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 . . . ?


Dominick is a weight lifter, and he finally pushes everything off him. He gets free, and he is in an area about three feet wide, and he begins to work on getting me out. My left leg is completely stuck under immovable concrete. He is bending over just a little when we hear the collapse beginning. I didn't know it was the tower. I just hear the most horrifying noise I've ever heard. It was like a huge train coming at me with the roar of the devil. I don't think Hollywood could ever duplicate that sound, and it is right above me, coming down. Everything is shaking. I said, "Dominick, something big is happening," and I put my arms over my head. I am lying on my back, like I am in bed, and I am looking upward. I try to get fetal. Dominick stands up, and backs up about four feet. The tower comes down. Nothing moves me or John, but a huge cinderblock the size of a dining room table comes down, and it hits Dominick right across his legs and it slams him down. Then all the debris falls all around us. I can see that Dominick is hurt pretty bad. I keep saying, "Dominick, are you okay?"

And I can hear him gurgling. He says, "Willy, I'm hurt bad." I can see him, and it looks like he is sitting down, but he has all this stuff on him. We keep talking, and I say, "Dominick, keep awake."

But he says, "Willy, you know I love you."

I say, "I love you, too, Dominick." I think about all the things we did together, everything we did in school, the good times at work, the emergencies, the sitting around after work. I know now he is leaving us. He's dying.

"Just remember me," he says. "I died trying to save you guys."

"We'll never forget that, Dominick. Just hold on." I start to yell. "Dominick, just hold on!"

"I'm going," he says. I see him now putting up his arm. He has a gun in his hand, and he fires a shot with his gun, off in the air. A last-ditch effort to say, "Hey, we're here," and then he slumps over, dead.

This is real tough. He's a friend of mine and just a few feet away from me, and I can't go to him; I can't help him. He's a family man, and I know how much he cared about his wife and two children. He was a schoolteacher, too. He could have done that instead of being a cop.

I cannot budge an inch. I keep talking to John McLoughlin now, to keep him awake. The radio is dead, but I keep saying, "Sarge, I know you're in pain, but you have to get on the radio, you know, it's our lifeline." And through the night, I have to get nasty with him. I say, "Sarge, keep alive! You can't die on me because I'll have nobody, and I won't make it. I'm dead."

The whole time we were both awake, and a couple of times he began to fall asleep, but I yelled to him, "Sarge, stay awake!"

So we were all alone now for hours. It is dark. I worry about fire because I can see flames every once in a while, and then they go away. I can see some light, off a way. I don't know what it is, but I hope it is a void someone will come into. The sarge says, "Look, they are going to go by the book. They won't come until morning because everything is unstable, and they will need daylight."

I say, "Hey, Sarge, I don't know if we can make it overnight." I am thinking of my wife, Allison, and my daughter, Bianca. She's just 4, and I want to see them again. And my wife is having a baby, a girl. We're going to call her Olivia. I ask God to let me see my little unborn Olivia, and somehow, in the future, to let me touch the baby.

Suddenly, now I hear a voice. "This is the United States Marine Corps. Is anybody here; can anybody hear us?" This is Staff Sergeant David Karnes and a Sergeant Thomas. I start wailing, "PAPD Officers down. 8-13."

Before I know it, he is on the pile above us, and I ask him, I say, "Please don't leave us. This is Officer Jimeno, who has a little girl and another on the way, and Sergeant McLoughlin is down here; he has four kids. Please don't leave us!"

And he says, "Buddy, I am not leaving you."

And I believed him, he just stayed. He got on the cell phone and made some calls to his wife, and his sister. His wife is in Manhattan, and his sister is in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and he told them where he is so they can send people to us. Rosemary, his wife, couldn't get through on the phone lines, but luckily Joy, his sister, got through from Allegheny. That was so smart to use both family members to call for help. He's an accountant, and he put on his Marine Corps clothes and came down from Wilton, Connecticut, to help. About a half hour later, the cavalry came. We are forty or fifty feet south of the golden globe in the middle of the plaza. There is a raging fire on top of us, and because everything is so sharp, the hose gets cut and they begin sending buckets of water up. There is a firefighter, Tommy Asher, who's at the front of the fire, and he gets so mad when one of his water cans, the CO2 cans, gets empty, he throws the can at the flames.