Michael Carroll is the type of hero everyone likes to learn about. A lawyer in downtown Manhattan, Carroll answered questions about his experience of the collapsing towers, risking his life in an effort to find his brother. With no obligation to put his life at risk, and a wife and three kids at home, Carroll crossed the police lines into a village of destruction.
1. What is your name?
2. What do you do for a living?
I am a lawyer in downtown Manhattan.
3. Where in Manhattan is that in relation to the World Trade Centers?
My office is about 5 blocks from where the World Trade Centers were.
4. What were you doing when the first plane hit?
I was on the metro north train to work at the 125st station when I heard that the plane struck the towers. I could see the black smoke billowing from that far away.
5. What was your immediate reaction when you found out what happened?
I was very worried about my brother Pat who is a Port Authority cop and was working at the World Trade Centers.
6. How did you plan to help out?
By the time I had reached Grand Central the second tower had been struck and I realized it was an attack. I took the #4 train downtown and there were huge delays. I told the passengers on the train what had happened and the minute I reached City Hall I began running to the World Trade Centers.
7. How far from the towers did you get before you hit debris?
Within two blocks I heard a massive noise that I felt could only be caused by one of the towers collapsing (because I couldn’t see through all the debris) and I ran to Church Street where I was stuck by a wave of ash. When it was cleared, both towers were gone, the 1st having collapsed while I was on the subway. I helped some injured firefighters back to their firehouse on Duane Street and then made my way by foot to where the towers had fallen. Although the police blocked it, I snuck through in the midst of all the confusion.
8. What did you see/hear/smell/taste when you got to the scene?
I don’t recall the smell, a very fine ash filled the air, and there was so much of it that I was surprised I could breath without coughing. It was very loud and the flames coming out of all the windows on 5 WTC sounded as loud as a train. There was also a constant noise that sounded like gunfire; I still don’t know what was causing that noise.
9. Was it hard to stay and be witness to such wreckage?
It was hard because I was concerned that my brother Pat might be trapped. No one was present when I got to the corner of Vesye and Church Street. 5 WTC was where the Port Authority police station was. It was on fire from the 3rd floor up but hadn’t yet collapsed. I ran in and down to the station. It was partially wrecked, and I yelled if anyone was trapped, but no one replied. I ran back not even thinking that the building might come down on me.
10. How did you keep from panicking when you came upon the destruction?
I didn’t even have time to panic. Like I said, I was so concentrated on finding my brother that it didn’t occur to me that the building could have collapsed on top of me.
11. What did you do after you left the Port Authority building?
After I went into the police station to find my brother, I ran back outside and used soda from a hot dog stand to try and put out a fire truck that was burning. A wheel and landing gear from one of the planes had crushed a police car next to me. A fireman showed up and we began breaking the windows of police vehicles looking for dead or wounded police officers. You couldn’t see through the windows because burning jet fuel had scorched them. More firemen showed up and I helped run fire hoses. We had to break into a police emergency truck so that we could get the equipment. Eventually I came across a Port Authority Police commander and he told me that my brother wasn’t on duty that morning. I asked how many men he lost and he said none, that they would have pulled, back before the collapse. If only that were true. A few firemen were guarding a body that was in the street. A jacket, covered its head at the time I did not know it was father Michael Judge, who I had known. His body was dropped there when the second tower began to fall. The fireman took him up the block to Saint Paul’s church.
12. How has September 11th directly affected you or your family?
My brother Pat ended up being one of those directing the rescue effort that day. He was brought up before a televised joint session of Congress and thanked by the President for his efforts. He lost a lot that day, his whole village really.