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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Dust Clouds

Descriptions of Dust Clouds in the Oral Histories

The oral histories released on August 12, 2005 contain many recollections of thick clouds of dust issuing from the collapses.

Glenn Asaeda -- Civilian (E.M.S.) [M.D., Deputy Medical Director]
and the next thing I noticed, that jet engine sound and then a loud crash and then pitch black.
After I realized that we actually made it through this initial whatever it was, it was so dark that I actually thought they had closed the loading bay doors as a security measure for us, but it turns out it was just the debris and the smoke and whatnot that made it pitch black.
But really, it was so dark, you couldn't see the hand in front of your face.
So we turned around and ran north, at which point the plume of the smoke, again, kind of a warm feeling came by us, luckily no debris, almost kind of lifting us and then kind of surrounding us again.
Interview, 10/11/01, New York Times

Christopher Attanasio -- E.M.T. (E.M.S.)
So we proceeded to the ambulance, put on our turnout gear, helmet and turnout coat, and as we were taking the equipment out of the ambulance, the second tower -- the second tower, started to come down. As the tower was coming down, we ran. I ran, I guess it was west to the West Side Highway. The tower came down. I grabbed my partner, we ran. When the tower finally came down, there was a white cloud of smoke that hit us, knocked us to our feet. It was very hard to breathe. We inhaled a lot of white powder, whatever it was, dust, concrete, whatever it was.
Interview, 11/09/01, New York Times

Anthony Bartolomey -- E.M.T. (E.M.S.) [Battalion 4]
So I'm not sure if I was still in the church when the second tower came down because we were in there for quite a while before you could see outside enough to step out because the soot and the dust, the black in the sky to the point where it looked like it was nighttime outside.
Interview, 10/09/05, New York Times

James Bastile -- Division Commander (E.M.S.) [Division 2]
We were operating in the lobby, and all of a sudden we heard the roar of a jet engine, is what it sounded like. We thought that there was another plane coming into the building. We went from the lobby area into an elevator bank area -- escalators that led into the concourse area. So essentially a wall that we went around from the command post area to the escalator area. Not two seconds later debris and dust started to come in, and essentially we were just shut down. Everything was dark, pitch-black.
It went down, got filled with this dust and dirt, debris, again, this cloud. I opened up my eyes. It was total darkness I guess for about two, three minutes. I thought I guess this is what it's like to be dead.
Interview, 10/17/01, New York Times

Richard Battista -- Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Engine 76]
When I saw that, Lieutenant Farrington told us to move back so we were sort of underneath a garage area when we first heard reports or guys yelling that one of the towers was coming down. I was able to stick my head out and look up a bit and once I saw that I just immediately turned around and ran into the building. Within seconds everything was pitch dark.
Interview, 12/06/01, New York Times

Thomas J. Bendick -- Civilian (E.M.S.) [Division 1]
Then in a couple of seconds, the roar stopped and I guess like in a split second it was just pure black.
Interview, 10/11/01, New York Times

Eric Berntsen -- Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.)
Then I looked up and I saw a dark cloud and I grabbed my helmet. The force knocked me down, blew me. I don't know how far I went, but I went forward pretty far. It knocked the wind out of me. I got covered with debris and just kept my hands on my helmet. Something pretty big hit me and knocked my helmet off. I felt a blast and just a lot of pressure when it hit me. So I had no helmet. I put my hands back on top of my head and I felt debris hit me. I felt weight piling up on my back, and I figured I was going to be under what I thought was about 10 feet of rubble.
Interview, 12/04/01, New York Times

David Blacksberg -- E.M.T. (E.M.S.)
I looked -- I ran, and a whole lot of people, we were all running together. I looked back, and it was like it was this cloud of smoke, but it was like an avalanche, because you could see the smoke and everything tumbling right at you. You couldn't see up, you couldn't see back, and no matter how fast you ran, you couldn't out run it, and it overtook us, and finally I found my partner.
Interview, 10/23/01, New York Times

Robert Browne -- Deputy Chief (E.M.S.)
At that point, it was like -- it got totally pitch black. I couldn't see anything. I couldn't breathe. There was a wave that was -- I don't know if you're a beach person, but if you're a beach person and you ever been in the ocean, and you have a large wave come over you, and you can just feel it keep coming and coming. It's like the debris just kept coming and piling up and piling up, and when it finally did stop, I wasn't sure if I was alive or if I was dead. It was pitch black.
I can remember reaching for my radio and calling out a Mayday for the corner of Liberty and West, and nobody answered. There was no answer. It was just dead quiet, and I just assumed at that point that everybody was gone, and I wasn't -- I couldn't -- you know, I didn't call out any more. Then as the thick black, black smoke and blackness around me started to clear a little bit, and it started to get a little bit grayer, kind of like got to a dark gray, and then it got like a lighter gray, I could hear -- as it started to get lighter, I could hear people from the distance yelling for help.
Interview, 10/24/01, New York Times

Timothy Burke -- Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.)
All of a sudden the noises stopped, the sound of the building falling stopped. We all turned around and it was dark now. We really couldn't see. We got back to there -- we went back to the garage as far in it as we were, we were all full of the cloud. The cloud was in [the garage]. All eating the cloud, whatever it was like, very thick. I kept saying it was like a 3 dimensional object. It wasn't smoke. It was like everything. It was like a sand storm. .. but it was very silent after the building fell. Then all the Maydays started happening, the guys were screaming.
Interview, 01/22/02, New York Times

Ed Cachia -- Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Engine 53]
We were just kind of blown into the garage with all the dust and the debris material from the building. It came up rapidly right up the street. As I remember turning, if you were out in the street somewhat, a good amount out in the street, you were kind of blown down the street, where we were kind of forced into the garage.
We were encapsulated in this garage for quite some time, maybe 15 minutes or so. You couldn't see. You couldn't breathe. You couldn't even hear because all the residue and material was in your ears and your nose and your mouth. Then as a few minutes went by, you heard some voices. It was dead silence at first. Just different emotions: How are we going to get out of here? I can't see. I can't breathe. My chest. It was still completely black. You couldn't see an inch in front of your face.
Interview, 12/06/01, New York Times

Peter Cachia -- E.M.T. (E.M.S.) [Battalion 4]
I went under the truck while the tower came down and the ground was shaking and the truck was shaking and I thought that was it for me. I thought I was done. I stayed under there until I guess everything was over. I remember opening my eyes and looking out and it was just pitch black.
Interview, 10/15/01, New York Times

Frank Cruthers -- Chief (F.D.N.Y.) [Citywide Tour Commander]
Following the North Tower collapse:
So I took a look around in that lobby, grade level lobby to see if there was access to continue more directly to get through the building and out the north side to get to the command post. While I was doing that, I heard more rumbling. I took refuge on the west side of the escalator corner. Once again there was a tremendous cloud. It was pitch black. I waited again until the cloud began to lift.
Interview, 10/31/01, New York Times

Timothy Julian -- Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.) [Ladder 118]
I made it right to the corner, and there's a column right there, and I was with my guys. We all made it to like the column, and I remember it was plate glass behind me, and I'm thinking I'm going to get hit by this glass and like a porcupine. I'm going to get it, you know, but nonetheless, it rumbled.
It was the loudest rumbling I ever heard. The ground shook, and I got thrown down, and I remember it just got black, and I got knocked down. I remember getting buried. I think I ducked more or less, you know, pieces of metal -- something hit me, not that heavy, though. Wasn't an I beam or else I wouldn't be talking to you, and I remember that being on me, and I kind of -- I was able to stand up and push everything off me, but now I felt like I was in the street or the sidewalk, and it was hot, smoky. I felt like I was in a fire, and I remember digging my way out. A lot of cementation, powdery insulation, whatever you want to call it. Almost like being in a blizzard with some metal debris right on me. Fortunately nothing heavy hit me.
Interview, 12/26/01, New York Times

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