When the South Tower collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, New York City firefighter Joe Torrillo was buried under rubble.
It was pitch black, he heard screaming from people and thought there was only a question of how, not if, he was going to die.
"I was hoping I would suffocate before I burned to death," Torrillo said.
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
Retired New York City firefighter and 9/11 survivor Joe Torrillo talks to the Lennox Leadership Development Organization Wednesday.
He eventually was rescued only to be buried again while on a rescue boat when the North Tower fell an hour later. He suffered multiple broken bones and other severe injuries, but was able to recover.
Torrillo, who is now retired, told his story of survival to the Lennox Leadership Development Organization Wednesday.
He was working in fire safety education on 9/11 and on his way to press conference to announce the launch of a new toy based on an NYC firefighter when he heard a plane had hit the World Trade Towers.
He rushed to the scene to help his fellow firefighters and saw the second plane pass over his head before it hit.
"I'm not a hero, I just did a job that day," Torrillo said.
Torrillo now speaks throughout the country about his experience that day. He also plans to testify this fall for the prosecution of five terrorists involved in the 9/11 plot.
Torrillo said one thing he is adamant against is the notion that 9/11 was a conspiracy planned by the U.S. government.
"The terrorists absolutely orchestrated what they did," Torrillo said.
He said he feels building on the site of the World Trade Towers, with One World Trade Center, was the right thing to do, but fears it will also become a target in the future.
"I think it would have been wrong to not have rebuilt the site," Torrillo said. "I think it's a symbol of our resiliency."
Prior to speaking, Torrillo toured the Lennox air conditioning and heating plant and said it was impressive.
"I find this fascinating," Torrillo said.
Torrillo also spoke at Iowa Valley Continuing Education later in the afternoon during his visit in Marshalltown.