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: Did somebody give you some type of an assessment where they thought that a lot of equipment was buried? You really didn't know what was there, but did somebody give you a pretty good idea on how much was missing, damaged or destroyed?
Cassano: We didn't know for a couple of days.
Nigro: That took a while.
Cassano: We knew we had lost a lot of equipment and that we had lost rigs, but it took us a couple of days to get a handle on which rigs we had missing.
Firehouse: I heard Ladder 4 was way down in the debris. Was that surprising?
Nigro: Yes, that was a little surprising. We found Ladder 4 and Engine 65 about 40 feet down.
Cassano: Which, when you tell people that, it's pretty graphic for them and they try to figure out how everything was driven down. You say, well, that's two pretty large trucks that were driven down to the B-4 level. It gives you some idea of the force. 4 Truck was pretty much just flattened. Engine 65 was in a lot worse shape.
Firehouse: Are you concerned with the potential of losing a lot of senior people, adding to more spots to fill in the future?
Nigro: I think it's a concern, but I'm not worried about it. It would be like worrying about the weather. We know we're going to lose people. We're going to have to adjust our training and I try to explain to people, look at the military and look at the ages of some of the people who are operating in emergencies and flying planes, and they're young, so it's possible. They go through the same thing. Luckily, we have always attracted very, very good people. They become the senior command in the firehouse sooner after every fire. It's inevitable.
Firehouse: Are there any plans or thoughts for the potential increase of hazardous materials or for dealing with weapons of mass destruction? For years, there was always talk of another hazmat company. Now you have the squads. Is there anything that you're looking for maybe to expand that?
Cassano: I can just say in general we are looking to expand the hazmat capability and the number of people trained.
Firehouse: Chief Cassano, maybe I can just ask you about where you were and then what happened when the building came down.
Cassano: I was in headquarters in the command center. I was listening to the department radio, doing some administrative duties with Chief Barbara and Chief Burns. And we heard on the radio, transmit a second alarm, a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I was assuming different things, a propane explosion, anything, but the radio was blaring. Donald and Gerry both got up and started to move and I continued to listen to the radio, tried to get some more information.
Things started to perk up, so I decided I'd better head on over there. So I came in looking for Pete and they were already gone. I looked out the window. I could see smoke, heavy black smoke. And I just remember commenting to one of the chiefs who works here, Chief (Mike) Canty, I said that's not an accident, on a beautiful day like today, a plane's not going to hit that building by accident.