A lot of people forget about 9/11. They only think about it when 9/11 comes up. All of us, we live 9/11 every day when we get up.
You went to work with no idea of what was going to happen. What was a normal day like for you?
“People needing assistance, going to the hospital, you know. Minor injuries. Whatever police officers do, assisting the public. It could be, somebody got robbed in the station, like [by] gun or knifepoint. You never knew what to expect when you went to work.”
What did you think when you first got the call asking for help?
“They said, ‘unknown condition at the World Trade Center.’ So I answered the call, and when I was running up the road, I saw the plane and I put over, 10-85, 10-13 — that means ‘officer needs help.’ I told them I saw a plane hanging out of the building, and that I needed supervisors to respond.”
The FBI agent said, ‘We’re under attack. It’s definitely terrorism. If you want to live, you’d better leave now. We’re probably all going to die.’ I said to him, 'Are you effin' kidding me?'
“I was running up past the church, and I saw everybody was running away from the World Trade Centers. It was hectic, it was chaos. At the time, we didn’t know it was going to go into a full-blown terror attack.
“I told that FBI agent, ‘I’m not leaving. This is my job, I can’t leave these people.’ I was able to assist and get as many people out of the building as possible.
There was a huge rush of air. It felt like 90-mile-an-hour winds. And I was…holding on, like a cartoon character, to the doorway.
Did people realize what was happening?
“Oh, I think so. The frantic looks on these people’s faces, I think so. Absolutely.
You were actually in Tower Two when it collapsed. What happened to you?
“I was blown through the mezzanine level.
“The jumpers — my heart goes out to the families. I walked around the building, where I was, and I didn’t know what the noise was. And when I saw my first jumper, I was like, Oh my god. I had to keep people underneath the overhang when they were walking out of the building so that they didn’t get hit by people jumping. That was really, really awful. You also have to think, How bad was it up there that they made a choice to take their own lives and jump?
You, like many first responders, have become sick in the intervening years. Tell me about your illness.
“I have been certified through NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] and the 9/11 Clinic for my 9/11 injuries. And one of them is my cancer.
“Just being a proud American.
“Right after 9/11, everyone was so nice. Everybody was united. I think that unity has slowly drifted.
“I want people to be happy and live life and unite. Be strong for our country. Stick together instead of all this violence. Our country is so violent right now. The mall shootings, the disco shootings. The ISIS bombings. The terror attacks in the movie theaters.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. It was originally published September 8, 2016.