Long-Suppressed Oral Histories Corroborate Demolitions
Reports of Sights and Sounds of Explosions in the Oral Histories
We were there I don’t know, maybe 10, 15 minutes and then I just remember there was just an explosion. It seemed like on television they blow up these buildings. It seemed like it was going all the way around like a belt, all these explosions.
Brian Becker — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Engine 28]
So I think that the building was really kind of starting to melt. We were — like, the melt down was beginning. The collapse hadn’t begun, but it was not a fire any more up there. It was like — it was like that — like smoke explosion on a tremendous scale going on up there.
Greg Brady — E.M.T. (E.M.S.) [Battalion 6]
We were standing underneath and Captain Stone was speaking again. We heard — I heard 3 loud explosions. I look up and the north tower is coming down now, 1 World Trade Center.
We were standing in a circle in the middle of West Street. They were talking about what was going on. At that time, when I heard the 3 loud explosions, I started running west on Vesey Street towards the water. At that time, I couldn’t run fast enough. The debris caught up with me, knocked my helmet off.
Timothy Burke — Firefigter (F.D.N.Y.) [Engine 202]
Then the building popped, lower than the fire, which I learned was I guess, the aviation fuel fell into the pit, and whatever floor it fell on heated up really bad and that’s why it popped at that floor. That’s the rumor I heard. But it seemed like I was going oh, my god, there is a secondary device because the way the building popped. I thought it was an explosion.
Ed Cachia — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Engine 53]
It actually gave at a lower floor, not the floor where the plane hit, because we originally had thought there was like an internal detonation explosives because it went in succession, boom, boom, boom, boom, and then the tower came down. With that everybody was just stunned for a second or two, looking at the tower coming down.
Frank Campagna — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Ladder 11]
There was nobody in the intersection, nobody in the streets in general, everyone just saying come on, keeping coming, keep coming. That’s when [the North Tower] went. I looked back. You see three explosions and then the whole thing coming down. I turned my head and everybody was scattering. From there I don’t know who was who. I don’t even know where my guys went. None of us knew where each other were at at that point in time.
Craig Carlsen — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Ladder 8]
I guess about three minutes later you just heard explosions coming from building two, the south tower. It seemed like it took forever, but there were about ten explosions. At the time I didn’t realize what it was. We realized later after talking and finding out that it was the floors collapsing to where the plane had hit.
You did hear the explosions [when the North Tower came down]. Of course after the first one — the first one was pretty much looking at in like in awe. You didn’t realize that this was really happening because you kind of just stood there and you didn’t react as fast as you thought you were going to. The second one coming down, you knew the explosions. Now you’re very familiar with it.
Jason Charles — E.M.T. (E.M.S.)
I grabbed her and the Lieutenant picked her up by the legs and we start walking over slowly to the curb, and then I heard an explosion from up, from up above, and I froze and I was like, oh, s___, I’m dead because I thought the debris was going to hit me in the head and that was it.
Then everybody stops and looks at the building and they they take off. The Lieutenant dropped her legs and ran. The triage center, everybody who was sitting there hurt and, oh, you know, help me, they got up and and everybody together got up and ran. I looked at them like why are they running? I look over my shoulder and I says, oh, s___, and then I turned around and looked up and that’s when I saw the tower coming down.
We start walking back there and then I heard a ground level explosion and I’m like holy s___, and then you heard that twisting metal wreckage again. Then I said s___ and everybody started running and I started running behind them, and we get to the door.
Frank Cruthers — Chief (F.D.N.Y.) [Citywide Tour Commander]
And while I was still in that immediate area, the south tower, 2 World Trade Center, there was what appeared to be at first an explosion. It appeared at the very top, simultaneously from all four sides, materials shot out horizontally. And then there seemed to be a momentary delay before you could see the beginning of the collapse.
James Curran — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.)
A guy started scremaing to run. When I got underneath the north bridge I looked back and you heard it, I heard like every floor went chu-chu-chu. Looked back and from the pressure everything was getting blown out of the floors before it actually collapsed.
Kevin Darnowski — Paramedic (E.M.S.)
I started walking back up towards Vesey Street. I heard three explosions, and then we heard like groaning and grinding, and tower two started to come down.
Dominick Derubbio — Battalion Chief (F.D.N.Y.) [Division 8]
After a while we were looking up at the tower, and all of a sudden someone said it’s starting to come down.
This would be the first one.
This one here. It was weird how it started to come down. It looked like it was a timed explosion, but I guess it was just the floors starting to pancake one on top of the other.
Karin Deshore — Captain (E.M.S.)
Somewhere around the middle of the World Trade Center, there was this orange and red flash coming out. Initially it was just one flash. Then this flash just kept popping all the way around the building and that building had started to explode. The popping sound, and with each popping sound it was initially an orange and then a red flash came out of the building and then it would just go all around the building on both sides as far as I could see. These popping sounds and the explosions were getting bigger, going both up and down and then all around the building.
Brian Dixon — Battalion Chief (F.D.N.Y.)
I was watching the fire, watching the people jump and hearing a noise and looking up and seeing — it actually looked — the lowest floor of fire in the south tower actually looked like someone had planted explosives around it because the whole bottom I could see — I could see two sides of it and the other side — it just looked like that floor blew out. I looked up and you could actually see everything blew out on the one floor. I thought, geez, this looks like an explosion up there, it blew out. Then I guess in some sense of time we looked at it and realized, no, actually it just collapsed. That’s what blew out the windows, not that there was an explosion there but that windows blew out. The realization hit that it’s going to fall down, the top’s coming off. I was still thinking — there was never a thought that this whole thing is coming down. I thought that that blew out and stuff is starting to fly down. The top is going to topple off there.
Michael Donovan — Captain (F.D.N.Y.)
Anyway, with that I was listening, and there was an incredibly loud rumbling. I never got to look up. People started running for the entrances to the parking garages. They started running for the entrances. I started running without ever looking up. The roar became tremendous. I fell on the way to the parking garages. Debris was starting to fall all around me. I got up, I got into the parking garages, was knocked down by the percussion. I thought there had been an explosion or a bomb that they had blown up there. The Vista International Hotel was my first impression, that they had blown it up. I never got to see the World Trade Center coming down.
James Drury — Assistant Commissioner (F.D.N.Y.)
We were in the process of getting some rigs moved when I turned, as I heard a tremendous roar, explosion, and saw that the first of the two towers was starting to come down.
When the dust started to settle, I headed back down towards the World Trade Center and I guess I came close to arriving at the corner of Vesey and West again where we started to hear the second roar. That was the north tower now coming down. I should say that people in the street and myself included thought that the roar was so loud that the explosive – bombs were going off inside the building. Obviously we were later proved wrong.
The sight of the jumpers was horrible and the turning around and seeing that first tower come down was unbelieveable. The sound it made. As I said I thought the terrorists planted explosives somewhere in the building. That’s how loud it was, crackling explosive, a wall. That’s about it. Any questions?
Thomas Fitzpatrick — Deputy Commissioner for Administration (F.D.N.Y.)
We looked up at the building straight up, we were that close. All we saw was a puff of smoke coming from about 2 thirds of the way up. Some people thought it was an explosion. I don’t think I remember that. I remember seeing it, it looked like sparkling around one specific layer of the building. I assume now that that was either windows starting to collapse like tinsel or something. Then the building started to come down. My initial reaction was that this was exactly the way it looks when they show you those implosions on TV. I would have to say for three or four seconds anyway, maybe longer. I was just watching. It was interesting to watch, but the thing that woke everybody up was the cloud of black material. It reminded me of the 10 commandments when the green clouds come down on the street. The black cloud was coming down faster than the building, so whatever was coming down was going to hit the street and it was pretty far out. You knew it wasn’t coming right down. Judging from where people were jumping before that, this cloud was much further.
Gary Gates — Lieutenant (F.D.N.Y.)
I looked up, and the building exploded, the building that we were very close to, which was one tower. The whole top came off like a volcano.
So now both towers have been hit by a plane. The north tower was burning. So the explosion, what I realized later, had to be the start of the collapse. It was the way the building appeared to blowout from both sides. I’m looking at the face of it, and all we see is the two sides of the building just blowing out and coming apart like this, as I said, like the top of a volcano.
Kevin Gorman — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Ladder 22]
John Malley, who was right behind me, I turned around for him, because he was doing something, either putting his coat on or something, and as I was looking at him I heard the explosion, looked up, and saw like three floors explode, saw the antenna coming down, and turned around and ran north.
Stephen Gregory — Assistant Commissioner (F.D.N.Y.)
We both for whatever reason — again, I don’t know how valid this is with everything that was going on at that particular point in time, but for some reason I thought that when I looked in the direction of the Trade Center before it came down, before No. 2 came down, that I saw low-level flashes. In my conversation with Lieutenant Evangelista, never mentioning this to him, he questioned me and asked me if I saw low-level flashes in front of the building, and I agreed with him because I thought — at that time I didn’t know what it was. I mean, it could have been as a result of the building collapsing, things exploding, but I saw a flash flash flash and then it looked like the building came down.
[It was at] the lower level of the building. You know like when they demolish a building, how when they blow up a building, when it falls down? That’s what I thought I saw.
He said did you see anything by the building? And I said what do you mean by see anything? He said did you see flashes? I said, yes, well, I thought it was just me. He said no, I saw them too.
I know about the explosion on the upper floors. This was like at eye level. I didn’t have to go like this. Because I was looking this way. I’m not going to say it was on the first floor or the second floor, but somewhere in that area I saw to me what appeared to be flashes.
Gregg Hansson — Lieutenant (F.D.N.Y.)
That’s basically where we were. Then a large explosion took place. In my estimation that was the tower coming down, but at that time I did not know what that was. I thought some type of bomb had gone off. I was, I believe, ahead of the rest of the firefighters and officers there. I made it to the corner, and I took about four running steps this way when you could feel the rush of the wind coming at you. I believed that that was a huge fireball coming at the time.
Timothy Julian — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Ladder 118]
We came out from 90 West, made a left, headed east, and right when we got to the corner of Washington and Albany, that’s when I heard the building collapse.
First I thought it was an explosion. I thought maybe there was bomb on the plane, but delayed type of thing, you know secondary device.
You know, and I just heard like an explosion and then cracking type of noise, and then it sounded like a freight train, rumbling and picking up speed, and I remember I looked up, and I saw it coming down.
Art Lakiotes — Chief (F.D.N.Y.) [Safety Command]
Tower one now comes down. Same thing but this time some of us take off straight down West Street, because we realized later on, subconsciously we wanted to be near buildings. We all thought it was secondary explosives or more planes or whatever.
John Malley — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Ladder 22]
We were walking into darkness. As we walked through those revolving doors, that’s when we felt the rumble. I felt the rumbling, and then I felt the force coming at me. I was like, what the hell is that? In my mind it was a bomb going off. The pressure got so great, I stepped back behind the columns separating the revolving doors. Then the force just blew past me. It blew past me it seemed for a long time. In my mind I was saying what the hell is this and when is it going to stop? Then it finally stopped, that pressure which I thought was a concussion of an explosion. It turns out it was the down pressure wind of the floors collapsing on top of each other. At that point everything went black, and then the collapse came. It just rained on top of us. Everything came. It rained debris forever.
Julio Marrero — E.M.T. (F.D.N.Y.)
I was screaming from the top of my lungs, and I must have been about ten feet away from her and she couldn’t even hear me, because the building was so loud, the explosion, that she couldn’t even hear me. I just saw everybody running; and she saw us running, and she took off behind us.
Orlando Martinez — E.M.T. (E.M.S.)
There was an explosion and after we started running, I was able to make it to Chambers and West, where I only saw one EMT, EMT Vega. She is new here. She was the only EMT I saw from the station and with all the cops and everybody else running, rescue workers. I grabbed her and I said just stay with me. We will try to get out of here.
Linda McCarthy — E.M.T. (E.M.S.)
So when that one went down. I thought the plane was exploding, or another plane hit. I had no idea it was coming down. But I couldn’t see it gone, because I couldn’t see it really in the first place with all the smoke.
James McKinley — E.M.T. (E.M.S.)
After that I heard this huge explosion, I thought it was a boiler exploding or something. Next thing you know this huge cloud of smoke is coming at us, so we’re running. Everyone is, firemen, PD, everyone is running away from the World Trade Center, up Vessey Street. This is North End, we was running around Vessey and around North end to get away from the first smoke.
Joseph Meola — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Engine 91]
As we are looking up at the building, what I saw was, it looked like the building was blowing out on all four sides. We actually heard the pops. Didn’t realize it was the falling — you know, you heard the pops of the building. You thought it was just blowing out.
Keith Murphy — (F.D.N.Y.) 
I was standing kind of on the edge of where our elevator bank met the big elevator bank. That was when the – I determined that’s when the north tower collapses. We are standing there and the first thing that happened, which I still think is strange to me, the lights went out. Completely pitch black. Since we are in that core little area of the building, there is no natural light. No nothing, I didn’t see a thing.
I had heard right before the lights went out, I had heard a distant boom boom boom, sounded like three explosions. I don’t know what it was. At the time, I would have said they sounded like bombs, but it was boom boom boom and then the lights all go out. I hear someone say oh, s___, that was just for the lights out. I would say about 3, 4 seconds, all of a sudden this tremendous roar. It sounded like being in a tunnel with the train coming at you.
Kevin Murray — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Ladder 18]
When the tower started — there was a big explosion that I heard and someone screamed that it was coming down and I looked away and I saw all the windows domino — you know, dominoeing up and then come down. We were right in front of 6, so we started running and how are you going to outrun the World Trade Center? So we threw our tools and I dove under a rig.
Janice Olszewski — Captain (E.M.S.)
I thought more could be happening down there. I didn’t know if it was an explosion. I didn’t know it was a collapse at that point. I thought it was an explosion or a secondary device, a bomb, the jet — plane exploding, whatever.
Juan Rios — E.M.T. (E.M.S.)
I was in the back waiting, you know, so we could wait for patients and I was hooking up the regulator to the O-2, when I hear people screaming and a loud explosion, and I heard like “sssssssss…” the dust like “sssssssss…” So I come out of the bus, and I look and I see a big cloud of dust and debris coming from the glass…
Michael Ober — E.M.T. (E.M.S.)
Then we heard a rumble, some twisting metal, we looked up in the air, and to be totally honest, at first, I don’t know exactly — but it looked to me just like an explosion. It didn’t look like the building was coming down, it looked like just one floor had blown completely outside of it. I was sitting there looking at it. I just never thought they would ever come down, so I didn’t think they were coming down. I just froze and stood there looking at it.
Angel Rivera — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.)
Mike Mullan walked one flight up, and then the most horrendous thing happened. That’s when hell came down. It was like a huge, enormous explosion. I still can hear it. Everything shook. Everything went black. The wind rushed, very slowly [sound], all the dust, all the — and everything went dark.
Daniel Rivera — Paramedic (E.M.S.) [Battalion 31]
Then that’s when — I kept on walking close to the south tower, and that’s when that building collapsed.
It was a frigging noise. At first I thought it was — do you ever see professional demolition where they set the charges on certain floors and then you hear “Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop”? That’s exactly what — because I thought it was that. When I heard that frigging noise, that’s when I saw the building coming down.
Kennith Rogers — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.)
Meanwhile we were standing there with about five companies and we were just waiting for our assignment and then there was an explosion in the south tower, which, according to this map, this exposure just blew out the flames. A lot of guys left at that point. I kept watching. Floor after floor after floor. One floor under another after another and when it hit about the fifth floor, I figured it was a bomb, because it looked like a synchronized deliberate kind of thing. I was there in ’93.
Patrick Scaringello — Lieutenant (E.M.S.)
I started to treat patients on my own when I heard the explosion from up above. I looked up, I saw smoke and flame and then I saw the top tower tilt, start to twist and lean.
I was assisting in pulling more people out from debris, when I heard the second tower explode. When I tried to evacuate the area, by running up Fulton, got halfway up.
Mark Steffens — Division Chief (E.M.S.)
Then there was another it sounded like an explosion and heavy white powder, papers, flying everywhere. We sat put there for a few minutes. It kind of dissipated.
That’s when we heard this massive explosion and I saw this thing rolling towards us. It looked like a fireball and then thick, thick black smoke.
John Sudnik — Battalion Chief (F.D.N.Y.)
The best I can remember, we were just operating there, trying to help out and do the best we could. Then we heard a loud explosion or what sounded like a loud explosion and looked up and I saw tower two start coming down. Crazy.
Neil Sweeting — Paramedic (E.M.S.)
You heard a big boom, it was quiet for about ten seconds. Then you could hear another one. Now I realize it was the floors starting to stack on top of each other as they were falling. It was spaced apart in the beginning, but then it got to just a tremendous roar and a rumble that I will never forget.
Jay Swithers — Captain (E.M.S.)
At that point I looked back and most of the people who were triaged in that area with the triage tags on them got up and ran. I took a quick glance at the building and while I didn’t see it falling, I saw a large section of it blasting out, which led me to believe it was just an explosion. I thought it was a secondary device, but I knew that we had to go.
Within a few moments, I regrouped with Bruce Medjuck and I asked him to tell them on the radio to send us MTA buses to get people out. That didn’t happen. But one thing that did happen was an ambulance pulled up which was very clean. So I assumed that the vehicle had not been in the – what I thought was an explosion at the time, but was the first collapse.
David Timothy — E.M.T. (E.M.S.)
The next thing I knew, you started hearing more explosions. I guess this is when the second tower started coming down.
Albert Turi — Deputy Assistant Chief (F.D.N.Y.)
The next thing I heard was Pete say what the f___ is this? And as my eyes traveled up the building, and I was looking at the south tower, somewhere about halfway up, my initial reaction was there was a secondary explosion, and the entire floor area, a ring right around the building blew out. I later realized that the building had started to collapse already and this was the air being compressed and that is the floor that let go.
Thomas Turilli — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.)
The door closed, they went up, and it just seemed a couple of seconds and all of a sudden you just heard it, it almost actually that day sounded like bombs going off, like boom, boom, boom, like seven or eight, and then just a huge wind gust just came and my officer just actually took all of us and just threw us down on the ground and kind of just jumped on top of us, laid on top of us.
At that point were were kind of standing on the street and I looked to my left and actually I noticed the tower was down. I didn’t even know that it was when we were in there. It just seemed like a huge explosion.
Stephen Viola — Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.)
Our guy went in with 13 truck, and he was coming down with the guy from 13 truck to bring the elevator to us, and when he was either going up or coming down the elevator, that’s when the south tower collapsed, and it sounded like a bunch of explosions. You heard like loud booms, but I guess it was all just stuff coming down, and then we got covered with rubble and dust, and I thought we’d actually fallen through the floor into like the PATH tubes, because it was so dark you couldn’t see anything, and from there it was a little hazy from there on.
William Wall — Lieutenant (F.D.N.Y.) [Engine 47]
At that time, we heard an explosion. We looked up and the building was coming down right on top of us, so we ran up West Street. We ran a little bit and then we were overtaken by the cloud and we hid behind a white Suburban.
Oh, when we came out of the building and we were walking across West Street when we first got out of the building, we’re walking across the street and all you heard was like bombs going off above your head. You couldn’t see it. It was just cloudy. And we found out later it was the military jets. That was an eerie sound. You couldn’t see it and all you heard was like a “boom” and it just kept going. We couldn’t see 50 feet above our head because of the dust. So we didn’t know if it was bombs going off or whatever, but we didn’t want to stay there.