The Library of Congress >  Researchers >  Search Finding Aids  >  Benjamin Luft collection of 9-11 first responders' oral histories

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

Contact UsHelpSearch All Finding Aids
Access restrictions apply.
ContainerContents
Series 1: Oral History Interviews, April 9, 2010 through November 4, 2016 (continued)
Moving Images (continued)
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.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:34:55) and 1 mov edited vignette
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 022 Gaddy Gonzalez oral history interview conducted by Sonia Fore, July 16, 2010
Gaddy was very disturbed about his time spent at Ground Zero. He still wears a rock that was found embedded in Verizon equipment around his neck. He mentioned his late grandfather's last words: "Never forget Pearl Harbor" and he feels same about Ground Zero. He feels as though 9/11 could have been avoided, had the government paid more attention. Now has trust issues and health problems as a result of time spent at Ground Zero. Gaddy actually had spent his entire career at WTC site: he worked nights in the South Tower before attack. After 9/11 he moved to a building on West Street (near Ground Zero) until his retirement 3 years ago.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:34:55)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 023 Kelly Lyon oral history interview conducted by Melodie Guerrera, July 16, 2010
Kelly worked in Queens as a NYPD Narcotics Detective on 9/11/2001. He was bussed with fellow detectives through the Midtown Tunnel to Times Square, where he initially maintained security. On 9/12/2001 he worked with the Bucket Brigade to recover buried bodies/body parts for two weeks. Then he maintained perimeter security to safeguard the site. He recalls people being supportive and "nurses washing out eyes" of responders digging at the site. He says responding to 9/11 was "part of my job." Kelly is now retired from NYPD.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:19:00)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 024 Michael oral history interview conducted by Julie Broihier, July 16, 2010
Michael worked in Brooklyn as a NYPD Homicide Detective on 9/11/2001. He in Bedford-Stuyvesant saw the towers fall from a housing project. He and his partners cleared a busy intersection by the LIRR Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue station to let EMS personnel through. He describes seeing a flood of commuters cross over the Brooklyn Bridge to make their way home. On the evening of 9/11 he went to the WTC site. He worked 12 hour tours clearing the site plus his regular job as a homicide detective which made it seem like a "20 hour day." After Ground Zero became a "controlled environment," he continued to work for 2-3 months at the Staten Island Fresh Kills landfill raking through debris dumped by pay loaders to recover body parts and personal effects. He describes seeing people who lost their loved ones standing outside the landfill hoping to find their personal effects. He also lost a neighborhood firefighter "Mattie" in the towers.
Moving Images
2 mov interview clips (0:10:29 and 0:19:58) and 1 mov edited vignette
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 025 Robert Frayler oral history interview conducted by Sonia Fore, July 19, 2010
Robert worked as a Verizon Field Technician on 9/11/2001. He worked under rubble in manholes checking wires at Ground Zero. He was factual and seemed happy that he was able to help. He was impressed by the teamwork, patriotism, and camaraderie he witnessed. He is retired now but would go again if a similar catastrophe occurred.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:13:35)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 026 Gerard oral history interview conducted by Melodie Guerrera, July 20, 2010
Gerard worked as a union laborer for Local 1175 on 9/11/2001. He is originally from Brooklyn and grew up across the river from WTC. Many of his family members worked on WTC building and docks. He felt as if he "had to go" and volunteered. He said Ground Zero was like "heaven and hell at the same time." Said "little angels" were everywhere offering food, drinks etc. The experience has changed his life in a positive direction--he became more involved in his daughter's life. He said he drove around for a year with equipment (respirator, etc.) in his car, so in case of another attack he would be ready. He cried every night on his way home from work, when he looked in rear view mirror and saw the buildings gone. Gerard wishes the recovery effort had been done more slowly and safely, and that the government had been more honest about the air quality.
Moving Images
2 mov interview clips (0:33:04)
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 027 Michael Mazziotti oral history interview conducted by Dr. Benjamin Luft, July 23, 2010
Michael was working as a NYPD officer patrolling Canal Street to the South Ferry areas with his rookie partner, Eric. He was in the bottom of the North Tower when he heard a “big bang” and the building shook. He first thought it might be the wind, but then he saw dust and debris falling along with a man fall from above and hit the concrete. His arms kept “flapping like a duck” before he stopped moving. He saw firemen from Beekman Street Engine Company 6, who were friends of his, climb the stairs to rescue people. None of them came back alive. He still has trouble visiting the Company Six firehouse. Michael was given the responsibility of evacuating the people out of the North Tower, away from the WTC area and into the subways. He sustained some injuries and was treated at St. Vincent’s hospital. As these were on the job injuries, he was relieved of duty for some time. He later returned to the site with his partner to give relief and deliver food to the men and women who were working at Ground Zero. Michael is unhappy with the way the NYPD treated his case. The NYPD sergeants lacked the skills to emotionally care for their officers after the attack. They have also refused to give him disability for his emotional state after going through the horrible experiences of this attack.
Moving Images
2 mov interview clips (0:40:55 and 0:21:57)
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 028 Christine Famiglietti oral history interview conducted by Julie Broihier, July 23, 2010
Christine worked for NYPD on 9/11/2001. She arrived at Ground Zero at 4 a.m. on 9/12/2001 after spending 8 hours on a "war bus" on September 11th. The first thing she did was pull a body from the rubble. She then found another body embedded in the rebar (metal supports inside concrete slabs used for building). She describes finding what she thought was a pocketbook, but as she lifted it up she saw it was part of a burnt human head. She entered the site for the first time with other policemen and was frightened by those leaving the scene--the "empty" look in the eyes of the fireman and cops, and the "crazy" atmosphere. She said she hopes to never see large groups of men cry like that again. She explained that police officers do not cry and they had to make "hiding places" in the rubble so that they could cry unobserved. After many hours working on the pile, she went in search of food with a rookie police officer. She found food, water, and juice in various places and found a seat from a police van. She loaded the goods onto the seat and she and her coworker carried the seat back to the other policemen. A captain and her sergeant saw them approach carrying the seat. She said police officers never approach a captain, but there was no rank at Ground Zero--everyone was the same. She walked right up to them and they congratulated her on her work. For most of her career, Christine worked in Jamaica, Queens where the neighborhood was at odds with the police force. Everything changed after 9/11: people brought food and letters from children to the precinct, and then the responders exited the bus one day, all traffic stopped and people got out of their cars and clapped. Christine said she can now relate to her parents, who were "World War II heroes." He mother was a nurse and her father worked for the Coast Guard, driving a landing craft that drove General McArthur ashore. She said she grew up with parents who were prepared for any emergency and she has become the same way. Christine lost a sergeant and two other friends at the WTC and said you could "never understand unless you were standing in the middle of chaos." Her best friend's brother, who attended a breakfast once a year a the WTC, was killed. She hopes people remember how bad it was. People who she hadn't heard from in many years left messages on her phone to see if she was okay and others asked if she could find their loved ones for them. She did not know how to explain that no one there was alive. The experience changed her into a "crier" and she is now a little "jumpy." She said the response of the NYPD and FDNY and whole country was so motivating; the incredible thoughtfulness kept her going. She feels the NYPD is now much more prepared and is very proud of America's response to the tragedy.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:39:34) and 1 mov edited vignette
Graphic Materials
5 jpg
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 029 Louis oral history interview conducted by Christine Collins, July 26, 2010
Louis was a NYPD Homicide detective on 9/11/2001. He arrived on the evening of 9/11 at Ground Zero. He said it seemed worse the next day when he saw it in the daylight and that the ash was "ankle deep." He spent most of his time working at the morgue, opening body bags to identify victims and check for identification such as a license, etc. If a body was intact, he sent it for fingerprints and x-rays. Louis was happy when he could identify a body for a family and was glad to help in order to get the job done. Since Louis was a homicide detective for 32 years in Brooklyn, he saw many murders and was accustomed to seeing dead bodies. He would do it again if he was able. He saw half of a face locked in a frozen scream and compared it with the painting of Edward Munch. He saw a fireman that was baked in his suit, whose skin was "cooked." He saw a man with his arms through his stomach and said he was like a "pretzel." He lost a close friend named Brian at Ground Zero and spent time looking for his remains. He was never found. He said in the beginning of the clean up, the body bags were large and became smaller as time went on, and smaller pieces of bodies were found. After his work at the morgue, he worked at the landfill, which he said was eerie because of the stacks of burnt fire and police vehicles. The ground at the landfill bubbled and smoked, and he sifted through the debris with a rake to find body parts and bones. He said the sunsets a the landfill were beautiful. Louis experiences flashbacks when he smells concrete and is unhappy with the current government. He feels another attack will happen again---it is just a matter of time. He believes Americans have become too complacent and they will never understand. The only way you understand was to "open up a bag."
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:34:20)
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 030 Hanson Brown oral history interview conducted by Julie Broihier, July 26, 2010
Hanson was a teacher for the Department of Transportation; he instructed students to drive heavy equipment. Hanson arrived at Ground Zero on 9/11/01 and spoke of a conflict between the Long Island Department of Transportation and the NYC Department of Transportation. He said the conflict was resolved fairly quickly as each department set up their own command post. He did not go home for three days and did not sleep for two nights. He was in charge of nine pieces of equipment (cranes, payloaders and state vehicles) and eight tractor trailers. Hanson did not work on the pile; he checked the identification of heavy equipment operators entering the site. He was previously trained for about six months for Y2K and said that the training help him a great deal with the 9/11 disaster. At the time he was at Ground Zero, his son, who was in the military, was at the Pentagon counseling family members. Hanson quickly developed some medical issues, sneezing, coughing and itching around the ankles but said it has since improved. He did not sleep well for a few months, but is happy he was able to help and would do it again. He did have a cousin who died at the WTC, but they were not close. He felt the Salvation Army and the Red Cross did an amazing job and kept everyone going with food, water, etc. He said the American people did a “great job.”
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:40:16)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 031 Rafael Orozco oral history interview conducted by Dr. Benjamin Luft, July 27, 2010
Rafael was working as a NYPD detective in Brooklyn on 9/11/2001. He also owned a vending machine business in the WTC area. He starts off his interview by mentioning that the day before 9/11 he was at the South Street Seaport with his son, who wanted to visit the World Trade Center. He recalls seeing “ominous” clouds over the WTC towers. On 9/11, Mr. Orozco was assigned to work with fellow detective Phil and saw the first plane hit the tower as their police van was being serviced at a Brooklyn car wash. He said, “It seemed as if the plane was going in slow motion.” His first thought was that this was an act of terrorism. He and his partner reported to their Brooklyn North central communications post, where they changed into uniform. Mr. Orozco and fellow officers Phil, Eddie, and Andy took the police van over the Brooklyn Bridge. He said he was, “surprised to see the traffic was still going over the three bridges into the city.” Over the radio, he “heard officers from the towers calling for help,” and says “it was one of the most helpless moments of my life.” He parked the police van by South Street and Beekman Hospital, borrowed some paper masks from the hospital and went to the site. He said the sky was orange over the site. Rafael and his fellow officers were called back to Brooklyn command for a mandatory roll call. The first night he slept in the precinct in a chair. The next day, he went back to the site as there was no relief for the officers for 72 hours. He mentions the military had invoked “a quasi-martial law” from Houston Street to Battery Park. During this period, Mr. Orozco also had to take leave to drive his son to report to a Navy base in Florida. He went to the base and came straight back to the precinct within 36 hours. At the site he was assigned to an area by St. Paul’s Church. St. Paul’s became “a home away from home” where family members of victims and working responders came to rest and pray. At St. Paul’s, Rafael escorted family members to and from the site to the church. He remembers that police officers often used humor to battle the sadness they felt from the tragedy. Rafael also worked on the pier near South Street Seaport, and he gave information and became a Spanish language translator for visitors. He remembers that the wall by the pier was turned into a memorial for the victims with teddy bears, pictures, and comments. He was ok being there for the first couple of days, but then it became difficult to stay. Rafael also recalls a time when a five-year old girl came to visit the site with her family, and he walked her over to the edge of the pit to show her the site. Rafael recalls that two weeks after 9/11, the work stopped being a rescue mission and started becoming a salvage mission. He remembers that up to two weeks after 9/11, the crime in the area was very low. He remembers that there was great camaraderie between police officers and fireman as they both are in the “hero business.” He believes that though the two groups have their disagreements they are still like “two peas in a pod.” After retiring from the force he continued to keep in touch with his coworkers and they talk all the time. His final message is that, “Unless you were there, you do not know what [they] went through."
Moving Images
1 mov interview (1:10:14) and 1 mov edited vignette
Graphic Materials
16 jpg
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 032 Martin oral history interview conducted by Sonia Fore, July 28, 2010
Martin was working as an NYPD narcotics detective in Queens on 9-11-2001. On the morning of 9-11-2001, he reported to the city. He remembers first visiting the site with his supervisor. Martin remembers that he was only wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He remembers that it “smelled bad” and “nothing echoed.” They grabbed a bucket and started work with the bucket brigade. He remembers that on the bucket brigade there was a line of people just passing buckets trying to find body parts. There was no protective gear for the first few days. He recalls that they made a triage out of a Burger King near Ground Zero. They were involved in clean-up and were put on rotations at the site. He remembers eating a lot and gaining a lot of weight during his time at the site, and remembers at some point he thought, “I don’t know what the hell we were looking for anymore…you found nothing, just dust.” He saw volunteers from the Salvation Army and all over the country when they were working at the pit. He also mentions seeing unity and patriotism among people, and said “There were people holding signs (for responders) on the West Side Highway.” Martin also did rotations down at the NYC morgue for 12 hour shifts, and worked at the Fresh Kills landfill where he and his partner, Mike, found “socks with bones in it.” If he found any remains he was responsible for informing family members. It was a difficult time, because on top of this job there were his regular job responsibilities. Martin worked on the WTC site for about 9 months. Martin said of the WTC Clinic: “This is the only place that’s taken care of me.” Martin mentioned his post 9/11 PTSD symptoms, which make it difficult for him to move in crowds or to enjoy small things. Martin said his experiences at Ground Zero, “Made me want to leave a legacy, which are my children.”
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:31:02) and 1 mov edited vignette
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 033 Jerry Vasquez oral history interview conducted by Dr. Benjamin Luft, July 30, 2010
Jerry Vasquez worked as a NYPD police officer with the 73rd precinct in Brooklyn on 9/11/2001. On the morning of 9/11, he was on desk duty processing arrests. He heard from officers that a plane hit one of the Twin Towers. He initially thought it was an accident. As the officers watched T.V. from the lounge in the precinct, they saw the second plane hit the tower. Jerry states, “Then many officers suspected this was an act of terrorism.” He states, “There was a major adrenaline rush in the atmosphere (of the precinct)”. Each precinct mobilized the first wave of police officers and supervisors to send to the WTC site. He states that, “The second wave of officers was on standby…we were all anxious to get over there and help out.” While getting ready to ship out, the first tower fell, and he states “The (police) radio was going crazy.” Jerry and his fellow officers were bussed on the second wave over the Brooklyn Bridge and into Canal Street. He states, “(On the bus) it was very quiet, we talked about the events and listened to the (police) radio which was very hectic.” He states, “We could smell the burning from where my precinct was.” When they arrived, they got assignments from their supervisors to secure the perimeter around the WTC area. He states, “We didn’t want people to go into dangerous situations if they weren’t trained.” On the first day, he spent about 12-13 hours securing the site, and this went on for about two weeks. Then he was assigned to rotations at the landfill. He also did his regular job in addition to the rotations. He recalls, “The first day, I barely got any sleep…I called my wife to let her know I was ok.” The day after 9/11, Jerry drove from his home on Long Island to his precinct. He states, “The Expressway was closed off… only the HOV lane was open for responders…we had to show our badges at checkpoints.” Jerry recalls that, “The amount of support was amazing…you saw people holding up signs thanking the NYPD and firefighters.” He recalls that, “Civilians took it upon themselves to bring food and water to responders…it was out of this world,” and that, “People think New Yorkers are rude, but we’re not…when something major happens we come together.” Jerry also noted the great participation of NYPD, FDNY, federal agencies, and military. He mentions that at this time there was great solidarity between NYPD and FDNY, despite efforts by the public to label them as competitors. Jerry states that the whole experience made him, “Proud to be an American, proud to be a New Yorker.” He believes the NYPD and FDNY are a lot more prepared with resources to deal with a situation like 9/11 in the future.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:51:08)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 034 Thomas Tatarian oral history interview conducted by Melodie Guerrera, July 30, 2010
Thomas was a NYC transit police officer for five years until becoming a Suffolk County Police Officer in 1989. He was asleep at this home on the morning of 9/11/01 and was awakened by a frantic neighbor asking for his help in locating her husband, an air traffic controller. Thomas was a part of the K-9 Unit of the SCPD. His dog was trained for both bomb detection and to locate people. He and his dog met with other police officers on 9/11 at MacArthur Airport for the purpose of bomb detection. He mentioned there was nothing he could do at Ground Zero on 9/11 as it was too hot for his dog to search. He arrived on the pile on 9/12 and worked there for two weeks. He worked twelve hour shifts on the pile with his dog and a group of firefighters. When the dog would find body parts, they were placed in body bags. He did not find any intact bodies and did not save anyone but was glad he was able to “bring closure.” He spoke of difficulties with the dogs--their feet were blistered from the intense heat, and after four hours on the pile, they were given IV fluids for dehydration. He mentioned his dog seemed depressed after being on the pile. Thomas expressed that he went back to the pile each day because it was important and he wanted to help. He had a friend who was killed and many of his friends and colleagues in NYC were traumatized. He has learned to appreciate life a little more from his experience at Ground Zero and has not lost faith in the U.S. Government.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:35:48)
Manuscripts
1 pdf transcript
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 035 Donald oral history interview conducted by Melodie Guerrera, August 2, 2010
Donald was a Department of Transportation heavy equipment mechanic who was sent to Ground Zero on 9/12/01. He worked at the site for six months doing 12-hour shifts. He spoke of the division of Ground Zero into four construction sites, his amazement at the amount of debris, and the tight security after the first few days. Donald was stationed at a baseball field nearby repairing trucks and heavy equipment. He said the ball field eventually had to be paved as it became too muddy from all the heavy equipment. The equipment frequently broke down and there were many flat tires from being on the pile. He said it was “heartbreaking” to see people search for loved ones, and it was hard to explain to his family. His motivation was to do the best that he could and would do it again if asked. Donald knew the air was bad because of the “haze and cloud for days.” He thought the clean up went quick and whoever was in charge did a “good job.” He is disappointed in the US government and said they are very slow to respond to things. He tries not to think about 9/11 but feels he handled it pretty well and hopes he never sees anything like that again.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:29:09)
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 036 John Joseph Bombace "Jack" oral history interview conducted by Janet Lavelle, August 3, 2010
John worked as a crane operating engineer on 9/11/2001. He was on a coffee break on the morning of 9/11 when he heard news over the radio that a plane hit the World Trade Center. When he turned on the T.V. he saw the second plane hit the tower. John recalls that, "Immediately everybody stopped work," and he reported to his local union office hall. He worked on one of three mobile cranes that were conveyed to the WTC site. He arrived at the site around 11 am on 9/11 and he recalls, "(I) saw a dust cloud, papers all over the ground." John recalls, "(I) saw the wheels from the airplane on the ground," and that, "They put cones wherever they found a body part (so you wouldn't step on them)." He mentions, "When running a crane, you're only supposed to get directions from the signal man, but (that day) everyone was giving directions." John remembers that, "Whoever needed you, you went to work for." He particularly recalls the heroic efforts of ironworkers, stating, "Those ironworkers were fantastic, they would work their way under the steel looking for bodies and show up some 50 feet away." He worked at the site from 11 am on 9/11 to 8 pm on 9/12/2001. He remembers sleeping on makeshift cots that he and his co-workers took turns sharing. John remembers, "[We got] peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat...we had to eat them fast, or they would be covered with dust." He also remembers seeing "a line right where that building [WTC Towers] stood, it was very eerie." When he left the site, he recalls, "There was no transportation out, we hitched a ride with a fire truck over the Brooklyn Bridge." Afterwards, he states, “I got calls from family members thanking me, but I didn't think I did anything special." He mentions that, "They [his job] insisted on paying us, but I gave the money to my nephew [an Iraqi war vet], I didn't feel comfortable keeping it." He adds the experience made him learn that, "There are things (in life) that will never be acceptable, but you learn to live with them." John retired as a crane operating engineer in 2007 after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Moving Images
1 mov interview (0:25:10)
Graphic Materials
24 jpg
Item ID: AFC 2015/048: 037 Christopher Lyons oral history interview conducted by Julie Broihier, August 4, 2010
Christopher was a contractor working for the Home Depot chain stores on 9/11. On that day, he was at home, when his cell phone and pager started to go off. His friends called him to say that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center tower. He turned on the T.V. and saw the second plane hit. Christopher said, “(I) was waiting for it to be a movie.” He called the Bellmore Fire Department and went to help as a volunteer firefighter. Christopher mentions that he lied to his parents, telling them he was in Connecticut. He didn’t want them to worry about him, and also asked his brother-in-law, Carl, never to tell his parents where he was going. He remembers driving down on the L.I.E. and seeing the plume of smoke from the towers. He went with his band of fire trucks down the Westside Highway, and remembers that, “It went from a clear blue sky, to dark dirt and debris.” He remembers that everything was covered and it was getting difficult to breathe. He worked in the bucket brigade with the FBI and firefighters---the “core people.” Christopher remembers it was a joy to work with them, but that changed over time as people wanted to control things. Christopher remembers probably one of the most powerful things was when someone yelled “Quiet!” to signify the discovery of a body or a trapped person. He recalls finding his first victim underneath a cross bar. He couldn’t find anybody alive, recalling, “Even the cadaver dogs were having problems.” He remembers when they found a police officer crushed under his patrol car, and fellow police officers came to take the body away. Christopher said the firefighters did the same for their fellow fighter victims. He recalls when he needed a break and went up the Westside Highway and seeing a line of people. At first he thought they were protestors, but they pulled him out of his car and started hugging him. They were holding up signs of gratitude, and Christopher recalls, ‘’they were phenomenal…I still keep in touch with some of them.” He calls them the “Thank you people” and said that “Without them I probably would never have made it.” He specifically recalls the charity of people and companies like Brockport, who donated new clothes and shoes to the responders. He remembers there was a hotel by the Irish museum north of the site that allowed responders in on a rotational basis to get some rest. He also remembers that when responders sat for a meal at some NYC restaurants, their bill would be paid. One fancy restaurant also had a sign up saying they served “WTC responders only.” Christopher states, “My life began at 9/11, it drove me in a certain direction.” He remembers that “like everybody else I ended up a single person out of 9/11.” He continued his life by forming the advocacy group “Cops Helping Cops” which evolved from his services as a responder in the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Christopher draws some parallels between Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He concludes with, “I try to stay focused on the good things…money is not the object…its about helping.”
Moving Images
1 mov interview (1:05:07) and 1 mov edited vignette
Manuscripts
Next Page »

Contents List