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 . . . ?


It takes them almost three hours to dig me out. I think my body just shut the pain off, but once they got the concrete off me then I really started to feel it. I had severe compartment syndrome, a crushing injury where the body swells up and the blood has nowhere to go. When they touch my leg, I am in such pain. The wall had fallen on my left side. My left leg is severely crushed, and my right foot has a very bad sprain, and is still swollen.

It takes about eight hours to dig Sergeant McLoughlin out. He's about fifteen feet back from me, but I keep talking to him all the while. He was completely pancaked. The ceiling came straight down on him. He wants more than anything for them to take the weight off. I hear him saying again and again, "Can you please relieve the pressure?" When I was on the Stokes basket and going up the hole, I said, "John, just hold on, they're getting you out." About a hundred firefighters and cops passed me out from group to group.

They take me to Bellevue, and I am in intensive care. They start doing tests, and connecting me to machines. Then they bring in Firefighter Tommy Asher. He was right there in the middle of all that smoke, and I guess he must have collapsed himself. I find out he's in Engine 75. But Asher checks himself out the next morning and goes back to fight the fires. I don't see John McLoughlin until two or three days later, and then only briefly, the back of his head, because they were taking him to the operating room. It was a week before I saw his face, and we really didn't talk for weeks. He is hurt bad, and it is all hard work for him.

The way I personally look at it, I've been to calls with the New York Police Department and the New York Fire Department. To me we are all public servants, and that day at Ground Zero it showed. We all went in there, and we were all wearing the same color made out of the same cloth. We only have a twelve-hundred-man police force in Port Authority, but we all wear shields, we all wear uniforms. We all had a job to do. 

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Judy Jonas, Wife of Captain Jay Jonas Ladder 6

An installer from the cable company came in to change our cable, and he said he was listening to the radio and heard a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. My first reaction was to call Jay and ask him about it because he works down there, in Chinatown. So, naovely, I called the firehouse, and the line was busy. And a few minutes later my nephew, Jeremy Cassel, called-he's a firefighter with Squad 61-and said, "Are you watching this thing?"

I said yes, and was pretty calm. "Is Jay there?" I asked. I thought, The line was busy, and maybe he wasn't.

"Yeah, he's there, but it's a fire, and Jay is a pretty good firefighter."

I had a Cub Scout leaders' meeting scheduled, for a den mothers' conference, and Donna McLoughlin and Lynne Bachman came. We are all den leaders in Cub Scout Pack 63 in Goshen, New York. Donna's husband, John, is a Port Authority police sergeant, and he had actually set up the evacuation plan for the twin towers after the bombing in 1993. John was at work as well, in the twin towers. We sat in my kitchen with the television on, and Donna said, "I know John's not there. If he's there, he's working on the outside."

A neighbor called, who's in Rescue 3, and assured me that Jay was okay. It was just a fire. And I was okay until the first building came down. When I watched that, all of a sudden it wasn't just a fire anymore. I think I fell apart when that building came down, for I knew that my whole life could be falling apart with it.

Jeremy has asked me if I wanted him to go down, that he would go right away, and I thought, He has a wife and two children; I didn't want him to go. But the department had a recall, and he called again and gave me his cell number.

Donna and Lynne kept saying, "Oh, they evacuated that building. Everybody must be out." Jeremy and three other firefighters came into my kitchen on their way down, and he said, "Don't worry, we are going down to get him." Jeremy was a lifeline for me, for if Jay was in there, they would know what to do to get him out. They did calm me down a little bit before they left. In the next hour I had at least twenty-five calls, from family and friends, and then looking out of my window I see that a police car and the local fire chief's car are pulling into my driveway at the same time. This made me panic for a second. How could they know? But it was two of our friends stopping by to give me their numbers, and to say they are available for anything.