Retired New York City firefighter, Joe Torrillo has an ironic story about being involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers.

And he was in Pierre this week to talk about his involvement as well as the Patriot Flag September 11 Honor and Remembrance tour, which is a tribute to the families of the fallen and those who serve in emergency services and military in the U.S.

In 2001, Torrillo was a lieutenant with the New York Fire Department, but was recuperating from an injury. Because he couldn't work in a fire house, he was running an educational unit.

Shortly after opening the learning center, Torrillo received a call from Fischer Price Toys wanting his help in designing a new rescue hero toy. After the rescue hero was designed, a press conference needed to be held to show off the new action figure.

After deciding upon Sept.11, every TV station was waiting for Torrillo, but just before the press conference could happen, the first plane struck the first World Trade Center tower, but Torrillo wasn't at the conference yet.

"I actually thought it was a little plane that got too close to the tower. My biggest fear was that I wouldn't make it to my press conference and my boss would kill me," Torrillo said. "As I was going over a bridge, I could see about nine floors of fire all around the top of the building. At that point I knew it wasn't just a little plane."

Torrillo made a quick decision not to attend the press conference, but rather go to his old fire station, which was right across the street from the south tower.

After finding bunker gear, Torrillo ran out to get started, but after seeing large pieces of debris flying down at him, he ran back to the fire station.

"From there I knew we were under a terrorist attack. At that point, I had everything I needed to go and fight that fire, except for an air mask," Torrillo said. "I knew that wouldn't be a problem finding one on one of the fire engines that were on scene. I went to every fire engine at the scene, but every one of the spare air masks was gone."

Torrillo said this is probably why he is alive today because if he had found an air mask, he would have made his way where up to the fire was and try and find his fellow fire fighters.

He didn't find one and didn't go into the building.

All of a sudden, Torrillo said he heard a rumble and a roar and saw the World Trade Center towers collapsing.

"I said to myself you idiot, you're the one that knew this building was going to collapse, but yet you put yourself right underneath it," Torrillo said.

When the tower came down, other buildings around it did too, burying Torrillo in ruble.

He wanted his body to be able to be identified and so he found a foot bridge to do just that.

Under the ruble, hanging on for his life, he decided if he made it out he was going to commit to creating "Re-United States of America."

Last year, two of Torrillo's friends received a 30 feet by 60 feet United States of America flag that had previously been flying in an auto park, which wanted to replace the torn and tattered flag.

This flag, known as the "Patriot Flag," is being flown in all 50 states to remember those lost during the events of Sept.11.

The flag was cut down to 30 feet by 56 feet and the last four feet still travels with the flag and people are allowed to sign it.

After Sunday's flag ceremony in Pierre, 50 states will have had a ceremony. Torrillo said the flag has flown as far north as the North Pole, as far south as Honolulu and in as hot as 115 degree weather in Arizona. Pierre is the last of two such ceremonies being held in South Dakota.

The other was held in Sturgis on Aug.8

Pierre is the final city to host a flag-raising event before the Patriot Flag is flown at the Sept. 11 anniversary ceremonies in New York City., Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa.

The flag's purpose, Torrillo said, is to never forget all the innocent people who died from the attacks on Sept. 11. The flag and the tour is also meant to honor those involved in emergency services and the military who were serving during and after the attacks.Retired New York City firefighter, Joe Torrillo has an ironic story about being involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers.

And he was in Pierre this week to talk about his involvement as well as the Patriot Flag September 11 Honor and Remembrance tour, which is a tribute to the families of the fallen and those who serve in emergency services and military in the U.S.

In 2001, Torrillo was a lieutenant with the New York Fire Department, but was recuperating from an injury. Because he couldn't work in a fire house, he was running an educational unit.

Shortly after opening the learning center, Torrillo received a call from Fischer Price Toys wanting his help in designing a new rescue hero toy. After the rescue hero was designed, a press conference needed to be held to show off the new action figure.

After deciding upon Sept.11, every TV station was waiting for Torrillo, but just before the press conference could happen, the first plane struck the first World Trade Center tower, but Torrillo wasn't at the conference yet.

"I actually thought it was a little plane that got too close to the tower. My biggest fear was that I wouldn't make it to my press conference and my boss would kill me," Torrillo said. "As I was going over a bridge, I could see about nine floors of fire all around the top of the building. At that point I knew it wasn't just a little plane."

Torrillo made a quick decision not to attend the press conference, but rather go to his old fire station, which was right across the street from the south tower.

After finding bunker gear, Torrillo ran out to get started, but after seeing large pieces of debris flying down at him, he ran back to the fire station.

"From there I knew we were under a terrorist attack. At that point, I had everything I needed to go and fight that fire, except for an air mask," Torrillo said. "I knew that wouldn't be a problem finding one on one of the fire engines that were on scene. I went to every fire engine at the scene, but every one of the spare air masks was gone."

Torrillo said this is probably why he is alive today because if he had found an air mask, he would have made his way where up to the fire was and try and find his fellow fire fighters.

He didn't find one and didn't go into the building.

All of a sudden, Torrillo said he heard a rumble and a roar and saw the World Trade Center towers collapsing.

"I said to myself you idiot, you're the one that knew this building was going to collapse, but yet you put yourself right underneath it," Torrillo said.

When the tower came down, other buildings around it did too, burying Torrillo in ruble.

He wanted his body to be able to be identified and so he found a foot bridge to do just that.

Under the ruble, hanging on for his life, he decided if he made it out he was going to commit to creating "Re-United States of America."

Last year, two of Torrillo's friends received a 30 feet by 60 feet United States of America flag that had previously been flying in an auto park, which wanted to replace the torn and tattered flag.

This flag, known as the "Patriot Flag," is being flown in all 50 states to remember those lost during the events of Sept.11.

The flag was cut down to 30 feet by 56 feet and the last four feet still travels with the flag and people are allowed to sign it.

After Sunday's flag ceremony in Pierre, 50 states will have had a ceremony. Torrillo said the flag has flown as far north as the North Pole, as far south as Honolulu and in as hot as 115 degree weather in Arizona. Pierre is the last of two such ceremonies being held in South Dakota.

The other was held in Sturgis on Aug.8

Pierre is the final city to host a flag-raising event before the Patriot Flag is flown at the Sept. 11 anniversary ceremonies in New York City., Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa.

The flag's purpose, Torrillo said, is to never forget all the innocent people who died from the attacks on Sept. 11. The flag and the tour is also meant to honor those involved in emergency services and the military who were serving during and after the attacks.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.