Newly released New York fire department files on 11 September 2001 convey the chaos at the scene of the attacks. Extracts from interviews given by some of the rescue workers follow:
Manuel Delgado, paramedic
It must have been about five to nine [first plane struck World Trade Center at 0848]. I got a call...saying 'What's going on at the World Trade Center'? I had no knowledge of it...
In the computer I noticed that there was a 1040 [rescue code for plane hitting building]...
When we were driving across the Brooklyn Bridge, it was very obvious that there was something serious going on... There was a gaping black hole... It looked to me like the top 10 floors were fully engulfed in smoke at this time.
We... finally arrived at the corner of... West Broadway and Vesey. As soon as we arrived... a massive
explosion goes off... We didn't know that it was a second plane...
I immediately tell everyone to get out of the car and hide somewhere... There was a police car... on the corner there and some debris comes down... and it just crushes it... It looked like part of an engine. It was pretty big. It was probably the size of the hood because it kind of hit it, bounced, and then rolled off.
So then at that point we were approached by a police officer holding one of his cops with a massive
evulsion of the forehead [scalp injury]...
People were starting to jump or fall from the top... There was nothing you could do for them. We wanted to go in after them and they basically told us 'Don't because it's very dangerous'...
People are exiting [from the North Tower] this way in droves. I mean, there was just a stream of people
running, running, running... We were getting inundated with patients. We had more patients than we had ambulances. We were stuffing four and five people in an ambulance at this point...
I remember at one point... this lieutenant coming in and asking for help to get the oxygen out of the vehicle. I go to help him... but immediately once I put the oxygen down, I hear the rumble... that we thought was another plane...
So we all looked up and what we saw was... the South Tower begin to [tilt] and there was a horrendous rumble.
At this point it's total pandemonium... I figure I'm dead. I remember running - I don't even know what street I ended
Ulysses Grant, division commander, fire department
I don't remember hearing anything. However, I do remember seeing this loud, large cloud coming about like it was turning a corner and coming in my direction. So I also turned and ran. What I
remember seeing when I was running was a Hazollah [emergency] truck. It was open. The back of the truck was
open. So I jumped in the back...
There were other people there that jumped in the back of the vehicle with me. I remember it
immediately filling up with stuff and you hear the tinkling of the particles and whatever it was
that was coming down, just filling it up, filling it up. At some point I couldn't even see in
front of me.
Zachary Goldfarb, division chief, fire department
We got to the command post. Chief [Peter] Ganci [killed on 9/11] was there... He was
being very frustrated about his radio. I remember this. He was like 'What's that? What channel is this?
Am I on the right channel? Goddamn it, the radios aren't working'.
There was a lot of stuff coming down... One of the things that I've learned over time is sometimes it's better not to look at stuff because sometimes you don't want to see things, you know? You see them, you start thinking about them, and then you can't do your job...
We didn't appreciate the extent of damage to the building... because you're basically looking straight up a vertical cliff, two vertical cliffs, and you're seeing the bottom of some smoke and fire and you see debris or whatever, but I don't think you had a full appreciation of the extent of damage, how many floors, the size of damage...
It was the first time in my life that I ever felt that an incident beat us. You know, we go into an incident to control it... and here we are going into an incident that... has actually pushed us back and chased us away and we're leaving behind our wounded, we were leaving behind who knows what, we're leaving equipment, we're abandoning equipment... We were just trudging out through the dust like just a defeated army. That's how I felt.
James Duffy, fire-fighter
I saw about 20 to 30 people jumping out from the upper floors and hitting rigs and the pavement and the ground and apparatuses, and the glass atrium of the Marriott they were hitting. I guess about five or six jumpers jumped at a time.
We were told to report to the South Tower... but... because of the jumpers and the falling debris... we had to go in
through the corner entrance of the Marriott...
As we were waiting, we looked up and all I saw was - I heard this huge noise, and I saw hundreds and hundreds of people running towards us. They were running out of the South Tower to the Marriott, to the lobby. We just turned. We started to like run also. We got about 10 feet before getting blown across the lobby. We got blown across the lobby, just got covered with debris.
I didn't know the building had collapsed, actually. I thought a bomb had gone off.