By Jennifer Snook @SIRJID
On September 8, the Veterans First program held Never Forget, a remembrance for 9/11.
The remembrance consisted of a dedication ceremony for a new flagpole outside the Veterans First office and a speech by keynote speaker fire Lt. Joe Torrillo inside the Mertes Center for the Arts.
At the dedication speaker, Veterans First coordinator thanked the members of the LPCCD board and Chancellor Jannett Jackson for their support of the Veterans First program. The U.S. Marine Corps presented the colors. Jackson then dedicated the new area for use by the Veteran’s First Program and the rest of the school. Finally, Torrillo emphasized the need for unity among Americans in the face of external threats and internal strife.
In the Mertes Center for the arts, Torrillo recounted his story of the attack on the World Trade Center.
He was on medical leave from active duty due to an injury he had suffered nearly five years earlier. In the meantime, he had become the director of NYFD’s Fire Safety program.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Torrillo was set to give a press conference revealing Billy Blazes, a Fisher Price action figure he had helped design.
On his way to the conference, the first plane struck the North Tower. Torrillo changed course to the firehouse across the street from the South Tower, which happened to be the first firehouse he had served in.
When he exited the firehouse in borrowed gear, the second plane flew overhead and struck the South Tower.
Deducing that the tower would collapse, Torrillo began evacuating emergency personnel and civilians to a safe distance. He himself, however, did not escape the area before the first tower collapsed.
Torrillo was trapped under rubble for about forty-five minutes before rescue workers extracted him. He was placed on a barge in the Hudson River to be transferred to a hospital. Before he could be, the second tower fell, burying the boat. Torrillo escaped by diving into the engine room.
When he next awoke, he was at a hospital in New Jersey. Because of his borrowed gear, he had been incorrectly identified and declared dead for three days.
Torrillo has since travelled the country, giving speeches and appearing at events. Last year, he was also selected to testify at the trial of the five men who orchestrated the attack.
Meanwhile, he continues travelling and speaking, hoping to prove that, together, America can overcome any obstacles.