We were told to set up a forward triage area at Vesey Street. I remember seeing a photographer taking pictures of us with the towers burning in the background and thinking, “What is wrong with this guy? This is ridiculous. Why are you here?” And then he yelled, “Run for your life!” At that point we all stopped and looked up. The sky above us was completely gray. Without speaking, everyone gave each other approval to do what they needed to do to survive.
We’re always taught that your safety comes first, and then your partner’s safety, and then the patient’s. That exchange gave us the permission to just worry about ourselves. We scattered. I ran southbound on West Street. As the tower came down, I was thrown 20 yards or so, and I ended up landing underneath the South walkway, which connects the World Trade Center to the Financial District. The North walkway ended up collapsing, but the South walkway stayed intact. I landed against something on my right side, and I remember just curling into a ball and wanting to put my entire body underneath my helmet. I just stayed in the fetal position underneath my helmet.
The noise got louder and louder; it sounded like static. At one point I thought my eardrums were going to pop. And just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore there was complete silence. I didn’t know if I was alive or dead. I remember thinking to myself that if I was going to die, make it fast. I pictured a large piece of debris just squashing me. I opened my eyes to complete darkness. I took a breath and inhaled a large amount of dust, so I made myself vomit. Then I put my T-shirt over my nose and mouth. I still couldn’t see anything.
I felt my way around and, in front of me, I felt what I thought was the top of a tire, and I felt a little further and felt the spring of a car. I followed that up, and felt the corner panel, and actually put my hand on the hood. I gathered up all my strength and reared up as hard as I could. I lunged over the hood and ended up falling on the other side of the car. Once I landed, I looked up and in the distance was a white light. Your life flashes before your eyes — I can attest to that. I saw my family, friends, everyone who’s very close to me.
But the white light was just the haze getting thinner. The wind was blowing in the other direction. So that was just clearing.
I got up and started stumbling over debris. I tripped over a firefighter, helped him up. He continued on his way, I continued, and then I tripped and fell on Eddie. He had a large piece of metal on his legs and couldn’t free himself. I lifted the metal, helped him up, and we continued southbound on West Street. The haze had lifted on that side, and I never looked back.