9/11 firefighter: 'I’m not dying like this'

Book excerpt details NY firefighter’s experience at Ground Zero


Two firefighters assigned to Ladder 24 in my firehouse had just escaped the partial collapse of the hotel when the South Tower collapsed. They each grabbed one of my arms. There was so much debris, it hurt more as they pulled me. We made it in front of the North Tower when the North Tower collapsed. I went from not being able to walk to sprinting towards the Hudson River.

The wind and the dust started again. I put my head inside my coat and said, whatever happens. I walked in a straight line down some stairs to the bulkhead. I walked north until I was out of the dust cloud. I saw one of the firefighters, Grillo, who I had been with. I said where is Tyrone? I was going to go back into the dust until I saw a shadow and it was Tyrone. Grillo had injured his arm and his nose was bleeding. I sat on a park bench. I was in so much pain.

A sightseeing boat pulled into the bulkhead. I get on the boat. I couldn’t walk down the stairs; I had to slide a ladder. They took me to Jersey City with several firefighters. They put me on a bench. There was no one around, so a lady called my wife.

Finally they took me to the Jersey City Medical Center. They triaged everybody in the lobby. Hundreds of people were in the lobby. There was a lot of damage to my legs. They stitched me up. They put the cops, firefighters and EMS in one room. I was fully covered in dust.

I said I wished I could talk with Father Mike, (Mychal Judge, fire department chaplain) I didn’t know what happened to him. A lieutenant said don’t you know, Father Mike got killed. I was so close to him, it was heartbreaking to hear. (Father Judge worked in the church across the street from Engine 1 and Ladder 24. He parked his fire department vehicle inside the firehouse and he ate every meal with the firefighters). It took the wind right out of my sails to hear that. He was such a nice man. He made everybody feel that you were important to him.

They were sending guys two at a time to take a shower. I had scrubs on and was on crutches. Do you want to take a shower? They kept asking me over and over. I said let someone else go. I was the last one to take a shower. I saw what I looked like in the mirror. I was the dirtiest one there. I was transported back to New York. Two friends drove in to take me home. That was my last day at work. I suffered injuries to my left side, left knee, broken knee cap, torn ACL, torn PCL, broken tibia, joint and bone crushed, left eye injury and left shoulder replacement. I had a right torn ACL and a bone/knee crushed.