It was September 11th, the day after my sister's birthday. I had been retired since March of 2001, ending a 24 year career in EMS, and I had just opened a restaurant named Uncle Mitche's Kitchen in Travis, Staten Island. As I had been doing since August, I opened the store at 5 AM, and my crew came in at six.
It was a beautiful fall morning, and the drive from one side of Staten Island to the other was fabulous. I got in, started up the grill, and turned on the coffee. And my regulars started to come in. At about 08:50 my wife called the store and told me to put the television on. We all stood in silence as we watched the smoke and flames come out of the tower. The radio was on 10:10 WINS and they stated the fire and police requested all retirees and available
personnel to report to the closest firehouse for mobilization. I told my waitress to hold the fort and I flew home not stopping for any lights, stop signs or any other traffic.
My wife had already pulled my uniform and equipment belt out of the attic when I got home. I donned the uniform and turned on my portable radio which I kept from retirement with blessing from the FDNY Communications Commissioner. I turned to SOD PD and heard the craziness that was on the air. I proceeded to drive to Manhattan. I was on the Gowanus Expressway when my brother-in-law called my cell. "Are you crazy," he said.
"You don't understand," I responded. "You never worked with these people. This is what's in my heart and soul. I have to go there."
I understood where he was coming from. I was retired from EMS, I had already fulfilled my obligation, completed my tour, but I knew in my heart it was something I had to do. I hung up the phone and sped down the expressway, through the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Tunnel, and out the other side. I parked right across the street from an area set up for construction personnel and responded to the North tower where they had the unified Command post.
I confronted the chief. "Take care of the treatment sector on West Street," he ordered.
So I proceeded to West Street, and it was about that time that the second plane struck the North Tower. I found an ambulance and was directing the triage and priority treatment of the injured that were streaming to the ambulances. I performed these duties for what seemed eternity. Time just seemed to stop. It was bizarre. One of the EMT's ask me to enter the ambulance and assist with a female burn victim. I jumped in and started working. We heard a low rumble, and then smoke and dirt began to fill the ambulance. The EMT said, "The tower is collapsing!" I had thought we were far enough away and that the tower would tilt back where the plane had struck, but it didn't. It was like
watching a slow motion 8 mm film. The ambulance started being struck with debris. I was sitting in the captain's chair attempting to secure an airway when suddenly the roof began to crush down on us. My helmet took most of the force, but I would find out later that my neck endured some compaction. We had to get low, so I lay down with the EMT on the bench seat. Several minutes passed, then we heard movement outside the truck. Someone was working on the door. And a moment later a firefighter was able to crowbar the door open enough to got us out.
We ran to the American Express building. It was 9:59 AM. I didn't feel hurt, and I was breathing okay, so I went began to help with search and rescue on the pile. After many hours I went home.
When I got home my uniform was covered in white and gray material. My nose felt like I had been doing concrete work. My wife said my speech was slurred, and she suggested that I see Dr. Tambour. So I went to see him. He sent me to what was then St. Vincent's and they discovered several compressions of my cervical spine and a linear fracture. I was admitted and went to surgery. I came out with rods in my posterior cervical spine and wearing a halo. I was discharged around September 30th.