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Benjamin Luft collection of 9-11 first responders' oral histories

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Series 1: Oral History Interviews, April 9, 2010 through November 4, 2016
Formats are grouped together by interview. Each interview, listed here as subseries, has one digital folder containing at least the master interview video recording(s). Some folders also contain related photographs, videos, or manuscripts donated by interviewees, or a transcript of the interview. The counts of each format per interview are listed in the subseries contents. The interview summaries featured here were written by Dr. Luft and his associates. Recording lengths are hours, minutes, seconds format (hh:mm:ss).
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 001 John Feal oral history interview conducted by Julie Broihier, April 9, 2010
John, demolition foreman and presently an advocate, was in Nanuet, NY in charge of a large demolition job on September 11, 2001. When he heard of the attacks, he shut down the job and returned to the New York City immediately. In the first few days of the clean-up work, a steel beam landed on his foot. After 10 days in the hospital, he developed gangrene, and eventually, he lost half of his foot. He spent a total of 11 weeks in a hospital bed, but complete recovery took much longer. John reveals his mental struggle after this injury and how the experience altered his perception of his life and what is important to him as a person. Between 2001 and 2006, John underwent multiple surgeries and spent this extended period in a cast and on crutches. He would not be able to work at his job again, but his injury inspired him to advocate for other responders, and he founded the FealGood Foundation. In his work as an advocate, he always found those who were worse off than him and he learned the best way to deal with the many tragedies of September 11, 2001 disaster was to focus on the positive and the unity of the human spirit that he witnessed as a responder.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:24:34) and 1 mov edited vignette
Graphic Materials
58 jpg and 2 pdf
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 002 Anthony Flammia and Wendy Flammia oral history interview conducted by Janet Lavelle, April 9, 2010
In September, 2001, Anthony lived in Oakdale, NY and commuted into the city where he was an NYPD officer assigned to highway patrol. He and his wife, Wendy, were expecting their first child. That morning he was assigned to Queens Boulevard for speeding violations. As he opened his newspaper, he heard over the radio about a small plane that hit the WTC and he waited for further direction. He was directed to return to the station and partner up. Not knowing what to expect, Anthony and his partner grabbed shotguns and ammunition before heading downtown. As they approached the midtown tunnel, they could see the towers on fire and smoke filling the sky. At the site, Anthony was assigned to be an escort. He had just returned from escorting nurses to the side when the first tower fell. He and his partner ran. He recalls the tower falling sounded like a freight train magnified by 5,000 and from here his memory is a blur. Throughout the day, he remembers setting up a command post, evacuating from a gas main break, searching for radios, and more escorts. Altogether, Anthony worked a little over 200 hours between the morgue and escorts of important persons, workers, and the families of deceased police officers. He really began to feel the weight of the event when escorting the families. The excitement of his first child brought some positive but for the most part he ran on auto-pilot with little time to cope. In December of 2001, he was called in for a small village police job on Long Island and as he settled in he began to feel off but attributed the feeling to the change of environment. He noticed his health decline gradually until after an incident in February of 2007 when he was forced to retire. Now Anthony and his wife, Wendy, are working to get him better and as a family, understand what PTSD is and what it does to responders. They both agree there is still a lot of healing ahead of them. Anthony says responders are a different breed and if asked to respond again, he would do it in a heartbeat.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:38:16) and 1 mov edited vignette
Graphic Materials
2 jpg
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 003 Glen Klein oral history interview conducted by Melodie Guerrera, April 9, 2010
Glen worked as a NYPD officer in the Emergency Medical Services unit on 9/11/2001. He worked in the S.W.A.T /Rescue unit for 109 Precinct in Flushing, Queens. Glen states, “We were the guys police officers called when they needed help.” Glen was at home when he got a call from a friend who told him one of the towers was hit by a plane. He initially thought his friend was playing a prank on him. He turned on the T.V. and saw the damage. He prepared to rush to work, taking a direct route on the Long Island Northern State Parkway to his precinct in Flushing, Queens. He states he was driving “about a 100 miles an hour” when he saw a police officer telling him to pull over. To save time, Glen flashed his badge at the police officer and the officer, who had probably heard the news, gave him a direct escort into Queens. At the precinct, he and his fellow officers loaded up their vehicles in about 15 minutes, forming a caravan of about six vehicles, and drove along Northern Boulevard into the city. He recalls, “People were actually stepping out from the middle of the street and clapping for us, which was really nice.” The second tower had already collapsed when they entered Manhattan. Near the site, he recalls seeing an injured police officer who was “choking from inhaling all that garbage” (dust & debris). He and his team treated the officer with oxygen and eventually got him into an ambulance. He remembers it took him a long time to connect with his supervisor because of the amount of traffic or “static” on the radio. His supervisor later told them that they lost two teams of about seven people in the collapse of the towers. On 9/11, his main duties were search and rescue around the perimeter of Ground Zero. He states, “I remember finding a foot still in a shoe […] but not much more.” Later, they formed teams to find their vehicles that were not covered with dust, in order to recover larger weapons and more special equipment. He was at Ground Zero till 2 a.m. on 9/12/2001. Glen continued working at Ground Zero from 9/11/2001 to early January 2002. He was put on 16 hour tours, 7 days a week doing recovery work. He remembers taking breaks in temporary headquarters located at Stuyvesant High School off of Chambers and West Street. He remembers one day the E.P.A. did an air quality check in the area and said the air quality was “Ok.” However, Glen states, “I knew the air quality wasn’t good […] I didn’t know it was as toxic as it turned out to be.” He states, “We inhaled and ate contaminated air.” He remembers eating from a buffet with open trays of food and responders forming a line and taking a spoonful of whatever they wanted to eat. He recalls that they had extra socks, underwear and boots, eyewash stations and medical teams to treat small wounds. During his work he states, “We bagged what we thought were body parts, bone fragments, pieces of skin covered with dust […] it got to the point where if you found a bone or piece of flesh you were happy because you knew that they would test it with DNA and the family member of the victim would have a little closure.” Glen particularly felt the loss of his fellow officers after 9/11. He describes, “To me it was like someone coming in and wiping out my family […] I took it really, really hard. "Glen recalls that while working long hours at Ground Zero he did not get to see his kids quite as much. Glen retired from the NYPD in 2003. He missed the camaraderie from the police force, and describes his struggles with PTSD. He mentions this had an impact on his family until he sought help from counseling. He is thankful for the WTC program and the help it offers him.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:34:01) and 1 mov edited vignette
Graphic Materials
16 jpg
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 004 Carol L. Paukner oral history interview conducted by Janet Lavelle, April 16, 2010
Carol, a NYC Transit officer, and her partner were assigned the Broadway and Nassau Street station, located about one block away from the World Trade Center. They were frequently called to respond to the WTC so the call on the morning of September 11th, 2001 wasn’t too unusual until they left the subway a saw the plane sticking out of one of the towers. They quickly confirmed the incident and went to evacuate people from the area. Before the second plane hit, an FBI agent said to Carol “You’re not cowards if you want to leave, there are more planes coming… You’re going to die if you stay here.” Carol responded saying they would not leave; this was her job. Carol proceeded to help and when Tower 2 fell, she was inside holding on for her life. After it fell, she heard the voice of an NYPD traffic officer near her and together they crawled out of the building. It was completely dark and eerily silent. At this point and for years later Carol understand that the towers collapsed around her. In January of 2003, Carol was awarded the Medal of Valor for her efforts on September 11th, 2001. She did not want to accept this medal because she felt defeated. She felt that what she did was not enough but she was forced to go. The ceremony was held at the Winter Garden, right next to the WTC site and when she looked up she remember what had happened to her and finally realized she was caught in the collapse. Carol did not return to do recovery work. She was put on light duty work at her precinct on Canal Street and each day she left work, her car was covered in an inch of dust. She blew out a rotator cuff, had back damage, lung injuries and needed two both knees to be reconstructed. She was forced to retire and she hurts every day. From this interview, Carol hope people remember to live each day to if fullest and to remember why there are so many security measures.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:40:39) and 1 mov edited vignette
Graphic Materials
2 jpg
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 005 Jon oral history interview conducted by Melodie Guerrera, April 16, 2010
Jon, a union ironworker with Local 361, and a group of about 60-80 others arrived at the site on the morning of September 12th with their heavy equipment. They received a police escort through the Battery Tunnel into lower Manhattan. He recalls the first thing many of the ironworkers did after reaching the end of the tunnel was say a prayer. Many of them had never seen a disaster that was an act of war. Despite the police escort, National Guardsmen would not allow them into the job site. But this was a job meant for ironworkers so they pushed their way through, using the heavy machinery to make a trail for other emergency equipment to make their way up West Street. They quickly proved their worth using their heavy equipment to move massive pieces of iron and concrete that the bucket brigade could not move. At the site, Jon recalls the devastation, sirens, jets, and most of all, the blow horns to warn the thousands of responders about the potential for other buildings to fall. He also remembers thinking, someone stuck in the pile won’t last long between the fires and the firemen’s hoses water soaking the area. The first four days, Jon was there as a volunteer with others from his job site in Brooklyn which closed after the attacks. After four days the job reopened, Jon and a few others continued to go down to the pile after their shift until the morning when the returned to work for about a month. He states that he and others were not there to get paid. They were there to try to save lives. Jon blames the government and administration for misleading the public about the hazards at the site and for not having an emergency disaster plan despite the 1993 bombing and the knowledge that an attack would happen again. He is very discouraged by government. He recalls President Bush saying “We will not forget”. But the government has forgotten about the responders’ health. Jon has been disabled since August 4, 2004. He is a strong supporter of unions and without the healthcare provided through the union and the WTC medical monitoring program, he is not so sure he would be alive today. He is no longer working as a result of his 9/11 related illnesses which include PTSD and a 37% reduction in lung capacity. Jon may not be in the best of heath but he would do it again.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:40:39) and 1 mov edited vignette
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 006 Donna Caggiano oral history interview conducted by Julie Broihier, June 8, 2010, September 13, 2010
Donna worked as an Electrician for the Local 3 on 9-11-2001. She was one of 50 women in the industry, and is a third-generation electrician. In her 20 years as an electrician she has worked in major construction sites in schools, tunnels, and on bridges. She worked as a fiber splicer and was the first female forewoman at Ground Zero. On 9-11-2001, Donna was at home watching the events on T.V. She knew she would try to go to Ground Zero the next day. She said, “I knew it would be the worst construction site I’d ever seen.” On 9-12-2001, she was working over the 59th St. Bridge and saw there was a bus with volunteer ironworkers heading to Ground Zero. For insurance reasons, electricians had to be “hired” in order to work at Ground Zero, however Donna managed to get on the bus with her apprentice. She remembers carrying her vest and pocket tools on the bus. She recalls that everyone was in a good frame of mind, and that “there was standing room only” on the bus. She saw a lot of chaos at the site. She mentions the lack of equipment, lack of masks—they only had dust masks—but said, “At that moment, it was about saving lives, not equipment.” Donna worked periodically for 24 days at Ground Zero as a Fiber Splicer, and returned again in February 2002 in a hired position. However she mentions her company S&J didn’t like women being down at the site. Donna mentions that she had some PTSD from her experience at Ground Zero. In the future, she advises that people should think about their families before volunteering for experiences like that. (Donna recalls how her own family was upset that she went down to the site). Donna found her job as an electrician very fulfilling and is very proud of the things she has accomplished in life. She is now a grandmother, and was present at this interview with her baby granddaughter.
Moving Images
4 mov interview clips (00:05:26, 00:01:42, 00:06:44, and 00:32:00)
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 007 Marion Holfelder oral history interview conducted by Dr. Benjamin Luft, June 8, 2010
On the morning of September 11th, Marion was at the Brooklyn Criminal Court where she worked as a court officer. The court house was located just across the river from the World Trade Center and in the building, she could smell burning. Not long after she heard about the attacks from a warrant officer’s radio. She was frightened and disoriented. With all the knowledge and security we have in America, how did someone manage to attack? She was directed to evacuate the court house and lock it down. Marion went to the site on September 12th. She was astonished by what she saw. She remembers thinking this is what war looks like; 360 degrees of devastation. There she helped to unload supplies from incoming trucks. She remembers the workers at the site were all numb and it was eerily silent. Everyone pushed aside emotions to get their job done. Adrenaline kept her going. At home, Marion was frightened but at work she felt a sense of relief; it felt cathartic to be a part of the solution. Marion has some health problems and she remembers believing the president when he said we’ll take care of the responders but the responders have been forgotten. She is still concerned that there is another attack whenever she hears sirens. Marion hopes that people remain vigilant and keep their eyes open for more terrorist activity.
Moving Images
2 mov interview clips (0:40:03 and 0:00:30)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 008 Howard Flynn oral history interview conducted by Julie Broihier, June 9, 2010
Howard is an equine veterinarian in private practice. At the time of 9/11, he was also the president of the Long Island Veterinary Medical Association, which was involved with the Red Cross in caring for animals in disaster situations (including devising plans to care for animals whose owners couldn’t evacuate with them). When 9/11 happened, this plan, called “Pet Safe” went into action on Long Island, but it turned out not to be needed. Therefore, he turned his efforts to organizing veterinarians from Long Island to go to the WTC sites and work with Suffolk County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Howard first went to the WTC site on the Thursday following 9/11, his truck loaded with supplies, a portable x-ray machine, and an ultra-sound machine. Some firefighters hitched a ride with him. His role at the site was to organize the veterinarians who were assessing and treating the search and rescue dogs. They worked out of the SCPA spay and neuter truck and adjacent tents that were set up just inside the perimeter. Howard describes the scenes in great detail, including the respite center that was set up at Stuyvesant High School. He talked about the important role played by massage therapists in helping relieve stress and aches and pains; the work that the dogs were expected to do; and the outreach extended to the dogs from people all over the states, who sent things like knitted booties to protect their feet. He stated that the handlers and their dogs came from all over (Michigan, Toronto, and Ohio, to name a few) and had all arrived in NYC within the first few days. He pointed out that all kinds of people came, even a Chippewa Native American from Michigan (where Howard was originally from). They came prepared, lived in their cars, had brought their own food and supplies. Howard discussed the dangerous work environment, emphasizing the dust and soot. However, prior to responding, he had contemplated the danger and rationalized that he was over 50 and lived most of his life, so was willing to accept the consequences. He felt that everyone there was cognizant of the dangers but were helping regardless. The challenges he confronted were personnel issues and coordinating veterinarians who were used to running their own practices. One of his biggest jobs was making sure that everyone followed protocol, including wearing the protective equipment. He acknowledged that by the time the respirators came, the responders already had a lot of exposure to the dust and he admits that his ongoing cough may be the result of this exposure. Howard reported that he wasn’t exposed to the emotional trauma that many responders were and that his interactions with other responders were positive. He states he has a new respect for firefighters and for former NYC mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Overall, he feels fortunate to have been able to help and work with so many who wanted to be down there. He described, with a lot of emotion, the support from ordinary people and the countless crowds who applauded the responders near the site. Even 10 years later, he is overwhelmed by the gratitude shown for the responders by the community.
Moving Images
2 mov interview clips (00:20:28, and 00:35:49)
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 009 Glenn A. Radalinsky oral history interview conducted by Dr. Benjamin Luft, June 10, 2010
Glenn, a Nassau Marine officer, remembers the picture perfect morning of September 11th, 2001. At work he heard about the first plane and thought it was an accident but when he heard about the second plane, he knew it was an attack. He and the other Marine officers were called in to respond. They established themselves at North Cove Marina located at the base of Battery Park. Glenn remembers seeing a police officer, with a bandana over his mouth, calming a crowd of panicked people waiting for a boat to transport them to safety. This image is one of the few positives he is able to pull away. They spent the day filling the boats with people and transporting them across the river. On the boats they would document the people they were transporting and attempt to contact their families to let them know the person was safe. After there were no more people to transport they started to transport supplies or would work on the pile. On the pile, Glenn questioned where are the computers, phones, and desks? Paper was the sole survivor. This experience strongly impacted Glenn’s family and he can’t go a day without thinking about it. It is hard to heal from and he just can’t forget. Glenn received federal recognition when he received the highest civilian award from the Department of Transportations for his supportive role on and after September 11th.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:53:20) and 1 mov edited vignette
Graphic Materials
10 pdf
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 010 John Delaney oral history interview conducted by Dr. Benjamin Luft, June 25, 2010
Jack was the director of EMS for New York Presbyterian Hospital. On 9/11, he arrived early at work, as was part of his regular routine, convened a staff huddle, and returned to his office to check emails. He was soon notified by the dispatcher at the communication center about the first plane crashing into the WTC. He responded immediately, trying to gather information. The hospital began preparing for mass casualties and Jack began prepping his units for a disaster response. However, things quickly changed when Jack’s unit were told to respond down at the site. Having arrived just after the second plane hit, Jack led his team to an area where he thought they could safely set up. But the building was about to collapse: “Run for your life!” Large pieces of steel came down as they ran. A woman running beside him was decapitated. He was able to dive under stairs of an overpass and he laid there with his some of his staff while the debris showered down. For a moment, he believed he was dying; his pulse in the low 40s and he was not able to breathe. He just felt numb. After lifting his head above the concrete dust, he was able to get a breath. Jack crawled into an open area and found one of his men. By the time the 2nd tower collapsed, they had found shelter in a nearby bank building. He felt compelled to go back for his staff, who had been scattered, but he wanted to account for each one. Located his 23 staff members, 13 of whom, including himself, were taken by skiff to Liberty Park, New Jersey for triage. He returned to the site and was put in charge of a section by the fire chief, but his injuries forced him to leave the pile and go to the hospital. Insistent on returning to work, Jack was released and began contacting the families of two of his men who were missing and he believed were possibly dead. His story goes into detail about the personal difficulty in notifying the families of the deceased and dealing with staff who didn’t want to give up hope. He describes the loss of their families and differences in how people dealt with the tragedy. In addition, he underlined the importance of community and camaraderie and the impact of death on the entire “family” unit. Other topics he discussed include finding closure for families of those who perished; the role of the government; and informing the workers about the air quality at Ground Zero. This topic in particular is what he thinks about daily as he reflects on 9/11 and what we should learn from it.
Moving Images
2 mov interview clips (00:59:46 and 00:02:58) and 1 mov edited vignette
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 011 Richard Bastidas oral history interview conducted by Julie Broihier, June 25, 2010
Richard is an NYPD detective in the forensics division. He lives on Long Island with his family. On the morning of September 11th he received a call from his brother, also an NYPD officer, alerting him of the attacks. As he watched the T.V., he quickly suspected terrorism and began to think of how difficult it would be for the fire fighters to contain the fires. He did not think the towers would collapse. Shortly after he was called into his command post and eventually to the site. The fire burning at the site reminded Richard of a volcano. It was very loud and very chaotic. NYPD’s resources were maxed out and each officer was doing several jobs at once. He split his time between the bucket brigade and helping civilians. Altogether, Richard spent about six months at the site. He felt it was important to do his part. Richard lost a friend of his in the Emergency Service Unit and several work acquaintances. He attended several funerals and although he only knew the people casually, he could strongly relate to them and sympathize with their families. From this experience, Richard really counts his blessings. He takes the time to express how to his family how much he loves them. He is proud to be an American and holds on the spirit of those coming together to help during tragedy. He questions what is really important in life and what will bring him happiness. But he also questions what created so much hatred in the terrorists. The hatred is not temporary and until we change it or understand it, terrorism is still a threat.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (00:51:38)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 012 William Gardner oral history interview conducted by Dr. Benjamin Luft, June 25, 2010
Bill was a corrections officer in Nassau County. He lived on Long Island with his wife and 5 year old son. He had the day off on 9/11 and was home going about his business until a friend called and told him to turn on the TV. As the events unfolded before his eyes, he stared at the television in shock. He was overcome by feelings of confusion and fear. He and his wife went into a sort of survival mode to prepare for the worst. He loaded his gun, went to the grocery store to stock up on food…there was a great feeling of uncertainty about what the future held. Two days later, he was one of many county officials who went into the city with the local Red Cross and Salvation Army to bring supplies. He describes the numbing he felt as he first witnessed the destruction at Ground Zero. There was no time to process the level of destruction. Bill was immediately assigned to provide security at a FDNY firehouse, Rescue 1, near Ground Zero. The Rescue 1 firefighters had been deployed to the WTC Center buildings soon after the first plane hit and now many were missing. Bill and his fellow officers pulled up to the firehouse and were greeted warmly by the firefighters’ spouses, who welcomed them and fed them. Bill shares some poignant stories of generosity and courage displayed by these women, who focused on keeping the community together, despite none knew if their husbands had survived. In true NYC fashion, where the firehouse is central to the community, neighbors began bringing flowers, signs, food and even donating money. One woman brought her paycheck, stating she wanted to donate it to the firemen. Bill recalled these events with great emotion and expresses that he felt guilty for being the receiver of support from the community (hugs, words of thanks). Beneath the brave exterior there was so much hurt and turmoil. One wife broke down and begged him to bring her to the site so she could dig with her hands, anything to find her husband. Eventually, he was no longer needed at the firehouse and volunteered to work at the Bereavement Center at Chelsea Pier. He describes the methodical way that families were processed. They brought brown lunch bags with items containing DNA of their lost loved one and went through a series of stations, eventually leaving with the same message: it was unlikely their family member survived. He felt very numb to everything at this point, but recalls returning home at a 15-hour shift and watching his son, asleep, thinking how lucky he was. Despite his wife’s concern over his safety, he continued to volunteer and felt that he had to be there. Bill feels strongly that Ground Zero is hallowed ground and expressed that the site needs to be preserved. Today, he feels he is still chasing the post-9/11 feeling, when the country came together—complete strangers united in charity and giving. In his words, it was a time when people were kinder to each other. There was so much destruction and so many funerals, but it is this positivity and sense of community that he holds onto. And yet, a sense of guilt stays with him. He often reflects on 9/11 and although time has moved on, he hasn’t. The memory is always there.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (00:41:03) and 1 mov edited vignette
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 013 Joseph Finocchio oral history interview conducted by Julie Broihier, June 28, 2010, November 22, 2010
On 9/11 Joseph worked for the Board of Education in the school safety division of the NYPD. His job was to provide school security for a school in Flushing, Queens. On the day of the attacks, he was told about it from a coworker and viewed it from the roof of the school in Queens. He called his supervisor and was instructed to evacuate the school. He was stunned. He says, “I thought it was a dream.” People were crying and a few fainted. He stayed at work to secure the building till around 7 or 8 PM that night and went home to watch the events on TV. Both Joseph and his partner went to Ground Zero the first week in October as volunteers—he went as often as he could—after work and on days off. He worked 12-hour shifts on weekends. On his first day at the site, he said it looked way different than on TV, more like a “movie set.” He was assigned to one area on the pile doing search and recovery. He described it as tough work and felt he was not prepared. The most difficult part was finding body parts, and he recalls getting upset when he came across a baby stroller. He said it was scary and strenuous working on the rubble. He smelled dead bodies, burning plastic, paper, and metal. His main motivation for working at the site was to help family members of deceased victims. The event opened up his eyes and he is now always aware of his surroundings. It has changed his life dramatically and he now lives life to the fullest. Joseph stopped participating in his family, which he said affected them negatively. He does not consider himself a hero and would do it again because he just wants to help. He feels he has been taken care of very well and hopes the Zadroga Bill passes, and that people never forget.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (00:49:04)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 014 William Fischer oral history interview conducted by Julie Broihier, June 29, 2010, October 20, 2020
William was working as an NYPD officer in the Emergency Services Unit on 9-11-2001. He was the 13th member in his family to serve as a police officer. He saw the planes hit the Twin Towers on T.V., and went to his Brooklyn police station to check in. William and his fellow E.S.U. officers commandeered a city bus into the city through the Battery Tunnel. William worked at the site until about 3:30 in the afternoon of 9-11-2001. At Ground Zero, he worked in rescue & recovery, and helped rescue Officer John McLoughlin, who was trapped in the debris. He recalls being aware that other buildings such as hotels and banks near Ground Zero could have fallen due to the aftershock of the Twin Tower collapse, and there were people with whistles nearby to warn responders in case these buildings crumbled. William mentions there were fighter planes flying overhead to respond to any other plane attacks that day. After his first shift, he went home to wash up and recalls, “My hair was so matted with this crap (dust), it was in (my) eyes and ears.” He continued to work on the site until January 2002. His days at the site were spent teaming up with fellow officers, being assigned a “grid” to work in the WTC site for about 4-5 hours. During breaks, they ate under a Red Cross tent in the open air. William recalls that dust was all over the food they ate, and on their clothes. He remembers that their cars were washed so that they wouldn’t “contaminate” the city after work, but their clothes were still covered with the dust. He believes nobody had any regrets about going there, but sometimes he said, “You got burnt out, guys turned on each other (but) you just got to keep going.” William said he does not want to see footage of the 9-11-2001 WTC attacks. He lost 13 fellow officers in the E.S.U. on that day. William has seen numerous dangerous activities in his 16 years in the E.S.U such as shootouts, stabbings, and suicides, and the Far Rockaway plane crash, but said 9-11-2001 was the “coup de grace.” William retired from NYPD in 2006, and now works as a park ranger. He believes from prior experience in the Intelligence unit that the United States should still be vigilant for underground terrorist activities.
Moving Images
3 mov interview clips (00:14:42, 00:08:16, and 00:32:13) and 1 mov edited vignette
Graphic Materials
28 jpg
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 015 Phill Nadler oral history interview conducted by Melodie Guerrera, June 29, 2010
William was working as an NYPD officer in the Emergency Services Unit on 9-11-2001. He was the 13th member in his family to serve as a police officer. He saw the planes hit the Twin Towers on T.V., and went to his Brooklyn police station to check in. William and his fellow E.S.U. officers commandeered a city bus into the city through the Battery Tunnel. William worked at the site until about 3:30 in the afternoon of 9-11-2001. At Ground Zero, he worked in rescue & recovery, and helped rescue Officer John McLoughlin, who was trapped in the debris. He recalls being aware that other buildings such as hotels and banks near Ground Zero could have fallen due to the aftershock of the Twin Tower collapse, and there were people with whistles nearby to warn responders in case these buildings crumbled. William mentions there were fighter planes flying overhead to respond to any other plane attacks that day. After his first shift, he went home to wash up and recalls, “My hair was so matted with this crap (dust), it was in (my) eyes and ears.” He continued to work on the site until January 2002. His days at the site were spent teaming up with fellow officers, being assigned a “grid” to work in the WTC site for about 4-5 hours. During breaks, they ate under a Red Cross tent in the open air. William recalls that dust was all over the food they ate, and on their clothes. He remembers that their cars were washed so that they wouldn’t “contaminate” the city after work, but their clothes were still covered with the dust. He believes nobody had any regrets about going there, but sometimes he said, “You got burnt out, guys turned on each other (but) you just got to keep going.” William said he does not want to see footage of the 9-11-2001 WTC attacks. He lost 13 fellow officers in the E.S.U. on that day. William has seen numerous dangerous activities in his 16 years in the E.S.U such as shootouts, stabbings, and suicides, and the Far Rockaway plane crash, but said 9-11-2001 was the “coup de grace.” William retired from NYPD in 2006, and now works as a park ranger. He believes from prior experience in the Intelligence unit that the United States should still be vigilant for underground terrorist activities.
Moving Images
2 mov interview clips (00:11:49 and 00:17:29)
Graphic Materials
10 jpg and 2 pdf
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 016 Kenneth oral history interview conducted by Eliza Marcus, July 9, 2010
Kenneth is a landscape contractor who lives in the East Northport/Huntington area on Long Island. He’s married with three daughters. On 9/11, he was at home cleaning his garage. His wife alerted him to the plane crash and they watched the events unfold on TV as they continued to work. It didn’t occur to him that the buildings could ever fall. Kenneth first arrived at the WTC site on the evening of 9/12. Another contractor had asked him to come and help survey the situation; he wasn’t intending to work there. It was dark, and he describes it as “mind-boggling.” They had been escorted from Nassau County to the Javits Center, and from there they were able to go down to Ground Zero. When Kenneth turned the corner into the area, there were large machines pulling debris from the pile and firemen with tools roaming in packs. “They were numb, and you were about to become numb.” He noticed there didn’t seem to be any restrictions; there was freedom to walk around. Kenneth remembers walking through the American Express building, which was still standing but “trashed,” in total darkness to reach the pile. There was a burnt escalator by Building 5 that people were walking up (it wasn’t running). He went up as well, when he heard someone scream, “It’s going! It’s going!” and they thought it was caving in, so all the people on this escalator stampeded to get off. This was when he realized the true danger he was in. On Thursday, he took a front-end loader and joined a convoy that was escorted back into the city along with a demolition expert (the man who had first asked him to come in). Kenneth was there for about two weeks. He was assigned with his payloader at Building 7. He first worked Thursday evening through Friday, and was relieved on Saturday, when the city started to make the site more secure and started sending people home for rest. On his second night there, an I-beam rolled onto the foot of a man he was working with—their supervisor called for help via walkie-talkie and he was taken very quickly to an ambulance headed for Bellevue. Kenneth remembers seeing people pushing wheelbarrows filled with ice and drinks, others handing out hot dogs, others asking if they needed water or anything else—seemingly civilians who just wanted to be there to help. He also mentioned the Salvation Army and their willingness to get the responders what they wanted or needed. At Church and Vesey, there was a half-block of donated materials piled up, from boots to gloves, to bottled water and more. From the very first day, there were people standing along the highway and street corners, cheering and holding up signs for the responders, which was really meaningful. The equipment needed to really do the job was “days and months” from being provided, so great was the magnitude. Kenneth’s interviews gives some insight into the details of the work construction/heavy machinery workers did at the site. He also mentioned the working dogs; the area might shut down for two or three hours if the dog smelled something. Working at night was much harder psychologically. It was easier to be there during the day. He’ll always remember the image of the bucket trucks at night, spraying water down onto the burning pile—he couldn’t even see the firemen through the thick smoke. When Kenneth was leaving, he saw the large scale demolition equipment arriving, which signaled to him that this was definitively turning into a recovery mission. Although he was ultimately paid, Kenneth didn’t do this for the money, and talk of pay wasn’t brought up until later. “To me, it was a freebie.” Kenneth’s family checked in via phone daily when he was working at the site. He shared photos with them. He doesn’t think they worried, because they didn’t know what it was like to be there. While he was working there, he generally went home only to sleep. He was often asked if he found anyone, and he would have to explain the reality. Kenneth rarely thinks about his experience now. He doesn’t feel upset, and isn’t remorseful. He doesn’t volunteer for many things, but seeing “how people can take care of people” made him feel good. Kenneth dislikes that civilians are rarely mentioned in the rescue and recovery efforts. Kenneth does feel that the government has become too involved in its citizens’ lives: “We’re not going in the right direction.”
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:48:56)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 017 Michael oral history interview conducted by Janet Lavelle, July 9, 2010
Mike proudly states that he has never missed a day of work as a union ironworker. By 9 AM on September 11th, he was watching TV on his coffee break when he hear about the attacks and noticed the sirens throughout the city. The foreman of the job site instructed everyone to wrap up and head home. That night Mike received a call from a co-worker at ground zero who heard Mayor Giuliani’s request for the help of ironworkers. After watching the events unfold on TV throughout the day, he did not know what to expect but headed in to help. Mike described the site as dark and smoky. He noticed several people forming groups and attempting to organize the chaos. He helped by using a torch to burn steal. At one point in the night he helped some firefighters to get cameras through rubble searching people who were trapped. This is where he found a victim sitting upright in the rubble. The man had a wedding band on and Mike couldn’t help but think about the man’s life and family. This experience was like no other work experience for Mike. He says it is embarrassing nearly a decade later we still haven’t rebuild and Bin Laden is still out there. But as a country, this event has made us stronger and more cautious. Mike tries to remember the positives, like how so many people teamed up together.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:31:07)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 018 John Marschhauser oral history interview conducted by Christine Collins, July 12, 2010
John, a police sergeant for Nassau County, was working at the Far Rockaway Marina on September 11th. After hearing about the attacks he knew it was terrorism; two planes is no accident. Not knowing what to expect, he quickly organized crews to supply and board four police boats. They left the respirators behind. John says that if he could have seen into the future he would have grabbed them. Around noon, they docked at North Cove Marina which pulls up just next to the World Trade Center. Vehicles had limited access because of the amount of debris. The boats had an advantage. For three days they transported injured people and fatigued workers to be triaged across the river in New Jersey. From New Jersey they picked up supplies and brought it back to Manhattan. They collected phone numbers and names of those they were transporting to quickly call their families and let them know their loved ones are okay. On breaks they either napped or worked on the bucket brigade. John kept himself motivated by hoping every day they would save someone from the wreckage. He would wake up and tell himself “today’s the day I am going to pull someone out,” but this never happened. Since 9/11, John’s health has worsened. He is winded after getting up to answer the phone. If this happened again, physically, he would not be able to do it but he would find some other way to help. John wants people to remember that those who responded were selfless. He also wants people to remember the patriotism that followed the attacks. Although it was short-lived, we are one country that stuck together through tragedy.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:35:46) and 1 mov edited vignette
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 019 Steven G.Pappas oral history interview conducted by Melodie Guerrera, July 12, 2010
Steven worked as a Central Office Technician for a telephone company on 9/11/2001. When the attacks occurred all the communications in the Lower Manhattan area were wiped out. Steven volunteered to go to the WTC site to fix the communication systems. He got the system up and running by overseeing the installation of new telephone cables from point A to point B. He was also responsible for managing machines that pumped compressed air into the cables –which kept them dry and in good operating condition. He worked 15 hour shifts at the site for 15 days after 9/11/2001. Steven particularly remembers the efforts of firefighters, and says of them, “I felt like I was in the presence of true heroes.” He recalls how, “Every once in a while they would blow a horn, everybody would stop working and all the firemen and police officers would all line up…they would remove a police officer or fireman’s (body) and drape an American flag over the stretcher and take it to the morgue.” He recalls an atmosphere of camaraderie, charity, and patriotism in New York City after 9/11, and was compelled to keep a journal as evidence to this spirit. In his interview, Steven recites a few famous lines from Walt Whitman’s “City of the World”, which he found inscribed into a railing by the WTC site: City of the world! For all races are here/All the lands of the earth make contributions here./Proud and passionate city--mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!/Spring up O city--not for peace alone, but be indeed yourself, warlike!" Steven was born and raised in Manhattan. He is retired from the telephone company and now works as a part-time security guard for a local Long Island high school. He says hopes that 9/11 is a day that “people never forget.”
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:55:13) and 1 mov edited vignette
Graphic Materials
17 jpg and 10 pdf
Manuscripts
2 pdfs of memoir manuscripts written by the interviewee (37 pages and 1 page) and 1 pdf interview transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 020 Jonathan oral history interview conducted by Melodie Guerrera, July 13, 2010
In 2001, Jonathan was a very health man living on 32nd Street in Manhattan. He own a successful sub-contracting business downtown and most of his work was in Battery City. On his way to work on September 11th, he noticed the flames on the top of tower one and thought the air conditioner caught fire. From his office window, he could see the second plane flying low and headed north. He did not see it hit the second tower but he felt it. Initially, he thought the fire he noticed driving into work interfered with the air traffic control and caused the second plan to go off route and into the tower. Shortly after, he heard over a Nextel radio that it was actually an attack. Motivated to help, Jonathan headed to the WTC and along the way helped to direct some lost firemen. As others were running away from the towers, Jonathan the firemen were the only people running towards the towers. He was just north of the buildings when the first one collapsed and following the collapse was an eerie silence. He walked away with just a few lacerations. Jonathan spend about three hundred hours at the site doing whatever he saw was needed. The first victim Jonathan came across was a woman holding a Matchbox racecar with the number 43 on it. He held on to it knowing that this must have had some significance to the woman for her to be clutching it just before she died. He felt attached to the car marked with the number 43 because there were 343 firemen who died on 9/11 and although he was not a fireman, he felt connected to the brotherhood at Ground Zero. With some encouragement on the year anniversary, he gave away the car and the story to put on display. Jonathan hopes that the family and friends of victims realize that the responders selflessly did everything they possibly could have done. He responded not because he knew someone in the building but because he was hopeful that he could help a stranger.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (1:06:32)
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 021 Mark oral history interview conducted by Allison Brons, July 13, 2010
September 11th destroyed Mark both physically and emotionally. Prior to the event he was engaged, ready to start a family, and working as a Ballistic and Integrity specialist with NYPD. He was responsible for testing officer’s equipment to ensure their safety. Now, nearly ten years later, he is single, living with his parents, and disabled. He suffers from PTSD, severe depression, obstructive lung disease, migraines and more all as a result of his time at ground zero. Although he doesn’t remember much, Mark knows he was caught in the collapse and recalls the dust and confusion. He worked at the site for 6 months primarily transporting fuel and diesel to other agencies. A few days after the event, he remembers hearing what sounded like gun shots. He is bothered by the fact that he will never know if this sound was the fire getting to the bullets hidden in the debris or if it was trapped officers giving up. Mark was uneasy about the thoughts and feelings he was having so he began to self-medicate with alcohol. He lost his fiancé and friends because he is not emotionally available to others. Around anniversaries he is self-destructive and his family worries. His only solace is martial arts. Although he is physically unable to do most things, he says his dojo instructor is helpful. His instructor listens to him and is able to calm him down. Mark feels the government is doing a good job at preventing other incidents from happening. But Mark hopes people don’t forget the responders dying every day from their exposure at 9/11 or the soldiers who stepped up after the attacks.
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