9-11 Issue Introduction - Part I

The worst terrorist attack. A total of 2,168 FDNY firefighters are working each tour. Between 25 and 30 alarms of firefighters responded initially. Thousands of firefighters from across the country working at the scene. Not your typical fire story. When I...


The worst terrorist attack. A total of 2,168 FDNY firefighters are working each tour. Between 25 and 30 alarms of firefighters responded initially. Thousands of firefighters from across the country working at the scene. Not your typical fire story. When I began hearing these unbelievable stories, I...


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The worst terrorist attack. This is their story

Harvey Eisner

Firefighter Mike Cancel
Ladder 10 (now promoted to fire marshal)
16 years

Ladder 10/Engine 10 are located on the south side of Liberty Street across from Tower 2. Before the 1993 bombing, we would respond 15-20 times a day to the World Trade Center. After the bombing it dropped to four or five runs a day. Each building has an individual fire command station. I was working 24 hours. I went upstairs to wash up. I heard a boom. It sounded like a steel plate shifting in the street. John Schroeder yelled out that a plane just went into the World Trade Center.

People were already running into the firehouse. The overhead doors were open. I put on my gear. It was raining like snow, but it was flesh. The streets were covered. The housewatch called the dispatcher and said 10-60, major incident. We followed the engine. I noticed a burned civilian in the street.

As we arrived I looked up. I had the roof position. I saw 10 to 15 floors of fire. It was the most fire I ever saw. We walked into the lobby. I was the last one in. There were two people - a man and a woman on fire, still alive. We used the water extinguisher and a CO2 extinguisher to put them out. I told the chauffeur, John Morabito, to get EMS.

We took the B stairs and headed up. Hundreds of people were coming down. They were calm. We asked some of the civilians to help the injured downstairs. As we walked past the people they wished us well and tapped us on our shoulders. We went 10 floors and took a break. We found some water.

When we made it to the 31st floor, the OV, Serge Pilipczuk, had chest pains. EMS had come up behind us, so they gave him oxygen. I gave my radio to the can man, Sean Tallon. The officer, Lieutenant Steven Harrell, Jeffrey Olsen, irons, and the can man, Sean Tallon, kept going upstairs. The radio repeater wasn't working. An FBI agent came by and said a second plane is coming, brace for impact. Over the handie-talkie radio, there is another plane, he's coming around. There was still a good volume of people traveling down the stairs. We went into the hallway and braced against a wall. We were aware that something hit. The other members of Ladder 10 made it to the 40th floor.

I was trying to reach the lobby to notify them of the member with chest pains when the building started to shake. We were being tossed around. I thought the building was going to come down. Someone said the south tower came down. I said, what do you mean it came down? There were frequent Maydays. Firefighters were down and trapped. After 10 minutes, the lights in the north tower, which had gone out, had come back on. From the lobby we heard Mayday, Mayday, evacuate.

We could feel the building starting to twist above us. I called Ladder 10 three times, Ladder 10 roof to Ladder 10. There was no answer. I said we have to evacuate, the building's coming down. Again, there was no response.

EMS went above us. Firefighters were still walking up the stairs. I said we have to evacuate. I started to walk down with the OV. When we reached the third floor, there was a group of civilians who said it was flooded below, we can't get out. I went down to check and there wasn't any flood. A group of 20 or 30 firefighters and civilians came down the B stairs. We met with building personnel. We looked south and saw all the rubble. All the glass was out in the lobby. Look up, make sure you don't get hit. I had heard that earlier a jumper struck a firefighter.

I took the OV to Vesey Street to be treated by EMS. The north tower collapsed. I ran towards the water. I was worried I lost the OV, but I found him walking in the dust. He looked like a ghost. I took him to the water and he was transported by boat to New Jersey for medical treatment. After a few days, the members of the company operated the GPS - the Global Positioning System - to document the location of the remains found at the site. Others maintained the house. A command post was set up on the second floor of the firehouse.

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