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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Firehouse: You went through the World Financial Center?
Salka: Right, we went through the American Express building off Vesey Street and they all were connected through the Winter Garden, which was crushed from the front with debris. They were setting up a temporary morgue in one of those buildings. I can't remember which one it was, one of those off Vesey street. They found (Ladder 24 Captain) Danny Brethel and a couple of other guys that I knew.
Now we were working on that West Street side. They were trying to get lights in there. We were calling for them early too. I said it's going to get dark here, we'd better get some lights here, so they started calling for lights. SOC (Special Operations Command) sent some of those light trailers. That whole night we were just digging under these big gigantic pieces that were just lying flat out on the street. They pulled a couple of guys out here. That's where the command post was. They got those guys real early. We didn't actually find a lot of guys.
Firehouse: Early on, did you hear any other Maydays or urgents besides those from Jay Jonas?
Salka: I don't remember hearing any Maydays except for Jonas. The radio was pretty busy.
The 18th Battalion was relocated to the 4th Battalion. We relieved Dennis Moynahan down there. And now we were the acting 4th Battalion and we started taking runs in down there. There was smoke all over the place. There were reports of smoke - Rivington Street we were on a couple of times and all the battalions were out, either out of service or just not replaced, not relocated. There were a couple of relocated battalions from Brooklyn, but for the most part we had almost all the way down the Battery because we went on runs all the way down. As a matter of fact, one of our runs ended bringing us into the World Trade Center site at which time I ended up getting put to work. We were there for the rest of the night.
Firehouse: How did it come about that you got a run for that building?
Salka: We got a call going down Broadway, heading south, a report of a possible collapsed building being evacuated. I got there and I looked up and yeah, it sure enough didn't look too right to me either. The building just looked a little cockeyed. I thought I saw smoke or dust or something coming off one of the uppers floors and people were running down the block, down Broadway.
So we get on the radio, tell everybody to stay away from that building. And some engineers came along and some cops came along and we tried to keep everybody away from it. We're trying to keep this street clear, but of course now the other side of the same building is the operation where the collapses are. Now they're concerned about it, so they stop work over there too. Hayden actually ended up coming over there and they had the Liberty Plaza engineers show up and then some other structural engineers showed up who were operating at the World Trade Center. They came around and this had been maybe the second time that this building had been reported possibly collapsing. These guys said they had just made a sweep of that building, analyzed the whole thing, and it was safe and fine. After that was cleared, they called me to a gas leak at Vesey and Church and gave me a truck to operate there. That was really how I ended up getting tied up there the rest of the night.
Then they said we need a chief over on West Street. I said I'm operating with a truck, I got a truck standing by waiting for Con Ed to come and shut this gas off, if you need me, I'll come over there. They said yeah, come over here and they put me to work. We ended up working pretty much that whole night there too as the 4th Battalion.
The second night we were up on the pile, right across from 10 and 10. We went to 10 and 10 command. That's what it was that night, 10 and 10 command. There were two or three chiefs there and this was just nothing but a gigantic pile of rubble in front of us, right up to the edge of the firehouse practically.