“It was my Birthday. I was leaving at 5:30 a.m. My wife tried to get me to stay home, but I knew I had things to do, and if I didn’t buy lunch I would never hear the end of it. On 9/11, I was assigned to the FDNY Fire Marshal’s Special Operations Command. We are located in Williasmsburg, Brooklyn, above the quarters of E 211 and TL 119 with a clear view of the towers.I was assigned to the surveillance unit, so I was checking my video equipment when we heard of a plane [crashing] into the towers. We went to the front window and when I saw the hole, I said that was no small plane. I got a tripod and set up the video camera. As I was doing this, the second plane hit. The boss was now telling us, ‘Let’s go,’ so I gave Jim a second tape and told him to change it when the first one ran out.I then grabbed a digital camera [and] my fire gear and headed out with FM Mike Starace and SFM Bob Byrnes, now Chief Fire Marshal FDNY. We went over the Brooklyn Bridge and came up the towers on West Street. There were body parts on the street.The fire was raging on the upper floors. I grabbed my coat helmet and camera and we started to get a command post together near Liberty Street when Assistant Chief Fire Marshal McCahey ask me to start taking pictures. As I was taking pictures, I could see the people jumping from the windows and then there would be a huge boom like a cannon going off as they hit the buildings. I kept taking pictures and there was a cloud starting to come down and debris was hitting my helmet when SFM Burns started yelling, ‘Run!’ I started to run but fell down. I could hear the roar of the building and feel the heat as the dust swept past me. FDNY ladders’ collapse zone is [two times] the height of [a] 110-story building, where was I going to go. I just laid down and prayed.
I could hear the steel hitting the ground and I could not even see my hand in front of my face for what seemed like hours. I could hardly breathe and I had no mask, so I used what the old-timers told us a probies to do in an emergency: Pull your coat up over your nose — not that it helped much. First everything was rushing past me and it was hot. Then it was all being pulled back toward the building. After what seemed like hours, the smoke began to clear, and as I got up I was covered with a pile of ash and papers [so thick] that you would not even see me as I lay in the street. I started looking for others and taking pictures as I went. The cloud was now breaking up more and I could not believe what I saw: fire trucks on fire and only the skeleton of the building. The overpass across West Street had stopped the building from sliding further down the street where I lay. I stared searching for my Brothers and to give any help I could but there was an eerie silence. [Un]like a major fire where people are screaming all around you, here I only heard the beeping of firefighters pass alarms. I found SFM Dave Lynn, now Assistant Chief Fire Marshal. We made our way around Battery Park City. There were many casualties along the sea wall and people were trying to get on boats on the river, but they were too far down. The people were just jumping into the river, and as I walked past the marina, a New Jersey Police boat was taking on wounded, tied up to the dock. [I] approached West Street [and] I heard the sound of the North Tower collapsing and members of the NYPD were running toward the sea wall telling us to run. As I started to run I looked back [and] the New Jersey Police boat was trying to take off, but was still tied to the dock. I ran back and untied the boat hoping they made it out of the marina. The dust cloud was coming, and with it who knew? Would the building sweep all the way to the water, or not? I kept running till I got back to the sea wall where we were trying to calm some citizens in the cloud of dust, but it was not as bad as the first and it cleared up fast when the wind blew in from the river. My camera no longer worked so I set out in search of the rest of the fire marshals. In the days after the collapse, I worked at the temporary morgue and on the fresh kills land fill to identify FD rigs. Other marshals worked at the morgue with the medical examiners. Always there when identifying an FDNY member. That day I lost many good friends and family: my cousin, James Corrigan, Ret. Battalion Chief and former Captain of Ladder 10. [He] was the fire safety director for the World Trade Center. He never left his post and was lost while helping to get the firefighters out of the building. And FM Ron Bucca (SF WO1 U.S. Army), who made it to the 78th floor and started a hose line. So that’s where I was on 9/11, the rest is history. I am now retired due to health problems from that day. I believe you will see more people with health issues in the future due to the attack. God Bless.”
“On 9/11, the 2000-plus member police force of the United States Capitol Police acted in a most heroic manner as an FOP team would. Without regard to life and danger, these heroes evacuated the U.S. Capitol Complex of over 38,000 members of Congress, senators, staff and visitors as a reported terrorist plane was heading directly for the U.S. Capitol. I am proud to have served with these heroes on that day. Here is my story as I remember some 10 years later.On September 11, 2001, I was teaching a class for the USCP on civil disobedience. I was the Field Force Commander of our 400-man Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU) field force. I was going over the First Amendment with D/C Jim Rohan and discussing demonstrator’s rights, when I learned about the event. I immediately cancelled class and told everybody to report back to their divisions and the Capitol. We were training at the Bolling AFB off of Capitol Hill. We were getting ready to do CDU formation drills.On my way back to the Capitol, and inbound on the top of the South Capitol Street Bridge, I saw the plane heading for the Pentagon and called it in on our police radios. It was scary; I was told on my secure radio channel that another plane was now heading for the Capitol.An evacuation order of the complex was given. This is something that has never been done in the history of the Capitol.
When I got back to Capitol Police HQ, all the senators and members of Congress were running to [the] police HQ building. It was funny seeing them running. They had just evacuated the Capitol and were scared.
When I saw this, I decided that our police HQ was the new ground zero. The USCP was in danger of losing its mission of Continuity of Government. I had officers secure the perimeter of the police HQ building and start security sweeps with CERT/SWAT, K-9 and our Bomb Squad. I ordered them to make the outer perimeter farther out. I started closing off close proximity streets nearest the capitol complex and HQ. I placed officers with automatic weapons at the doors to our HQ and was reporting this to the Command Center. As the Capitol Buildings Emergency Preparedness Coordinator (CBEPP), I then responded to the Command Center for my operations. Shortly thereafter, the plan to relocate our U.S. government was instituted. I then went to the meeting place with my CERT/SWAT team and the First Responder Unit (FRU) to land helicopters for the relocation.
After a few hours, I started the historic planning sessions for the Capitol Police’s new security posture and manpower requirements for securing the nation’s Capitol. There were emergency meetings with the FBI, U.S. Secret Service and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
There was a lot of hard work done by my many fellow officers and command staff for many days. It was days before I was able to return home to be with my family. The FOP DC #1 was active in assisting the many officers who worked so many hours; the FOP volunteers and staff are truly unsung heroes. This was comfort needed in tough times.
In just a few short weeks later, I was then the 1st Incident Commander for the Hart Senate Building Anthrax attack. My 160-man WMD Alert Team was again double taxed and overworked. It was months before any semblance of regularity was returned to police duties. This surely impacted all LE in the National Capitol Region, as well as LE in the United States. What a historic time to work at the Capitol. I was honored to be there.”
“It was a beautiful, sunny morning and I had just awakened when the phone rang. It was my daughter calling from California. She was all excited and could hardly speak. She said, ‘Can you see the World Trade Center Towers, one of the buildings is on fire!’ I live on the Hudson River just across from the 79th Street Boat Basin in New Jersey and could see from my window that one of the towers was on fire. [Like] many others, I thought a small plane had hit the tower. The size of the buildings dwarfed the impact area.As I watched the fire, all of the sudden I could see an airliner approaching the area of the buildings, and within a flash it struck the second building. Fire and debris flew in one side and out the other, [and] I could not believe my eyes. I was assigned to the NYPD Harbor Unit holding the rank of A/Lt, trained as a Maritime Captain with a 200 ton USCG Masters license. I made an effort to contact the Harbor Base in Brooklyn, but all of the lines were busy. I decided to put on my uniform and head to the ferry on the New Jersey side of the river. I boarded the next ferry and within minutes I landed on the New York side. As I was leaving the ferry, people were rushing to get on board and were thanking me for being there to help.I then proceeded to the Westside highway and immediately observed people rushing to cross the four-lane roadway just in front of the Javits Center. My intention upon arrival was to stop one of the many emergency response units and ride down to the towers to assist where needed. However, I could see the looming danger with the people trying to cross the roadway in the hundreds, and the many emergency vehicles heading south. I made the decision to remain there and direct the emergency traffic and control the flow of pedestrians across the roadway to the ferry terminal.
For the first four hours I was the only uniformed officer at this location. Later on, two Port Authority officers joined me to assist with the growing amount of people arriving at this location. Fortunately the emergency traffic was diminishing. I was standing in the center of the roadway making an effort to maintain order, and I could observe the two towers as if they were just in front of me, it was so surreal. People were driving, riding bikes and on roller blades making an effort to head to the burning towers. I turned them all away for their own safety and to keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles. This Ford Bronco arrived, the driver was a young man wearing a military uniform. I told him he could not proceed. He begged me to let him pass since he was trained in emergency rescue. I did and that was the last time I saw him.
Soon after, I observed the first tower fall. I could not believe this was happening. Then not long after, the second tower fell. The smoke and after-effects of this disaster are still vivid in everyone’s memory. Standing in the roadway watching the buildings fall brought out every level of emotion inside of me! Within minutes after the collapses, a lady rushed up to me and told me a man had just placed a brief case alongside the Javits building just across from my location and ran away. I observed the bag and cleared the area. My cell phone was not working so I used one of the pedestrian’s phones and was able to get through to the Harbor Base and inform them of my location and the situation. The Bomb squad arrived soon after and removed the briefcase.
It was decided by the Emergency Response Supervisors to turn the Javits Center into an emergency receiving point for recovered victims, however, no one arrived. It was later turned into a rest area for the rescue dogs and their handlers along with a food center. Crushed fire engines and other emergency vehicles were now being towed to the area to be decontaminated. White/gray dust was all over, and people were now arriving from the scene covered with dust trying to get on the ferries to New Jersey.
While the emergency traffic had now stopped, more and more people continued to arrive to board the ferries and the recovery activities were proceeding. Damaged and destroyed equipment was being towed to the now-staging area at the Javits Center. I was informed by many of the pedestrians that they lived in other parts of the city, including Long Island, but felt the safest place to be was in New Jersey. While still at my post in the middle of the roadway, I saw my first NYPD uniformed officer. He was a Lietenant. He gave me a bottle of water and a sandwich and requested me to remain on this post for as long as possible. It seemed that the flow of pedestrians would never stop. The ferries were making the crossing to New Jersey as fast as possible along with many private vessels.
I will say it seemed to be less of a problem as the day went on; the general public was cooperating and willing to stand in line for hours to board the ferries. It was kind of an eerie quiet time as the evacuation was taking place. Tractor trailers were now arriving that were refrigerated, press trucks set the area up as a staging zone and people just kept coming — now lined up on both sides of the roadway for many blocks. At the end of the day, after most of the people were on the other side of the river, I decided to leave my post and head back home since my family had no idea where I was or if I was still alive. I spent nine-and-a-half hours in the center of the roadway, never once leaving my self-assigned post.
The next day, myself and another harbor officer walked the river’s edge on the New York side looking for possible human remains that may have floated under the docks. We covered the waterway from the Javits Center to Ground Zero and discovered what looked like a human torso and contacted the recovery unit. As we were approaching the tower site, we observed people running in our direction screaming that Building 7 was about to collapse! Once again, panic was happening, but the building remained standing and calm settled in once again.
I often think about what would have happened to me if I had jumped on one of the fire trucks and rode down to the towers. Would I have survived? Did I make the right decision in remaining in my chosen post? I believe I did, and I know that my being there helped many people get through this major crisis.
I spent six years in the NYPD Harbor Unit, and have been in the NYPD Highway Patrol Command for an additional six years. I have received training from Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), an emergency response center in enhanced emergency management. My training was sponsored by Homeland Security. I still maintain a high alert level status, carry emergency first responder equipment in my vehicle and continue to take advantage of any and all emergency preparedness training available. To be complacent in these times should never be a consideration! Always be ready to respond and be prepared for the next attack, hoping one never occurs.”
“During 9/11, I was a federal correctional officer at MDC Brooklyn, located in Sunset Park. The news of the first plane came across the TV screens located in my housing unit that I was supervising. I then watched the city line from a small window, then I saw the second plane hit. I was devastated. I didn’t know what was going on. The prison went into lockdown and I was then assigned as a lookout on the rooftop. We had set up handheld video cameras watching the city skyline. The towers fell one by one. Smoke and debris travelled all the way to us, landing on our streets. We lost all communication on radios, cell phones and to the world.
The first time I was able to respond to Ground Zero was on Thursday, September 13. We parked about four blocks from Liberty Street. We were to report to the firehouse on Liberty to assist in search and rescue. As we walked, it looked so fake, but felt all too real. I still couldn’t believe my eyes. There was [rubble] all over the streets, fire trucks destroyed, police cars buried, cars stacked onto other cars, dust and smoke all over. My first search and rescue was the last time Building 5 was to be searched. Along with a group of FDNY, my five fellow officers and I assisted searching the building. Our first area was a nursery. I feared the worst as we double checked every hole, nook, closet and stairwell. I had the worst thoughts in my mind that I was going to find a child. Thank God we didn’t, and the building was cleared.
Even though my job went on 12-hours shifts, six days a week, I still went down to Ground Zero as much as I could to help out in any way. Sometimes it was digging, sometimes it was handing out water or masks.
That day in history will FOREVER stay in my mind. Although I did not lose any family, I did lose seven people who [were] either friends, a friend’s parent, brother or sister or someone I worked with. For them and all the brave souls lost that day, I got a giant tattoo on my leg of the American Eagle wrapping its arms around the twin towers, shedding a tear. ‘WE SHALL NEVER FORGET.’”
“I work for the University of Maryland Police in College Park. You can see the Capitol Dome and Washington Monument from our Football Stadium — we are that close to Washington, D.C.
On September 11, 2001, I was a patrol sergeant working the day shift. Shortly later that morning, one of my officers called me and asked if I was near a television. He advised I should get to one quickly. When I got to the television, our patrol commander came over and joined me. We watched as the media reported that a plane “may” have struck the tower. All I could think was, ‘How the hell did the pilot not see that huge building? What, was he drunk or something?’ Then the second plane hit. I was stunned. ‘What the hell…?’ My captain said it had to be a terrorist attack, and then reality hit and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Good God … all those people on the planes … all the people trapped in the buildings.
I joined my captain for breakfast. While we ate, the employees had wheeled in a TV to watch the events unfold. We ate in silence while we watched New York suffer through chaos. I thought it would be a long time before they got the fires out and rescued anyone who hadn’t died of smoke inhalation. As we left the cafeteria, there was an audible gasp from inside. I can’t even describe what we heard, but something told us there was another event. As we ran back in, we saw the first tower collapse. I felt sick — weak in the legs. How could this happen? It just … collapsed!
I drove my captain back to HQ and hit the road. Talk radio described a report of an explosion and smoke coming from the Pentagon. The attack was confirmed. There were reports of explosions at the State Department (later proven wrong), the White House was being evacuated, no one knew where the President was — other than in Air Force One. The day had turned surreal. Then the second tower collapsed. Unbelievable. War had come.
An officer found two suitcases in front of our administration building. We evacuated and set perimeters. A foreign student claimed them. He had just arrived and assumed they would be okay there while he registered (after all, this is America). He didn’t know about the attacks, much less how much of a ruckus he would set off. I called my wife and reached her by cell. She was on the playground with our two youngest kids — she had no idea. Her sister worked on Wall Street. She couldn’t reach her. The phone lines were going down.
Talk radio reported all aircraft was being grounded. The only sound was the thunderous roar of fighter jets patrolling overhead. Goosebumps. By the end of the day, President Bush had addressed the nation and no other attacks were evident. There were so many lives lost that day. So much disaster. When I got home, we all hugged … We were safe.
My Wall Street sister-in-law finally got through to her mother in Florida. She joined thousands in walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to evacuate Manhattan. She couldn’t locate her husband, but four hours later we got word that he also arrived home safely. I couldn’t sleep that night. Hundreds of cops and firefighters [were] missing. Untold numbers of citizens [were] missing. How could this happen? We’d never be the same again.”
“I work the Sheriff’s Office in Sarpy County, Nebraska, which is where Offutt Air Force Base is located. Offutt is the home of Strategic Command. The underground bunker at Strat Com is where our country’s nuclear weapons are deployed from. On September 11th, I was the day shift road patrol sergeant for the Sheriff’s Office. After the second tower was struck, I was directed by my lieutenant to go to Offutt and assist with setting up a joint command post with the Air Force Security Police to establish a perimeter around the base. We were standing in our joint command post when we all watched as the towers horribly came crashing down. At about the same time, an OSI agent walked into the room and told us that what he was about to say was top secret and not to be put out over our radios. He continued to say that President Bush was en route to Offutt and that we needed to make the area as secure as possible for his landing. My SWAT team was called up to stand by outside the base and we watched as two fighter jets came in and buzzed the city prior to Air Force One landing in our county. The base that we helped to protect never came under attack and we were each awed by the fact that the President came to Nebraska to firmly remain in control of the country.
I look back on my work that day as one of the saddest in my 25-year career, but also as one of the proudest for our agency and our country, as her people rallied against terror.”
“On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I was assigned to the Uniform Patrol Division, Bicycle Patrol, Durham Police Department in Durham, North Carolina. Bicycle Officers were assigned directed patrols in specific high-crime areas, or areas deemed appropriate to be highly visible, in order to deter various crimes.
I was standing in front of the main United States Post Office located on East Chapel Hill Street in the heart of Downtown. The weather was nice, and many patrons were coming and going to the post office in order to retrieve their mail. There was a silver Chevrolet van parked approximately 30 feet away, which had just been entered by the owner, a white female. She was about to leave the parking space, and her window was down. I heard a loud gasp coming from the driver’s side. I walked up to the vehicle and asked the lady if she was alright. She replied, ‘Officer, it’s on the radio, a plane just struck the World Trade Center in New York City.’ We talked briefly about how that could have happened, and how a small plane hitting the building could still result in much damage. She subsequently drove away.
In just a few minutes, several pedestrians and others came by and asked if I had heard about the plane striking the World Trade Center? Almost immediately, the reports came much more frequently and with a greater sense of urgency. I rode my bicycle to the Omni Hotel nearby, in order to see if any reports were broadcast on television. I was not prepared for what I saw. Things were happening quickly, and I tried to stay near a television for the rest of the morning. Every transmission on the police radio channels seemed to take on a different mood or priority. I called my wife at her job, and she was already aware of the events that had been reported. The Pentagon had been struck just prior to us hanging up. I was concerned for her safety at that point. I knew these events were serious, and would likely change the our nation forever!”
“On September 11, 2001, I was attending the Maryland Chiefs of Police conference in Ocean City, Maryland. Chiefs from all over the state of Maryland had just sat down for a class, when a deputy police commissioner from Baltimore, Leonard Hamm, rolled in a TV. As the images filled the screen, we all initially thought that this was some kind of training video.
As we all realized that this was “real time,” the classroom emptied, and the hallway was suddenly filled with chiefs and commanders excitedly trying to contact our respective agencies to gain additional information. As the extent of the attacks was initially unknown, and as additional information filtered in about the attack on the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania, the hotel lobby and hallways were filled with the command staff of the entire state law enforcement community trying to dictate contingency plans to their agencies.
In this surreal setting of unknown information and fearful questions about what was coming next (Was our entire nation under attack? Were there more attacks to come?), the conference was cancelled and everyone headed back home to face the reality of the situation in the coming days.”
“On September 11, 2001, I was working two court rooms. I had a break and went to our office. I checked in with my two bailiffs to let them know what prisoners I had. I was just about in shock when I saw the TV. As I sat there and watched the TV, I saw the second plane hit the towers. I was in a panic. You see, my cousin, Raymond, worked in the trade centers for the Port Authority since they opened. I have most of my memories of New York from Raymond and his side of the family. They always put us up when we came to the Big Apple. It was the best time in my life.
I returned to my prisoners and took them back to the jail. I just couldn’t get Raymond out of my mind. I hadn’t seen him in so long, but he still was my cousin and I owe him a lot for making my stays in New York City great.
I called our other cousin, JG, in New Jersey. He hadn’t heard from anyone either. I was really getting scared. I never told my cousin Raymond how much his side of the family had meant to me. To think of losing him was unbearable.
I was allowed to go home for the day. On the way, JG had called me again to see if [I had] any contact. I told him I would call as soon as I got home.
Once I got home I called JG and turned on the TV. As we were talking they showed a side street with smoke and dust chasing people up the block. MY GOD! There was my cousin Raymond running for his life. I screamed to JG and I started crying with joy. There was Raymond, whom I hadn’t seen in about 20 years, [in a] white shirt and tie. HE GOT OUT SAFE!
On the first anniversary of 9/11, my cousin Pam and I sent Raymond a basket of flowers and had the florist put a bottle of Irish whiskey in it. We both received such nice notes from him later.
In December 2003, a few of the cousins met at Tavern on the Green for brunch. Raymond told us much more than what we actually saw.
Raymond was the spokesperson [on tv] when the parking garage was bombed years earlier. He told us that when he had heard the first plane hit, he told everyone to hit the stairs and get out. He lost a lot of friends that day. He now has cancer problems and I am sure a lot of memories that he would like to forget.
My cousin was very blessed to have survived. However, I think that we are all lucky that he survived. He’s a terrific cousin and I love him and his family.”
“On that Tuesday morning, I was a uniformed Federal Police Officer working the day shift at the U.S. Mint at 5th and Arch Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The previous day I had been detailed to U.S. Mint Headquarters in Washington, D.C., as a courier with mint assets. This day (9/11) I was assigned to the truck lock inspection area to oversee outgoing shipments of U.S. circulating coinage to the Federal Reserve Banks. On or [at] about 9:01 a.m., [the] police radio room reported that two airplanes of unknown origin crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. An updated flash information reported that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. I had been a Marine corporal in Arlington, Virginia, on November 22, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and started to experience the shock, awe and uncertainty of that time. The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia ceased normal operations, closed all public areas and released non-emergency personnel. I was assigned to a traffic detail at 4th and Race Streets. Federal, state and city authorities wanted to clear motor vehicle traffic from all government buildings and historic sites in Olde City. I had my wife Janet’s crossing guard whistle with me and used [it] to move traffic east bound on Race Street toward I-95 North or South. (Within eight months of that day, Janet would die suddenly after 30 years with the Crossing Guard Unit.)
Sergeant J. J. Johnson was moving traffic north on 5th Street toward the Ben Franklin Bridge into New Jersey. At 12:05 p.m., the church bells rang out calling people to St. Augustine’s at 4th and Vine Streets. All the motorists were cooperative with the exit detours at my fixed post. Later in the afternoon, we were relieved by officers of [the] Philadelpia Police Department, 6th District. I was able to get home that night on mass transportation. I hugged my family and attended church services that evening asking for God’s mercy and help and for all public safety personnel and our U.S. Armed Forces to prevail in this global war on terror. My next in-service training at FLETC in Glynco, Georgia, would now be under the Homeland Security Department. This day (9/11) would change America forever.”
“I was working the day shift in a one man car in the Jersey City Police Department’s West District. It was a beautiful morning, and I was on a motor vehicle accident on what we called the “back highway,” which is highway routes 1 and 9. As I was clearing the scene of the vehicles and writing my report, I received a cell phone call from my old partner who was also working a one-man car. He told me that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. As we were also playing gags on each other I dismissed this as a crude joke and hung up to clear the accident scene. A short time later he called back and said that a second plane had hit. I then became alarmed, and as soon as the tow truck left I shot up Communipaw Avenue toward our precinct where you could see the WTC like it was just down the street from our parking lot.
What I saw was huge billows of smoke where the WTC was supposed to be! It was a horrible sight and I hoped it was not as bad as it looked. Some of us gathered in the parking lot to view the soon-to-be-realized nightmare!
As we still had service calls to handle, we left to answer them while most of us would stop in different areas of Jersey City to view the WTC. I did not see the [towers] fall as I was on various calls, but many locations had their TVs on and we stopped by to watch with the rest of the citizens. When I saw the news video I became both sick to my stomach and enraged at the same time. Were we at war? These and other thoughts went through my mind, especially after I heard about the Pentagon.
Traffic was starting to build up around the city as more and more people emerged from everywhere to stop and stare at the attack. Drivers were coming in droves and asking us where they could go to offer their help. Early on we were ordered to direct them to our downtown area, but after several hours there were hundreds and most likely thousands of people wanting to help, and then we were ordered to turn them away.
Our waterfront was beginning to become chaos as hundreds and hundreds of injured people were being boat-lifted to our shores by various New Jersey State Police, New York City and U.S. Coast Guard boats. The injured were then transported by emergency units and many private buses to surrounding area hospitals for treatment.
There were still calls to be handled and we stayed in our precincts to handle the priorities! Many of us had a sense to help but our jobs had to be handled and there were thousands already rendering aid.
At the end of my shift the lieutenant asked if there were any volunteers to escort a private bus with already treated New York City Police, Fire and Emergency Medical personnel back to New York City via the Holland Tunnel from the Jersey City Medical Center. As I was single, I volunteered and was partnered up with a junior officer and off we went with the bus in tow so to speak.
We were informed that the Holland Tunnel was closed to vehicular traffic by the Port Authority Police and I placed a call for instructions to my patrol sergeant. He told me to use my discretion and do what I thought was right. We found out that we could drive over the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan, which is exactly what we did.
Neither my partner nor I were familiar with locations in New York City, so I decided to have her ask the passengers on the bus where the first closest location would be and we would drive to all the areas in a sort of circle. I put the first person, a New York City fireman, in the front seat with me and we drove to Engine 9 Company somewhere in Manhattan and dropped him off. As best as I could remember, he was the only fireman left from that house.
Next up was a paramedic and she directed me to the hospital where she worked. All she could talk about were the people hitting the ground that had jumped out of the windows. She kept talking about the sound over and over again. I said whatever I could think of to comfort her but she continued to talk about it and that she was going to quit as she didn’t think she could ever do that job again. I felt even sicker trying to envision what she had witnessed and wished her well.
The rest of the drive and locations are still a fog and locked away somewhere in the back of my mind. We continued to escort the bus with all the passengers being dropped off to their respective stations and hospitals. All this time we were met by New York City Police directing us through traffic. We could hear some of them remark as we passed them by, “Hey what the hell is Jersey City doing here!” Our cars were a different color and sometimes we had to stop to inform them we had all their brothers and sisters in the bus and we were taking them home. After mentioning that, we were rushed on through whatever roadblock they had.
I recall at one bridge that we had to pass to bring some doctors and paramedics home we were stopped by a visibly angry, and understandably so, police officer and told to turn the bus around and go another way. He yelled that the bridge was closed to vehicles and was only allowing pedestrians to cross. We had no other way to pass and couldn’t even turn the bus around. I had my partner ask one of the remaining police officers to come out and talk to this officer and after a short period we were allowed to cross. Even though we were very far away from the World Trade Center, there were tons of debris and papers flooding the streets. It was a surreal sight!
Our last stop was a police station somewhere close to the George Washington Bridge. We had driven through all five boroughs by then. I asked one of the cops to please give us directions back to the GW and he said he could do better than that. The bus and our radio car were escorted right back to the bridge by New York City’s Finest, and we split up in New Jersey and my partner and I returned to our precinct.
Our lieutenant was a little perturbed because he wanted to know what took us so long to return while we were only supposed to go downtown to the tunnel. In all the confusion, the sergeant never got around to informing him of our mission. You know what falls downhill, so we received a tongue lashing but we took it and really didn’t care! We would both gladly do exactly what we did again, no matter what! We felt that we had helped in some tiny manner and an oral reprimand wasn’t going to dampen our spirits! I wish I could have remembered all the locations we went and the names of all the people we had on the bus. But I realize that will probably never happen.”