ONTARIO - Joe Torrillo, a retired lieutenant in the New York City Fire Department, is never in New York City on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorists attacks.
Instead, for nearly a decade since that September morning, Torrillo
has chosen to speak around the world about his
experience being trapped underneath the World Trade Center
On Thursday afternoon he
recounted to a small group of Ontario Rotary Club members, the minutes leading up to the towers collapsing tower while he
was directing rescue operations and his
journey to recovery.
Retired Lieutenant, New York City Fire Department
, Twin Towers Survivor, chats with members of the Ontario Rotary Club
at a weekly lunch meeting in Ontario September 8, 2011.
Torrillo joined the Fire Department of New York in 1981, five years after graduating from New York City Technical College.
first firehouse, and his
second home for 15 years, was Ten House, across Liberty Street from the World Trade Center
Lt. Torrillo survived being crushed by the collapsing tower while he
was directing rescue operations. (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer)
memories of Sept. 11 attacks for the rest of my life," said Torrillo
, who retired three years after the attacks.
Torrillo joined the NYFD in 1981, five years after graduating from New York City Technical College.
first firehouse was across Liberty Street from the World Trade Center
With a structural engineer background, Torrillo
was one of the first responders to predict the collapse of the towers.
raced for protection but the air pressure from the collapsing building thrust him into the air.
Rescue crews were able to dig him out of the rubble before the second tower collapsed.
Just as responders were taking him away on a boat, headed to a hospital in New Jersey, the second tower collapsed and Torrillo
was struck by more debris.
Once that debris had settled, he
was taken to the hospital.
With the extent of injuries Torrillo was hospitalized and had to go through rehabilitation.
Surviving the experience made Torrillo
realize the opportunity he
had to give back to the community, he
told those in attendance.
"It's more about sharing the story of the real heroes, the ones who didn't come home that day," he
But for years, Torrillo
had survivor's guilt.
didn't realize it until he
sought some medical attention.
"I was angry that I survived," he
explained, "like God had cheated me of the glory of marching home with all the other heroes."
The healing process, Torrillo
says, has begun and will mostly likely continue the rest of his
Listening to Torrillo share his story was retired Ontario police officer Katie Roberts, who visited New York City three days after the attacks.
will participate in a memorial event at the Nixon Library Sunday morning and also taking part in the Angels/Yankee baseball game pregame ceremonies that afternoon.
was invited to speak at the Sunday morning memorial service by members of the Freedom's Flame organization.
The foundation, a Rancho Cucamonga nonprofit formed in 2002, designed bicoastal sculptures depicting the attacks on the World Trade Center
in New York City.
The sculptures, which will include figures of more than 30 civilians and rescue workers, Sam Spagnolo, Rancho Cucamonga
councilman and a member of the organization's board of directors, first met Torrillo
five years ago.
is a very modest person," he
saved a lot of people that day.
I am fortunate and honored to know Joe Torrillo