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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Firehouse: Is that when the recall was requested?

Nigro: Yes. We saw the second plane hit. We called in a second fifth alarm.

Firehouse: The reason for the recall was because they didn't know what else was going to happen?

Nigro: Yes. I think we knew this was a terrorist attack. There were two fifth alarms, which we knew were only going to be a start. We thought, let's get everybody back to work and then we'll see where we're going to go from here. There's a combination of factors - if it were just the fires and even not the collapse and the two planes hitting the tower, my feeling is we would need a recall.

Firehouse: Were a lot of people coming into the command post at that time?

Nigro: There was one command post already in the lobby of the north tower. We had quite a number of firefighters behind us at the command post and we sent a group of them to the south tower to start the evacuation.

Firehouse: I believe Chief (Joe) Callan (citywide tour commander) went to the north tower and then Chief (Donald) Burns (citywide tour commander) went to the south tower.

Nigro: Chief Burns and Chief Barbara. Chief Burns originally went into the north tower, then he walked over to the south tower. Chief Barbara went to the south tower also. So we had Chief Callan and Chief (Peter) Hayden (Division 1) in the north, and we had Chief (Tom) Galvin from Division 3 in the hotel.

Firehouse: Were there any specific orders? Nigro: I know specifically for the south tower, it was let's get this place evacuated as fast as we can.

Firehouse: Were you getting any reports from companies operating in the towers or from the commanders in those sectors? Were you able to hear them? I'm just wondering if you heard any specific information from anyone operating on the upper floors?

Nigro: I didn't get any. I know we talked back and forth a little with whoever was in the lobby of the north tower, and they were communicating with people in the building, but we weren't getting it outside the building at any point.

Firehouse: You were on command channel to them?

Nigro: Yes. I think we were trying to use four channels at the time. We were trying to set up a system to have a separate command channel and a separate operations channel for each of the towers. And that word went out because the people that were responding in on the second fifth alarm were told by the dispatcher to switch to Channel 3, that they would be operating on Channel 3. Some of them said that's how they knew which building they were supposed to go to.

Firehouse: As the companies came in, were they coming to the command post or were they specifically going right to building 2? Was somebody at the command post directing them as they needed them?

Nigro: I think they were doing both. There was a staging area set up on West and Albany where the companies were reporting to. There was another one set up north of Vesey Street. Judging from what I can see now, it appeared that maybe some companies went to the staging area and the staging chief directed them based on their assignment to the tower. Certainly, a large number of companies came in. The earlier ones, because I had left early, were behind us, I think.

Firehouse: When you say you left, did you take a 360-degree walk around?

Nigro: Well, I got about 180 degrees. The plan was once we had everybody in place, I told Chief Ganci, let me walk around the building quickly and see how badly damaged they were because we couldn't see over from West Street. I did the north side and I got a little bit past Dey Street on Church when the south tower began to come down.

Firehouse: What did you see when you walked around that you hadn't seen before?

Nigro: Certainly, the extent of the damage that occurred to the south tower was much more clearly visible from north and east than it was from west. I did not get as serious a picture from that side.

Firehouse: You saw debris coming down. Did you also see jumpers coming down on that side?

Nigro: Lots and lots of jumpers.