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: Were there more coming down opposite the command post?

Nigro: No. Actually, a lot of them were coming from the command post side. You could see a lot of jumpers from the north tower. There must have been a lot from the south tower from what I've heard, although I did not see them. I heard that afterward. We saw just one after another. And they continued. Actually, I had to be very careful when I walked around to the other side of the building. You had to be careful.

Firehouse: Did you go all the way to Church or did you cut through the promenade?

Nigro: We went Vesey to Church, turned south, got to the Century 21 store, just past Dey Street.

Firehouse: So you could see the north side where it hit initially? You saw that big hole?

Nigro: Well, no, we saw that already on the north tower. I'm talking about the south tower. I could see that parts of the plane actually came through. I knew it hit the south tower from the south. I could see a hole in the north side of the building, so we realized at that point that part of the plane went straight through the building. Then there were a number of sections of the building missing on the east side, which was not apparent from West Street.

Firehouse: How about the fire condition from the east side?

Nigro: My recollection was that the fire condition wasn't as bad as it had looked in the north tower from the east side; it wasn't as active. The structural damage was visible.

Firehouse: Were you able to report that?

Nigro: No, we were on our way back.

Firehouse: Who was you with?

Nigro: Just my aide.

Firehouse: And when the tower came down, what happened? What did you hear, what did you see?

Nigro: I looked up and saw it coming down on us.

Firehouse: Did you hear any loud noise?

Nigro: I heard a noise that I immediately identified as a collapse. I looked up and saw a large section of that outside wall, that design that you're familiar with now, just coming off the building with the rest of the building. I didn't think we would get out of the way in time, but we tried anyway and we were successful.

Firehouse: Did you hear any urgents or Maydays before or after that?

Nigro: Afterwards. I don't recall any before. Afterwards, the radio was very peculiar. It was quiet. A few messages weren't being responded to. They tried a couple of times to reach the command post. The only one I clearly remember was Al Fuentes' message about being trapped and identifying himself. Other than that, it was giving me the opinion that, because I couldn't see anything at all from my side, that we had lost everyone on the other side of the building because I wasn't hearing anyone. I wasn't hearing many people.

Firehouse: Do you remember exactly where you were when that south tower came down?

Nigro: When it started to come down I was by Century 21.

Firehouse: Which way did you go then?

Nigro: Back. And a few feet behind me was Dey Street and then we went east on Dey Street to a Starbucks. We thought we could get into the building, but it was locked, so we just huddled into a corner right there.

Firehouse: And you had the wind and the dust and debris come by you?

Nigro: Yes. A lot of big pieces fell, crushed a car that was next to us, took out a couple of windows around us. And we were in a safe haven from that. We thought we would choke on the dust, we started breathing the dust, which I think everybody on the scene felt at one point or another there - they escaped being hit by the building, but now they were going to suffocate.

Firehouse: The report of a third plane, do you recall if that was before the collapse?

Nigro: I heard that report before the collapse. I don't recall from who. I heard someone say something about a plane crash at the Pentagon. There are 10 more planes or some numbers, another plane heading for us. There were a few stories that I heard, I guess, as I passed different people on the way. And I don't know who told me what, but I do recall the "third-plane-is-heading- for-us" story. And I think an F-15 came by at one point and a lot of people had thought that to be the third plane. That's what I heard from people since then.