a total pancake collapse. I-beams and pieces of steel were through the ceiling of the concourse. We backed out and split up into two groups. We climbed up and across the debris field about 25 feet apart from each other. As we passed 40-foot-long I-beams lying sideways, the smoke and dust increased as the fires below intensified. I called Picciato to blow the siren again. I thought I could faintly hear it in the distance. I said we're coming. Afterwards, he told me it was a big comfort knowing we were on the way.

We met a firefighter from Rescue 2 with a civilian looking for a way out of the plaza area. We had two firefighters lead them out. We finally made it to the east wall of Tower 1. I told Picciato that we were up to the wall, yell out. We heard the yelling. Picciato said yell out, I hear you. One minute later, they were united. Picciato told me there were guys below them. There is a chief trapped downstairs, you're going to need extrication tools and more help.

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