tv CNN Films Presents 911 15 Years Later CNN September 11, 2016 8:00pm-10:01pm PDT
center. >> i saw the second one hit the other tower. >> as the first tower fell. a day we'll never forget. >> tower one, evacuate the building. >> 9/11. >> 15 years have seen monumental changes in lower manhattan. for some, september 11, 2001 seems a lifetime ago. for others it was just yesterday. but for everyone in this country the ruthless attack that happened on that clear sunny day is seared in our minds. good evening. i'm denis leary. the entire nation gasped when the twin towers reaching high into the sky, symbols of success and achievement and possibility were brought crashing down when two hijacked jet liners flew
directly into them. here at the 9/11 memorial and museum are the names of the almost 3,000 innocent lives that were lost that day, including 343 of new york's bravest. cnn is honored to bring you the epic film 9/11 that was born 15 years ago when two french brothers, jules and gedeon naudet along with firefighter james hanlon were filming about a rookie new york fireman in downtown manhattan. on september 11th their film about a year in the life of a young firefighter was transformed into a gripping minute by minute eyewitness account of the first responders who rushed to the scene and tried to save people while the towers burned then fell. the brothers kept their cameras rolling, capturing historic footage of new york's real life heroes, heading towards danger in the area that became known as ground zero. ♪ ♪
>> when you work in a firehouse seven blocks from the two tallest buildings in new york, you get to know every step, every staircase, every story. >> jim. couldn't get too close to -- >> i'm james hanlon. i'm a filmmaker and a fireman at ladder 1 downtown. during the summer before 9/11 there were days we'd go to the
trade center five times in a single shift. >> we'll send you some help. >> my point is, we knew those towers as well as anybody. but nobody, nobody expected september 11th. [ screaming ] >> the world trade center. >> on that day, guys from my firehouse, my best friends, were some of the first firefighters
into tower one after the plane hit. what they did that day, what everyone there did was remarkable. >> chief! >> and almost as remarkable, it was captured on videotape inside the tower. beginning to end. and tonight you'll see all of it. the tape was shot by two brothers, jules and gedeon naudet. they're documentary filmmakers
and old friends of mine. >> there is always a witness for history, i guess. that day we were chosen to be the witness. >> the strange thing is the tape, the whole story, it kind of happened by accident. i mean, we didn't mean to make a documentary about 9/11. we wanted to make a documentary about a firefighter. that's how the whole thing got started. >> nine, ten, one, two, three. >> more to the point, the plan was to follow a rookie. on the job we call them probies. >> the idea was to show how a kid almost become a man in nine months. >> my name is paul denver. >> john carroll. >> antonio benetatos. tony for short.
>> i was police officer. for a while i was a pizza man actually. >> i was pizza man in the bronx. >> this is my first job. sounds cheesy, i wanted to be a hero. this is where you can do that. >> this is the kid. this is the kid. let's go. >> we got tony assigned to my firehouse, one of the biggest in the city. that's a lot. plus a whole lot of company, engine 7. guys who fought some of the worst fires you can imagine. >> what's the matter with it? >> soon they'd face the unthinkable. question was, would tony be ready? >> i'm terrified. this is what i want to do, but it's -- it's scary. you know, i'm still worried how i'll actually react when there's fire flying over my head. >> the thing is when you're a probie what you're supposed to do -- >> we change the sheets.
>> -- is pretty much everything. >> more music and traffic coming up. it's 6:22. ♪ oh i got work to do ♪ i got a job babe ♪ i got work to do ♪ i got work to do ♪ i got work to do >> start at top and wash the rig down. >> i think i'm doing decently. you know, i'm still waiting for a fire, that's all. >> engine. [ sirens ] >> should we grab that big long thing from the back? >> tony was nervous, of course. should be nervous.
and as the days would pass, tony waiting for his first fire, wanted to prove to the other guys and even more to himself that he was going to be a real great fireman. >> you're going to laugh about it. that's how we do it. >> it's all part of learning how to handle people and situations. >> say you got up there now. you got your helmet on, your bunker gear, you got to get your mask on. how will you do that without letting go? >> i don't know. >> start moving, guys. >> hurry up. >> not bad. >> payday today, baby. >> yes. >> for two weeks i got $672.25. >> you got to be kidding me. can't even buy a six-pack with that. >> if i wanted to become rich, i would have become a lawyer.
but i wanted something that i'd be able to live with for the rest of my life. this i can live with. >> a lot of guys feel that way. >> you get up in the morning and look yourself in the mirror and say you're doing something with your life. >> hit the door. >> you do your job. you risk your life to help people. and to be part of a family at the firehouse. ♪ >> whoa. >> been four weeks i think, five weeks, something like that and i'm still -- still no fire. but it will come. probably when i'm asleep and not ready for it. that's when it will come. 2:30 in the morning. you can't sleep. man. >> all right.
trust me, when the alarm goes off, we'll come and get you. [ sirens ] >> i got spray water. like that, it's going to be a fun 20 years. >> there's a fire here. there's a fire. see? start the line. put out the steaks. >> by the end of august we knew we had great cooking show, and there were no fires. but every time we talk with some of the senior guys they always tell us, well, be careful what you wish for. >> yesterday, a 27-year-old
>> at the time we didn't think there could be anything worse than losing a single firefighter. looking back, we were all just kind of innocent, especially tony. >> a bunch of the guys were talking about what different parts usually get you at the funeral. when the coffin went past, that was -- that was a little -- i don't know. i know, i hope it's my last one. ♪ >> go straight up right now. a lot of things going on at all times, you know. you have to be on the top of your game. >> right. >> there's a lot of things to think about, you know? tunnel vision. focus, really.
because that's what's going to keep you alive and that's what's going to give you the opportunity to help anybody else. >> right. >> fire or no fire, tony had learned a lot that summer. sure, he had a ways to go, but we'd teach him. as far as we knew, there was plenty of time. a few days later jules cooked a french dinner for the guys. at least he tried to. >> i decided to cook leg of lamb. >> i think he cooked one. and we needed at least five. >> there's frenchie. a couple more meals like this, we'll be able to share shirts. >> we stayed up late just telling jokes and busting chops. >> the best part of the meal. >> even though the guys were making fun of us because we didn't cook enough, we were having a great time. we were getting accepted.
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sort of a cliche, but really september 11th started out like every other day. i was off that day. 13 guys from my firehouse were on. >> around 8:30. >> engine, ladder. >> i believe the run came in. >> get the run for a gas leak or an odor of gas in the street actually, i think it was. odor of gas. you don't think anything of it. you get on the rig and go. okay. it's an odor of gas. >> jules was riding with the battalion chief joseph pfeifer, videotaping. >> just another call. i'm riding with the battalion chief. >> we checked the area with meters. and it was kind of routine. >> it was 8:46 in the morning. that's when this stopped even resembling a normal day.
>> holy shit! holy shit! holy shit! >> right then and there i knew that this was going to be the worst day of my life as a firefighter. >> go to the world trade center. >> immediately i knew this wasn't an accident. >> oh, my god. that looked like a direct impact. >> chief pfeifer made the first official report. >> we have the floors on fire. it looked like the plane was aiming towards the building. third alarm. we'll have the staging area.
west street. >> everyone he was passing was looking up. it was like the world just stopped. >> we're getting a look at the world trade center. we have something that has happened here, a plane and a lot of smoke from one of the towers. whatever has occurred has just occurred within minutes and we're trying to determine exactly what that is. >> as we swung around in front of the world trade, my mind tells me, wow, this is bad. >> what do we do? what do we do for this? [ sirens ] >> we parked right under the awning of one world trade center. the chief puts his gear on. i remember asking, chief, can i come in with you? i want to come in with you. and he says yes.
>> yeah, you stay with me. >> come in with me. never leave my side. i go. and i hear screams. and right to my right there was two people on fire burning. i just didn't want to film that. it was like no one, no one should see this. >> pfeifer was the first chief into the building. right away a guy from the port authority told him the damage was somewhere above the 78th floor. but all you had to do was look around. it was obvious something had happened right there in the lobby. >> you just saw that all the windows were blown out. the lobby looked like the plane hit the lobby. >> later they figure out that flaming jet fuel had shot straight down the elevator shaft.
>> all this damage was done already. it was all over the place. you knew it was going to be worse when we got upstairs. >> flames are shooting out. smoke is pouring. >> my main concern was we had 20 floors of people above. and we had to figure out a way to get them out. as it turned out, we had no usable elevators. >> with the elevators out, there was only one way to get up there.
walk. >> companies come in. you see them. there's a concerned look on their face. and they're sent up. >> a firefighter in full gear carrying 60-something pounds of hose and equipment takes about a minute to climb one flight of stairs. these guys were looking at 80 stories just to get there. then they'd start working. >> i thought that we were going to put the fire out. everyone seemed to be confident. i know i was. >> we basically looked at it,
okay, we got 10, 20 stories of fire. you know, we'll deal with it. we'll get up there. you know, we'll get to it. >> there are fire crews just streaming into this area from every conceivable direction. >> by this time, some of the top chiefs in the department had joined chief pfeifer, running the command post, sending guys upstairs. one of the men who went up was lieutenant kevin pfeifer who was in charge of engine 33 and was the chief's brother. >> i just remember we both looked at each other, said a few words, but it was more the look of real concern that this was going to be something tough. >> it was going to be a tough job. it's going to be a long job.
they'll put it out. that's what they do. >> the last time jules had seen his brother was an hour ago at the firehouse. as far as jules knew, gedeon had followed tony, the probie, into the tower. >> for me my brother is going up the stairs. >> it turns out, gedeon was with tony. but tony was still at the firehouse. >> no, i was off duty. >> and now he'd been ordered to stay there. >> everybody's been recalled. all available units must come back to the firehouse. >> while tony tried to keep up with the phones -- >> this is firefighter benetatos. >> gedeon took his camera and started walking down towards the trade center. he was sure his brother was inside. and he wanted to get to him.
>> what really stick in my mind is passing by these people and filming them and filming their astonishment. i remember tilting the camera back and forth between the people and the towers in front of me. [ sirens ] >> both towers of the world trade center have been hit by aircraft. both are in flames. >> there is black smoke coming from both of the towers. it's a horrific scene here.
>> mayday. >> mayday, mayday. >> there were two planes. i saw the second one hit. it hit the other tower. >> all we knew a second plane hit. and we had a lot of people trapped. >> stay together. stay together. >> second plane. >> now the chiefs would have to set up a whole other operation over in tower two. >> when the second plane hit, that's when you could see fear. >> both of them are on fire. >> you could see it in everybody's eyes.
>> you saw a plane go in? >> right there. >> what are those people going to do? >> all the elevators are blocked out. the staircase must still be, right? >> stairs were crowded. people were coming down burnt. >> upstairs in tower one, the guys from my firehouse were now ten floors up and climbing. >> if we did talk, it was to the people coming down, trying to comfort them, telling them that it's all right. get out. stay calm. >> i wind up finding a woman in the c staircase. her arms were all burnt. she was just sitting there, basically in shock. so i picked her up under her arms and i put her within a group of guys and i asked the guys to, you know, take her
down. i knew we had to get up to help people. we had to get up there. >> people said pretty much why are you going up there? get out. >> their concern was to get everybody out. that was the key. as much people out as possible. >> most of the people in tower one came out on the mezzanine above the lobby. then they'd get out through another building. >> i want the use the lobby as a triage. >> the chiefs didn't want anyone going through the lobby doors. first, it was because debris was falling outside. then, it was people falling. >> you don't see it. but you know what it is.
you know every time you hear that crashing sound, it's a life which is extinguished. it's not something you can get used to. and the sound was so loud. >> i just remember looking up. thinking how bad it is up there that the better option is to jump? >> the fbi is now investigating reports of a plane hijacking before these crashes we're telling you about at the world trade center towers this morning. >> pieces of the building and the planes actually landed blocks away. gedeon was walking with his camera when he found a chunk of
the plane engine that crashed completely through tower two. >> don't be kicking this stuff. this is evidence. you don't kick it. just get out of the area. just go. this is evidence. you're kicking stuff. what's the matter with you? >> that was as close as gedeon would get to the trade center, without a firefighter, anyway. >> so i decided the smartest thing to do was to slowly walk back to the firehouse and find a way to get to jules. >> just getting word now one of the two planes was hijacked after takeoff from boston. >> two airplanes have crashed into the world trade center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. >> we have reports of a fire at the pentagon. fire at the pentagon being reported this morning. >> i was just saying that officials are calling this an act of terrorism. they are saying that's clearly what it is. clearly not an accident. >> arriving back at the
firehouse, and tony is still alone. he has no clue of what to do. >> the pentagon's on -- fire? war. this is war. >> just by listening to him, freaking out and swearing and behaving like i've never seen behaving. but tony was expressing what we all felt. >> the -- pentagon. somebody has balls. >> tony just wanted to go there. >> in the lobby the chiefs were trying to run the largest rescue operation any of them had ever seen. >> is there a phone that's working? >> the entire world knew more than we did. everybody had seen the attacks. everybody had seen the tower burning. [ speaking foreign language ]
>> seen the pentagon. >> for us, we didn't have a clue. >> on top of everything else, just talking to the guys in the stairwells was tough. >> battalion 7. >> the towers' internal communication setup had been knocked out by the crash. that left fire department radio. suddenly you have hundreds and hundreds of firefighters that have radios. seems to become more and more difficult. then one guy who was trying frantically to reach anyone on the elevators. >> is there anyone in this car?
>> i'm going through the list. >> hello. is there anyone in this car? >> there's about 98 elevators in the world trade center. >> in the middle of all this, suddenly an elevator opens up. and we see people not having a clue of what's going on. they've been stuck in there since the first plane hit. >> we were seeing the look on the firefighters. it was not fear. it was what's going on? disbelief. panic.
definitely panic. the first time i seen the father judge, the chaplain, as he's called. >> he was in the lobby with us. and i could tell that he was praying. you know, father judge, he would at least make eye contact with you and kind of give you a reassuring look. that wasn't occurring. almost like he knew that this was not good. >> back at the firehouse
off-duty guys were starting to show up. >> just waiting right now. >> what's that? >> we're just waiting right now. >> tony just had one thing in his mind, to go there. and he couldn't. that's when chief burns arrived. >> larry burns joined the fire department in 1957. he retired in 1998. a battalion chief. >> i couldn't wait. i had to get down there. because, you know what? they're my firefighters. that's my building. that's my city. >> get a flashlight and a bottle of water. >> okay. >> i remember tony asking me to bring him some gloves, some medical gloves. >> go grab a box of gloves. >> by the time i found them and rushed back, they were gone. >> the pro brbie and the retired
chief were lost in the crowd, headed down to the trade center. >> i think at that point the lobby was pretty empty. there were just a few of us in the lobby, and we were discussing tactics. >> this is tower one. >> this is tower one. >> some of the outlying companies didn't know what tower one was and tower two. so we were just trying to help them out by writing it on the desk to make it obvious to people. >> it was just before 10:00. a little over an hour since the first plane hit. firefighters from all over the city were inside those towers. hundreds of them. >> i remember i'm filming chief pfeifer, and he's on the radio. [ loud crashing ]
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a situation starting bad just gets worse and worse and worse. the world trade center south tower, which was hit by a plane and wrecked by an explosion approximately an hour ago has totally collapsed. >> what happened? >> if you're just joining us this morning, you're in for a horrific surprise. >> what you see in hollywood, people walking around with cell phones in tears holding their heads looking up what's left of
the world trade center and shaking their heads in disbelief. >> out on the street everyone knew what just happened. >> the south tower was gone. they saw it collapse and ran. >> i waited. time slowed down and everything became pitch black. >> everybody all right? >> yeah, i'm okay. >> how's the way out of here? >> then realized, okay, i'm not dead. >> i'm right here. >> so let's turn on my flood light on top of my camera.
>> all right, come on down this way. >> yeah, let's get out the way we came in. [ coughing ] >> everybody down. >> inside the trade center all jules and chief pfeifer knew, all anyone knew was that something had gone terribly wrong. >> you all right? >> they asked me, you, with the light. help us out. so i was pointing my light wherever they needed. >> right here. >> i remember seeing chief pfeifer. >> evacuate the building. >> from tower one, all units. evacuate the building. all units. >> he gave it right away, very calm. didn't wait. and for him, it was a
precaution. okay. something wrong is happening. let's get everybody out. >> let's get a flashlight. >> from the tone of his voice i knew that it was no normal thing. i knew it was time to leave. >> i remember saying to the guys, we're on our own now. and for the first time i looked in someone else's eyes and saw fear. which you don't see with firemen. we orderly evacuated. it was a long walk. 17, 16, 15, 14, 13. >> i was going down the stairs. i can remember a fireman resting on the landing and telling them, you know, we've heard a mayday, get out of the building. i don't think a lot of them, i know they didn't take it serious. >> hey, pete, come on. pete! >> i was not even consciously filming. i just had my camera by my side and pointing the light wherever they needed.
needed my light to actually help someone. and then i realized it was father judge. >> i saw him lying at the base of the escalator where we were. and i removed his white collar, and i opened up his shirt. and i remember checking for his pulse and realized at that time he was gone. >> we got four guys. on top of the escalator. >> top of the escalator? >> after that we had to figure out how to get out. boy, we were -- because if you go out this way, right where we
are now people are still jumping, debris still falling and it's too dangerous. can't go out this way. >> world trade center, took a hit on that last explosion. >> which way? >> get out here? get out this way. >> go across. >> chief pfeifer tells the people carrying father judge, stay here. i tell them, i'll be back. wait here. i'll see if the bridge is still here. >> chief pfeifer went to check one of the foot bridges leading out of the trade center. if it was still standing it would be the best y out. >> did you hear what happened to
>> let's go. it blew up. this way! >> and it's dead silence. nothing. no radio calls. no sound. nothing. and i feel a person who was on top of me get up. >> get up. >> and i recognize it's chief pfeiffer, and i realized he jumped on top of me to protect me from all of this. chief pfeiffer says, okay, let's go now. we get up.
the dust starts to clear because the wind is blowing in the opposite direction. after that, it was just trying to literally walk around the block and walk back to the scene and see what we could do. >> this is the most surreal scene i have ever seen. i cannot describe what took place. >> it is a scene just not to be believed. the smoke still billowing. what we do have is a lockdown. you can't get in. you can't get out. you can't go up. you can't go down. >> i see that i'm still in the middle of the street, and i see
there's a little deli. seems to be open on the corner. a lot of people injured. firefighters, bloody nose, things like that. and then it hits me. where is my brother? i start realizing that i've probably lost my brother. so i try to go back to the world trade center. i need to go find my brother. >> where are the guys? >> i have no idea. i was with chief pfeifer. i'm in the middle of the street walking.
a cop approached me and says, who are you with? >> i'm with the chief of battalion one. >> oh, you're battalion one? you have i.d.? take your letter and your camera and get out of here, all right? go. >> so i go back up, walk north, not really knowing where i'm going. >> police department? >> no, i'm making a documentary on the fire department. >> come on, this ain't disneyland. let's go. >> after awhile, i said, there's nothing i can do here. i need to go back to the fire house. maybe they'll have some news. maybe he's already back there. at that point, i just -- i think he's dead. and it becomes too overwhelming.
and there's so many dead. very emotional. a lot of guys are crying. so many thoughts and emotions. >> we lucked out. we were in one. they told us to get out. >> two fell first? >> yeah, two fell first. >> one didn't fall first? >> that's why they were getting us out. >> we got to call our loved ones and tell them we were okay. >> it was sick. we just got out. i got two blocks and i'm like, i'm still not far enough. >> you just needed to be with the guys, you know. >> i couldn't get back in. they wouldn't let me up. >> i was never so glad to see firemen in my life. it was a great thing to know that people were surviving this. >> i thought you guys were dead. >> you're not the only one. i thought i was dead. that was the scariest thing. >> it's like, oh, my god, am i
glad to see you. we were the lucky ones. >> i don't think it's luck. it's a miracle that we're here. >> miracle isn't a word you hear much from firefighters, especially not on that day. but what else could you call it? one guy after another was making it back safe. >> i can't believe we all made it out. how did we make it out of that building? 30 seconds, another two flights higher. >> one guy from the fire house came to me, and i asked him, you know, have you seen jules?
do you know where he is? he looked at me and said, yes, he's behind you. i turn over, and jules was there in the fire house. i didn't even see him coming in. and it was like meeting for the first time. >> i asked if he was all right. he tells me yes. he tells me he was all that time in the lobby. >> i tell him i know now what it's like to think you're going to die. then i tell him i got the first
plane and i filmed and do you have enough tape. >> unbelievable. unbelievable. >> you okay? >> yeah. >> close? okay, good. >> it was a miracle, you know. >> we were worried about you guys. we didn't know what happened to you guys. everybody's all right? everybody's accounts for? everybody's accounted for? >> everybody come back one by one to the fire house, except one. >> did you see tony over there? >> we were all accounted for except for tony. everybody was wondering about tony.
>> when i came back that day to the fire house, one firefighter came to me and he said, you know, yesterday you had one brother. today you have 50. >> it's hard to even describe the emotions in the fire house that day. >> you heard the ground rumble and debris was just chasing you. we were running, hauling ass. >> on the one hand, you're celebrating. somehow the guys from our house,
they got out. >> we lost so much in that two-hour period. and we felt like we got the hell kicked out of us. >> i don't know what to do. go back down there or what? >> at the same time, we knew hundreds of firefighters, thousands of people had to have died in those towers. and every hour that passed, we were more certain tony was one of them. >> hey, guys. deputy chief hill called. first division. he doesn't want anybody else down there right now. >> but the truth is, the guys had to go back, had to start digging for survivors. >> i had to go back and find the kid.
>> it's gone, man. >> 7 came down? >> i got down there just as 7 world trade finally collapsed. no sign of tony anywhere. it had to be almost 6:00, nine hours after everything started, that tony just walked in. >> i walked in like in a daze. everyone's like, it's benetatos. you're all right. >> you okay? >> yeah, i'm all right. >> what happened on your end? >> i was in the building. >> were you? >> yeah. >> is everyone from the house -- everyone? >> everyone is accounted for. >> i just asked, did everyone get back? and they were like, yeah.
that felt pretty good. >> i left here right after the first collapse. >> turns out tony had been with larry burns the whole time, the proby and the retired chief. they were right there when tower one came down. >> i checked all the rigs. there were rigs crushed. paramedic trucks covered with rubble, flipped, fires burning everywhere, huge fires. that whole day, i just searched through rubble, lifting things up, checking underneath. >> this is hard for him. just very hard. he's only been a firefighter for, you know, a couple of months. but he proved himself that day to all the guys.
>> there was so much we didn't know about that first day. who had attacked us, how, why. all we knew is nothing would ever be the same. >> just a short while ago, mayor giuliani held a news conference saying it's important not to lash out in anger because of the attacks. >> you all right? >> yeah, i'm all right. >> one of the things that sticks with me more than anything i saw as i sat down next to ted. he looked real bad. said, tony, man, it was raining bodies. >> we were on the roof of the marriott. there was parts all over the place. legs, feet. it was nasty. >> the man had been through hell. >> good evening. today our fellow citizens, our
way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. >> it's a very depressed, dismal, miserable mood. hundreds of firemen, thousands of civilians are gone. as much -- as quickly as you blow out a match, flip of a switch, they're gone. that's it. buildings came down. gone. >> it's hard to believe they're not there. they're not there. >> it did happen, right? it's not something that i'm going to close my eyes and open them again and i'm going to see the tower, right? it's not there.
>> around midnight, we sent tony up to lower the flag to half-mast, again. >> there's going to be a lot of pain to deal with in the future. a lot of guys, we all lost friends and family. >> i don't want to ever have to put that thing at half-mast again for the rest of my career. that's it. >> until the recall ends, it's 24 on, 24 off, 24 on, 24 off. >> we got word we'd start digging in the morning. some of the guys with wives and kids went home, just for a few
he had a big smile on his face, and it was wonderful to see that smile again. >> probably the best, best entrance i ever made to a place. >> the kids came out, and we just kind of all cried in one big hug. we just cried. ♪ >> came back to the fire house the next day. i couldn't wait to get back, actually, because i wanted to get down. i figured, we're going to have plenty of people that are going to be trapped for sure. we're going to get them out. we have to. we always do. >> we're all alive. that's more than we could have possibly hoped for. so our job now is to go and do whatever needs to be done and do it as much and as hard as we can for as long as they'll let us. >> some of the guys took the city bus down to what the media was already calling ground zero. >> extra surgical gloves. you guys need to put them in your pockets. >> some firemen called it the pile.
that i always wanted to deny, how evil, evil can be. >> i need five firefighters. >> we went down there and formed up companies, five men and an officer. we went to work right away, trying to look for survivors. >> can i get some buckets back here? >> guys were digging fast, passing those buckets quick. digging frantically. >> watch your back, guys. >> we'd be digging, and all of the sudden everyone would say
quiet. and the whole place would get quiet and people would look. >> hello! >> then slowly they would go back to work and start again. and that's how things went down there. >> we'd clear what we could by hand. the iron workers would come in, cut the steal beams and lift them out. then we'd just start digging again. >> you have two 110-story office buildings. you don't find a desk. you don't find a chair.
you don't find a telephone, a computer. the biggest piece of a telephone i found was half of the keypad, and it was about this big. the building collapsed to dust. how are we supposed to find anybody in this? there's nothing left of the building. >> bucket! >> we found a body. it was a girl. she was dead. she was definitely dead. all her clothes had been burned off her. she looked to be pregnant. some people thought maybe she was just bloated, but i don't think so. she was encased in rubble. we had her about halfway uncovered and getting the body bag ready, and then they told us to run. and we ran.
so i never got to see if they got her out. it would have felt good saying at least i got one person out, one family will be able to have a decent funeral. >> quiet! >> our first shift was 24 hours. and in all that time, there was one person pulled out alive. one. it was beyond discouraging. it was even hard to understand.
walking back to the fire house, people were cheering us, but we sure didn't feel like heroes. >> every day total strangers were showing up with supplies. >> somebody said you could still use towels. that's the end of the towels. >> thank you very much. >> i know it's early in the operation here, but i just wanted to thank everyone for all the hard work they've been doing. how we're here, only god knows, but again, guys, thank you so much. i really -- you have no idea. [ applause ]
>> check the lockers, bro. all the lockers. take whatever. >> listen, we tried to keep hope, but as days turned into weeks, we began to accept there just wasn't anybody to find. >> hey, chief. >> yes, sir. >> we got another body over here. >> day after day, it pushed guys to their limit, maybe past it. >> a lot of guys don't know if they can do the job anymore. i know it's either this or the army now. and i like saving lives. i don't like taking them. but after what i saw, if my country decides to send me to go kill, i'll do it now. >> every night the fire department would put out a list of firefighters confirmed dead,
and every night that list got longer. >> it is with regret that the department announces the deaths of the following members. battalion chief john p. williamson. firefighter william herrett. firefighter eric t. allen. >> we lost so many people, and everybody has lost dear friends, and not just one or two, but dozens. ♪ >> most days there was a memorial service for some guy you knew. some days two or three, some days four. ♪ one of those services was for kevin pfeifer, the chief's brother.
he was last seen in the stairs of tower one, directing guys to the fastest way out of the building. >> i would say that chief pfeifer's brother saved my life. saved a lot of lives. and i remember walking down west street, just remembering, saying, you know, how much my brother and i used to love being downtown and doing this job. and -- and -- and how now i didn't love it anymore.
>> eventually, we started going on runs again. >> feels good, though. >> and trying our best to love the job again. but things will never be the way they were. >> as for jules and gedeon, it's strange how things work out. in the beginning, they came to me and said, let's make a documentary about a boy becoming a man. during this nine-month probationary period, turns out tony became a man in about nine hours trying to help out on 9/11. >> you know how you could tell that? he's not bragging about it.
>> do i feel like it's given me more of a sense of self-worth? yes. has it made me a man? what's a man? >> i don't think it's so much the severity of an event that alters who you are. i think it's how you interpret it that changes who you are. >> we keep forgetting how many people were saved on that day. >> stay together. stay together. >> on 9/11, firefighters saved 20,000 people. >> to have that much respect for human life, i'm honored. sometimes i still don't think i'm worthy. but i am honored to be a fireman.
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here in the 9/11 memorial museum, the last column, as it's known, reminds visitors of the 343 members of the fdny who lost their lives. the largest loss of firefighters in this country's history. 9/11 was a day that defined the end of an era and the dawn of another, making us understand we are vulnerable as a nation. and ever since, we've been adjusting to our new normal. wars overseas, acts of terror at home and abroad, and an ever-present fear of where the
next attack will come from. tonight we meet again some of the firefighters from the documentary who live the true meaning of heroism every day of their lives. >> 15 years have passed. the firefighters of engine 7 and ladder 1 have a new responsibility soaring over the neighborhood, the freedom tower, world trade center one. the fire house on dewayne street is busier than ever. only a handful from 9/11 are still there. one of them is john. >> the new guys that are coming on are just as good as the guys we had before. they're so eager to learn and work. now i'm one of the old guys in the fire house. >> the fire house now responds to nearly 6,000 emergencies a year. >> there's nothing like getting on the rig, pulling down broadway with the lights and sirens.
>> johnny mac, as he's called in the fire house, had been there for eight years on september 11th, 2001. >> it was just a terrible day, and it's tough being the hero. that's why i don't like that whole thing and whatever anybody says about that. we were there. we saw it firsthand. for me, the best thing i ever did was stay at the fire house and stay down there. i think that was my therapy. a lot of guys after 9/11 had a lot of trouble. drinking and depression and post-traumatic stress. that's real. it's definitely real. we had a lot of support groups, but the only real support group for the firemen were the other men. that's all. the fire house for me. >> all right, babe. have a good day. >> still that same fire house for steve rogers, too. >> the fire house is a big family. you have your family at home and your second family is the fire house. when something happens, guys gather together. everybody steps up and does the right thing. that's what a family does.
>> and that's what steve did when he rushed into work on 9/11, his day off. >> i think truly 9/11 should be a national holiday. a lot of heroes that day. there were people that were doing extraordinary things. they should be remembered. >> driving to work for 31 years, the changing skyline has meaning for him. >> when i used to come over the bridge from staten island, come to work and look at the skyline, you always see the trade center towers and everything. for a long time, there was nothing there. now actually it fills a void. it just makes you proud. >> dennis tardio retired in 2002. >> even if 9/11 never happened, it's a tough job to leave. there's no other job like it. the brotherhood, camaraderie. >> he says not a day goes by without remembering. >> when my head hits the pillow at night, i can see that plane hitting the tower. >> it's hard to believe they're
not there. they're not there. >> that's etched in my mind and will always be there. >> the memories also used to haunt ron schmutzler. he was promoted to chief the year after 9/11 and asked for a transfer. >> i felt like i wanted to leave because every day you'd be driving by the site. it was a reminder of my 343 guys. >> but the fdny had other plans for him. >> i thought for sure i'd be moved. the chief of the department said, we lost so many guys in lower manhattan, i'm going to ask you to stay. stay for two years and help us out down there to rebuild. rebuild the fire department. get us back to where we were. so i did. and after two years was up, i stayed.
i became a battalion chief, and i watched the fire houses grow again. and it was like a breath of fresh air to see the young guys coming back into the fire house again. it took years and years for us to rebuild and to get back to where we were. >> quite a view. >> he's now in charge of all seven fire companies in lower manhattan. >> 15 years flew by, and now you look at the entire landscape down here has changed so fast, so rapidly. the high rises that are going up, one building is bigger than the next. seems like they can't build them big enough and can't build them fast enough. we're looking at new ways of getting the firemen up faster to the fires. there's that many more people in the building to worry about. >> worrying about the public safety is also front and center for chris connor. he retired from the fdny and became a safety expert on construction sites. >> as my luck would have it, i was assigned to work back at the world trade center.
i was back at the scene of the crime, so to speak, back in a place where i never wanted to go again. >> he has spent seven of the last ten years within the 16-acre site. >> when i started to work there, it was still very much a hole in the ground. you had to literally walk down a ten-story ladder into the bottom of what we called the pit as firefighters. eventually when the below-grade construction was completed and the buildings started to come out of the ground, for me, that's when the magic happened. you really saw these beautiful, beautiful buildings. >> the first of five towers planned for the site opened in 2014, world trade center one. at 104 stories, 1,776 feet high, it's the tallest building in the united states with a bomb-resistant base, and like most new high rises, a concrete core. >> they've gone above and beyond the new york city building code, which is very strict.
>> also now open, the marble transportation hub with its startling sculpture oculus. it's the most expensive train station ever built. cost -- $4 billion. safety for the rebuilt area, as well as all of new york city, rests on the shoulders of fdny commissioner daniel nigro. >> since 9/11, buildings have become stronger, and the record of high-rise buildings is that they are safe. as the city continues to grow vertically, and that's happening at such a rapid pace, we hope we have the ability to keep up with it, but it is certainly taxing to our people. >> chief joseph pfeifer, who lost his brother kevin, a lieutenant in the fire department, has turned that personal trauma into purpose. >> the thoughts of my brother
and losing him on 9/11 actually shifts a lot of my own thinking to how do we make it safer for our firefighters? >> he's now the fdny's chief of counterterrorism and emergency preparedness and leads drills together with the police department. he's invited to speak around the world and went to paris after the november attacks. >> let me tell you some of my nightmares. >> to share strategies with the french first responders. >> the thing we're worried about is a vertical threat, multiple floors. >> one of the things we need to prepare for is to deal with a terrorist attack on high-rise buildings. the use of automatic weapons and explosives and the use of fire as a weapon.
>> the 9/11 firefighters who now make up the fdny's top brass talk about managing the next attack. >> terrorism is always on your mind today. so when this does happen again, i think we will be a little more prepared. >> prepared so that nothing resembling that devastating death toll, losing 343 in one day, ever happens again. >> there is such a thing as survivor's guilt. i would have to say most of us who made it out that day have it. as somebody who was in charge that day, i probably have the biggest case in the department. but it's something one must learn to live with. >> new york firefighters are also learning to live with the physical toll working at ground zero took on so many of them. diagnosed with a variety of cancers linked to breathing in
that 9/11 dust. in 2006, we talked to retired chief larry burns about the gathering storm of disease. >> there's something out there cooking in all of us, and i fear for what ten years are going to bring us. >> and last year our beloved chief larry burns died from a 9/11 related cancer. the third from the dewayne street fire house. there are now 127 names inscribed at the fdny headquarters, firefighters who died from 9/11 related diseases. among them, john sullivan who died of pancreatic cancer. his son mike is a legacy kid. the fdny's term for the new generation related to firefighters who died in the line of duty 9/11. >> it's not the day he passed away, but it's the day that made him pass away. >> mike works in upper manhattan, ladder 34, the same
fire house as his father and grandfather. >> what i like most about being on the job is, hands down, the family and where i am. seeing your guys in the house, they're so amazing. they're like my uncles and now are brothers. they've taught me a lot between cooking -- that's the big thing. you know, i was a hot pocket guy before. now, watch out. i've spent my career at hook and ladder 34 because that's what i love. it's the most beautiful rig on the job. those tillers are, you know, that's sexy right there. >> the fire house's street has
been named for his father, john p. sullivan way. >> the only thing i can hope that one day is that i make an impact, that at the end of my career, i can put my boots next to his. i don't want to fill his. i can never fill his. i'm too emotional. he's tough. tough box of nails, that guy. i'd do anything to have him back. he could have this job if it meant my father standing in front of me today. >> our legacy kids are special. i think it says a lot about what's inside them. it most likely says a lot about their parents and how they lived their lives. >> it was after 9/11 when i knew that i have to make sure i get on this job. for me wanting to always be a firefighter, but for also me wanting to carry on my father's
legacy. >> another legacy kid, josephine smith. her dad kevin was a hazmat specialist. her father rushed to the towers after the first plane hit. he never came home, and his body was never recovered. >> i'm always looking up at my dad. you're going to see, dad. i'm going to be a firefighter. like, i'm going to work with you. he never said no. he never said, no, i don't want you being a firefighter. no, you can't be a firefighter. like, girls can't be firefighters. he never told me that. he would just smile. i always remember he would just look down at me and smile. >> josephine is now 1 of 53 women on the job with more than 11,000 men. >> i'm small and petite, but i can still do the job. i want them to be able to trust me that i can have their back just as much as they can have my back. i've been here almost two years now, and i don't think there's one guy in the house that doesn't believe i can do the job just as much as they can. my father is a hero. he's someone i look up to still
every day. >> woodley joseph looks up to a hero, too, his brother. carl henry joseph. >> my brother being on the job was probably the number one reason i became a firefighter. >> his rig was found at ground zero, crushed. no remains have ever been recovered. ridley finds solace visiting the 9/11 memorial. >> being on the site, trying to imagine where he was, knowing i'm a firefighter, trying to imagine how he felt that day. >> his brother's name is inscribed with all those who died at the reflecting pools next to the 9/11 memorial museum which opened in 2014. it holds a collection of more than 11,000 artifacts, including visceral reminders of all those firefighters who headed straight towards danger. a crushed fire truck we
remembered seeing in the street that day. chief pfeifer's helmet is on display, as is gedeon naudet's camera. >> to see braveness, to see courage right in front of you, for me, has more of an imprint than the fear i experienced that day. >> the naudet brothers were made honorary members of the fdny. they have continued to live in new york and still make documentaries together. >> this film for us is all about hope. it's all about the best of humanity at a moment when the worst is there. >> i am now a director in hollywood. i go to work now, and i direct television, and i go home at the end of the day. and when i lie in bed and my head hits the pillow, i'm like a firefighter.
>> and everyone always asks about tony benetatos, the proby from our film. he's now 37 years old. >> now, being a lieutenant, being in the fire department and being able to make a difference, it's the best profession i could ever hope to have. have found the answer to the question, what makes a man? >> maybe getting up for work every day and then coming home and reading to your children and doing the dishes and taking care of your family. maybe that's what defines a man. >> hi, daddy. >> family is at the center of the lives of all these firefighters we have had the privilege of getting to know over these past 15 years. chief schmutzler's son steven is now a firefighter in manhattan. >> you had to go up 60 flights, no elevators? >> i go to work, we go to fires, and you just do your job. you don't really think about the danger, until my son got on. and i think for the first time i realized what my wife was
going through for the last 30 years. i go off to work, and she's wondering if i'm coming home the next day. >> they all say the horrors they witnessed and the challenges they face pale in comparison to the rewards of being on the job. >> every day is a great day in the fire department. but the danger is always there.
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tonight, 15 years later, the strength and beauty of this city is on display once again. from the top of the freedom tower, one world observatory, now standing tall where the twin towers once stood, a symbol of this nation's resolve and resilience. i'm denis leary. thanks for watching, and good night. ♪ oh, danny boy the pipes,
the pipes are calling ♪ ♪ from glen to glen and down the mountainside ♪ ♪ the summer's gone and all the flowers are dying ♪ ♪ 'tis you, 'tis you must go and i must bide ♪ ♪ but come you back when summer's in the meadow ♪ ♪ or when the valley's hushed and white with snow ♪ ♪ 'tis i'll be here in sunshine
hi, everyone. i'm pop pi harlow. welcome to newsroom following two gripping hours that you just saw here on cnn where we saw the only footage filmed inside of the twin towers on 9/11, stories of heartbreaking loss as well as stories of incredible heroism from the first responders, people we all thank and people we remember today on this 15 years since 9/11. i do want to