In the early 2000s, Barry Meade was living in Port Washington and working as the Captain of the New York Fire Department Ladder 35. On the morning of September 11, 2001, he was working at a Queens fire department’s medical office at their headquarters building in Brooklyn. After the Towers were hit, he and his fellow firefighters traveled to Ground Zero to help put out the fires burning in other buildings in the World Trade Center complex, clear rubble, and attempt to rescue any survivors. In this oral history interview, Mr. Meade describes the scene near Ground Zero, searching the piles of debris around the collapsed towers, and the rescue of two police officers who were trapped in the rubble of Tower Two. He also describes the aftermath of 9/11 and how the loss of so many firefighters affected the Fire Companies around New York.
“When we got around to Liberty Street, now you could see more [of Tower Two]. It was just shocking that it was, that the pile was so small. It was, I was looking at a pile of rubble that seemed to be five stories high, and I’m thinking, where is this building? … And as I got close – and now I was, in a sense upwind, and the smoke wasn’t around us – I saw that this pile wasn’t all that high. The building had really just come to pieces and was driven into the ground…But I got this chief officer, Chief Bryant…he told me to get masks. He said we had two police officers trapped, that these were the two people that they got out – the only two people, as far as I know, I believe, that were taken out alive.”
“It was kind of like a serpentine, criss-crossed bunch of ladders, just trying to get up over this pile of steel and rubble. And the smoke was really difficult…and eventually, after making some searches – we were looking under, under steel – as we were, there was, there were a lot of men there. But you really couldn’t see much what you were doing. So whenever you came across a piece of steel that you could get under, you’d crawl under it…you’d look underneath, pull some debris aside – whatever you could move. But there were no people. Nothing visible. Just the smoke and this wasteland. A wasteland.”