Special Report | Dispatch From Ground Zero by Mike

 

Originally posted September 2001

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Mike - New York FirefighterWhat you are about to read, is written from the heart and the gut by Mike, a Staff Writer and Researcher here at Mystical Universe, and a proud Member of FDNY… Fire Department, New York. These accounts are personal in nature and Mike has been generous enough to share them with us.

The United States of America and the World has been following the Media Accounts since the attack occurred. You will read an honest, detailed saga of what Mike has experienced and those of his Brothers in Battle, The BRAVEST of the FDNY!

Mike has been digging in search for survivors as well as venturing into the Belly of The Beast the VOIDS, at the site of what was The World Trade Center, Manhattan, New York. He, like his fellow Fireman are devoting countless hours in their Rescue attempts and then, working their regular Tours of Duty.

Mike tells us that he will NOT send us the details of what he witnessed in those VOIDS. He admits, the horror is still raw in his mind. It would serve no purpose for us to exploit these deeply disturbing events.

Mystical Universe salutes all those individuals who are working tirelessly in their efforts to locate any possible signs of life and to recover the remains of the many innocent men, women and children who were sacrificed. It is our opinion that these volunteers, Police and Firemen have accomplished the impossible. They have earned their Wings here on Earth. God Bless them and God Bless America.

LOG – Day 1
Dispatch #1 from Ground Zero
“The Devils Wind”

September 11, 2001
5:25 PM EST

I had made my way as far as 10 blocks from the World Trade Center. The streets were coated with a white dusting, almost like dirty baking soda.

The air was thick from smoke from the fires that were still burning out of control. People were streaming North, away from the World Trade Center, coated with this white powder. Traffic was filled with Fire and Police Units – EMS Ambulances from all over the City were filling the air with their sirens.

I got about two blocks from the Trade Center, when all of a sudden, Building #7 collapsed right in front of me… I thought to myself, “It sounds like a hundred locomotives as the roar echoed off the Buildings.” I did not know what to do!

Just standing there, I looked for a place to go – Nothing. I was on a street that had only the back of the buildings facing the street. The roar and the smoke was coming my way, it funneled up the street, between buildings. I turned and started to run up the street, away from the blast…. As fast as I ran, it started to catch up with me. The smoke and the dust found me. I dove under a truck, closed my eyes as the blast overwhelmed me.

“Swish” as this HOT wind hit me. A hot blast from Hell – “The Devils Wind” I now call it. That’s what my mind told me. I could hear the truck being pelted by concrete and plaster, large chunks at first, then it started to slack off.

I don’t know how long I lay under the truck. It was hard to breathe, the acrid smoke and dust filled up my lungs. I opened my eyes, it was pitch dark. I thought, “I got to get out of here in case this truck gets crushed!” I got up and ran. Which way I was running, I don’t know, but in front of me was a wall … I hit the wall full force, bounced off of it and just laid down and covered my head.

“The Devils Wind” passed and the darkness started to subside. The blast had passed me. I sat up, stunned, covered with dust….. my eyes were burning and it was so hard to breathe! I just sat there for a while, taking inventory of my body – everything seemed to work, nothing broken. Cut, battered and bruised, I got up.

The dust and smoke at least started to ease and the visibility was getting better. I could now see at least a half a block.

Out of nowhere, came a Policeman. He said, “You okay?” I said, “Yes.” The Policeman said, “Now I know what hell is …” I said, “You bet brother.”

We both started to walk toward Ground Zero.

Mike, Staff Researcher and Writer & New York Fireman

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LOG – Day 1
Dispatch #2 From Ground Zero

September 11, 2001

All Americans were totally shocked at watching the World Trade Center Twin Towers fall. I guess we are all use to watching those casinos and large buildings being blown up, but nothing prepared us for this.

America was under attack. Word was that The Pentagon was hit also. No one on the streets around the Trade Center could care less. All those battered, scarred and shocked people could think about was getting away from the area.

All available Police and Fire Units were sent to the scene. The Search Was ON!! Triage areas were setup, where the injured were taken. The dead were left there. One HAD to move on to find the living. The dust and smoke filled your eyes and lungs. It was also hard to orient oneself. What was left was a crater, 4 stories deep.

Steel was twisted all in different shapes. 400 pound plate glass windows were shattered and jagged pieces were all over the ground, mixing in with the crumbling pieces of concrete. Cars were overturned and set on fire. Emergency Vehicles were crushed under the wreckage.

By this time, New York City had started to mobilize all of its Emergency Services, City wide. More and more help arrived. As people poured out of the area, the Emergency Personnel poured in!

You grabbed who and what you found first, hoping they were alive. We took them aside and tried to render First Aid. Some of the first ambulances pulled away with 5 or 6 people inside. Soon areas were assigned for a Triage Center. Fires were still burning, hose lines were stretched and water was now being put on the fires.

Volunteers started to join in the search. We were picking through the wreckage, looking for Survivors. Men in 3 piece suits working next to a construction workers in jeans, passing twisted metal to computer operators, who passed it to Police Officers, trying to get that person out of harms way and to the hospital.

It took quite a while for anyone to get to Ground Zero. All that was left of the Twin Towers were the Steel Skeletons, no more than 4 stories high. One could not see much, due to the smoke and dust that filled the air. The lack of wind kept it right at Ground Zero. Soon, more and more Rescue Workers got to the site. New York and America started to mobilize its forces.

They might have ripped the HEART out of New York City, but the ONE thing that they did NOT take, was its SOUL!!!!!

Mike, Staff Researcher and Writer & New York Fireman

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LOG – Day ?
Dispatch #3 From Ground Zero

September 13/14, 2001 (I think)

The staging area is in the American Express Building, right across the street from the site of The World Trade Center. In this building, all supplies and equipment for the searchers are provided.

I get fitted for a respirator by one of the Volunteers who have been working as much as we are. I pick up a shovel and pick – flashlight and knee pads – heavy duty work gloves – safety glasses. Next, off to get something to drink, something to eat.

The World Trade Center site has been sectioned off and in command of each sector is a FDNY Division Chief, who has 2 to 3 Battalion Chiefs in his command.

We are going into the middle of Ground Zero – the area that is right next to THE PIT. THE PIT is a wide hole that has been opened up, to expose the many subbasements.

It has rained most of the morning. At times, a hard rain that has suspended operations for safety reasons. President Bush came to the site and inspected the area. He talked with the people working that area, in the afternoon. This has given renewed HOPE and has lifted the spirits of the searchers.

Its now 8:00 PM, a little cooler then the previous nights and the rain that came down all morning, has turned the inches of dust, on the street, to a gray looking mud. At the digging area, it has dried out. Were called, so we slowly move out of the staging area, into the Ground Zero Zone.

Large flood lights, light up the crater. Its still smoking in areas from underground fires, still burning. Its so SURREAL here. A cross between a moonscape and a volcano. Large cranes are operating on the lifting of heavy beams. Welders are cutting through metal and iron beams. Small bulldozers and payloaders are filling up dump trucks. Up on the site are many bucket brigades.

We join into one of the many long lines. The buckets keep coming…. “Heavy!” we pass the word down the line … “Watch your eye’s!!” as buckets with metal or wires hanging out of the top. Empty ones go back to the top of the line to be filled again, by those digging. Full ones go to the back of the line and are dumped into a mound, that is getting higher and higher. This will be dumped into trucks and taken to a landfill on Staten Island. New York City Detectives, FBI, ATF and CIA Personnel will inspect all of this for evidence.

Standing in line, looking around, the American Flag is everywhere! On the side of the broken buildings – on the top of large cranes – on the backs of the Construction Workers, reminding us WHY we are here!

Red, White and Blue!!!
USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

At times, the line breaks to allow the Steel Workers and the cranes to lift the large beams that cover the high ground. It allows us to get a cold drink, have a cigarette or just rest. Its hot and dirty work. The beams are all over the site. The best way to describe this is, the kids game of “Pick up Sticks.” We are amazed at the work the Steel Workers, Riggers, Welders and Heavy Crane Operators are doing and have been doing for many, many days.

The line forms up again and I find myself cut off from the main line. 5 of us start another line with picks, shovels and a worker with a power saw. We start to dig and fill the buckets. We constantly hit metal as we dig. Sometimes we dig with our hands, digging around the metal as much as we can, then pull the pieces of metal out of the ground. Its so hard!!!! Every piece is twisted in all different directions and we call for the saw to cut it into small pieces. You really cant tell what it is we are taking out of the ground. Sometimes its concrete, plaster, paper, books, electrical wiring, re-bars, rocks.

“Dog’s!! Dog’s!!” a call for the Search/Sniffer Dogs goes down the line. Up ahead of us, they need the dogs to see if they are getting close to a body. They have been digging under and found a VOID!! The Dog Handler and dog make it up to the area. The dog confirms that a body, or piece of a body has been found. We turn back to our 4 ft. by 4 ft. plot and start digging again.

Up and down the line are men and women from all around the USA… Chicago Firefighters, EMTs from Boston. I see Police from Illinois, Virginia, Baltimore and Atlanta. Los Angeles County Firefighters and Police are here. Volunteer Firefighters from the Tri-State area are on the line. Postal Workers, Telephone Workers, Con Edison Power Employees and just Volunteers who make it to the dig. Lines snake all over GROUND ZERO.” God!!! If we can only find ONE PERSON alive down there, it will make it all worth it!!!!

I know its been hours since I’ve taken a break. I don’t want to stop digging or stop passing buckets, but my body tells me to take a break. My arms are not functioning well. My knees hurt and my hands are getting a little raw. I break off and make my way out of the area to a relief station. Volunteers are manning the stations. These wonderful people, who for days have been giving out food, water, soda, candy and medical supplies.

I am spent! Cant go on anymore. Its time to go home and rest – and be back at it, tomorrow.

As I am making my way out of the area, new people are coming in. Those of us coming out have The Stare” …. Spent, Tired, Exhausted. I hitch a ride on the back of a garbage truck to get to my car. I’m parked about 2 miles North of the area.

On the corners, away from the site, are people clapping for us. Candles on the ground glowing …. Signs …. “OUR HERO!” “USA!” “THANK YOU!” Its 3:00 AM and hundreds of people are out there on the streets, giving us the Thumbs Up.” It makes you feel so good! It makes it all worthwhile. It shows that America cannot be beaten! WE WILL PREVAIL!!

Mike, Staff Researcher and Writer & New York Fireman

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LOG – Day 4
Dispatch #4 From Ground Zero

September 13/14, 2001 (I think)
Friday – September 14, 2001

Getting ready to leave for the World Trade Center, I say good-bye to my family. I know as soon as I leave, my son will get upset and start to cry. He just cant help it. But, he knows why I’m going. I tell him “I’m not digging tonight” to ease his mind. (A Father is allowed a little white lie, now and then.) He’s stressed out about the events of the week.

I don’t know about the rest of the Country, but children in New York City that day, September 11, 2001, were so traumatized by the event. They were yanked out of school and taken home. The streets of New York, under attack from these MONSTERS, no one really knew if next … a gas or biological attack was coming. OR? Were some of these same MONSTERS going to follow-up and start shooting?

These kids will have to live with this day, the rest of their lives, because some group of misfits don’t like the way we Americans live. Jealous of the fact we have running water, color TVs, cable TV, VCRs, Microwaves!

New York City is an armed camp – road blocks ring Manhattan. Traffic a mess (as usual), but one thing is missing – NO CAR HORNS! People are together in this and making the best of the situation. The “Big Apple” has been bruised, but not down and out!

As I drive to the World Trade Center, I notice more and more street corners have candles lit. Small shrines have sprung up, some with pictures of the Missing People who worked in the World Trade Center. Flowers and American Flags complete these shrines. Its not only happening in New York, but all over America!

Its been two days and no one has been pulled out of the rubble alive. But, the digging continues, with the hope that deep down, in the maze of steel, pipes and debris, someone is alive and can be found.

I drive from Check Point to Check Point, getting closer to the scene. State Police first, then the US Army – getting ID checked. I follow a line of General Electric portable generator trucks, into the last Check Point. I park my car about a mile and a half away. A “God Bless America” banner is strung across the truck going in. The truck contains bottled water. Ten of us hitch a ride, as far as we can. Jumping down, we walk into the site. Coming the other way, are rescue workers, leaving for the night. Groups of Police, Firemen, Construction Workers, Utility Crews, take the long slow walk out. Exhausted, they all have that STARE you get after giving your all, for hours.

The World Trade Center is IN you – in your ears, eyes, nose, hair and your lungs. Your whole body aches – the dust mixes with your sweat and cakes your body, you cant help but itch. Volunteers hand you cold water or cold drinks, just about anything you want or need, is there. On each side of the street are a mixture of tents – some food tents- other, equipment tents. Additional tents are set up as Staging Points for Utility Companies, Fire Departments, Rescue Squads, K-9 Units, Police Departments, Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Getting into Ground Zero tonight, I notice that a lot of progress has been achieved. Larger ore trucks and big tractor trailers, dump trucks are taking out the wreckage – bigger and heavier cranes are working now. Able to lift bigger and heavier steel beams.

I jump into a bucket line. Its a small line, working to the right of a long one. After about 45 minutes, the whistle blows – this means to GET OUT OF THE SITE. The Army Engineers have detected that one of the adjacent buildings might have shifted. For safety reasons, we get away from the site, so it can be rechecked.

This gives us some time to look around at the mess! We watch, in amazement, at the construction workers doing their thing! If anyone SHINES through this, it is them! And, also the Volunteers, who are shoulder to shoulder with us – giving us soda, water, food, any help we need. Our “Back Up Angels” !!

We are back to work in about 15 minutes. This time, I’m humping empty buckets up to a new dig site. As we cross a line of holes, billowing smoke is pouring from underground fires. I find myself 15 yards from the “PIT” … The “PIT” is a big, big hole, opened up and revealing the GUTS of the World Trade Center – like looking down into HELL.

Its open to reveal the lower floors of the Trade Center, deep down, you can see the glow of fires burning, through the smoke and darkness. When the building collapsed, it pancaked the floors – VOIDS and HOLES are here – the best place to search, but its dangerous work. At any moment, tons of debris can shift, trapping or crushing Rescue Workers.

We start to clean an area, so that equipment can be set up, on the side of the “PIT”, where we are. They have used probe bars and SONAR, to see if under our feet, it is solid for us to work.

First we work on moving the big, bulky stuff – pipes, loose metal and aluminum, blocks of concrete: Lots of the pipes and twisted metal have to be cut by power saws … arc welders cut the thick stuff.

Around the “PIT” are Urban Search and Rescue Teams from FEMA and around the Country. They go down into the depths and search for VOIDS, so that mechanical robots can go in and look … for Survivors.

All High Tech Equipment is now on site, from all points of The United States. Audio Devices, small Mini Cameras are lowered into the smallest
cracks and crevices ……… Looking and Listening for the faintest sound or movement.

Searchers and Dog Teams are lowered in baskets from overhead cranes, into the depths, searching …. searching. At times, they leave the buckets in the large open areas to search and explore. These people see the devastation and human toll caused by this Terrorist Attack.

Red Paint, Orange Paint, White Paint mark the steel beams “BODY” …..
for Recovery ……….. later.

“Payback is a Bitch”
anonymous

Mike, Staff Researcher, Writer & New York Fireman

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LOG – Day 5
Dispatch #5 From Ground Zero

September 15, 2001
Saturday

Today they started to bring in heavier equipment – larger cranes and dump trucks. Still, no one has been pulled out alive since Wednesday, the day after the World turned upside down. There has to be someone down in the rubble, alive! They pulled them out in Mexico after the earthquake; so why not here?

I’m giving it one more shot tonight. I’m due in to work on Monday and have to rest up tomorrow, so I can function on Monday. As far as I can see, there is no slacking on the Volunteer numbers, in fact, it looks like there are even more people digging at the site.

Tonight, I go down into “The Pit” … working with 7 others, we go down into the blackness, one at a time. The first man down, is an experienced Search and Rescue Team Member. He gets down as far as he can, and searches the lower voids and holes.

We go down 15 or 20 feet apart. They send down a video camera cable and we snake it down to the first man. He searches with the camera probe, as the upstairs team members, view on a video monitor. We search the voids and pockets near us, using flashlights, and our hands.

Its very quiet, in the darkness below the surface. I find a flat slab of concrete between some steel beams and wedge my hips and leg around the beam. Concrete dust and stuff keeps falling down on us, as we climb down to our areas. Once it’s down to the first man – word is passed up and down the line, to be still and quiet. Attached to the video cable is also a microphone so it can see and hear as it’s snaked into smaller holes and voids.

We are close to the underground fires, still burning. It’s hot and the perspiration mixes with the dust and cakes your skin and clothes. I look across the darkness, to the other side and see the flicker of searchlights of the other teams, doing the very same thing we are doing.

Somewhere, someone has called for a dog … they have found something. The dog and Handler are lowered by a platform, via a crane into “THE PIT.” I can see the cables going down, below me, I don’t know what they find or … don’t find. We are told to move up and expand out, as our team starts to move up to the surface.

I move up about 10 feet and stop as I’m told to do. The search below continues on until the first man is the only one below in the hole and we are above the surface. It’s a long haul, mostly just sitting or standing there for a long time. Looking around our area for something that looks or smells like one of the Missing. It’s been 5 days now and …. YES, one can tell at this time, if you are near a body.

Nothing in 2 1/2 hours of searching. I’m getting close to the top when our man calls for a Bag. We pass the body bag down, towards him. He calls for two more. I can’t see what’s going on below me. My world is only the area around me. I scan and probe around me. I can’t make out what all this stuff really is. Just lots of wires, metal, aluminum and concrete. It’s just amazing that we haven’t seen any seat backs, tables, chairs, computer screens or other office furniture, or even parts of these – everything is shredded into small pieces.

An hour later, it’s my turn to climb out into the cool air of the surface. I take my mask off and suck down some cool, sweet air. It’s so damn hot and humid down there. I go over and sit down and just try to cool off. Sitting there resting, you’re still scanning the ground in front of you, for something you can identify and all you see, is nothing that the mind can recognize.

My buddy hands me a cool soda and tells me we found some body parts on our search. But still, there are 3 guys down in the hole, coming up. So? It’s a bet that nothing else is going to be found. 20 feet away from us is another team, getting ready to go down. We sit until all of the team comes up. Then, we are told that hot food is being served over at the Spirit of New York sightseeing boat.

As a native New Yorker, I’ve never slept on the streets of New York. We see the Homeless all the time, sleeping in doorways and alleys. It’s just a fact of life in American cities and we pay it no mind, in our day to day lives.

I don’t know how long I fell out, but all I remember is smoking a cigarette, watching New Jersey lights, across the Hudson River. There are 5 or 6 of us asleep, next to the building. Some, sitting upright, some lying down. I don’t know who they are or where they are from … or how long they have been asleep. Quietly I get up and start looking for some coffee.

I grab a cup inside the building used as the Staging Area, for the Fire Department. As I come off the line, I am stopped by a Policeman. Looking down the hallway, I see about 20 Firemen around a stretcher – moving it towards the Chaplain who is standing, awaiting the body. We take off our helmets, as the body is blessed. I say a silent prayer for him and his family. At least the family can have some kind of closure. Many families ………. never will.
Mike, Staff Researcher and Writer & New York Fireman

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LOG – Day 1
Dispatch From GROUND ZERO
“One of the Lucky Ones”

September 11, 2001

“I’m just one of the lucky ones,” my friend in one of the FDNY Special Units told me. His story is one of thousands.

Responding over the Brooklyn Bridge, he could see the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The Upper floors afire and black smoke filled the skyline of New York City.

His Unit pulled up to the West Street Side of the Trade Center. The street was filled with Emergency Vehicles and still more were pulling in, as he started setting up his equipment. Police and Fire Personnel were already in the Building. Office people were streaming out of the Trade Center and filling the streets in the area. Other people were coming up to the street from the Subway and Path Trains.

“I heard a Jet Plane and next a whoosh sound – looking UP, I caught the tail of the Jet going inside the South Tower.” He added, “Then the whole top of the Building exploded.” More and more people were streaming out of the Trade Center and more Emergency Personnel were entering the Trade Center, making their way up to the Upper Floors.

With the Second Tower now afire, Units responding to the incident had to be deployed to THIS Tower! Additional Fire Units from all of the Five Burroughs were called to the scene.

Inside both Towers, the firemen were making their way up to the fire floors, humping length of hoses, up flights of stairs as Office Workers streamed down the stairs.

Outside in the street, FDNY Operations were continuing. As Units arrived on the scene, they were being deployed to both Towers. As Units were forming to receive their orders from their Commanders – A LOUD, indescribable ROAR came from the upper reaches of the South Tower.

“I looked up and saw the whole top of the Building coming down.” Then he added, “We ran into the underground garage across the street. The ground was shaking like an earthquake, we ran deeper and deeper into the garage. “We made our way as far into the garage as we could.” He took a breath and told me, “At this point we had come to the back of the garage – The lights dimmed, and then went completely out!”

“We found a locked door, but had no tools to open it up.”

With brute force, the members burst though, into Daylight.

He continued to relay to me what transpired. “As we streamed out of the garage door, we were facing the Hudson River.” “The air was filled with smoke from the collapse. The wind was blowing the smoke away from us, as we started to make our way back to our Units.”

“As we turned a corner and could see that there was only one… ONLY one World Trade Center Tower …the Second Tower started falling.”

Running North along the water line, the ground now shaking, as the World Trade Center South Tower came down. They arrived at an iron fence. They could no longer go North anymore, because of this.

Just then – Out of the smoke and right in front of them, a Staten Island Ferry appeared! “The Captain put the Ferry right up to the bulkhead – We started hoisting people over the fence.” Then, they were helped onto the Ferry by the morning commuters who were aboard.

The smoke got thicker and thicker until no one could see. “Somehow, I was flung over the fence, and got aboard the Ferry.”

Battered and cut up, he made it across the River, to New Jersey! One of the LUCKY ones who made it out Alive!!!!

Mike, Staff Researcher and Writer & New York Fireman

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