9/11 survivor speaks during UMSL remembrance week
The wide-eye, stone-faced crowd listened as former New York Fire Department Battalion Chief Richard Picciotto recalled the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and how he survived being buried under the stairwell as the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
Picciotto spoke to guests Sept. 15 in the auditorium at J.C. Penney Building/Conference Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. The event was part of UMSL’s 10-year anniversary of 9/11 remembrance week. He is the author of “Last Man Down: The Fireman’s Story: The Heroic Account of How Pitch Picciotto Survived the Collapse of the Twin Towers and Led His Men to Safety.”
Recalling the events of that day, he said, “I had started my tour around 7 a.m. that morning, and we got the call that the first plane had hit the tower. My first thought was ‘This is a repeat of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center’.”
Having survived that attack, Picciotto knew what to do. Along with his crew, he rushed inside the World Trade Center to begin rescue efforts. The North Tower started to collapse and Picciotto found himself, his crew and several victims trapped for five hours in the stairwell between the sixth and seventh floors.
Using their radios, the men made contact with firefighters on the ground and helped direct them to their location.
“At that time rescuers hadn’t gotten to us yet,” he said. “They were unable to get that close. We started digging, and when we saw light, we moved forward.”
After making it out, Picciotto was treated for a dislocated shoulder and temporary loss of vision. Today he has a 30-percent diminished lung capacity, but is thankful that’s his only health issue.
He said he’ll never forget that day, and hopes no one else does either.
“We lost so many great people that day,” he said. “It’s more than a tragedy.”
His message to everyone: “Live life to the fullest. Have priorities and make them number one.”
And he takes his own advice. When he’s not speaking to people, he spends his time with his family, enjoying his children and grandchildren.
Picciotto’s book, “Last Man Down: The Fireman’s Story: The Heroic Account of How Pitch Picciotto Survived the Collapse of the Twin Towers and Led His Men to Safety,” is available in bookstores and on amazon.com.
Short URL: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=12533