Survivors Tell Their Stories …Ed Wilmarth
I was home sleeping, when a message from the Broad Channel Volunteers came through that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I got up quickly and went to the firehouse. I thought that it must have been a news copter or something like that. I joined up with the other three guys and we headed out for Manhattan. The traffic on the Belt was terrible and we were thinking of cutting up Flatbush Avenue to the bridge, but when we got to Flatbush there was one lane dedicated only to emergency vehicles and we really began to move. The entire left lane on the Belt was a parade of fire trucks, ambulances and police vehicles. When we got out of the Battery Tunnel, we were told to go right up West Street and a FD Lieutenant told us to park. We parked under the overpass, right across from the number two building. I did not see either plane hit the towers, because we got there shortly after the second one hit. We put on our Scott Packs (oxygen bottles) and got ready to go in. Some firefighters from Ladder 15 asked if they could borrow our packs. We gave them up to the FDNY guys, figuring we would get the empties back when they came out. We were told that the elevator was stuck on the 44th floor and that the cables were on fire. We were told that it probably would drop soon. We began to discuss how we were going to attack this when we were told by a NYPD Lieutenant to back off, that the elevator was ready to come down. Then we heard a noise like a low-flying Concorde. Only people in Rockaway would know that sound. We were standing under the bridge with debris and body parts coming down on us. Then, I looked up, because it sounded like another plane was coming to attack the building. It was the building coming down. I got to run for about 30 seconds when it hit the ground and sent out a white cloud. I dove under the back bumper of our ambulance. I was holding my helmet with one hand and the bumper of the ambulance with the other, but the force of the building coming down moved the ambulance sideways down the street. My eyes and nose got clogged with soot. I couldn’t see or breathe. I crawled out and cleaned my eyes. I realized that I was standing on another person. He talked to me. He was an EMS guy, but I never got his name. I picked him up and cleaned off his eyes and mouth. The ambulance to the right of ours was on fire and there was a firefighter trapped underneath it. We tried to use our fire extinguisher to keep the flames away from the guy and we pulled him out. I realized that an I-Beam had crushed the roof of our ambulance. I called Broad Channel from the radio inside and told them that 303 was destroyed and that two men were missing, because I could see Bubba from where I was standing. It was a couple of hours before I found out that they were alive. As I looked for the other two guys, the second building began to fall. We ran down Liberty Street to Battery Park, where a NYPD launch picked us up and took us to Liberty State Park in New Jersey. The city was like something in a movie about a nuclear winter or a volcano eruption. It was snowing ash. We got through triage at the park. We found out there that the two other guys had been taken to hospitals in New Jersey. My father put an old ambulance in service and came looking for us. He found us at Liberty State Park, and we were back in Broad Channel by 9 p.m.
ED WILMARTH, III