“Floor by floor it started popping out”
“It was as if they had detonators”
The Firefighters Testimony to Explosions in the Twin Towers.
Daniel Rivera, South Tower:
Then thats when I kept on walking close to the south tower and thats when that building
Q. How did you know that it was coming down?
A. That noise. It was a noise.
Q. What did you hear? What did you see?
A. It was a frigging noise. At first I thought it was–do you ever see professional demolition
where they set the charges on certain floors and then you hear pop, pop, pop, pop, pop? Thats
exactly what–because I thought it was that. When I heard that frigging noise, thats when I saw
the building coming down.
The Body of Evidence
According to Jim Dwyer of the New York Times, the FDNY oral histories were
originally gathered on the order of Thomas Von Essen, the city fire commissioner on Sept. 11,
who said he wanted to preserve those accounts before they became reshaped by a collective
memory.The oral histories constitute about 12,000 pages of testimony by 503 FDNY
firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics collected from early October, 2001
to late January, 2002. Mr. Von Essens prophetic act has given us a remarkably rich body of
Initially, the city of New York refused to release this material, but after a lawsuit by the
New York Times and some of the 9/11 victims families the city was ordered to release them.
The New York Times then posted them on its internet site, where they have been available (with
some deletions) to the public since August, 2005.
Most interviewees appear to have given their testimony spontaneously, although some
obviously read from a report they had written. For the most part, interviewees appear to have
been given the opportunity to structure their narratives as they wished.
As we know, the New York firefighters were used by the U.S. government after 9/11 as
symbols of heroism, but there are in this collection very few heroic narratives. Many accounts
are actually structured as anti-heroic narratives–the firefighters arrive to save people and end up
running for their lives as the Towers collapse. Others are outright chaos narratives, where
people mill around hopelessly with no plan and where their skills are useless.
I find many of the stories powerfully told, with vulnerability and humanity. Patriotism is
no more than an occasional flash in these accounts, and there are extremely few witnesses who try to use their experiences to advance the U.S. governments war on terror.
Despite variations in the stories, as a body of narrative the collection gives prominence to
five perceptions that were shocking to the witnesses:
(1) the perception of the Towers burning;
(2) the perception of body parts littering the streets as the firefighters and medics arrive on
(3) the perception of people in the Towers leaping to their deaths;
(4) the perception of the Towers collapsing, and, especially, the perception of the initiation of
(5) the perception of, and entrapment in, the cloud of pulverized building flowing down the
streets after the collapses.
It is the fourth of these shocking perceptions that is the focus of the present study.
Full Graeme MacQueen Paper:
Video – SnowShoe films – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ4dVo…