Exclusive Excerpts from 'Report from Ground Zero'

  Also: Dennis Smith Pens 'Report from Ground Zero' Prologue September 11, 2001, 8:48 a.m. For decades to come people will ask of each other, where were you . . . ?

A killing storm of terrorism has transformed our lives. We have been swept from a peaceful Tuesday into a calendar of war. New York, Washington, D.C., and a quiet green meadow in Pennsylvania have been attacked, and our fields are now strewn with the remains of heroes. All of us in the Western world are shocked, awestruck, puzzled, and furious.

There is no center to this day, no middle or end. All its remaining minutes and hours will be collapsed into that single instant at 8:48 a.m. when September 11, 2001, became the saddest day of our history.


Officer Will Jimeno Port Authority Police Department

I am working at the north terminal entrance of the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street at 8:48, and my good friend Dominick Pezzulo is working right across from me at the south entrance. Both of us graduated from police school just nine months ago, and we were assigned here together. We are tight, me and Dominick. I can see him just across from me as Sergeant John McLoughlin comes to ask for volunteers to go to the World Trade Center. Sergeant McLoughlin had spent ten years in the emergency service unit, and he knows every inch of the WTC, and so Dominick and I are glad to be able to go with him. Don't forget we are still young on the job, though Dominick is 35 and I am 34.

Our inspector commandeered a bus, and we sped down-the sector cars opened the way for us. We go to the north tower, and then we go under the buildings to go to the south tower, to get to the lobby there. We are one floor under the main concourse area, where all the stores are, and pushing a cart filled with equipment, air masks, helmets, axes, tools, and so on. On the back of the cart, pushing, is Antonio Rodrigues, and just to his left is Christopher Amoroso. [Suddenly I hear a loud noise and] look over to the sarge and say, "Hey, Sarge, is there a second plane coming?" And, just then, it is like an earthquake when the plane hits the south building. We are just about in the middle of the concourse, between the two buildings, just below and a little south of the big golden globe, when huge parts of the tower and shock waves come down into the plaza area, cracking all the cement. The whole concourse above us collapses. There are a lot of civilians all around, and I don't know what happens to them, but I think it has to be bad. I can see Liberty Street before me as I feel a ball of debris hit us. Now, I see a huge fireball coming at us, and I yell, "Run! Run towards the freight elevator!" [The fire has come from the fuel that has poured down the elevator shafts.]

Dominick runs first, I am behind, and the sarge is behind me. Antonio is behind the sarge, and Chris is bringing up the rear. But Chris never makes it because the shock wave pushes him back into the main concourse area, and he takes the worst of it. Dominick and I and the sarge just make it around the corner, but Antonio doesn't. Everything just starts hitting us, and then the wall comes down on top of me. I am flabbergasted. My friend Dominick is crushed down in the push-up position, and my legs are pinned completely by heavy concrete. Sergeant McLoughlin sees the walls breaking apart, and they are falling on him. And the ceiling falls on him, [pinning him] twenty feet away from me. I can't see him, but I can hear him. I keep calling out for Amoroso and Rodrigues, calling and calling for two minutes straight. But there is no response.

The lights are flickering, but they don't go out. Dominick begins to wiggle himself out. Sergeant McLoughlin, being from ESU, does everything by the book, and so we are talking about what we have to do. I have an old pair of handcuffs and I begin to scratch at everything around me, trying to free up some of the concrete. The sarge is thinking Dominick will get free and work to get me out first, and then together we will work to dig Sergeant McLoughlin out. The sarge is hurt bad, and he has a few thousand pounds crushing down on him. But he keeps talking to us, to steady us, keep us calm.