Thursday, January 20, 2011
Firefighter John Moribito, of Ladder Company 10
FILE NO 9110354
WORLD TRADE CENTER TASK FORCE INTERVIEW
FIREFIGHTER JOHN MORIBITO
INTERVIEW DATE DECEMBER 12 2001
TRANSCRIBED BY MAUREEN MCCORMICK
BATTALION CHIEF KEMLY: The date is December 12, 2001. The time is 12:55 in the afternoon. This is Battalion Chief Ronald
Kemly of the Fire Department of the City of New York.
I'm conducting an interview with John Moribito of Ladder Company 10 of the Fire Department of the City of New York.
The interview is taking place at the quarters of Engine Ladder 15 in the engine office regarding the events of September 11,
Q: Fireman Moribito, please tell me what happened in your own words.
A: On the morning of September 11, I arrived at Ladder 10, Engine 10's quarters at approximately eight a.m., and relieved the chauffeur that was on duty the night before. I was scheduled to be the ladder company chauffeur that day.
At about a quarter to nine, at 8:45, we were sitting in the kitchen enjoying a cup of coffee, and we heard what I describe as kind of a muffled boom,and it sounded like when a container truck rolls down the block and hits a pothole and the container on the back of the truck rumbles.
The officer, Lieutenant Steve Harrell, who was the covering officer in Ladder 10 that day, looked across at me, and he asked
me if that was normal for around that area. I said, "Yeah, it kind of sounded like a container truck."
When I finished my sentence, the house watchman ran in, and he apparently was very very startled. He was very afraid, and he was yelling that a plane had just hit the trade center. A plane just hit the trade center. He repeated it twice.
We all jumped up from the table, we ran up to the front of our quarters out to the apparatus door, and the sky, which was beautiful blue sky that September morning, had turned black. We could see up at the building. We couldn't tell at that point which building was involved with the crash, which one was on fire, but we could see smoke, and we could see debris falling from the building.
There was fire falling from the building. There were computers and pieces of desk. We noticed that there were also pieces
of human being falling down from the sky and crashing in front of our quarters out on the street.
There were many people in the street right in front of the quarters that were startled. They were bleeding. Some were burnt. They were cowering in our house watch. We tried to pull as many of the people off the street as possible before we left quarters and brought them into the firehouse.
We jumped on the rig. We got our gear on. We pulled out of quarters. I had to be real careful, because people were running in front of the fire truck, and we couldn't really control them at that point.
Pulled out of headquarters and very gingerly was trying to go across the street. [Deletion of five lines.]
We proceeded to make a left turn down Liberty Street. I stopped initially in front of 2 World Trade Center, and everyone on the rig was yelling up at me that it was 1 World Trade Center that was hit.
At that point, there was a stalled Lincoln Town car, livery car, that was in front of us and there was a woman driver, and she couldn't get the car to move. She couldn't get it in gear. She was in shock. She was jumping up and down. Eventually, a police officer came over. He jumped in the car. He tried to move it for her. He wasn't able to move it, so I did have to ram the car, and I pushed it out of the way. I opened up Liberty Street in order for the other engine that was behind us, Engine 10, to get up the block.
I came to the end, to West Street, and I made a right turn onto West Street, and I was barreling down. As I was approaching 1 World Trade Center, there was a Chinese man in the middle of the street, and he had been burnt pretty badly. At that point, we didn't know he was burnt, but he was burnt. He was lying in the second lane from the right in the middle of the street, and he was still alive.
As I approached him, he lifted his head up off the street to look at me, and I stopped my rig and positioned it in a way that
would block him out so that no one coming around me would actively run over him because they couldn't see him at that point.
That's where the members disembarked off the rig. They all jumped off. Myself, I jumped off to tend to the gentleman that was in the street. Terry Rivera, who had gotten off that morning and took the run in with us, ran up to me and he asked me if he should go into the building being that he didn't have a Scott pack on, and I told him to assist me with the gentleman that was in the street.
The rest of the company ran into the building. I had run over to a volunteer ambulance that had arrived at the scene at the time. At about the same time, the ambulance arrived, Ladder 1 and Engine 7 was pulling up. It was very quick, within the first 30 seconds of our arrival at the building.
The ambulance had pulled up. We took the gentleman that was in the street. We wrapped him in a burn blanket. We actually wet him down with a water can, and we put him on the stretcher, and we actually put him in the back of the ambulance, and they took him away.
Then I proceeded into the lobby of the building. When I walked through the lobby there was broken glass everywhere. There were also two people in the lobby, a gentleman who was already burned and was dead, and a female. She was nude. Her clothes had burnt away. Her skin was burnt away. She was still alive. She was trying to communicaate. Her eyes were sealed shut. Her throat apparently was sealed. She couldn't really communicate. Within the next two minutes, she had perished right there.
We never actually got her any assistance. We couldn't get her an ambulance, and we didn't get her out of there.
At that point, I heard my officer, Lieutenant Harrell, call down to the chauffeur, myself, and asked me to do a perimeter check on the building, so I ran into the courtyard between 1 World Trade Center and 2 World Trade Center, and I made my report that the south side of the tower had visible flames showing from it at approximately the 80th floor.
At that point, I wasn't able to see the entire perimeter of the tower, but there was fire showing around the entire perimeter of the North Tower, tower No. 1.
Then I looked down and there were people approaching me and asking me if they should evacuate the building. I said, "absolutely, evacuate both buildings if you can get out while you can now,"
I noticed in the courtyard that there were valises, suitcases, strewn about the courtyard. There were wallets everywhere, broken glass, and then I noticed that there were airplane tickets.
I started to get a picture of the size of the airplane that had hit the building. Up until then, we thought it was maybe a small two seater plane, and now we were starting to get the idea that it was maybe a larger or commercial airliner.
Also I started to notice that there were what I thought was insulation or what I described as insulation. It was gray and pink, and it was all over the place, and it turned out that this was human flesh, people had been blown apart from the impact or from the plane exploding itself, and I noticed that they were everywhere. They were all over the floor, all over the courtyard.
So I made that report to my officer, that I think this was a bigger plane than we had expected or what we thought it was initially.
I went back into the lobby. At that point, I had no idea where my company had gone. I know they went up the B staircase, but I didn't know what floor they were on, so I remained in the lobby and helped evacuate people that were now exiting the building.
I saw the chiefs, Chief Pfeifer, from Battalion 1 come in, along with him was the Battalion aide, and the French filmmaker, who happened to be standing in the lobby at the time, and he was videotaping everything that was occurring.
Later on, started to see other companies come in. I saw Ladder 15, and saw Engine 4. They walked past me. I don't know what building they had gone into. I saw members of 21 Truck. I saw members that I had recognized --- I believe it was the Division 3's aide, who I went to the academy with. His name was James Smagala. I saw him in the lobby. Chief Cashin.
At that point, I was helping evacuate. Police officers had come up to me and asked me if I knew the building. I said I had.
They said, "Well, we don't want to send people out onto West Street because there are people jumping, and there's falling
debris and glass." What was the best way to get them out of the building?
I suggested that we send them through the plaza area, which was actually underneath 1 and 2 World Trade Center, and we would send them down into the subways and help them evacuate through the 1 and 9 line, I believe, and they would come up on Chambers Street or on Church Street, but in any event, they would be further away from the building, and they would be underground, which I felt was safe.
So that's what we did. I was the first member in the evacuation line and I was directing people through a revolving door from 1 World Trade Center into the plaza area. I describe it as an organized chaos. As afraid as they were, as fearful for their lives as they were, they listened to directions very well and it actually made me feel proud that New Yorkers had come together the way they had and helped out one another, that no one ran out of the building just in fear of their own lives, but actually stopped and helped everyone along the way.
The sprinklers were going off in the lobby in the plaza. There was broken glass in the plaza. As people were exiting to get away from the building, some of them were running, and they would slip and fall, and they would get gashed wide open. They had major lacertions to the back of their head, to their back, to their lower torso. We were fortunate enough to have EMS nearby, and we put those people om stretchers almost immediately and got them out of the building immediately.
The majority of the people did listen to our directions, and they did slow down, and they were walking in a calm manner. We were able to get --- in my opinion, I counted approximately 3 or 4000 people that had walked past us and evacuated into the lobby.
There were two gentlemen from Fire Patrol No. 2 that were right on the other side of the revolving door where I had set up for the evacuation. After a couple of minutes, we heard --- I heard over the department radio, "Prepare for impact. A second plane is approaching the building."
At that point, we all looked at each other and realized that it was now a terrorist attack. There was no way that two planes could hit the building in such a short amount of time on such a clear, blue sky, clear day.
I felt the impact of the second plane. I felt the building shake. I saw the lights flicker. At that point, I started to get nervous and wonder whether or not the buildings would come down.
I approached the chiefs. The chiefs were assured by the engineers of the building that there was no way that the buildings would come down. They actually said that the buildings could take --- withstand ten airplanes hitting it, and there was no way that the buildings could come down.
I also saw Mike Hurley and James Corcoran --- I'm sorry, James Corrigan, who were the fire safety directors at the World Trade Center, who I had met a couple of times before, and they were running around. They were trying to keep some organization and trying to give as much information to the chiefs as possible as to the structure of the building.
I went back to my post to help continue evacuate people. After I would guess, it was about an hour, but seemed like just a few minutes, it seemed like people had stopped coming down. They stopped coming down off the escalators. People weren't using the elevators, and I had walked into 1 World Trade lobby from the plaza area to look to see if anybody else was coming down.
I noticed that some of the elevators had been blown out of their shafts. They came down and crashed out of the shaft. They were buckled and I had noticed that there were people still in the elevators. I believe that they were at that point deceased.
Then I saw the lights in both buildings went out, and I heard the rumble. At that point, I didn't know what was happening, but 2 World Trade Center was collapsing.
I tried to get back to the doorway where I had just emerged from, and I saw the members of Fire Patrol 2 and some civilians and police officers get down on their hands and knees, and I saw them buried in rubble. I saw the debris fall on top of them and push them against the wall. They weren't able to get through the doorway where I was on the other side, which was somewhat of a safe haven.
The building came down. The rush of wind lifted me up off the ground, and threw me about 30 feet back into the lobby of 1 World Trade Center. I got myself up. I scrambled back to the doorway. I felt that the only safety area that I had was trying to be underneath that enclosure which was a marble and steel doorway.
After the building collapsed, I jumped up, realized that I was still alive, and now tried to make my way out of the building. I did hear at that point the fire department pass alarms were going all around me, and what I could imagine to be about ten or fifteen voices, firemen that were exclaiming they were still alive, not to leave them behind, to come back and get them, that they were okay, that they were pinned, that they maybe had broken limbs, but that they were alive. They were covered underneath some debris. There was a lot of dust we couldn't see, but in any event, they were alive, and they were
yelling for help.
I tried to look around briefly for somebody. I couldn't find anyone. I saw a couple of flashlights in the distance. I walked straight ahead. I ran into the elevators. The elevators were completely out of the shafts at this point. All the elevators --- I could see members were crushed in between them. I could see civilians were crushed in between the elevators.
I tried to make my way to the left of the elevators where the guard station was. There was debris from floor to ceiling at that point. I couldn't get through there. I made my way to the right of the elevators, which was underneath the escalator, and I saw --- I was following a gray patch on the wall, and then I saw a white patch. I realized that was a window.
I ran to the window. I stopped in the window. I took my flashlight off my helmet. I flashed it into the building, yelling out that this was a way out, that if anybody was alive, this was the way to go, follow the flashlight.
Approximately six firemen and two civilians had come out that window with me. At that point, I couldn't see which company they were with. They were covered in gray soot and ash. Their helmets were covered. I couldn't tell or determine who they were, but there were about six firemen and two civilians that came out that window.
We ran across West Street, which was at that point littered with debris, including beams and broken glass, but not to the point where West Street was covered. West Street was still fairly open that we could run across it.
When I got out there, I saw Engine 10, which was parked right in front of the building, had been hit by a beam, what I found out later to be 67 tons in weight, and it had actually completely demolished Engine 10. It was on top of it, and at that point, Engine 10 was crushed.
I also heard someone yelling for the Engine 10 chauffeur over the radio, and I stopped briefly by Engine 10 to look for the chauffeur to see if he was possibly there, if he was pinned. Maybe if he was hiding underneath the rig, I could have gotten him out of there, but after looking quickly around the rig, I didn't notice any fire department gear. I didn't see the chauffeur. I realized he must have gotten away.
One of the female civilians that came out of the window with me kept falling. She'd run two or three steps, and she'd fall. I'd pick her up by the seat of her pants. I was throwing her in front of myself to try to keep her in front of me. She'd get up. She'd fall.
Not realizing it, but now thinking back, she had probably had a broken leg, if not two broken legs, and wasn't able to run, but I did manage to continue to throw her all the way across West Street and into the arms of an EMS worker, who put her on a stretcher and got her out of there immediately.
At that point, I started to run northwest. I dropped off my cylinder right at the center divider of West Street and started to run northwest away from the building towards the water, towards the Hudson River and towards where the rest of my company was yelling they were headed towards Stuyvesant High School.
After going about two or three blocks, I was far enough away from the smoke to turn around and see that what I thought had happened, actually had happened, that No. 2 World Trade Center did completely collapse, and not until that moment --- not until that point did I realize that the trade center actually was down.
After seeing that 2 World Trade Center had collapsed, I could see that it was a bad situation for 1 World Trade Center. I reported to the chief that there were maybe 40 or 50 members that were standing fast in that lobby, Chief Pfeifer, and he himself was in that lobby, and he got out of there, and he knew that there were a lot of the members in there.
I don't know at that point if anybody ever went back into the lobby of 1 to see if any of the members that were injured in there would have been able to get out of there, had they been able to get in there to help those people. I don't know if that occurred. But only after about 15 minutes and after running about two or three blocks away from the trade center, I started to see the top of 1 World Trade Center began to buckle, and at that point I thought the building was going to come down towards the north, and I wasn't far enough away at that point, and I needed to continue to run.
So I got back up with the rest of members from Ladder 10 and Engine 10, and we started to run further from the building, and then the building had come down upon itself, and at that point, we realized that now it was time to turn around and go back to the building to look for members that were possibly injured or pinned.
After going back to the building and regrouping, trying to report to chiefs to find out exactly how we should attack this, I had hooked up with members of Engine 10, Ladder 10 and other guys, and we grabbed some hose lines. We were trying to help extinguish some cars that were on fire, a couple of ambulances.
Quickly checked in the back of ambulance to see if there was somebody maybe that was in there that had gotten pinned or was burning. We put out a couple of car fires.
We ran back to the building and then seemed like all day long we were running back and forth into the building and out of the building as other structures were possibly going to collapse, and which, in fact, after a couple of hours No. 7 World Trade Center did collapse.
So it was continuous running back and forth and trying to help out as best we can looking for members, putting out fires, trying to make whatever kind of rescue efforts we can, try to get as many tools out of whatever rigs were close by, try to do some digging, still not knowing whether or not there were explosives in the cars surrounding the area, didn't really know whether or not there were more airplanes incoming, if the terrorist attack was actually over at that point.
The rest of the day, just trying to regroup with as many people as you can and try to get together and do some kind of effort to help the members.
Myself, knowing that there were people in the lobby of 1 World Trade, I entered through 6 World Trade to get into that lobby, only to find out that the lobby area was completely crushed. There was no way to even determine where it was at that point to try to figure out how to attack it or try to get in there and look for bodies or look for people.
That's pretty much it, and the next couple of days back and forth to the firehouse, trying to make the best effort we can to look underground, to look into the subways, to try to find people that we knew were alive. We had never come across anybody. We didn't come across anybody that was alive in any of the voids that we searched.
Then the next couple of days it became more and more organized and became a better effort to try to look for people, but, once again, never finding anybody, never coming across anyone that was alive from Engine 10 or Ladder 10.
Q: Are you finished?
Q: A couple of questions.
Q: After the first collapse, you said you heard people giving radio transmissions.
Did they identify themselves at all?
A: No, there was no identification given over the radio. I would imagine it almost sounded as if they were getting information off police radios, because they were giving me --- I also heard coming over the radio that they had heard information that a plane just hit the Supreme Court Building, a plane had hit the Pentagon, and this was coming over our radios.
Somebody, I would imagine, was out in the street and was maybe hearing something over the police department radio and was just making transmissions, whether they realized it was true or not.
Q: You said you hooked up with 10 and 10 later on and then by Stuyvesant.
Did most of those guys survive?
A: We had --- I think there were about 14 guys that day. We had 11 guys on duty and three guys that were laying over that had just got off, and we lost five, five of those guys.
Q: When you hooked up with the other guys, did they say where they had been operating?
A: Yeah. Members of Engine 10 had made it up to about the 23rd floor of the B stairwell in Tower 1. They had stopped there because someone was suffering from chest pains, and I believe it was a fireman that was suffering chest pains, and they stopped to assist him.
The officer, Lieutenant Atlas, continued up on his way, and I had heard the last report that he gave was on the 44th floor. He said he was on the 44th floor and continuing up, that he was going to try to get water on the fire.
At that point, Engine 10, the entire company wasn't with him. He was on his own, possibly with members of another company.
Officer of Ladder 10, the last I heard from him, he was on about the 31st floor. That was the last radio transmission I heard from Ladder 10, and I would imagine that he continued up with Lieutenant Atlas, because they had gotten in at the same time.
Q: If you have anything else to add, you are welcome to do it. Otherwise this is the end of the interview.
A: No that's pretty much it. That's our adventure.
Q: BATTALION CHIEF KEMLY: Thanks for your time.
THE WITNESS: Thank you.