Friday, August 31, 2018


File No. 9110206
Interview Date: November 14, 2001 
Transcribed by Nancy Francis 

MR. CUNDARI: Today's date is November 14, 2001. The time is 1320 hours. I'm George Cundari. I'm here with Murray Murad, Fire Department, City of New York. We are conducting an interview with the following individual:

Q. Please state your name, rank, title and assigned command.

A. Robert Byrnes, B-y-r-n-e-s. I'm the Supervising Fire Marshal and I'm assigned to the Bureau of Fire Investigations Special Operations Command.

Q. Sir, can you tell us the events of that tragic day of September 11th?

A. Okay. Originally I was scheduled to have a vacation day. I happened to be in the area. I am assigned a beeper from Skytel which gives information regarding the job. I got a beep in my personal vehicle that there was a plane crash into the World Trade Center. 

I happened to be on I think the intersection was Bedford and Flushing. I thought that somebody was actually playing a joke because you can type individual messages in here. I said you got to be kidding me, right? I happened to look up in the sky and I saw a plume of smoke crossing I guess it would be south, away  from Manhattan.

I immediately rushed to my office. I went upstairs to the fourth floor, my offices. The phone was ringing off the hook. My boss was on the phone. He said, Bobby, can you get over here right away? We've got a plane crash.

I looked out the window. I could see the smoke blowing off the World Trade Center. Several moments later I noticed a second plane and I commented to myself, look at this nitwit, he's so close, and before I realized it, he had crashed into the side of the south tower.

At that time I ran downstair  I grabbed some fire gear. I got a department vehicle and I responded with Mike Kane, who was my tech services guy, and Michael Starace, who is another Fire Marshal who works in my command. 

We got to the location. We came over the Brooklyn Bridge and went south on the FDR. We came up West Street and we parked just outside the entrance to the Battery Tunnel. I'm not sure of the name of the street, but we pulled the car in right behind the building. From that point we started to walk up to the command post where Assistant Chief Fire Marshal McCahey was. On the way up there I noticed parts of bodies, legs and feet with shoes on, and I realized that this was more than just a small aircraft that hit these buildings. 

I checked in at the command post at that time and decided to go back to the vehicle with Fire Marshal Kane. He wanted to get a camera. I also wanted to get my blue windbreaker which identified me as a Supervising Fire Marshal. We walked back to the vehicle which was parked on West Street and whatever street is just outside the Battery Tunnel.

Q. Trinity? 

A. It may be Trinity.

Q. Trinity Place?

A. Right at West and Trinity. I grabbed my jacket. Mike Kane got the camera. We started walking back north on West Street towards the original location, which was right under this pedestrian bridge in front of the World Financial Center.

As we were walking up there, I was around between Albany and I thought it was Carlisle or Cedar. We were right in the middle of the street and I happened to be looking up at tower number two and thinking to myself, how are they ever going to put this fire out? It's probably just going to be a rescue operation until the fire burns itself out.
As I'm looking up at the building, I hear a loud noise and I see the south side of the building collapse. I see the south upper third of the tower start to pitch in my direction. At that point I yelled to Mike Kane, Mike, it's coming down. I turned around and I ran south on West Street.[So he HEARS before He See's D.C]

I actually ran towards the building line so that I could get adjacent to the building because I figured it would protect me from any falling debris because in my mind I thought the building was actually toppling. I didn't realize that it actually tilted and then came down straight. My perception was it was toppling southward.

Q. So you ran south you said?

A. I ran south on West, but I ran adjacent to the buildings figuring it would protect me from any falling debris that may come this direction.

Q. This is the south tower collapsing, so the first collapse?

A. Right. I ran until I could no longer see and I had to slow my pace down. The cloud of smoke and the debris was coming around me. There was a lot of dust. There were little pieces of debris coming down that were bouncing around me, glass, small pieces of concrete. Nothing hit me.

I don't know how far I went, but I was able to find a bus. I got into the bus and we were able to breathe in the bus because the bus had fresh air. There were several civilians in the bus. There were two or three windows that were open in the bus as well as the ceiling vents. I remember walking through the bus closing the windows and pulling down the ceiling vents. I got back to the front of the bus and the bus driver asked me, should I start the bus and try to drive away? I told him, no, don't start the bus. Let's just stay put and hope for the best.

I stayed in there until it got dark. You couldn't see. It was pretty dark in there. A few moments later it lightened up. At that point I came out of the bus and I started to walk back up on West Street. As I'm walking back on West Street I'm thinking to myself that I'm going to see the bottom two-thirds of the building still standing there. I'm thinking that just the top third came off. But you  couldn't see up because the cloud of dust was still there.

As I'm walking back up West Street, I'm seeing lots of papers. There had to be maybe several inches of debris in the street, like dust and powder, a couple little fires I saw burning, like papers and stuff burning. I hear a rumbling again. I realize that this is the other tower coming down. At this time I turn around and I make my way back down West Street. I wind up down in Battery Park, where I ran into I believe it was Dr. Prezant.[Yeah like pulverized concrete D.C]

I had my Fire Marshal 800-megahertz radio. I was trying to reach out to people. There were no communications. I could hear some radio transmissions between the Fire Marshals, but for some reason I couldn't transmit. I think my battery had gone low by this point.

Myself and Dr. Prezant were down by Battery Park at this point. There were several firefighters and several other Marshals around. There was a mobile command post there. I went and I spoke to the communications worker and I asked him what's going on up there? He says, absolutely nothing, and I have no communications going on. I'm getting no feedback.

I was able to change my battery at this point in time. He had some spare batteries. I was with Dr. Prezant and he and I basically tried to get that mobile command post to move further away because we didn't know what else was going to transpire. We didn't know if there was still going to be additional attacks or anything.

There was a police -- not a scooter but one of these little I call them cop-in-a-box. Those little square boxes. It was right in the road where we were trying to get the mobile command post to move down further into Battery Park. Me and several civilians tried to lift this little cop-in-a-box out of the way and it was much heavier than we thought. We could only move it several feet and it dropped to the ground again. It was locked and the keys were locked in it. There was no police officer around.

Pretty much that's it. At this time I was able to reach out to some other Marshals and we decided to mobilize down at Battery Park and from there draw a battle plan. Pretty much that's it.

Later on we made our way up north to I believe it was Manhattan Community College and we established a command post up there.

Q. Your original command post that you went to, who was there?

A. Originally, I went to Assistant Chief McCahey, there were several Fire Marshals, I don't remember specifically who. Fire Marshal Kane and Starace were with me at that point. When I returned to the car, it was only myself and Fire Marshal Kane.

Q. And then you saw a lot of victims coming down the street?

A. Well, there were a lot of people coming down the street. I mean, when I ran, I wasn't really looking behind me. There were other people in the street, and I basically ran until I couldn't run any more or I couldn't see to run. Then I got into a bus and I was able to breathe. Actually, that helped us breathe and get some fresh air for a period of time while most of the debris came down. Fortunately, nothing large came down in that area and nothing large hit the bus.

Q. After the first collapse, did you hear firefighters around you or paramedics?

A. I was in the bus. After the first collapse, I made my way down West Street. I couldn't tell you if there were other firefighters. I was basically running south on West Street. When I got into the bus, there were no other firefighting personnel on the bus. It was myself and maybe four or five civilians as well as the bus driver.

Q. So it was very quiet around you after the collapse?  

A. Well, there were people coming down. Some people were running past the bus. Other people got on the bus. Then you couldn't see outside the bus because it got to the point where it was just really dark and you couldn't see what was going on outside, and we basically weathered the storm in there until it got brighter again.

Q. When you switched batteries to the 800 radio, was there any improvement in communications?

A. I was able to transmit at that point. If I remember, it was intermittently. There was a lot of radio traffic. People were stepping on one another. When I talk about the 800-megahertz radio, that's specifically for the BFI. That's not for the field units on that frequency.

Q. I just want to check. It was Mike Kane that was with you?

A. Yes. 

Q. And who was the other Fire Marshal?

A. Mire Starace.

Q. How does Mike spell his last name?

A. S-t-a-r-a-c-e. 

MR. MURAD: That's it.

MR. CUNDARI: I'd like to thank you for coming and conducting this interview with us. At this time it's 1330 hours. This is the end of the interview.

File No. 9110251
Interview Date: December 6, 2001
Transcribed by Laurie A. Collins 
CHIEF KENAHAN: Today's date is December 6th, 2001. The time is 2 p.m. This is Battalion Chief Dennis Kenahan of the New York City Fire Department, Safety Division. I'm conducting an interview with Ed Cachia of Engine 53.

Q. Please state your recollections for September 11th.

A. As far as that particular day, we were in the firehouse cleaning the kitchen, and a member had come in from the house watch and said put on Channel 7, whatever channel it was. He said a plane hit tower one of the World Trade Center, the north tower.

We all ran into the kitchen. Everybody regrouped in the kitchen. We were watching the news, and they had helicopters in the air immediately with the footage. We were discussing more than likely we're going to go down there, this is going to be a big fire. 

We all witnessed the second plane hitting the south tower, and with that everybody got kind of psyched up and said we're definitely going to be going down there now, it's definitely some kind of terrorist act and everybody be safe. Everybody is very concerned.  

With that the tone alarm went off, and 53 Engine was called down to the north tower. 43 Truck remained in quarters. As we got on the rig, everybody double-checked their equipment, checked the flashlights and all that. 

We headed down. We had a very good chauffeur who went through the park and got us down there pretty quick. I believe we pulled up somewhere on West Street a couple blocks before the towers, the north tower. With that I remember seeing 22 parked in front of us, 13 Truck. They must have gone ahead of us.

We walked towards a command post which was set up by an underground garage across from tower two. There was a chief on both sides of this garage, the entrance and the exit. One was the truck, which was on the southern side. On the northern side of the garage were the engine companies. We were waiting there for our assignments. I believe as we were there a couple companies were assigned into the building. I remember seeing 13 Truck to our right.
Image result for IMAGES OF Capt. Walter G. Hynes, 46
  • Capt. Walter G. Hynes, 46
  • Image result for IMAGES OF Thomas Hetzel, 33
  • Thomas Hetzel, 33
  • Image result for IMAGES OF Dennis McHugh, 34
  • Dennis McHugh, 34
  • Image result for IMAGES OF Thomas E. Sabella, 44
  • Thomas E. Sabella, 44
  • Image result for IMAGES OF Gregory Stajk, 46
  • Gregory Stajk, 46

Then the jumpers started to take effect as far as everybody's concentration and thoughts. There was a tremendous amount of people jumping from the top floors, and the sound and the vision of it kind of broke everybody's concentration. So with that I remember losing sight or record of 13 Truck, which I believe they soon went in after.
Image result for images of Peter J. Ganci Jr 54
Peter J. Ganci Jr 54
FDNY Chief

We moved to the top of the hill. I don't remember what companies were in front of us, but we worked our way up to the top of the hill. We were with 44 Engine, I believe. We were about to get our assignment to go into the building, and I remember Chief Ganci on the radio yelling, "There's another plane in the air. I don't want anybody to go into the towers. Everybody stay put." 

Then I remember him desperately trying to get information: Is the military going to send a plane up to intercept the plane? He told the chiefs again, "Make sure no companies go in right now. There's another plane up in the air. We don't know what's going on."

With that I remember a chief coming over to us saying, "53, 44, do me a favor, before you get your assignment, before you go anywhere near this building, I want you to move a couple of rigs so we can get some ambulances in here."

So now that broke up our company. I remember standing there with my officer, Lieutenant Bob Dorritie, and the other members of the company -- Danny Schofield, Louis Giaconelli, Michael Catalano -- went to move some rigs.

As I'm standing with my officer, the people are continuing to jump. Ganci is still on the radio trying desperately to get some information concerning this third plane in the air.

As my officer and I were looking at the south tower, it just gave. It actually gave at a lower floor, not the floor where the plane hit, because we originally had thought there was like an internal detonation explosives because it went in succession, boom, boom, boom, boom, and then the tower came down. 

With that everybody was just stunned for a second or two, looking at the tower coming down. Then everybody started to turn towards the garage. That was it. We were just kind of blown into the garage with all the dust and the debris and material from the building. It came up rapidly right up the street.

As I remember turning, if you were out in the street somewhat, a good amount out in the street, you were kind of blown down the street, where we were kind of forced into the garage. We were very fortunate. There were several companies.

We were encapsulated in this garage for quite some time, maybe 15 minutes or so. You couldn't see. You couldn't breathe. You couldn't even hear because all the residue and material was in your ears and your nose and your mouth.

Then as a few minutes went by, you heard some voices. It was dead silence at first. Just different emotions: How are we going to get out of here? I can't see. I can't breathe. My chest. It was still completely black. You couldn't see an inch in front of your face.

Then I remember an officer saying, "I've got a wall. I've got a wall. I'm going to hit the wall with the halogen. Follow the sound of the halogen. Come towards me. I've got a wall. We'll get out of here."

As I was on the floor -- I was very fortunate. I landed towards the incline of the garage. I was probably one of the last ones to get into the garage. I felt the incline with my left hand, and I had my light. I remember screaming, "I'm at the entrance. Follow my light." I was telling everybody, "Just follow this light, because this is the way out."

I remember another officer yelling, "How do you know that's the way out? I've got a wall. Come towards the wall." So there was a lot of different emotions and different things going on in everybody's mind at the time.

I started to kind of go up the hill myself, pointing the flashlight towards everybody in the garage, and came across like little tree limbs. At that point you still couldn't see. It was completely blacked out. I knew this was definitely the way to go. Some guys followed me out.

That was it. I remember hearing the chief's voice. Maybe this is like 15 minutes or so, maybe going a little towards 20 minutes, a little under 20 minutes, everybody kind of followed their way toward the incline of the garage. 

The chief said, "We're going to regroup." It started to lighten up just a little bit. It was still kind of dark out but lightened up enough where you saw other people's faces. The chief said, "We have to regroup in another area."

With that guys were asking each other, "How are you doing? Are you all right?" This and that. Guys were starting to regroup little by little. It's still dark out but light enough to see people now where we were standing. People were still jumping from tower two because you could hear the bodies hitting the ground.

Then another chief came over and said, "We have to regroup, but I want everybody to go back into the garage. We're going to have a lifeline set up, and we're going to come out the back of the garage. It's safer." The other chief had said, "We'll walk along West Street and we'll regroup around the other end of the building."

So with that I remember my officer grabbed me by the shoulder and said we're going to go back through the garage. It's going to be safer. I remember him yelling out to a few other people too we'll go through the garage, it's a lot safer, because at this point in time it's still kind of dark out. People were still jumping. There still was a little confusion as to what was down the block from the collapse.

So a few guys regrouped on top of the garage and I believe started to walk along West Street on the outside. I walked back into the underground garage with my officer and several other guys. There was a lifeline set up, and we came out the rear of this building -- I don't know what building it was -- by the marina.

At that point in time, everybody got out the rear, and my officer and I, Bob Dorritie, was standing there. There was the chief that initiated the entire removal. My officer said to the chief, "Chief, I'm missing a couple of guys. I don't know where they are." 

At that point in time, myself, Louis Giaconelli and my officer were the three left standing there with the chief. The chief said, "Send one of your guys back into the building. Maybe they're in the building somewhere. And you two guys stay out here in case they do come out." So I stood there with my officer, and we sent Giaconelli back into the building.

At that point in time, we're looking up at the north tower. I remember my officer saying, "I have a feeling this one is going to come down too." Just as he said that, that tower came down it looked like at the point of impact. We actually witnessed both towers coming down visually. We happened to be looking at that particular time. With that, the tower came down.  

We ran towards the marina to seek shelter, and all the debris came over the building we were behind. We were kind of buried a second time with light debris, my officer being ahead of me by the boats, and I just didn't quite make it that far. I just hit the ground and hoped for the best.

You could hear the steel beams coming down. They flew everywhere. That was it. There's another point in time you couldn't see, couldn't breathe, for at least another ten minutes or so. 

I remember finally getting in touch with my officer, calling his name out. It took quite some time, and he had said he couldn't speak because of all the residue in his mouth. I had my mask with me at the time, and I had it on. That was it.

After that we were hoping for the best with Louis Giaconelli who went into the building to look for the other members who were in another place. They moved the rigs and took shelter in the Winter Garden, I believe, at the time of the collapse. We were hoping that he was going to be all right. He had walked out of the building at that time, so we knew he was all right.

So what we did was we walked by the water to regroup in another area, which I don't exactly recollect. We were explaining to the chief we're missing a couple guys. He said, "A lot of guys took refuge in the Winter Garden, which was next door. Let's get some confirmation  before we do anything, but everybody stay here." 

Later on we did hook up with the members that we were missing. My officer was extremely concerned and very upset about that. He pursued it wholeheartedly. They regrouped with us.

At that point in time, they were trying to organize some kind of search for the missing members that were caught in the collapse. I remember walking towards tower two, basically back towards the front of the garage where we regrouped to leave the area. We wound up back in that area.

I remember seeing Chief Visconti very visibly upset, standing on a pile of rubble. It must have been a story or two high in that area. He was explaining that we're going to create a line. We're all going to walk across the rubble as wide as we can, and we're going to search every little nook and cranny and hole or cabin, whatever we can find. Where there's a space, you're going to look for the brothers that might have got caught in the collapse.

At that point in time, we did that, this being maybe half an hour from the point in time of actually leaving that marina area, maybe half an hour after that. I remember several guys came across a fireman's body here, a fireman's body there, a helmet. You saw the back of someone's bunker gear, his legs, a rig twisted under the rubble. Basically that was it.

There wasn't the equipment at the time to dig anybody out, because of the twisted steel. So we put markers for the bodies. They would try and get as deep as possible and close to a body to see if there was a pulse. If there was a confirmation that this person didn't make it, they would mark off the area and we would continue forward, hopefully to find someone that was still alive.

We did that for some time. The inhalation of the dust and the initial collapse just was overwhelming. You were just choking and coughing on your own phlegm and this and that. So we did that maybe 45 minutes or an hour or so.

Then my company and I, we regrouped in another area just to get a breather, because at that particular time more and more firemen were coming in. My officer said, "Look, we've got to really just take a break here. We're really overloading ourselves here," because he saw our condition. We were kind of waning at that point in time from exhaustion.

So that was it. We went back to another staging area. We regrouped. We replenished water. Basically that was the last thing I remember, we regrouped. At that point in time, other members from our company met us at that area, and they were going off into the area to search also.

I myself personally had my eyes encrusted with the cement and lime dust. The second I stopped working, I couldn't even keep my eyes open. So my officer said, "Look, we've got to get you to see the eye doctor right away," because my eyes were bloodshot red and I couldn't even keep them open at that point, knowing that this was it, we're going to take a break, more guys are coming in.

Then I remember it was a little while after that we all went to the triage center, and everybody was getting treated for eye injuries. Then they said they felt that we had cornea damage so we should go right to a hospital. 

So my officer and myself, I think Mike Catalano and Louis Giaconelli went to Cornell. That was it. That was it for us. We were examined.

Q. Thank you very much.

CHIEF KENAHAN: This concludes the interview. The time now is 2:16.  

File No. 9110082
Interview Date: October 15, 2001
Transcribed by Elisabeth F. Nason 

MS. BASTEDENBECK: Today is October 15, 2001. The time now is 655 hours. My name is Christine Bastedenbeck with the New York City Fire Department, conducting an interview with the following individual.

Q. Please state your name, rank, title and assigned command area of the New York City Fire Department.  
A. My name is Peter Cachia. I'm an EMT with the New York City Fire Department, assigned to Battalion 4.
Image result for images of Lt. Thomas O'Hagan, 43
Lt. Thomas O'Hagan, 43
Q. Also present today is --

A. Christopher Eccleston of the New York Fire Department World Trade Center Task Force.

Q. Mr. Cachia, we would like you to relay your experience on the events of September 11, 2001.

A. On September 11, 2001, I was assigned to my Battalion in a light duty status, secondary to an injury back in the past. At approximately, let's see, right before the first plane hit the first tower, myself and the two Lieutenants on duty were at the desk and we heard the radio transmission that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Centers.

I remember the conditions boss leaving to go to the scene, and the desk Lieutenant on duty was basically getting things in order. People were coming in. He was assigning them ambulances to go to the scene. After a few minutes of that, the Lieutenant had left and he had given me the keys to the station and said I was to -- anybody who came into the station, I was to get them to the scene, give them a radio and an ambulance and have them go to the scene.

About 9, 5 after 9 or 10 after 9, Lieutenant Amy Monroe came to the station and asked me if I could drive her to the scene. I advised her that I was on light duty. She said-- she asked me if I could drive and I said yes I can, as long as I didn't have to do any heavy lifting. She said okay.

We then proceeded to the scene, parked the ambulance on Cortlandt Street and then we proceeded to the first triage center, which was on Church Street, basically in front of the Trade Center complex.

Q. I'm going to ask you to mark on the map with the number 1 where you parked your vehicle. Do you know the vehicle number?

A. 13.

Q. Vehicle 13?

A. Yes. At that time when we proceeded to the triage center, at this time both towers had been struck. We met up with the triage Lieutenants there. I think Lieutenant Medjuck was on scene. Lieutenant D'Avila, Lieutenant Melaragno were all on scene. We started treating the patients as they came out. I saw a few of my partners that I worked with in their units there. They were treating patients in their ambulances.

We were there maybe for about 25 minutes or so and that triage center had been getting a little crowded, so Lieutenant Monroe had asked me if there was another triage center. I said I think there was one on Liberty Street, so she had asked me to go to that triage center and to see if they were taking, you know, patients over there or if they needed help or anything.

So I left her and I went to -- I was on the way to the second triage center when the first tower started coming down, which would be, I guess the south tower was coming down. When that started coming down, I basically turned around and like everyone else, I started running up the block, but due to my injury --

Q. Which way were you running, do you know?

A. I was running -- I guess this is, let me just get my bearing, this would be northeast.

Q. On Liberty?

A. Up Liberty. I was very close. I was like a little too close to the tower when it started coming down, because when I started running, I knew I was too close and I really didn't think I was going to get out of there. So about halfway up Liberty Street I saw a truck, I guess an SUV. It wasn't a police or a fire vehicle. It was just a car that was parked there. I went under the truck while the tower came down and the ground was shaking and the truck was shaking and I thought that was it for me. I thought I was done.

I stayed under there until I guess everything was over. I remember opening my eyes and looking out and it was just pitch black. I guess after a few minutes after it cleared up, after I opened my eyes, I looked out and it was bright out again. I got from under the truck and I went back up Liberty, which was now just a pile of rubble and I went to go back to the triage center where I was, where we started out and everybody had gone from there.

So I just continued going up Church Street and when I got to Church and Fulton Street, I met up with Lieutenant D'Avila again and he told -- said let's get out of here, the second one might be coming down. So then we went back up Fulton Street and the second tower had come down, but we were far enough away from it, but again, like everybody else, we just ran.

After that, I remembered running down Fulton Street and going into a store, seeing the cloud of dust going by from the second tower and then hearing it coming down.

Q. At that time, were you with any other EMS personnel or fire personnel?

A. No, Lieutenant D'Avila had gone one way and I went the other way. When I came out, I started going back to the scene, but now my back was just bothering me a lot. I turned around and I was walking towards Downtown Beekman Hospital. I walked towards there. As I was walking towards there two police officers had saw me and they saw that I was in pain and I could hardly walk and they helped me down to Beekman Hospital.

I got to Beekman Hospital and the doctors, you know, they rinsed me off, because I was just covered in that dust. They asked me what the problem was. I said, you know, I have 3 herniated disks in my back. I'm fine. I just need to rest, just take care of everybody, because they were -- I mean -- they were overrun with patients. 

I said just take care of everybody else. I'm fine. I just got to rest a little bit. So I sat down for a few minutes. I remember being in the hospital. I remember hearing somebody saying that they crashed a plane into the Pentagon also, so it was like just unbelievable what was going on. I stayed in the hospital for a little while.

Then I walked back down towards South Street and as I was walking down South Street, I was going past - I forgot the name -- there is like an apartment complex right across from Beekman Hospital and that was also being set up as a triage center. As I walked past there, I saw Lieutenant D'Avila. He said come inside, just rest for a little while. So I went in there and sat down for a few minutes. I stayed there for a few minutes and as I left, I walked out and I walked back down to South Street and at that time I flagged down a police car. He had taken me back to the station, because I was just in too much pain where I couldn't do anything after that.

So I came back to the station. I just basically stayed here for a little while. At the end of my shift at 3:00, the Lieutenant just said for me just to go home. I went home. I mean I didn't want  to, but I was basically useless, because I couldn't -- my back was just in severe pain. I really wasn't any good to anybody. There wasn't anything to do here. We didn't have any phones or anything to answer, no computer to go on.

So that's about it. That's basically the day I don't think any of us will forget. Something that I never thought I would see in my life. Just lucky to be alive I guess. I guess it just wasn't my time.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add to this about the events that happened prior to 12 noon?

A. No, I mean it's -- I don't know. It's just as a service, as an EMS service, I think we were very lucky. From the units from this Battalion being the first ones down there and us not losing anybody is a miracle.

Q. At any time, did you go into either one of the towers?

A. No. I mean I didn't want to, I really didn't. I mean I don't think anybody thought they would come down. I don't know, just I remember getting there and just looking up and just seeing these two gaping holes in the side of these buildings. It was just like watching a movie. I remember after the first one got hit, we all went out the door out here.

When it came over a plane crashed into the Trade Center, okay, a little Cessna. We didn't know until we went out and we looked and we saw and we all said this wasn't a Cessna. I remember coming back here. At that time the TV still worked. We had the TV on channel 4 news. We were watching it. I remember watching the news and looking and seeing the second plane going into it.

I said oh, my god. Is that the first plane or is that the second plane. I saw it was the second plane and then I remembered hearing Lieutenant D'Avila coming over the radio and saying Central be advised, a second plane just went into the second tower. We ran out and we saw the second plane.

It was like watching a movie. It really was. Something that you never thought you would see and something that you never comprehend. It's just a day, like I said, nobody will ever forget.

MS. BASTEDENBECK: Thank you for your time and your thoughts. This interview is concluded at 706 hours.

File No. 9110085
Interview Date: October 15, 2001
Transcribed by Elisabeth F. Nason  

MR. ECCLESTON: Today's date is October 15, 2001. The time is 1217 hours. I'm Christopher Eccleston of the New York City Fire Department. I'm conducting an interview with the following individual.

Q. Please state your name, rank, title and assigned command area of the Fire Department of the City of New York regarding the events of September 11, 2001.

A. Okay. My name is Joseph Cahill. I'm a Paramedic. My office title is Citywide advance life support coordinator and I work in the office of EMS operations.

Q. Also present is?

A. Christine Bastedenbeck of the New York City Fire Department.

Q. Joe, can you tell me about the events of September 11, 2001?

A. Okay. Well, I was running late. So I was on an odd train, which means that when things started, I was actually in the train in New Jersey. I heard one of the other passengers yell out holy fuck. And I looked out the window. One of the twin towers was visibly on fire. You could see the red of the smoke or  the red through the smoke from the side of the building.

We got to Hoboken station. Naturally the PATH train to World Trade Center was closed. World Trade Center is the only stop on that -- New York stop on that train. So I took the 33 Street train to Christopher Street with the intention of walking into the scene, which is essentially what I did. I walked in about halfway down. A postal employee gave me a ride in his postal truck. He gave me a ride to, I guess it must be Vesey Street.

He dropped me off, drove me down whatever street this is. I don't know what that is.

Q. I think that's --

A. But I remember coming down through here and I don't know, maybe he drove me down --

Q. West Street?

A. Yes, I think he might have. Because I remember coming straight down. I don't remember making this zigzag, coming straight -- yes, and ending up here. He let me out on the zebra stripes over here. My original thought was to go to OEM, because I routinely work OEM for the Chief during other emergencies, but I figured I would find out what was going on a little more first.

Let's see. At that point I remember seeing -- it was a proprietary ambulance. I don't believe it was part of the 911 contract there. Asked them if they knew where the command center was. They kind of shrugged, threw some equipment over their shoulders and we both walked up to Church Street, where there seemed to be a couple of other units there. 

I spoke to them briefly. I think there was an officer there but I don't remember who. That looked like it was under control. So I walked back down Vesey. I remember seeing Frank Larkin from the Secret Service run by at a dead run. That just stuck in my head.

I got all the way down to Vesey and West Side Drive and I ran into Chief Villani. Talked to him briefly. I looked around, down here, adjacent to the Trade Center, there seemed to be a lot of vehicles, ambulances and fire trucks, up the West Side Highway. There was also a lot of vehicles with more coming in.

I told Chief Villani listen, it doesn't look like there is anyone staging. I will walk up there and start organizing that, but I don't have a radio because I came in on foot. He said okay. I don't remember if it was then or when I got up here further that I ran into Pinky. I don't know Pinky's last, real name. He is a Lieutenant at Bellevue. A little Spanish guy. I don't know his last name. I think it might have been at this point, because I couldn't have gotten much past Barclay when the first building collapsed.

From where I was standing, wherever that was, it was definitely south across here somewhere. There is a pedestrian walk, but it was definitely right below this pedestrian walkway. From where I stood, Chief Villani had said -- he pointed out one of these buildings. I can't, without being there and looking at it, I'm not sure which one of these it is around the Winter Garden.

But he said the command post is over there. If you need anything come over here. I said you know, I told him about the radio thing. I got about here, which is where we started to put staging together, when one of the towers collapsed and it looked for all the world like it collapsed right on where he indicated the command center to be.

I don't remember who told me before the collapse, but it might have been Chief Villani. It might have been somebody else, told me that Chief Goldfarb was in the command post. At that point truthfully, Pinky and I, because sometime shortly after that we hooked up, or shortly before that. At that point I thought Pinky was probably the highest ranking guy still alive on the scene.

We proceeded up above the walkway, started to organize a staging area there the second time and then the second building collapsed, drove us from that position up further. Is this College of Insurance? Do you know which one of these is Stuyvesant?

Q. Yes, it's up here.

A. So when we were driven out the second time -- so maybe there is another walkway up here.

Q. Yes, there is --

A. Then it's not this walkway. It's this walkway.

Q. Pedestrian walkway? Where you were talking about when the first building came down you were by the pedestrian walkway.

A. I was between these two walkways.

Q. Just south of Chambers?

A. Yes, I think so. Chambers, Warren, something like that.

Q. This map could have been better if it was extended more.

A. When we got driven out by the second collapse, we went up and I remember we started setting up right next to Stuyvesant High School. Then we got the word that there was a gas leak in there and that we had to evacuate that area. We were driven back further up. But that was later on.

I remember talking to an ass load of Hatzolah guys. They must have had 6 units on the scene. There was a bunch of our units. Before the first collapse, yes, I must have been up here. Because before the first collapse I had made it just about to where the vehicles started, where we were starting to organize staging. I remember seeing George Burbano from Battalion 22.
Image result for images of Lt. Charles Joseph Margiotta, 44
Lt. Charles Joseph Margiotta, 44
Q. 22?

A. He was off duty, so I gave him my work sweat shirt, so he had something so the cops wouldn't try to eject him from the scene. I remember he was helping me move vehicles. I remember running from both collapses with him, both of the tower collapses. Then I saw -- I don't remember whose shield numbers these are. I remember I saw Rich, not Rich, Mitch Berkowitz, who was also off duty. I don't know if he is light duty or off  duty. I remember all he was wearing was his medic blue shirt, dark blue shirt and a pair of jeans, which might have mean that's what he grabbed out of the car when he jumped out on his way to the station or might have meant he was doing retrieval while his wrist healed up. I don't know.

I remember collecting these two shield numbers for some reason, of people that were there.

Q. That would be 1172?

A. 74.

Q. 74, sorry, 1174 and 3871?

A. 3871. I had given these shield numbers to one of the new Captains, Debbie Monte, a week or so afterward, because she was riding the desk here that was keeping track of the list.

So anyway, once we got beaten out of the position for a third time, we got from the gas leak, actually before that. When we were beaten out by the second collapse, I went into the Borough of Manhattan Community College, looked for a phone. I finally found one in the security office. I called my office downstairs. I asked them to -- I asked Mery Bento, who is one of the secretaries down there, to page out the Division ALS coordinators. The first one she could get a hold of was to take a vehicle, drive to the pharmacy, find a pharmacist, get 10 cases of everything, get 20 cases of asthma meds and -- I think I ended up with 20 cases of everything, 50 cases of asthma meds and eye drops, because it looked like we were going to be dug in for a long time.

There must have been a significant period of time between the second tower collapse and when we got beat out of the position by the gas leak. I don't think the gas leak is on there. We got beat out of position by the gas leak, because we had started to set up a walking wounded treatment, a holding area in the gym of Borough of Manhattan Community College. The reason I say that we must have -- must have been some amount of time, we started seeing patients in that time period.

There was -- I don't know who owns it -- there was some kind of blood mobile. No, you know what it was, it was one of those blood pressure screening vans, but it was a respectable size RV. We set that up as a MERV at one point. They had a PAA. We put -- I think we used a crew from Hatzolah and Tommy Carlstrom, I think we put in there, to kind of interface everything and make sure everything stayed on  an even keel.

Hatzolah had a huge amount of equipment there, because they were in their private vehicles. So we grabbed a couple of their guys and a full set of equipment and threw it in there. I don't think we ever got to use it though. We started seeing a lot of patients with crap in their eyes, a lot of patients with inhaled stuff and that's the only reason I knew we needed to get those -- bulk up on those specific two things of medication.

I also called Jimmy Geraci, who apparently had seen either the real life version or on TV on radio, was starting to crank up his guys, get his disaster trucks on the road. I gave him a heads up that what we are going to be needing a lot of is eye wash, eye flush, stuff like that. I don't know whatever happened to those trucks because right after I had that conversation with him, we got moved out because of the gas leak. My understanding is they finally got to the scene at some other point. Where we were north of the job, it never came there. I understand they got to the south part somehow.

After the gas leak we went further north. I don't remember how much further north. I could point  the building out on the scene. On the scene, if you are looking northward, Borough of Manhattan Community College is a brick building on the right-hand side. It has got a little underpass to let one of the roads through. That line of route continues up another block or a building or two without appreciably getting higher.

The next really tall building is where we tried to reform again. It's got something to do with the phone company. It's an AT&T office building, something like that. I don't remember. It would be relatively easy to point out on the scene. We stopped there, started getting under control again and somewhere in that point, I started to walk down and chase straggling vehicles, and head personnel up. I ran into Chief Hirth, Lieutenant Cacciola, Grace.

Q. Grace?

A. And Mark Stone, who looked pretty worse for wear. Essentially they told me at that point that we were going to start rallying up at 23 Street at the piers. We were going to start putting together a thing up there. I said okay. I'm going to come down a little bit and start chasing stragglers up so that they aren't wandering around down here with no direction.

At that point I saw Jimmy Schrang. I started talking to him. My absolute favorite story of this whole thing. Jimmy Schrang goes, you know, my friends from Bosnia called me today to see if I was okay.

Anyway we took one of these cross streets. It's probably like Warren or Murray, because we didn't have to cut through any of these buildings. We didn't have to zig around any of these buildings. We came over here. Every once in a while we would run into somebody. We would send them up to Chelsea Piers. 

Then we got -- I kind of imagine it was over here somewhere. No, because we couldn't see City Hall, so it must have been on Church Street somewhere. It's Church or whatever there, West Street. We started working our way down. Somewhere in here Jimmy saw a guy over here. I saw a guy over here in uniform. He said I will go back to talk to him, I will go over and talk to him. I will meet you back here in a minute.

I went over here to talk to him and found that "him" was the furthest outlier of a big treatment sector that was here. I don't remember if it was here. I don't think it was up here. I don't remember seeing St. Paul's. I don't know how -- maybe it was further up this way. I do remember that this side of  the block had a small --

Q. This side of Church?

A. Yes, the west side of Church had a -- some kind of courtyard, like a building courtyard that was securely fenced off, because I remember seeing cops climbing over the fence, but it had trees, little trees. Not great big jongando trees, but little trees.

Anyway, I ran into a treatment sector here. Lieutenant Platt was in charge, Ed Platt. He and I talked for a little while. There was a lot of units there. There was maybe 4 or 5 FDNY units. There was two units from Jersey City, at least. There was a couple of commercial ambulances there. There were a couple of voluntary ambulances there. What was also there was a suspicious package on one of these side streets.

So I told him that, you know, the direction that we had gotten was to fall back to 23 Street and Chelsea Piers, at which point he said well, who gave you that direction. The truth of the matter is that Chief Hirth didn't say Joe, go get everybody and make everybody fall back. So I really didn't have a good answer for him. So he had a radio, so he was able to actually reach Chief Peruggia, who at least temporarily told to us hold position there.

We organized these guys. I started working essentially as a staging officer. I walked down the row of ambulances that were probably scattered around over here, who's on your crew, what's your unit, where do you work from. What vehicle you got. Be ready to move in 10 minutes because we may end up bugging out. A short while later we were given the order to fall back, but not to Chelsea Piers, to Greenwich and something. Greenwich and something. No, it was -- I never got south of the Battery Tunnel over the entrance. That was only way way later. That was like 6:00 the next morning. It was Greenwich and something. I don't know. Oh, you know what, it was right in front of the Travelers Insurance building because we used the umbrella as a marker. This two story umbrella logo thing.

So at some point in my walking down there and starting to do the staging and writing down the units, a fellow walks up named Harold Watkins, and says yo. He is in a polo shirt, one of our uniform polo shirts and uniform pants and shoes and looks well, just kind of bewildered, but looks like he is in uniform and  ready to go. I said hey, how you doing. Who are you. He said oh, my name is Harold Watkins, I'm a fire cadet and I work at the Fire Museum on my off -- as well.

I saw this all going on so I thought I would come and lend a hand. So Harold and I went around and did all this interviewing. When the order came to move, actually John Clair came through there as well while we were there. But I don't know. Time really didn't have that much relevance to me. There were no patients under my care so there was no time vitals, none of that stuff. We were just there for the duration of the job. So time really didn't mean much to me.

At some point we started to bug out. Some of the vehicles had trouble. One of them had burst a radiator hose or had a leaky radiator hose, so we started to organize getting a couple of vehicles jump started. John Clair had Joe Fell from the State with him.

Q. (inaudible)?

A. Yes, just as I remember stuff. We pulled out of there. We had to jump start two or three vehicles. One vehicle had, like I said, a leaking hose so we put them further up in the line and said, you know, if can't make it any further, pull on to the sidewalk out of the way. We told all the vehicles behind them if you see them pull out on the sidewalk out of the way, you need to stop and pick them up, you know.

The reason we were given for why we were moving was that 7 World Trade Center was going to collapse or was at risk of collapsing. So we must have been somewhere in this area where we would have had a problem with that. But I honestly don't remember. It all looks -- I'm fairly familiar with this, actually this, from West Side Highway east almost to the river or certainly past City Hall from Liberty or not even -- from the Battery Tunnel opening north to Vesey, I'm fairly familiar with because I have travelled through there commuting a lot.

I drove through there the day after, the morning of the 12th and I didn't recognize most of the places I was. It all looked very different. It all looked like those videos you see of Pongo Pongo, a little island in the South Pacific has had a volcanic eruption and all the ash is falling out of the air. It was just -- I don't know exactly where we were.

We must have been up in this area somewhere. I know there was a physician's group -- would have been  on the north, or the south of one of these streets.

Q. Like Warren, Murray?

A. Something like that. We had to have been in that range because --

Q. On this street?

A. Yes, because they were worried about us. They wanted us to move the treatment sector because of 7 World Trade Center was imminently to collapse, which, of course, it did. In fact it did while we were moving.

So this guy Harold Watkins and I, not having a vehicle, everybody else was moving out, I told Ed, you know what, we will start walking back up and we will meet you there. There was a volunteer unit and I don't remember from where, that was parked on the -- would have been the west part of the intersection. It was an odd shaped intersection too, in that it was almost like-- it was a triangular intersection where there was two roads coming north-south that came together, joined -- I wonder if we weren't here. I don't think so. We might have been here up by like West Broadway, because -- yes, you know what, I think we were on Broadway. We would have been right in here between Broadway and West, like around Murray or Park.  The police had one of these eastern cross streets blocked off, like I said, with the suspicious package, which looked like a suitcase or an old fashioned briefcase.

So Watkins and I walked back up and met the rest of the group at Greenwich, at the Travelers building. Got to chasing a few stragglers up. The rest of the group set up there. I don't know what happened to Platt. I didn't see him again. I don't remember where he ended up. I did see when I got to the Travelers building, which maybe that wasn't where we were originally headed. Maybe that isn't Greenwich and something. Maybe they ended up setting up another treatment sector somewhere else.

When we got to the Travelers building, there was a huge amount of units. There must have been 20, 25 units there. But there was an enormous amount of people. There was a queue of like 3,000 people waiting to help. There was some enormous firefighter. I don't know if he was our Firefighter or from somewhere else. The bunker gear, he didn't have the jacket so you couldn't really tell, but his bunker gear didn't look like ours. I don't remember why. It was the wrong color or the wrong something. His job was essentially  to organize the volunteers. 

What he did was he organized them. They were moved over here. They had a little briefing. Then they moved them over here. Then they had another little briefing. Then they moved them over here. They essentially just paraded them around this section, because there wasn't anything for them to do, because they couldn't send them into the unsafe zone, but there was huge amounts of people.

So again, I remember seeing there, I remember seeing Tommy from Bellevue. What the hell was his name. Used to be Chief Pascale's aide when I was their Division coordinator. I will think of it. I can picture him. Eppinger, was there. There were at least two other Lieutenants there. So I slipped into the familiar -- now familiar role of staging officer and Harold Watkins and I walked around to all the units, who are you? Where are you from? What are your shield numbers? You know. All right, take a roll of 2 inch tape. What's your normal 911 designation, good. Put that on the windshield. Don't have one? Okay, you are now Jersey City one. You are Jersey City two. We labeled all the windshields with who they were. We stayed there for a while. Again I don't really know,  time was really kind of meaningless. I know we had at least one command car there. One of the supervisors had a car, because we were storing some stuff in it. Now my briefcase ended up in Pinky's car real early on.

So we didn't see a whole lot of patients there. I don't think we saw any patients there. Sometime during the day a guy in what looked like -- he was in battle dress fatigues, he looked like he was from the National Guard, but I don't know. David something. Came up, said hey, you know, we got a hospital over in the Borough of Manhattan Community College and we got no transport resources. So the supervisors and I and him talked about that for a minute.

I got the assignment to walk down there with him, see what was going on down there, because as far as we knew at that point, at least in that location, by Travelers, we had abandoned the location in BMCC. Went back there and there was in fact a really big operation cranking up there, between Port Authority and I don't even know where they were from.

An emergency room physician had brought like a bunch of his staff and the Red Cross was helping out and they were unloading truck loads of shit into this place. Stretchers, you know, little folding stretchers the Red Cross had, blankets, medicines, not a lot of medicines, like a lot of eye wash and aspirin and stuff like that. The Port Authority occupied another piece of it and they were bringing in all kinds of stuff. Brought cases of rubber boots, work gloves, flashlights, all kinds of stuff like that.

What essentially -- I came in agreement with the doctor that was running there is that, you know what, as long as the Port Authority will let us park, because they were controlling that block. As long as they will let us park there, we will keep an ALS and a BLS there. You use them? Send somebody up to us. Let us know where they are going and we will send you another bus.

That's where we kept it. We had a lot of problems with parking and stuff, moving around. That's where we kept it. I don't think they transported maybe a handful of patients. They saw a huge amount of patients, flushed their eyes and stuff. I know a bunch of the Port Authority guys went out to the pharmacies and brought stuff back.

After that, a couple of different times, I went back and forth between those two locations, Travelers and BMCC, but I don't think they really saw a whole lot of patients. They ended up setting up food there, so they probably saw a whole lot of EMS people. What? 

Sometime later on, I don't even remember how much later, I walked down to Chambers, which is what, this one, to the command post at Chambers and west side, and I saw Chief McCracken, talked to some of the other people there. Saw Lieutenant Cronin, and saw John Clair and was given the direction to start organizing, breaking down the BMCC hospital, because no one was aware that BMCC was there. They had already set up another hospital in Stuyvesant, which they are literally 3 blocks apart. 

So I went back, talked to the doc, I said listen, you know, there is another hospital right down the block. They are going to catch all the patients because they are closer to the scene. What we would like to do is split up your materials and your personnel, send some up it up to the pier and some of it down to this other hospital. It's a more effective way of doing it. 

He was very amenable to that. What that ended up meaning is we split up his personnel from the equipment, took all the equipment that they didn't want to -- stuff they wanted to take, I mean, obviously was theirs. But then I think they only took the expensive equipment that they had personally brought.

We moved everything else down to Stuyvesant, which we used I guess a couple of busses from -- I want to say Metro Care, but I'm not sure if that's right. It was definitely one of the big commercials. They had 25 units lined up on the West Side Highway at that time. Like 18 of them ALS. Some of them from as far away as Connecticut. We used 2 or 3 of them, and there was a van there, a regular passenger van from the academy with a driver. I don't know that guy's name, but we used those three vehicles to move the stuff down into Stuyvesant. Put stuff in Stuyvesant.

At sometime during this, the Division 6 ALS coordinator, Al Suriel, arrived with a truck full of pharmaceuticals from our pharmacy. Had to be early on, because I remember bringing some of them up to Borough of Manhattan Community College and trading them for stuff we need. Truthfully, my whole day from that point on essentially doing what I do best, take a little stuff from over here, give it to this guy over  here. Oh, what, you have extra, good, take that from over here, bring that over there. Take some stuff extra from over here, bring it back to the first place.

Q. Bargaining?

A. Yes, and just, unfortunately, the whole thing -- well, what we obviously didn't know at the time, but unfortunately the whole thing was, you know, when you work the marathon in one of the tents, what happens is that like about two and a half hours in, everybody starts getting really antsy and if you don't stay on top of controlling the tent, what you end up with is 400 sets of IV fluids set up around the tent and that's exactly what was going on.

People were starting to get antsy to see patients. There was no one to see. I think a lot of movement of equipment was probably unnecessary, but kept people out of trouble too, which is okay. They did see -- I know Stuyvesant and BMCC saw a large amount of crap in the eyes, crap in the lungs. Got a boo-boo. Doesn't need a stitch, no, good, I'm back to work kind of thing.

So that's pretty much what I did the rest of the night. Al Suriel had a MUP student with him, because he was at refresher when he got paged. Her first name was Ronnie, I don't know what her last name is.

Q. Were they there prior to the collapse or after the collapse?

A. Probably not, probably not.

Q. We are mainly interested in people that were there prior.

A. Then we are done. I'm already into the evening at this point.

Q. Anything else you would like to add? Comments, feelings.

A. No, I think that probably the biggest impression I got out of this whole thing was this is probably as close to being in an infantry unit that gets overrun. We are scattered everywhere. Nobody knew where anybody was. Nobody knew who was in charge. It really felt for a moment that I was in Apocalypse Now, where Martin Sheen goes, where is your CO? Ain't that you? No. Uh-oh. Let's pause for a second. 

MR. ECCLESTON: Pausing the tape at 12:50. (Pause) 

MR. ECCLESTON: This interview is being restarted again at 1:10. 

Q. Can you please continue with the events.

A. Yes, I mean I think where we left off was essentially recounting what happened the rest of my night, which was at different points shortages would show up in the Stuyvesant hospital. They need more fluid, I would find fluid for them. They need more eye drops, I would find eye drops for them. I remember we moved the multi-lator and the big M tank from the van at the bureau of training center, brought it inside, set it up, treat asthma. We made a little asthma booth out.

After that, there was a whole bunch of false starts where BOT were going to take people back and eventually Al Suriel and Ronnie went back with them to BOT because they were both in refresher and MUP class respectively. 

I took over control of the pharmacy truck. I went to the command center and essentially stood by there for direction, because -- I hung out in the MERV for a while. All this stuff, it was already dark by this time. It was already early the next morning.

Then at the end of the day I walked back up to Christopher Street and another postal employee gave me a lift.

Q. Back to the train?

A. Back to the train. I took the train home.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add to this in regard to the events that happened prior to 12 noon?

A. You know what, I have been over it because I'm sure everybody else has as well. I have been over it in my head a great deal since then. I can't think of anything we could have significantly done better, but truthfully, the section I was in up on West Side Drive certainly north of Chambers for most of the day was not where the action was. It really wasn't where, you know, it wasn't where command post got collapsed on or treatment sectors got collapsed on. It certainly wasn't where I expect any of the missing, our missing, EMS missing people, would be from. So I don't know.

MR. ECCLESTON: Okay. Thank you very much for conducting this interview with me. This interview is being concluded at 113 hours.
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