Sep 12, 2022

9/11: The FDNY Transcript

9/11: The FDNY Transcript
RevBlogTranscripts9119/11: The FDNY Transcript

On  9/11/01, 343 members of the FDNY perished while trying to rescue people trapped in the WTC. Scott Pelley speaks with firefighters who were there that day and the loved ones of those who never made it home. Read the transcript here. 

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Speaker 1: (00:01)
In the neighborhoods of New York there are 217 firehouses. Each holds a memorial to firefighters who answered the call 21 years ago and never returned. As we first told you last September, 343 members of the Fire Department of the City of New York perished on 9/11, in the greatest act of gallantry ever bestowed on an American city. This is their story.

Speaker 2: (00:33)
The story will continue in a moment.

Joe Pfeifer: (00:39)
This plane raced past us along the Hudson River at such a low altitude I could read, American, on the fuselage.

Speaker 1: (00:51)
At 8:46 that morning, Battalion Chief Joe Pfeifer was blocks away, searching for a routine gas leak.

Joe Pfeifer: (01:04)
I saw the plane aim and crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Speaker 3: (01:08)
Holy (beep).

Speaker 1: (01:19)
From that moment, the firefighters of the FDNY would have about an hour and a half to save 17,000 lives.

Sal Cassano: (01:28)
They knew that they might not come home, but they knew there were people trapped. That’s our job.

Peter Hayden: (01:35)
There’s no way we were going to stand back and say we’re not going in. That wouldn’t be the FDNY.

Dan Nigro: (01:41)
Our aim was to get above that fire and get those poor people out that were calling us.

Speaker 4: (01:45)
We’re on the floor and we can’t breathe.

Speaker 7: (01:48)

Speaker 4: (01:48)
And it’s very, very, very hot.

Dan Nigro: (01:51)
And all the dispatcher could say is, “We’re coming for you.” We like to keep our promises. We told them we’re coming, we’re coming.

Speaker 6: (02:05)
Go to the Trade Center.

Speaker 1: (02:06)
Joe Pfeifer was coming with a camera. Filmmakers, Jules and Gideon Naudet were making a documentary about the FDNY.

Gideon Naudet: (02:14)
Oh, my God.

Speaker 6: (02:17)
We have a number of floors on fire. It looked like the plane was aiming towards the building.

Speaker 5: (02:28)
[inaudible 00:02:28]. The World Trade Center, Tower number one is on fire. Engine one out, World Trade Center, 10-60 and every available ambulance, everything you got to the World Trade Center now.

Speaker 1: (02:42)
Dispatch launched an armada.

Speaker 5: (02:45)
Engine 211, Ladder 11, Engine 44, Engine 22, Engine 53.

Speaker 1: (02:52)
121 engines, 62 ladder companies, 100 ambulances, 750 members of the FDNY.

Speaker 5: (03:06)
Attention, 68 Engine, 35 Engine, 50 Engine, 64 Engine, 94 Engine, 83 Engine.

Speaker 1: (03:09)
At FDNY headquarters in Brooklyn, 54 year old Chief of Department, Peter Ganci Jr., raced to his car. He was the boss leading the second largest fire department in the world after Tokyo, Dan Nigro was his number two.

Dan Nigro: (03:27)
We went downstairs, quickly, got in the car and headed over to Brooklyn Bridge where we could see the damage, see the smoke, see the fire. That’s when I said to Pete, “Pete, this’ll be the worst day of our lives,” and that was before I knew the half of it.

Peter Ganci: (03:44)
Car three to Manhattan. K.

Speaker 1: (03:45)
Pete Ganci’s voice was recorded en route.

Peter Ganci: (03:48)
Transmit a fifth alarm for this box and get us a staging area Chief somewhere on West Street. K.

Speaker 1: (03:55)
A box is a location. K signals the end of a message, a throwback to the 19th century telegraph, which on this day, was punctuating the greatest crisis in the department’s 136 years.

Peter Hayden: (04:10)
That’s why I want it done. Right away, I got a deep sense that we were going to lose a lot of firefighters this day.

Speaker 1: (04:18)
Division One Commander, Peter Hayden, met Battalion Chief, Joe Pfeifer in the lobby of the burning tower.

Peter Hayden: (04:26)
I knew that we weren’t going to be able to put out the fire, so the order of the day was to search and evacuate as many people as we could and then we were going to back away.

Speaker 1: (04:37)
The fire was 93 floors above. Elevators were out, so firefighters climbed tight stairwells, shouldering 75 pounds and more.

Peter Hayden: (04:49)
I thought we would have enough time to get the people out, and everybody that was above the impact of the plane, were pretty much were either dead already, or going to die. There was a lot of people jumping out already.

Speaker 1: (05:02)
1355 people were trapped above the fire. The Boeing 767 had severed all three stairwells leaving one way out.

Peter Hayden: (05:15)
Jumpers. K. Jumpers.

Speaker 5: (05:18)
All right, Division 1, be advised, Battalion 2 advised he has jumpers from the World Trade Center.

Joe Pfeifer: (05:26)
We heard loud thud and I knew that was somebody that either fell or jumped from the building.

Speaker 1: (05:33)
The first firefighter killed was hit by a fellow human being.

Joe Pfeifer: (05:39)
It was happening so rapidly that I grabbed the PA system at the fire command post and I said that, “Firefighters are coming if you can hold on.”

Sal Cassano: (05:52)
It’s something that’s going to haunt us, probably, for the rest of our lives.

Speaker 1: (05:56)
Tour Commander Sal Cassano had arrived precisely 17 minutes after the North Tower was hit.

Sal Cassano: (06:03)
Just as I get out of my car, I heard another explosion, and I can tell you exactly what time it was, it was 9:03, because that was the plane that hit the South Tower.

Speaker 5: (06:17)
You have a second plane into the other tower of the tower of the Trade Center. Major fire. Mayday, mayday. Another plane hit the second tower. K.

Speaker 1: (06:29)
The second 767 exploded into floors 77 through 85. Now 2000 people were trapped a quarter mile high. Cassano ran into the department Chaplain, Michael Judge.

Sal Cassano: (06:45)
I just told him, “Father, we’re going to be in for a bad day, we’re going to need a lot more chaplains here.”

Peter Hayden: (06:51)
The more and more firefighters, they kept coming in and they took their assignments with no question. Yeah, pretty tough to do.

Speaker 1: (07:00)
But it’s also hard to give them those assignments.

Peter Hayden: (07:03)
It was. Yeah, it was. But I could tell when I gave the assignments out, I could see the look in their eyes. I remember seeing firefighters hugging each other and heading up.

Speaker 1: (07:19)
How many firefighters did you see that day? Refuse to go up the stairs?

Joe Pfeifer: (07:25)
Nobody refused to go in.

Batt. Chief McGovern: (07:27)
Stay together. Let me know what’s going on.

Joe Pfeifer: (07:29)
I could remember one lieutenant from Engine 33 coming up to me and not saying a word, and we stood there wondering if we were both going to be okay. That Lieutenant was my brother, Kevin. Then I told him what I told many of the other fire officers, I said, “Go up to the 70th floor.”

Speaker 1: (07:58)
70, they hoped, could be a staging area in the North Tower. In less than half an hour, the FDNY had rescue operations in the North Tower, the South tower, and the nearly sold out 800 room hotel between them.

Joe Pfeifer: (08:15)
From the time the first plane hit the North Tower, until the second the tower collapsed, was 102 minutes. The things that were going through Pete’s mind in just 102 minutes is just mind boggling.

Speaker 1: (08:30)
Sal Cassano was with Chief of Department, Pete Ganci, at his command post on the street below the towers. This is the only known picture of Ganci that day.

Speaker 1: (08:42)
Was Ganci the kind of boss that you did things for because you feared him or because you desperately did not want to let him down?

Joe Pfeifer: (08:52)
You did it because you loved him.

Speaker 1: (08:55)
Ganci joined the FDNY in 1968. What kind of man was Peter?

Peter Hayden: (09:08)
Pete, I guess people would say he’s my alter ego. Had a chest full of medals and he was just a down to earth, honest, hardworking guy. He is a paratrooper in the army, worked his way up to be Chief of Department in the FDNY. Quite a story.

Speaker 1: (09:27)
A story of courage over his 33 year career. He won the department’s Medal of Valor, crawling into a burning apartment on his hands and knees, grabbing a child who was certainly going to die, and dragging that child out and saving her life.

Joe Pfeifer: (09:48)
That’s the kind of person Pete was. He would put people before himself, without a doubt.

Speaker 1: (09:53)
He put his firefighters before himself. Three months before 911. Ganci, the Chief of Department responded from home to a call of firefighters trapped-

Speaker 1: (10:03)
Responded from home to a call of firefighters trapped in a burning store. He went in, wearing shorts and boat shoes. He once said his 11,000 firefighters were his children. On that day in Queens, he lost three. On 9/11, the man responsible for firefighter safety was Chief Al Turi, who was tormented by the passing minutes.

Al Turi: (10:32)
Let it burn up. We’re not putting this out.

Speaker 1: (10:33)
He asked Pete Hayden if he had considered the threat of a partial localized collapse on the burning floors.

Peter Hayden: (10:41)
I said yes. But we needed to get the people out. There were hundreds upon hundreds of people coming down the interior stairs.

Speaker 1: (10:49)
How much time did you think you had?

Peter Hayden: (10:51)
I thought we had a couple of hours.

Speaker 1: (10:54)
The chiefs knew no steel high-rise in history had ever completely collapsed due to fire.

Dan Nigro: (11:02)
None of us expected the building to come down. We expected the fire to keep burning, and conditions to get worse. But if we could just get one route above in each building, perhaps we could bring some folks down, at least.

Speaker 1: (11:20)
You just needed a little more time.

Dan Nigro: (11:23)
We just needed time.

Speaker 9: (11:26)
Orio. All right [inaudible 00:11:29].

Speaker 1: (11:28)
No one would do more with time than Orio Palmer. That’s him on the right with the mustache. He’s receiving orders to go to the South Tower to try to clear a path to the trapped souls calling 911.

Speaker 8: (11:44)
How many people where you’re at right now?

Melissa Doi: (11:45)
There’s five people here with me.

Speaker 8: (11:48)
All up on 83rd floor?

Melissa Doi: (11:48)
83rd floor.

Speaker 1: (11:51)
32-year-old, Melissa Doi was saying the Hail Mary prayer when 911 answered. The once aspiring ballerina was a manager in a financial firm on 83, one of the burning floors in the South Tower.

Melissa Doi: (12:06)
Are they going to be able to get somebody up here?

Speaker 8: (12:07)
Of course, ma’am. We’re coming up to you.

Melissa Doi: (12:09)
Well, there’s no one here yet and the floor’s completely engulfed. We’re on the floor and we can’t breathe. And it’s very, very, very hot.

Speaker 1: (12:17)
The operator was right. Someone was rising toward Melissa Doi. Orio Palmer ran marathons as a hobby.

Orio Palmer: (12:29)
Battalion 7, Ladder 1-5.

Speaker 1: (12:30)
Battalion 7 is Chief Palmer. Ladder 1-5 is a team of firefighters a few floors below.

Joe Leavey: (12:37)
What do you got up there, Chief?

Orio Palmer: (12:41)
I’m still in “boy” stairway, 74th floor. No smoke or fire problems. The walls are breached, so be careful.

Speaker 1: (12:47)
This is Ladder 15’s lieutenant, Joe Leavey.

Joe Leavey: (12:50)
All right, we’re on 71. We’re coming up behind you.

Orio Palmer: (12:57)
I found a Marshal on 75.

Speaker 1: (12:57)
Palmer found Fire Marshal Ron Bucca on the 75th floor, evacuating civilians.

Orio Palmer: (13:03)
Battalion 7, Ladder 1-5.

Joe Leavey: (13:04)

Orio Palmer: (13:07)
I’m going to need two of your firefighters, Adam stairway, to knock down two fires. We have a house line stretched. We could use some water on it, knock it down. Okay?

Speaker 1: (13:15)
Palmer had discovered the only intact stairway to the top of the South Tower. Unlike the North Tower, the second plane had missed stairway A.

Joe Leavey: (13:27)
We’re on 77 now in the B stair. I’ll be right to you.

Speaker 1: (13:30)
If Palmer could clear this stairwell, 619 souls would have a way out. He was five floors below Melissa Doi and rising.

Melissa Doi: (13:44)
I’m going to die, aren’t I?

Speaker 8: (13:45)
No, no, no, no, no, no.

Melissa Doi: (13:45)
I’m going to die.

Speaker 8: (13:45)
Ma’am, say your prayers. We’re not going to-

Melissa Doi: (13:48)
I’m going to die.

Speaker 8: (13:48)
… We’re going to think positive because you’ve got to help each other get off the floor.

Orio Palmer: (13:53)
We have access stairs going up to 79.

Speaker 10: (13:58)
All right. I’m on my way up, Orio.

Melissa Doi: (14:00)
I’m going to die.

Speaker 8: (14:01)
Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm, stay calm.

Melissa Doi: (14:03)
Please, God.

Speaker 8: (14:04)
You’re doing a good job, ma’am. You’re doing a good job.

Melissa Doi: (14:08)
It’s so hot. I’m burning up.

Speaker 1: (14:11)
The ascent of Orio Palmer and Peter Ganci’s sacrifice when we come back. An hour had passed since the attack on the World Trade Center began. In the South Tower, Battalion 7 Chief Orio Palmer took the only working elevator as high as it would go. Then, he led the men of Ladder 15 on a climb from the 40th floor. Palmer was trying to clear a path to 619 people trapped by fire. The story will continue in a moment.

Orio Palmer: (14:58)
Battalion 7, Ladder 1-5.

Speaker 1: (15:00)
This is Palmer’s radio transmission from the 78th floor of the South Tower. He’s calling the firefighters of Ladder 15 who are coming up with rescue gear from a few floors below.

Melissa Doi: (15:13)
We’ve got two isolated pockets of fire. We should be able to knock it down with two lines. Radio that. 78th floor. Numerous 10-45 code ones.

Speaker 1: (15:23)
10-45 code ones were fatalities, more than he could count. Palmer pressed toward 79, climbing at about one floor a minute. As he rose, Melissa Doi, speaking to 911 from the 83rd floor, thought she heard someone.

Melissa Doi: (15:42)
Wait, wait, we hear voices. Hello. Help!

Speaker 8: (15:42)
Hello, ma’am?

Melissa Doi: (15:42)
Help! Oh, my God.

Speaker 8: (15:42)
Are they coming through to you now?

Melissa Doi: (15:52)
Find out if there is anybody here on the 83rd floor.

Speaker 8: (15:55)
Ma’am, don’t worry. You stay on the phone with me and [inaudible 00:15:57].

Melissa Doi: (15:56)
Can you find out if there’s anyone on the 83rd floor because we think we heard somebody.

Speaker 1: (16:02)
We don’t know what she heard. But hearing no answer to her shout, Melissa Doi returned the call.

Melissa Doi: (16:09)
Can you-

Speaker 8: (16:09)
I already did that, ma’am.

Melissa Doi: (16:11)
… stay on the line with me, please?

Speaker 8: (16:12)
Yes, ma’am. I [inaudible 00:16:13].

Melissa Doi: (16:12)
I feel like I’m dying.

Joe Pfeifer: (16:15)
Orio Palmer knew how dangerous this was. And he didn’t stop. Ladder 15 knew how dangerous it was. But we never thought that an entire high-rise building would collapse. There was no history of it anywhere in the world.

Speaker 1: (16:34)
But this day, history was changing because the planes had blasted away the spray-on fireproof foam insulating the structural steel. The burning floors were sagging, slowly pulling the exterior inward. EMS Division Chief John Peruggia was in the city emergency operations center, where he received a warning from an official he believes was an engineer.

John Peruggia: (17:02)
He said, “The buildings are severely compromised. You can see slight lean. They’re in danger of collapse.” So I grabbed one of my staff guys, EMT Rich Zarrillo. And I said, “Rich, go to Pete Ganci, don’t talk to anyone else, and deliver this message: the buildings are in danger of collapse.”

Speaker 1: (17:22)
In this four-second video, at far left, you see Rich Zarrillo’s blue shirt. He’s delivering the warning to Pete Ganci. Zarrillo hardly got the words out when Ganci’s attention was drawn to a roar from the South Tower above him.

Sal Cassano: (17:44)
Loud noise, had no idea what it was. All we saw was this plume of dust and smoke and debris.

Speaker 1: (17:53)
In the moment before, Melissa Doi had given the 911 operator her mother’s phone number and the message that her daughter loved her. Then, there was silence.

Speaker 8: (18:07)
Oh. My God. Melissa, please. You’re going to be all right. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to talk to your mother yourself. But you got to think positive, you got to stay calm. You’re going to talk to your mother yourself, all right? Melissa?

Speaker 1: (18:31)
Palmer’s last radio transmission was Battalion 7 to Ladder 15, and there’s nothing after that. That’s when the tower collapses. He must have known that with every step he ascended, his chance of survival dropped.

Sal Cassano: (18:53)
Didn’t deter him one bit. The only thing that was in his mind was, “Let me get up there. Let me get as many people out as I can as quickly as I can.”

Speaker 1: (19:03)
Joe Pfeiffer, next door in the North Tower, was 200 feet from the cascading twin.

Joe Pfeifer: (19:08)
And then the lobby goes pitch black.

Speaker 11: (19:32)
Everybody all right?

Speaker 12: (19:32)
Yeah, I’m okay.

Joe Pfeifer: (19:32)
And in the darkness, I wondered if I was dead or alive.

Speaker 11: (19:35)
We got to get everybody out. Let’s go.

Joe Pfeifer: (19:38)
And I got on my radio. And I said, “Command to all units in Tower One, evacuate the building.”

Peter Hayden: (19:46)
Joe Pfeifer was giving the order to evacuate. And one of the firefighters were calling my name.

Speaker 11: (19:57)
Pete! Pete Hayden!

Peter Hayden: (19:58)
He says, ” We have somebody down.”

Joe Pfeifer: (20:02)
I felt somebody at my…

Peter Hayden: (20:03)
… we have somebody down.

Joe Pfeifer: (20:03)
I felt somebody at my feet. And I saw this was our fire department chaplain, Father Mychal Judge. I removed his white collar. I checked for his pulse and breathing. And he had none. And I knew he was gone.

Peter Hayden: (20:23)
Several of us picked him up and we carried him out. The EMTs that had taken him, actually took him, not to the morgue, but they took him to St. Peter Claver which is a Catholic church a little bit north of the Trade Center. And they laid him on the altar, and they called out the Franciscan priests to come down and get him.

Speaker 13: (20:55)
Tower Two has had a major explosion and what appears to be a complete collapse!

Speaker 14: (20:55)
Have them mobilize the Army! We need the Army in Manhattan.

Captain John Sudnik: (20:57)
There was a rush of dust with high pressure coming in with force that I’ve never experienced before.

Speaker 1: (21:06)
Ganci’s streetside command post had been set up next to an underground garage in case shelter was needed. Captain John Sudnik, Ganci and the chiefs dove into the entrance.

Captain John Sudnik: (21:19)
I just remember the dust that day, feeling like it was searing your lungs. It felt like you were swallowing glass.

Sal Cassano: (21:28)
Pitch black, pitch black. But we heard voices, “Are you okay, are you okay?” And then that’s when we made our way back up.

Sal Cassano: (21:36)
And then, when we got up to where the command post was, Pete’s mind went into rescue mode.

Speaker 1: (21:44)
Pete Ganci heard, on the radio, the cries of trapped and wounded firefighters.

Sal Cassano: (21:51)
And I remember him giving orders. “I need truck companies. I need rescue company. Tell them to come with me.”

Speaker 1: (21:58)
As he had before, Ganci went into the debris to save his men himself. In the still standing North Tower, many firefighters refused the order to evacuate while they were still carrying the wounded and disabled. Ganci sent Sal Cassano to set up a new command post. 28 minutes later, Cassano was on his way back.

Sal Cassano: (22:26)
And then I look up and all I could see was the antennae from the North Tower imploding.

Speaker 15: (22:38)
The other tower has just collapsed! Major collapse! Major collapse!

Regina Wilson: (22:48)
I, in my mind, had to be resolved with death.

Speaker 1: (22:55)
Regina Wilson was on the street below the tower. She was with Engine 219, in her second year as a firefighter.

Regina Wilson: (23:03)
And I prayed, and then I just asked God to just protect me. And then, if he couldn’t, I knew that I would die doing what I love.

Speaker 1: (23:14)
Inside the collapsing North Tower, the men of Engine 39 were caught in a stairwell.

Jeff Coniglio: (23:21)
And it started out slow, boom, boom, boom. Then it got quicker, where pretty soon it was just like, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, coming down-

Speaker 1: (23:30)
Jeff Coniglio and Jamie Efthimiades were on the stairs near the ground floor with 110 floors above them.

Jamie Efthimiades: (23:39)
It took 10 seconds for it to come down, but it felt like 10 minutes. I saw… I was in the background of a funeral: I saw my casket, I saw my parents, my wife sitting in the front. And as I’m watching this, I’m like, “All right, it’s going to be quick.” I’m just waiting for something to tap my shoulder and figure, ” I’ll feel a tap, and that’ll be it, we’ll be gone,” you know? “We’re not going to suffer.”

Speaker 1: (24:04)
James McGlynn and Bob Bacon were in the same stairwell.

Bob Bacon: (24:09)
The wind actually came up the stairwell. Blew me into the air and the landing that I was on just disintegrated underneath me, and I kind of bounced back and forth and ended up hanging from like a pipe.

James McGlynn: (24:21)
I think I said a couple of prayers and said, “God, please get us outta here.”

Speaker 1: (24:25)
Their fragment of an intact stairwell lay upon a mountain of misery. 16 acres of wreckage, 91 crushed FDNY vehicles, and quiet like the first heavy snow of winter.

Peter Hayden: (24:44)
Every once in a while, you’d hear the radio, the dispatcher on a radio trying to contact somebody.

Dispatch: (24:49)
All right, Manhattan announcing, any division or any staff chief at the scene of the World Trade Center, K.

Speaker 1: (24:58)
Silence spoke of unimaginable loss.

Dispatch: (25:03)
Any division chief or any staff chief at the scene of any of the World Trade Centers? K.

Joe Pfeifer: (25:11)
That day, 23 battalion chiefs responded. Only four of us survived.

Speaker 1: (25:20)
Joe Pfeifer thought of the lieutenant of Engine 33, his brother, Kevin, who Pfeifer sent up the North Tower.

Joe Pfeifer: (25:29)
I got on my radio, and I said, “Battalion one to Engine 33.” And I repeated it several times. And I didn’t get an answer.

Speaker 1: (25:43)
Kevin Pfeifer was gone and so was the crew of Ladder 105, which rolled from Regina Wilson’s firehouse.

Regina Wilson: (25:53)
We found the truck. We didn’t find the members.

Speaker 1: (25:56)
What happened to them?

Regina Wilson: (25:58)
They all died.

Speaker 1: (26:01)
Among them was John Chipura, her mentor and her savior. Regina Wilson was assigned to the doomed Ladder 105, but early that morning, before the attack, John Chipura asked to switch jobs, which put her among the survivors of Engine 219.

Regina Wilson: (26:21)
I try to honor him by talking his name. And that’s how it is in the African American culture. When you speak the name of an ancestor or you speak the name of a loved one, then they live. And so, every time I say John’s name, he lives. And that gives me comfort.

Jeff Coniglio: (26:44)
It was very hot.

Jamie Efthimiades: (26:46)
Oh, yeah.

Speaker 1: (26:46)
The men of Engine 39 were trapped in the wreckage near the North Tower lobby. They could hear, only a few feet away, Battalion Chief Richard Prunty, who was pinned and calling for help.

Jeff Coniglio: (26:59)
We couldn’t get to him and he was passing out at times.

Jamie Efthimiades: (27:04)
Yeah he was coming in and out.

Speaker 1: (27:05)
Did you hear his radio transmissions?

Jeff Coniglio: (27:07)
The last thing that he said was, of course, about his wife, and saying that-

Jamie Efthimiades: (27:12)
“Tell my wife and children I love them.”

Jeff Coniglio: (27:14)
Yeah, that they were the most… “my wife, that she was the most important thing in the world to me.”

Speaker 1: (27:18)
Those words were among Richard Prunty’s last. The men of Engine 39 were rescued, but 343 members of the FDNY were gone. In a tradition where the job is handed down in families, many lost fathers, sons and brothers.

Peter Hayden: (27:40)
Guys I had worked with both retired and active, saying to me, “Petey, have you seen my son?” And young firefighter coming up “Chief, have you seen my father?” Who I knew… I just said, “No.” I didn’t have the courage to tell him what I knew to be true.

Speaker 1: (28:03)
Among the fallen were Peter Ganci and 71-year-old Deputy Fire Commissioner William Feehan, who had gone with Ganci to rescue the trapped. Peter Hayden climbed atop an engine to address the living.

Peter Hayden: (28:19)
I yelled out, “We just lost a lot of guys here today. Let’s have a moment of silence.” Well, I took my helmet off. And we held it. I held it. And after a while, I put my helmet back on. They put their helmets back on. I said, “Okay, we have a job to do. Let’s do it.”

Speaker 1: (28:48)
Do you look back and wonder, “How did I survive, and 343 members did not?”

Sal Cassano: (28:57)
Yeah. I didn’t think about it as much. We were crazy busy. I was working 18 hours a day, and then it hit me. I says, “I’m here.” I mean, I get home and I’m tired, and there was always food on the table waiting for me when I came home, no matter what time I came home. I’m lying in bed and I ask my wife, “Why me?” And she said, “Did you ever think there was a job for you to do?”

Speaker 1: (29:51)
There was a job for Cassano and others, to do; rebuilding the FDNY.

Speaker 1: (29:58)
When we come back, the children of the lost, put on their fathers’ uniform.

Speaker 1: (30:02)
… of the lost put on their father’s uniform.

Speaker 1: (30:15)
Volunteers started fighting fire in Manhattan in 1648. Nearly 200 years later, during the Civil War, an entire New York regimen was manned by firefighters. Their commander is quoted, “I want New York firemen, for there are no more effective men in the country.” As those veterans returned home in 1865, the modern FDNY was created. The department’s traditions are handed down in families, and so it remains, especially for the children of 9/11’s fallen.

Speaker 19: (30:54)
The story will continue in a moment.

Speaker 1: (31:00)
The late chief of department, Peter Ganci had three children. His daughter married a firefighter. These are his sons, Captain Peter Ganci III was 27 on 9/11, Battalion Chief Chris Ganci was 25.

Speaker 1: (31:18)
How did you learn your father died?

Battalion Chief Chris Ganci: (31:20)
I ran home and I got in the door right when Steve Monticello, who’s my dad’s driver, Al Tori, who was the chief of safety, I just remember them telling my mom that he’s gone. And she said, “Gone where?” Like that, like innocently. And they’re like, “He’s dead.” And I remember the scream that she let out. I could still hear it in my ears, and it pains me to hear it. The pain of a realization that he’s never walking back in the door.

Speaker 1: (31:50)
Pete, what kind of man was he?

Captain Peter Ganci: (31:52)
He loved being around family, but his family was also the fire department. We knew it. My mom knew it, sometimes to his dismay, but we understood the type of person that he was and why he chose our chosen career.

Speaker 1: (32:09)
Chris, you were in business, and on your way to an MBA. Did 9/11 make you a fireman?

Battalion Chief Chris Ganci: (32:16)
Absolutely. Had 9/11 not happen I would not have been a New York City firefighter.

Speaker 1: (32:21)
You’ve quoted your dad as telling new graduates from the fire academy, “You will never ever be rich, but you will always be happy.”

Battalion Chief Chris Ganci: (32:32)
You’ll always be happy. That’s hard to explain to people how you can get injured or you could get killed, but yet somehow you come home with a smile on your face. I enjoy being part of the organization. It gives me a sense of pride that I never felt anywhere else. And maybe that’s what had driven my father for so many years.

John Palombo: (32:50)
I’m John Palombo, I work in 92 Engine in South Bronx.

Tommy Palombo: (32:55)
Tommy Palombo. I work in 69 Engine in Harlem.

Speaker 1: (32:58)
John, how old you on 9/ 11?

John Palombo: (33:00)
I was a week away from being eight years old.

Tommy Palombo: (33:03)
And I was nine.

Speaker 1: (33:05)
How many kids in the Palombo family?

John Palombo: (33:07)
There’s 10 of us. 8 boys and 2 girls.

Speaker 1: (33:10)
The Palombo brother’s dad, Frank Palombo was 46 when he died. Ladder 105.

Speaker 1: (33:18)
In a sense, it wasn’t 9/11 that made the Palombo boys firefighters. It was September the 12th and all the days that followed.

John Palombo: (33:29)
My dad’s brothers and sisters in the firehouse they cooked for us, they drove us places, they took us to Six Flags. I remember going on their shoulders and they’d take us by the arms and spin us in circles.

Speaker 1: (33:43)
The firehouse turned out for birthdays and games.

Tommy Palombo: (33:47)
The stands were filled at the hockey games. It wasn’t the same, because you’re missing the one person that you want there, but they do everything they can to fill it. They never will, but they did everything they could to fill it. As hard as it was for them taking time away from their own families.

Speaker 1: (34:09)
The firehouse cooked dinner for the 10 Palombos and their mother every Monday for five years, until the family moved away.

Speaker 20: (34:22)

Speaker 21: (34:22)
[inaudible 00:34:22]-

Speaker 1: (34:22)
More than 60 children of 9/11’s fallen have been through the training academy on Randall’s Island in the East River and are now on the job. To join they took a written exam that’s given only once every four years, about 60,000 applicants take it. And only those in the top 10% earn a place in the rank and file.

Dan Nigro: (34:49)
I’m very proud of them. I feel that their fathers would’ve been very proud of them.

Speaker 1: (34:54)
Dan Nigro, Chief Ganci’s number two on 9/11 was promoted to chief of department and became the city fire commissioner. Among the others in our story, John Sudnick, a captain on 9/11 rose to chief of department. And so did Peter Hayden. Sal Cassano became fire commissioner. Battalion Chief Joe Pfeifer, became chief of counter-terrorism and now teaches crisis leadership. Regina Wilson was studying for the lieutenant’s exam. And Orio Palmer’s name lives on the FDNY’s award for the most physically fit firefighters.

Dan Nigro: (35:39)
A lot of bravery was displayed that day, and followed by a lot of sadness.

Speaker 1: (35:48)
Commissioner, it seems to be a sad day for you 20 years later.

Dan Nigro: (35:52)
I think for everybody that was there that day, it has just stayed with them, the sadness. We have plenty of good days, plenty to be thankful for, those of us who survived. But it’s a day that’ll never leave you.

Speaker 1: (36:08)
Sadness becomes part of your life.

Dan Nigro: (36:10)

Speaker 1: (36:13)
Your father, survived the collapse of the first tower. And instead of moving to safety, he went to answer the mayday calls from his trapped firefighters.

Speaker 16: (36:27)
We’re receiving reports of firefighter trapped and down.

Speaker 1: (36:30)
He knew that the other building was an imminent danger of collapsing. He had decided in that moment that he was not going home.

Battalion Chief Chris Ganci: (36:44)
Yeah. I mean, he chose his guys. We could get angry about it. And I know my sister, or my mother, sometimes we hit our head against the wall. But when the smoke clears and you think about it, it was the only decision. I knew the way he felt about his men and his job and the FDNY and he was going to stay and see the job through. And-

Captain Peter Ganci: (37:06)
He wouldn’t have been able to live with himself if he left, and one more guy was killed. It’s just the way he was. I have to be there until the last guy is out.

Speaker 1: (37:22)
Today’s recruits were children then.

Speaker 20: (37:24)
Secure your gear.

Speaker 1: (37:25)
And so they muster before memories, three columns of the World Trade Center, and 343 lives, which are here, indelible in time.

Speaker 17: (37:40)
So many of us sacrificed so much that this story can’t get lost, because the world is changing fast. And I don’t want this to be something that’s in a history book, that a page is turned and we’re forgotten.

Speaker 18: (38:07)
Two decades later, 9/11 survivors and first responders are seeking medical care at a growing rate. More at Sponsored by Pfizer.

Speaker 1: (38:24)
We cannot do justice in this hour, or any number of hours, to the sacrifices of the FDNY, the New York City Police Department, the Port Authority Police, and those who fought to save lives at the Pentagon, and on flight 93 in Pennsylvania. At the Trade Center, 2,753 people perished, but there were more than 17,000 in the towers, and 99% of those below the fires survived. That morning, a witness watched firefighters rush to the stairwells and wondered how they found the courage. After 21 years of reflection, it’s clear. They climbed to rise. To rise to the cries 1000 feet above them, to rise to the defense of the firefighter beside them, to rise beyond duty, to a place of selfless devotion.

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