The attacks in New York City on September 11th, 2001 shook our country forever and although it happened almost twenty years ago, for some, the memories still linger.
Especially for one firefighter who visited Lansford, North Dakota today, to share his close encounter with that horrific day.
Joe Torrillo said, “The birds were singing in harmony, the sun was shining, we were voting for the new mayor, it was the first day of school, everything was perfect that morning until 8:46.”
And that’s when tragedy struck.
The north tower of the World Trade Center was hit by an airliner and Torrillo who was an off-duty firefighter that day was on the way to a press conference.
“Instead of going to the press conference, I went to the World Trade Center and I went to my old firehouse and I borrowed an old set of firefighting gear,” Torrillo said.
Torrillo says he sprung into action.
“As I was running to the north tower, I had to pass the south tower, the second jet came over my head and slammed into the south tower. I was right underneath the jet and at that point, I said three things. We’re under a terrorist attack, I said everybody at the top of the building is going to die, and I said these buildings were going to collapse, but nobody would listen to me,” he said.
That didn’t stop Torrillo from helping people get to safety, but in the midst of helping others is when the legs of the first building gave out, and soon after, the second one too.
“And I myself got caught in the collapse and buried alive,” Torrillo said.
Torrillo, fighting for his life, was identified as one of the 344 firemen who were killed in the line of action.
“Nobody thought to check other states for victims so for three days they didn’t know where I was. So for three days, I was declared dead for three days,” he said.
After being rescued and getting another chance at life he began traveling the country, telling his story.
On Saturday he did just that, visiting the Lansford Fire Department along with eight other volunteer stations to celebrate and honor their sacrifice of being firefighters.
“To be able to hear from Lt. Torillo, a true hero, on the ground, 9/11, 2001, I mean what a wonderful thing for us to be able to experience here tonight together,” Lansford Fire Department Staff Charlie Adams said.
“I want to really reiterate the importance of being a volunteer firefighter so that everybody understands the purpose and the benefit that they provide for their community,” Torrillo said.
More than a hundred people were at tonight’s event and the Lansford Fire Department served them a ribeye dinner.