It was 3am on 9/11/01, Our infant daughter kept me up most of the night. In 4 short hours, I had to get up for work. My wife Jennifer said to me; why don’t you take the day off? You didn’t get much sleep. I told her, I will take her advice. So around 8am, I called my supervisor Richard and told him I wasn’t feeling well. He said, no problem Joe, feel better.
I worked for the City of New York Office of the Inspector general for HPD, which was located on the 17th Floor of 2 Lafayette St. near City Hall, four blocks from the WTC. On a normal day, I would arrive to work from Staten Island around 9:10Am. I would often take an express bus the X4. The X4 would stop in front of the WTC daily and I would get off the next stop on Park Place. I remember saying to myself, I wished I could have worked in the WTC because the building was so nice compared to the old building I worked in.
My wife left for work and I stayed home to babysit on the morning of 9/11/01. I remember putting the TV on around 8:50am, while feeding my baby daughter her bottle. A little while later the TV signal went out. Then the phone rang, it was my wife. She said: A plane just hit the WTC. I told her, maybe it was just a small glider or something. After the call, I went outside to check on the cable TV wire, I put the TV on manual signal and only one channel was working, CBS. Then I saw for the first time the horror of the plane attack. While they were still showing the first attack, the second plane hit, then shortly theraefter the Pentagon was hit. At this point I was afraid that we were going to be invaded by a foreign enemy. My wife came home and I tried to call work. All phone signals were out.
On 9/12/01, with my IG/Law Enforcement ID and Inspector’s Badge, I boarded an Emergency Ferry Boat from Staten Island to Manhattan. Volunteers gave me a dust mask, gloves, a bottle of water and a sandwich. They assumed I was involved in the rescue. I made it from the Ferry to the WTC site and was stunned at what I saw. There was white smoke and dust everywhere. The smell was like burning metal, plastic and flesh. Te smell was so awful that I felt like vomiting. Fire trucks and military and police seemed to be everywhere. Climbing over the rubble, I finally made it to my job. Armed soldiers were guarding the front doors and ordered me away. I then decided to go to another building, at 100 Gold St. That was the Headquarters for the parent agency. I saw the HPD Commissioner in the lobby, which was being used as a relief station. I asked her if there was anything I can do to help. She asked what unit I was from, so I told her the IG’s office. They didn’t like the IG too much since we are the agency who audits them. She rudely said: No, Go Home, We Are Closed. After risking my neck to get there to help, I felt very disappointed and walked back towards the Ferry. Then I stopped and looked around, it looked like nuclear winter. I said to myself, this is bad, this is really bad, It could be months before the City is back to normal. I ran into a coworker who was also trying to get in touch with people. He said that I should get a call from a supervisor that week. I did not.
When I made it home, the smoke was starting to cross over the bay to Staten Island. I placed a dust mask on my infant daughters face, looked at my wife and step son and said, Let;s get the heck out of here. So we loaded up our minivan and headed to stay her grandmother’s house in Tom’s River NJ. Seeing how quiet and distanced this area was from the attack, it all seemed surreal.
When all was said and done, I found out that 4 of my friends who were firemen died. Sean Hanley, John Schardt, Steve Olsen and Frank Espisito, About a month after 9/11 they let us back into the building to work, The stench of the WTC remained in the file cabinets years later. I eventually transferred to another agency and eventually moved to Scranton, PA. It’s a good thing I did, since the beach cottage we rented on Staten Island was eventually destroyed by Super Storm Sandy in 2012. I thank the good Lord for protecting me and my family. If my wife hadn’t told me to stay home on 9/11, I may have walked right into the collapse since the South Ferry was South of there I worked.