Hebrew Voices #52 – Heroes of 9/11

David Brink standing in front of the name of Todd M. Beamer, who stopped the terrorists from crashing Flight 93 into Washington DC.In this episode of Hebrew Voices, Heroes of 9/11, First Responder Detective David Brink (NYPD Retired) takes us on a private tour of the 9/11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero and walks us through the events of that day. He also shares how he ran into the "9/11 Church" to find refuge from the cloud of toxic dust that formed when the Twin Towers collapsed and gives us a glimpse into how his faith gave him strength during such difficult times. Danilo wrote: “This episode is very revealing, and is a perspective I never heard.”

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Transcript

Hebrew Voices #52 - Heroes of 9/11

You are listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Le ma’an Zion lo ekhesheh, u’l’ma’an Yerushalayim lo eshkot. (For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest. Isaiah 62:1)

Nehemia: September 11th, 2001, 9/11. That was a day that changed the lives of millions of people all over the world. For me, it was a time of great despair in which I came to know God's holy name. Years after 9/11, I heard about a Church next to the Twin Towers, built in 1766, that survived without a single window being broken that day. I went to see it for myself and found God's holy name inscribed in Hebrew characters in two places at the front of the Church. I learned that on 9/11, people ran into this strong tower and found an island of safety as a cloud of toxic dust swept over the area.

One of those who sought refuge in the Church that day was a New York City police officer named David Brink. In my book, “Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence,” I told the story of how Detective Brink used the Church's holy water to wash toxic dust out of his eyes. Recently, I returned to Ground Zero in Manhattan to talk with Detective David Brink, who gave me a personal tour of the new 9/11 Memorial Museum, and walked me through the tragic events of that day. I was humbled by Detective Brink's heroism. After the South Tower collapsed, he stayed at Ground Zero to save as many lives as possible, guiding hundreds to safety down the survivor stairs, even as the North Tower was collapsing on top of them. This episode of Hebrew Voices is dedicated to the heroes of 9/11, both those who sacrificed their lives and the survivors.

Nehemia: Shalom, this is Nehemia Gordon with Hebrew Voices. I am coming to you from the 9/11 Memorial. And I'm here with Detective David Brink, who was a first responder on 9/11. That sound you're hearing is the rushing of the water of two giant pools that mark the spot where the two towers stood, the towers that came down on 9/11.

David: This is where the South Tower stood. These are the actual footprints. This actually goes down three stories, and the water is constantly going 24 hours a day as a reminder. All the people's names are inscribed around here of every single person that was lost that day. And on their birthdays, the Museum will come out and place a rose on their names. And on 9/11, there'll be many, many American flags that are put out here.

All the names of the first responders, the firefighters and the police officers and EMS that died that day are actually inscribed on the Towers. We have the names of the civilians, they're on one side, and the firefighters and the police and the EMS are on the other. They were all put together. All the firefighters, all the police and the EMS, they're all on one side. They're on an angle. They're on the west and the south side of the South Tower. People who died at the Pentagon, they are listed here. The different flights, they are listed here, as well as all the civilians that passed away in the buildings.

We walked over to the south side of the South Tower. And this is where all the first responders and their names are, and I'm going to show him the guys that I had lost that day from the Emergency Service Unit. We have the Port Authority police officers, United States Secret Service. We’ve got the FBI, EMS emergency service, and NYPD, and of course, FDNY. I was assigned to emergency services squad number three, and we lost three guys that day, Vinnie Danz, Jerome Dominguez, and Walter Weaver. I used to ride a lot with Wally, and I was supposed to ride with Jerome that day. But Jerome and Wally decided to ride together that day. They were part of one of the teams at the South Tower, and that was the first one that collapsed that day. And I reach down inside and I get water, and I always make the sign of the cross over my guys.

As a matter of fact, I've got a tattoo of a truck designation with the Trade Center behind it, and also the guys that I was missing that day, Wally and Jerome, WWJD.

Nehemia: WWJD, what…?

David: Walter Weaver and Jerome Dominguez, but that also means, “What Would Jesus Do?” for some of the Southern Baptists in the United States. Yeah, these were my friends, my coworkers, and we also used to carpool together going into work in the Bronx. So, Jerome Dominguez and Wally Weaver, and of course, I can't forget about Vinnie Danz. He was in a different squad, but he also came from my truck.

This is a wreath that's left at the reflecting pool where the firefighters and the cops’ names are. All the police officers are on one side, and then it starts with the firefighters. And they encompass almost one whole side, the west side of the South Tower around the reflecting pool. All their names are written down, five rows, one, two, three, four, five. A lot of these guys you grew up with, or just knew, so you'd see the names and you're like, “Oh, boy, I knew this guy,” whether he was a cop, or a fireman, or something like that. And the names would be written down here, you're like, “Oh, gosh, I remember this guy or that guy.” You know, it's a horrible, horrible thing.

Nehemia: So, we're walking along this wall and five rows of name after name, ladder 35, ladder 2 division 3, engine 40. And it just keeps going on and on.

David: Yeah, it just keeps going on and on and on, of all the 343 firefighters that were killed that day. And now, there's just so many guys that are coming down with different cancers and different diseases in the last 16 years, and they're dying with great frequency, too. The Trade Center site was just so toxic, it's bringing up a lot of different cancers and diseases with the survivors, and they're seeing things that we’re like, “Those guys shouldn't have this. They're too young.” You know, this is something that we've seen with people that are 60, 70, 80-year-olds, and at 40, you know, you're contracting these diseases or cancers, just really horrific things. And I've lost a lot of friends to the diseases that they got during their recovery efforts down here.

Nehemia: Do we know what some of the toxins were? Was it from like the lighting fixtures or...?

David: Yeah, absolutely. There were so many thousands and thousands of fluorescent bulbs that were used down here. So, they had a lot of heavy metals, mercuries and things, that were going through the air. Guys were breathing it in, taking it in through smoke or absorption through their skin. I was injured during the initial collapses, and I was out of work on sick leave for the first week. I came back the following Tuesday after 9/11, and I actually saw a green smoke coming from the pile. I've never seen green smoke before, but that would tell you right away, there's something in it that's not really good to be breathing in. And a lot of guys weren't properly outfitted down here with masks. They had paper masks to breathe through when they should have had supplied air. But we did what we had to do, at that time.

Nehemia: Can you read some of the names?

David: Yeah, we've got Kevin Donnelly, John McAvoy, Michael Warchola, Lou Modafferi. It's funny that I should pick his name out, because my wife, Shanika worked with Lou Modafferi's son in the financial field here in New York. And they were a family from Staten Island, and we actually went to his son's wedding. And his dad was tragically killed here on 9/11.

We just walked past Stephen Siller. He was a firefighter that you may have heard of. He's got a foundation now that's run by his family called the “Tunnel to Towers Foundation.” He was killed on 9/11. He didn't ride his fire truck here. He actually got his gear and ran through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, and he came up here to the Trade Center site to do as much good as he could before, unfortunately, he was killed in one of the collapses. His foundation now helps firefighters and police officers that are killed in the line of duty. And what they'll do is, they will pay off the mortgage on your house or apartment for the survivors, the wife or children. Or they'll give them other financial support through all the finances that are coming into his fund. So, that's one of the positive things that came out of 9/11, as far as the charity goes.

Nehemia: I will post a link to that charity on my website, nehemiaswall.com.

David: Yeah, that would be good. And if you guys out there could donate a little bit of something, that would please us, and we appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Nehemia: Do you know the only other memorial in the world that has all the names is in Jerusalem?

David: No, I didn't know that, as a matter of fact.

Nehemia: I've been to that memorial and it has all the names. It's quite a...

David: Quite a sight to see. Now, let me ask you a question. Do they have a piece of the Trade Center that's there?

Nehemia: Yeah, they do. They have one of the I-beams.

David: Oh, that's fantastic. You know, Israel and the United States are friends forever. And to have such a tribute there, especially to us here in New York, is very heartfelt. Thank you so much for that, you know?

Nehemia: I was on a bus the day after. They said they didn't know how many died, but it was in the thousands, and people burst into tears just hearing that. They just started crying.

David: Yeah, it was definitely a tragedy, but, like, with close ties. We've got a lot of Israelis that live here in New York, and a lot of people of the Jewish faith, so of course they would feel for us. Just like when a terrorist action happens over in Israel, we feel the same way for them, because we've been through it. And unfortunately, Israel is such a target these days, and we just feel so much for them.

Nehemia: And I think for a lot of people it was... We’ve had terrorist attacks where 50, 70 people were killed. And they're announcing on the news that it was thousands. People were just stunned.

David: Yeah, they just couldn't grasp it, the amount of people that died down here, as much as we couldn't, either. Because the suicide bombings, like you said, you know, 50, 60, 70 people, and unfortunately, we've become so immune to it, we're so numb to it. You know, one person dying is a tragedy, and it should never happen ever again.

Here we have the name Todd M. Beamer. He was the one that said, "Let's roll" on flight 93, if you recall. He's the one that led the charge and the attack, because they were gonna fly flight 93 into a building in Washington. He didn't want to see that happen, so these are the guys. They took it down from Al Qaeda.

Nehemia: And on top of his name it says, “Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas and her unborn child, died that day on flight 93.”

David: And here's another one, “Renée A. May and her unborn child.” There were so many that were lost that day. They really didn't care who it was, children, adults, civilians, firefighters, cops, they didn't care. They just wanted to hurt Americans all over.

Nehemia: Did you hear the FAA put out a statement suggesting that the first person to die was on one of the flights, and he tried to take down one of the hijackers. This was a guy in first class, and he was actually an Israeli. He was the founder of like a Fortune 500 company. And he was in the Israeli Special Forces. He went after one of the guys with a box cutter and the theory is that he didn't realize there was another guy standing behind him with a box cutter.

David: Oh, boy. What was the name of the Israeli, do you know?

Nehemia: His last name was Levine.

David: Levine? Was he on flight 77, 93 or 11?

Nehemia: I think he was on 11. There was the flight attendant who had called in and she described him being killed.

David: Okay, okay. Let's walk over to flight 11 and see if we can find his name.

Nehemia: Oh, here it is. His name was Daniel Levine, or Lewin, and he was an American-Israeli mathematician and entrepreneur. Akamai Technologies, he founded, which is like an internet company.

David: Flight 11.

Nehemia: Yeah. It says here, “FAA memos suggest he may have been stabbed by Satam al-Suqami after attempting to foil the hijacking.”

David: Wow, so he truly was the first victim.

Nehemia: One of the first ones.

David: Absolutely, and he almost foiled the whole thing.

Nehemia: Well, he wouldn't have stopped the second plane.

David: No, he wouldn't have stopped the second plane, but at least the plane that he was on. And because of his Israeli military training, he decided to take on these hijackers all by himself. Had other people stood up and helped him, I'm sure he would have prevailed that day. But unfortunately, he was overcome by the other terrorists. And his name will always be inscribed at the Trade Center. So, if you want to see it, it's on N75. And he has the Star of David on top of it. I made the sign of the cross over my friends' names, and he just made the Star of David in the water from the reflecting pool over Daniel's name.

Generally, when you come inside the Museum, they have the sounds of that day. They're off right now, which is good, so that you can hear us speaking. What we're seeing right here is my holster that I was wearing. It says, “Police Emergency Squad, NYPD” for the emergency service unit of the New York City Police Department. We're also looking at my construction helmet that I was wearing that day. We were here to help with the rescue of the people. We were coming in with oxygen. We also came in with forcible entry tools. We were going to force the doors and get them out for EMS or FD. We also had high rope equipment in case we had to go from floor to floor and then try to repel down.

Nehemia: So, that's the helmet you were wearing that day.

David: Yes, that was the helmet that I was wearing that day. The reason why I had given my equipment to the Museum, they put an ad in a magazine called “Spring 3100.” That's a magazine for the NYPD. And they said, “Hey, the Museum that's coming in a couple of years is looking for artifacts from the PD.” They had quite a lot of artifacts from the FDNY and EMS, but they didn't get a lot from NYPD.

So, I felt that it was important that I came down to see if they wanted a donation. I had most of my things that I wore on 9/11, including my entire uniform, in a separate locker. The environment down here during that time was very, very toxic, so I kept it aside in a separate locker, so I wouldn't bring any contaminants home with me if I came down here to work on those days. The Museum is filled with various artifacts from the firefighters, civilians, police officers. They actually have a pair of boots from the steel that was so hot and intense, they actually melted the soles of the shoes of the people that were wearing them. They also have flashlights that were used to get out through the smoke. Canine officers holsters and the collars that the dogs were wearing those days.

Passing by some messenger bikes, these guys would deliver papers and messages to all the different office buildings here at the Trade Center. And they’d park their bikes and they’d go upstairs, you know, every day, like day in and day out. And unfortunately, they were lost on 9/11. The bikes are still here chained up, and the owners never found. And the Museum had placed these here as a tribute to them, the gentlemen that were also lost in the Trade Center attack.

Nehemia: Wow, they never came back to claim their bikes.

David: No, they didn't come to claim their bikes, because, unfortunately, they were lost in the collapses, much like the parked cars that were left in all the parking booths.

You see over here, this is a little alcove. And this is some of the photos that were captured of the people at their final moments just going because they couldn't take it any further. You saw them coming down one or two at a time, but I'd seen multiples holding hands as they were jumping up.

Nehemia: So, there's four people holding hands jumping out from the 100th floor, something like that, because the heat is so intense.

David: Yes, they figured that they would end their lives that way, as opposed to getting burned or choking on the smoke. They'd be hanging out the windows like this, looking, but there are no ladders that are going to reach that high. There are no airbags that are going to save these guys. The flames and the heat were very intense. They stated that the heat in there was 1,200 degrees. And even the firefighters in full turnout gear couldn't survive through that. You really felt the magnitude and the humanity at that point in time, because there was really nothing you could do.

After the collapses, there was a lot of fire and smoke even on the floors, because the debris went someplace, either West Broadway, the Church, Vesey, and a lot of trucks collapsed, and they were burnt up. It was like it went from a beautiful day until it was very, very dark out. If you’ve ever seen it on TV, the people running away from the base of the smoke. Well, we were trapped at the base of the smoke. We had our air packs on that you would see firefighters wear, but we didn't have enough time to don them. Actually, I didn't want to take my helmet off, because I was afraid that I was going to get hit in the head with debris. So, I left my helmet on and I didn't wear my mask, unfortunately. And I was using my glove to breathe through.

Nehemia: Wow.

David: Just so you could see where I went through. You see the building right here? This is the survivor staircase right there. Where you see the Trade Center buildings 1 and 2, the north and south towers, that's actually where we are now. The survivor staircase was moved into one of the locations here for the Museum. But you could see now how the Trade Center site was up one story from street level. I was on this corner over here, the first one closest, when the South Tower had collapsed. And then people from the North Tower were streaming through the two buildings here.

Nehemia: These don't exist anymore.

David: No, those buildings do not exist anymore. This was four, five and six. Building seven, World Trade, was across the street. And that was the third building to collapse, because the North Tower, when it came down, it actually collapsed on it and set it on fire.

Nehemia: The North Tower collapses onto these buildings…

David: Yes.

Nehemia: …and you're underneath them, directing survivors out.

David: Yes, that's how I survived, because if you could see, there's like an overhang. We were underneath there. So, for the first collapse of the South Tower, I was on that corner right there. And then we made our way through, and we formed a human chain and we were saying, “Go to the next cop, go to the next cop.” And they were coming down here, and that's the survivor staircase. That's where we were sending people. That’s the stairs that we’re gonna see more…

Nehemia: Wow, this is before seven collapsed. So, it wasn't over.

David: No, it wasn't over. Building seven collapsed probably around five or six o'clock at night. And I know that because I was at downtown Beekman Hospital getting my eyes flushed out. And that's when I came back and the tower collapsed. And I said, “Are you kidding me? Is every building in New York gonna fall?” You know, those were my thoughts that afternoon.

Nehemia: Did these buildings collapse, or they were condemned?

David: No, they were condemned. They were on fire. They were fully engulfed and they were condemned and they were also knocked down. They were taken down.

Nehemia: Wow. And so, at the time, what was your rank?

David: During 9/11, I was a police officer. And after 9/11, I was promoted to detective. And then finally, I was detective second grade. I did 27 years with the New York City Police Department and then I retired.

Nehemia: Thank you for your service.

David: This was made by one of the fiancées of one of the guys that we had lost. It has pins with all different colored beads, and they are made into the American flag. I also put my St Michael's medal on that. Because at the time the Trade Center was a very, very dangerous worksite, you could be crushed and hurt and killed. I've seen a lot of accidents.

Nehemia: This is after the collapse.

David: This is after the collapse, yeah. It was the most dangerous worksite in the world at that time, when we were doing the rescue, recovery and the cleanup.

Nehemia: Were people hurt?

David: Yes, people were hurt. Civilians, cops, firefighters, they had broken legs or arms, crushing injuries, tripping, falling.

Nehemia: What was his name, the officer?

David: Oh, that was Wally Weaver, and his fiancée Shannon had made this. And I had pinned that on the inside of my jacket, and I wore it whenever I came down to the Trade Center to work, to kind of keep me safe. And it also gave me a little bit of comfort. So, I thought that that was important, that I had donated that to them, as well.

We’re standing outside, looking at a pair of gloves that I had worn down here at the Trade Center. Oftentimes, I would use things once or twice, and since it was a very volatile and toxic site, we would dispose of the items if we couldn't properly decontaminate them. And one of the gloves that I had picked up was a pair of gloves that I thought was going to be good for the wintertime, because we went from 9/11 all the way until May of 2002. So, some time during the colder months, I'd picked up a pair of gloves from one of the tents here that would give out things that you need during the day. They'd have boots, or gloves, disposable items, flashlights to help you during the day of work. So, I picked up these gloves and I said that these should be good. And I noticed on the palm that they said, "Thank you.”

There were a lot of donations that were made across the country from all over. And a lot of times, they would write messages and words of encouragement. And I have no idea where the gloves came from. They could have come from a school kid in California, a housewife in Iowa, I don't know. But it said "Thank you.” And coming down here and digging was kind of depressing work, because, after all, you were looking for human remains. And we were still looking for a lot of our friends that were down here. I had the gloves, and every time I became a little down, I looked at them and they said, “Thank you.” And that kind of helped me go on, and carry on.

Over here, there's an American flag bandana. We're very patriotic, all of us, the firefighters, the cops, everybody that was working down at the site, all the union guys. You could tell that by our patches, and I had that bandana. And whenever I would come down, I would wear it around my neck as a symbol of being an American, of our patriotism. And as you see, also my ID card that granted me access to the different sites...

Nehemia: What is this? It’s a Bible that survived?

David: Yeah, a New Testament fragment found in the debris of the South Tower. I guess that was right inside. There were a lot of things that didn't survive. But whenever you saw something like a piece of glass or some paperwork like this, especially a Bible, that's something that was very special. So, they cut the fragment out, and they had it in here.

We’ve stopped here in front of the symbol of steel. A lot of the people weren't able to be recovered from the Trade Center. When they were taking the large facade down, we had borrowed some torches from local authority and we started cutting crosses out, stars of David and other symbols out of the steel, and it gave us something to do. And if there was somebody that didn't have somebody that was recovered, I would oftentimes give them this piece of steel. I know it would never replace their family member that they lost down here, but it was a piece of the Trade Center that they could hold on to.

This is one of the things I had made. It was actually of the Trade Center itself, with the Tower on the north. And after I'd cut it out, I had put it on the grinder and I had also donated it to them. So, it's one of the symbols of steel. You’ve got the cross, the heart, the Star of David and the Trade Center steels.

We just walked over and we're looking at one of my flashlights that I used down here. In the wintertime it started getting very dark very early, so you needed a light to check out voids if you're looking for victims or other pieces. This is one of the flashlights that I had.

Nehemia: At what point did you guys stop looking for survivors and start looking for human remains?

David: Well, that happened probably a couple days afterwards. It was very difficult. There wasn't a lot of things that were left down here. They did get some people in voids that were still alive up until a few days afterwards, but then it basically turned into a recovery effort. And we just wanted to return as much as we could to the families for burial. So, we just kept looking all the way until May. We were there, basically, with rakes going through just the dirt.

Nehemia: And did you find remains?

David: Oh, yes, absolutely. Yes, we did find remains. And if they disturb a worksite that's down here, they're still recovering remains to this day.

This is one of the pole cameras that we used down here. It's a camera on one side, and it has a camera lens on the other. And this would extend out and this would allow us to look into voids or very, very small holes where we couldn't go, to see if there were any bodies in there, or anybody that was still trapped. We used this during the initial phases of the recovery effort, and we used it for a couple months afterwards until there was really no voids left.

We're going by ladder three. Obviously, it's a fire truck and the entire front is collapsed. This would be like a 100-foot Seagrave ladder that would be going up. And as you can see, there's no cab. These are the firefighters putting the actual fire out. The fire truck was on fire, but there's no cab, or the remains of it, and this is the ladder. So, it was actually in the collapsed zone.

Nehemia: It's shredded. What is this?

David: This is part of the elevator. As you could see here, this is where the elevator cables would go. And this was part of the elevator motor that would take the multiple elevators here at the Trade Center. They kept that here. Over here, this is actually part of the antenna from the North Tower. If you know the iconic antenna, this is actually a portion of it, a very, very small one.

Nehemia: I sometimes wonder if, you know, in my generation we'd hear my grandfather talk about Pearl Harbor. He fought in World War Two. It was like that for the young people.

David: Yeah. We’ll take you up to the top here. After the collapse that occurred here and after I left, the government of Hawaii had sent out for the people that were actually here, the police officers and firefighters. They had brought us out to Hawaii, and I was there for the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, December 7th of 2001. And we met a lot of the Pearl Harbor veterans that day. And they had said to us, and it really struck me. He said, “This is your Pearl Harbor. This is going to be your cross to bear, and you have to tell the story so that other people and other generations don't forget what happened in New York.” And that's something that I've kind of held true and dear. So, that's why I'm giving you the interview today.

Nehemia: I appreciate that, yeah. In some ways, it may have been worse than Pearl Harbor, because you could say Pearl Harbor was a military target. These were civilians.

David: Yes, these are all civilian people. And they just wanted to go to work that day and go home. They never expect anything like this to happen. Even the firefighters and the police that were lost that day, they were just there doing their job and unfortunately, it turned into the worst day of their lives.

Let’s go to the top. We’re walking up the stairs.

These are the survivors’ stairs. This was on the side of World Trade Center building number five. And this is where we had started sending people to get them off of the plaza and they were actually going to be escaping down into the street level.

Nehemia: Oh, my gosh. It’s a lot of stairs.

David: You can do it, come on. Okay, this is the Vesey Streets remnant, otherwise known as the “Survivors’ Stairs.” I didn't know it was going to be called the Survivors’ Stairs at the time, but now it is. There were a couple of hundred people that were sent down the stairs. These are all the survivors from the North Tower and the South Tower collapse.

Nehemia: How did they survive?

David: A lot of them were from the North Tower and that hadn't collapsed yet.

Nehemia: Oh, it hadn’t collapsed yet.

David: No, no, no, not yet. And, basically, written down on this is, “Go down the set of stairs and just run, run as fast as you can.” And I meant that, because I wanted to run with them, but I didn't. We stayed up and we were getting the people down.

Now we're gonna move down to the middle. When the second tower, the North Tower, started collapsing, there was 110 stories worth of debris that were going to fall down on me. I couldn't go anywhere, but I did want to run. So, basically under these stairs, it was like an overhang. And this is the middle section of the Survivors’ Stairs. And this is actually where I survived the second collapse. And once again, I didn't want to take my helmet off, because I thought some debris was going to hit me in the head, nor did I wear my pack of air. So, I was breathing, once again, out of my glove. It seemed like it took forever for the building to collapse, when it actually took three to four seconds. But for me, it seemed like an eternity.

And all I could say about the air quality at that time is that it was very, very poor. And if you've ever seen like flour or Bisquick to make pancakes, it was that consistency that was in the air, and I was actually breathing that in. It was like I was almost drowning, not with water, but with the stuff that was inside the air. That's how heavy and thick it was. I actually reached into my mouth and I pulled out like a ball of this glob, kind of like a flour and water kind of consistency, but it was all my saliva as I was just trying to breathe. I've got 12 granulomas on my lungs now from that.

Nehemia: Wait, wait… explain that. You have a medical condition as a result of that day?

David: Oh, yes. I had skin cancer on my back, that was taken off. I've got 12 granulomas on my lungs. Both of my corneas are scratched, but my vision is a lot better now, thank God, and hopefully nothing else will befall me, but who knows. And I was able to get out after that. We were able to walk down the rest of the Survivors’ Staircase, and we escaped through West Broadway, leave the Trade Center area and recoup.

Over here, at Church and Vesey Streets, there were people that were burned by aircraft debris that was falling down.

Nehemia: People on the ground that were burned...

David: Yeah, so people on the ground that were burned from the jet fuel that had come out. Over here, by the Church, this was our mobilization point where we went through to try to get to the Trade Center. We had started walking through building number five. And in-between the two buildings, which is now the Museum, the Museum didn't exist, that was just a plaza where people would go and eat their lunch. There was a lot of debris that was on fire, and people that weren't there anymore.

We started walking through, but we had approximately 100 pounds of equipment each on us, between the air packs, the rope equipment, and, of course, our gun belts and our regular equipment that we would wear every day for our police jobs. And we were given the choice, “Hey, you guys can go to the North Tower or the South Tower,” because we had two teams, an either/or. And the security guard goes, “You don't want to go this way, because the stairs are broken.” So, I go, “Okay, that's a great idea. So, let's just go to the North Tower, we're a lot closer.” You know, it was just out of convenience for us, but that was a decision that day that probably saved our lives, because the South Tower had fallen first. Had we gone to the South Tower I don't think I'd be here right now talking to you.

My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, she worked down here at the Trade Center. She was part of Morgan Stanley, and she had just been transferred from this building to Jersey City. And she was really upset, because it was a lot of prestige working here at the World Trade Center for her to be transferred out. She saw it as like a step down. But had she been working here, she was in the South Tower, I probably would have told the guys, “Hey, let's make an extra effort to get to the South Tower,” just because I'd probably say, “Maybe I'll see her coming down the stairs or something.” But that was another decision that saved us, because I said, “Oh, she doesn't work here anymore, so let's just leave. We'll go to the North Tower and we'll get the people out.”

We're standing probably about 20 feet away from where the first collapse happened. This is how close I was to the North Tower. And, of course, the South Tower on the other side, the South Tower being the one that fell first, and then the North Tower. You know, the Towers, they had come down in a pancake-like collapse. It was 110 stories’ worth of debris, but it had fallen one on top of another on top of another. And sure, there was debris that went askew or aside, but there were overhangs on buildings four, and five, and six. And basically, that's where I was able to survive, because it created like a void for me where I could find refuge and hide with the rest of the guys from my team. There was a lot of debris around us, but we weren't actually hit by it, thank God.

We're looking at the new Trade Center tower here. And just figure it, that's approximately a little bit over 110 stories. That's 1,776 feet all the way to the top of the radio tower. So, that would give you some kind of perspective on how the old World Trade Center was. And just imagine all this falling and you're like, “Oh my God, I'm like a little ant. I'm just going to get hit by all this debris,” and that didn't occur.

Nehemia: It's amazing. For me to look to the top of the new World Trade Center, One World Trade Center, my neck actually has to extend so far back, it hurts to see the top. And we're the same distance as Detective Brink was on 9/11 from the North Tower. And I can't imagine us surviving if this thing collapsed. But with that overhang, you survived.

David: I had lucked out not once but twice that day, thank God. But it was something that a lot of people didn't survive because they were hit by the debris, and they passed that day.

Nehemia: So, you're standing approximately where we're standing right now, and you're helping people escape from the North Tower before it collapses. The Tower collapses. Take us from there.

David: Well, after the North Tower had collapsed, I was on the Survivors’ Staircase on the landing. And that's where I was able to find refuge from all the debris that was falling down. After the smoke had cleared a short time later, we were able to get the remaining guys from our team, and we were able to go down the Survivors’ Staircase and we were on the ground level. We walked by the Post Office building and we found a way to West Broadway. And we started walking northbound on there. There's a Church that's over there. And we still had our forcible entry equipment, but one of the doors was open. It was the only place that had really clean air to breathe. And what I mean is, it wasn't contaminated or clouded up. We went inside the Church and I hit the altar right away. I knelt down in prayer. I was thanking God that I was still alive, and I was praying for my friends. I knew that they were gone, but either way, I was saying, “I hope they made it out okay.”

I had found some holy water and some vestments, that's the cloths that the priests wear. And I splashed the holy water on my face and I used the vestments to wipe my eyes, because I had a lot of broken glass that was inside my eyes. And I looked up and there was the priest and I go, “I'm so sorry Father,” me being a good Catholic boy. And he says, “Don't worry, my son, that's what it's supposed to be used for.” I was like, “Oh, thank God.” I just wanted to splash water on my face. We were so hot with all the equipment that we had, and we just wanted to get some of the smoke off our faces.

We collected our thoughts there for a while, and then we wound up going over to the Woolworth Building. And that's where they had the mobilization point for my unit, and they started taking a roll call of who was still left and who was gone. They were trying to make heads or tails. And they said, “If you were hurt, then you have to go to the hospital to get checked out.” They didn't want us going back in to search for survivors, although we wanted to. But we were really hurting. There was nothing really further that we could do, because we couldn't see. My eyes were scratched. Every time I'd open and close them, they would get further injured.

So, they basically loaded us all into one ambulance and they took us to downtown Beekman Hospital to get our eyes washed or checked out for other injuries. Some guys hurt their arms, or hands, or even their heads. And when they took us to downtown Beekman there was just so many doctors and nurses on staff, and gurneys that were outside the hospital ER. And we pulled up in the ambulance, and they go, “Where's all the patients? Where is everybody?” I said, “No one's coming. They were all lost in the collapse.” They had recalled all the nurses and doctors in, but there weren't a lot of survivors. And the survivors that were there were brought to the various hospitals. But they weren't the hundreds and thousands of victims that they thought they were going to be getting.

Nehemia: Wow, when we have a terrorist attack in Jerusalem it will be, you know, 10 will be killed and then there will be 100 wounded. And here, there were very few wounded. Most were just dead.

David: Yeah, I mean, there were definitely wounded people that were here, but they thought they were going to be getting a lot more living casualties. And unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Nearly 3,000 people were lost that day. And the ones that did survive, or the ones that were injured were handled very, very quickly and easily. I was very fortunate. One of the best eye doctors in New York City was there, and they were able to flush out all of our eyes. And to this day, my eyes are almost 100 percent now because of them.

Nehemia: Can you tell us a little bit about coming back here after for the rescue and recovery operation?

David: Well, after a week, I started the rescue and recovery efforts. At that point in time, it was mostly a recovery effort. And we were basically just looking for any human remains so that we could return them to their families. We did find some people that were fully intact, and others, they were just fragments. New York City Medical Examiner's office has over 1,000 different pieces of different bodies that they still haven't identified yet. But they're going to continue trying through various methods that weren't even available in 2001, so that the families can have a burial, or have some sense of closure for their loved ones that are down here.

It was 16 years ago, so a lot of the mothers and fathers, unfortunately, they’re starting to age and die out. I knew that happened with one of my guys, Jerome. His mom had passed away and so did his dad. And fortunately, we found something and we had a Mass and Christian burial up at St. Patrick's Cathedral here in New York, which we were able to attend. But a lot of other people that weren't recovered, such as Wally Weaver, his dad had passed away a few years ago when he was never able to have something to bury from his son. It was basically a symbolic burial.

What I was saying before, some of the symbol steel that I would give to the families, they would have that as a piece of the Trade Center so they could actually hold that in their hands. And they said, “This is where my son or daughter was. This is where, unfortunately, they passed away, and I have this now forever as a remembrance of them.”

Nehemia: Wow, that's...

David: One of the stories that I had down here, we had a change of tours, because they worked us in 12-hour shifts. We'd be working here from six in the morning till six at night, and then the midnight shift would come on at six at night, and they'd work until six in the morning. And in-between those shifts, the unions would shut down all the heavy equipment, and the firefighters would come out of the hole, as did the police department. We were the only ones that were allowed down here.

And they would have a couple of police officers that were down here to watch over the site as the “changing of the guards,” as we used to call it, would occur. And that would be, usually, for an hour before they would get their different sectors or assignments. And they would say, “Okay, you guys are going to dig in this sector or go in this sector.” And I was working down here with another partner, and we were the only two police officers assigned to the entire Trade Center site, which covered many, many acres. And I was standing over it, and it was a very cool night in December, close to Christmas time. And you could actually see some of the stars poking through.

And my friend that I was working with, Ed, he was another police officer and he had to utilize the men's room. And he said, “Dave, I'll be right back.” So, I was the only living soul down here. And it was a little overwhelming for me, because there were a lot of people that we hadn't recovered, and I felt like I was the caretaker for all these people's souls. I was watching over them and I was speaking to them, especially Wally, my old partner, because we didn't find him yet. And I was like, “Please help us find you, help us find you guys. You know, just give me some place to go and try to locate you.” And we never found him, but other people were found. But that was something that was very, very overwhelming for me at that time, because I was the only living soul, the only living being down here at the Trade Center site for about 15 minutes. And I was just looking over the utter devastation and it was very overwhelming. I was the caretaker for all these people that we’d lost and still hadn't recovered.

Nehemia: And, you know, in a way you still are. They can't speak and you're speaking for them.

David: I know, and I do speak for them. I try to get their story out so that nobody will ever forget. I had a lot of survivor's guilt coming out of there that day. I had traded places with Jerome Dominguez. He was supposed to be working in Harlem that day. I was supposed to be working with him, and instead I was working in the Bronx. And that was probably one of the things that saved my life, because if I was closer, I would have been going into the South Tower. I had a lot of survivor's guilt. How come him, not me? How come Wally, not me? And I just try to live the best life that I can for them, to honor them. You know, I try to be a good person as best as I can, and for my family, and I just try to live for them.

If you do come to New York, I would suggest you should come down here. It's a place to reflect and remember all the people that we lost down here in New York City. It's a very solemn place, I would just say, you've got to come here to see it. It's kind of hard to describe it and for you to visualize what it looks like. But you actually have to come here to see the artifacts, see the names. And for a lot of people it's overwhelming, and if you see it you'll never forget what happened on that day.

Nehemia: Wow, I really appreciate you sharing everything with us. Would you end this program with a prayer, whatever's on your heart?

David: Well, I wasn't really prepared for that. But I would just bow my head and say, “Father, please bless all these people that we lost down here, and watch over their souls. And for all the people that are up there in Heaven with you now, just please take care of them and help us be able to recover the remains to give the families that have lost somebody closure. And thank you for letting me survive the two collapses.” Amen.

Nehemia: Amen. Thank you.

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Special thanks to First Responder Detective David Brink (NYPD Retired) for your heroism and for sharing your story with us, and to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Please consider making a donation to the Tunnel 2 Towers Foundation in honor of David Brink, Walter Weaver, and Jerome Dominguez.

Messenger bicycles parked outside the World Trade Center whose owners perished on 9/11. - Photo courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Messenger bicycles parked outside the World Trade Center whose owners perished on 9/11. - Photo courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Art created by David Brink out of steel from the ruins of the towers. This piece depicts the Twin Towers. Detective Brink gave many of his art pieces to families whose loved one's remains were never recovered from Ground Zero. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial Museum

Art created by David Brink out of steel from the ruins of the towers. This piece depicts the Twin Towers. Detective Brink gave many of his art pieces to families whose loved one's remains were never recovered from Ground Zero. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial Museum

The gloves used by Det. David Brink during the rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero following 9/11. These gloves were donated by an unknown stranger who wrote "Thank you!" on the gloves. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

The gloves used by Det. David Brink during the rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero following 9/11. These gloves were donated by an unknown stranger who wrote "Thank you!" on the gloves. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Ladder 3 of the Fire Department of New York was shredded on 9/11 when the World Trade Center collapsed. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Ladder 3 of the Fire Department of New York was shredded on 9/11 when the World Trade Center collapsed. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

The remains of an elevator motor from the Twin Towers. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

The remains of an elevator motor from the Twin Towers. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Part of the antenna from the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, destroyed on 9/11. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Part of the antenna from the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, destroyed on 9/11. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Survivors Stairs - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

The "Survivors Stairs" where David Brink and other First Responders guided hundreds of people to safety after the South Tower collapsed. These stairs were protected from falling pieces of the North Tower by an overhang on Word Trade Center Building #5. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

This Bible opened to the New Testament passage containing the "Sermon on the Mount" was found fused to a chunk of steel at the World Trade Center. - Photo Courtesy of 9-11 Memorial & Museum

This Bible opened to the New Testament passage containing the "Sermon on the Mount" was found fused to a chunk of steel at the World Trade Center. - Photo Courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum

On 9/11, David Brink ran into this church and washed his eyes out using "holy water" from this basin. The sculpture on at the other end of the church contains the name of God in Hebrew.

On 9/11, David Brink ran into this church and washed his eyes out using "holy water" from this basin. The sculpture at the other end of the church contains the name of God in Hebrew. - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

God's holy name in Hebrew in the 9/11 Church, across the street from the World Trade Center. On 9/11, David Brink entered the church to escape the toxic dust cloud, formed when the towers collapsed. - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

God's holy name in Hebrew in the 9/11 Church, across the street from the World Trade Center. On 9/11, David Brink entered the church to escape the toxic dust cloud, formed when the towers collapsed. - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

The front of the 9/11 Church (St. Paul's Chapel) has a sculpture representing "The Glory" as God's holy name in Hebrew. The light coming from the Tetragrammaton inside of clouds represents the "Glory" described in Exodus 24:16-17 and Ezekiel 1:28.

The front of the 9/11 Church has a sculpture inscribed with God's holy name in Hebrew. The light coming from the Tetragrammaton inside of clouds represents "The Glory" described in Exodus 24:16-17 and Ezekiel 1:28. - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

David Brink shows his tattoo honoring the memory of those First Responders who died on 9/11. The tattoo says, "In Memory of Our Fallen Brothers 9-11-2001 W.W. [Walter Weaver] - J.D. [Jerome Dominguez]" - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

David Brink shows his tattoo honoring the memory of those First Responders who died on 9/11. The tattoo says, "In Memory of Our Fallen Brothers 9-11-2001 W.W. [Walter Weaver] - J.D. [Jerome Dominguez]". - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

David Brink's tattoo honoring the memory of those First Responders who died on 9/11. The tattoo says, "In Memory of Our Fallen Brothers 9-11-2001 W.W. [Walter Weaver] - J.D. [Jerome Dominguez]" - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

David Brink's tattoo honoring the memory of those First Responders who died on 9/11. The tattoo says, "In Memory of Our Fallen Brothers 9-11-2001 W.W. [Walter Weaver]. - J.D. [Jerome Dominguez]" - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

FDNY cadets line up along the sides of the 9/11 Memorial bearing the names of the First Responders who died on 9/11.

FDNY cadets line up along the sides of the 9/11 Memorial bearing the names of the First Responders who died on 9/11. - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

A flower marking the name of one of the victims on the 9/11 Memorial. A flower is placed on the person's birthday by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

A flower marking the name of one of the victims on the 9/11 Memorial. A flower is placed on the person's birthday by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

The 9/11 Memorial at night marking the spots where the towers stood.

The 9/11 Memorial at night marking the spots where the towers stood. - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

Israeli-American mathematician Daniel M. Lewin, a veteran of Israel's elite Sayeret Matkal, may have been the first victim of 9/11. According to an FAA memo, Lewin was murdered by Satam Al-Suqami when he tried to stop Mohamed Atta from taking over Flight 11. This was based on a phone call made by Flight Attendants Amy Sweeney and Betty Ong during the attack. The terrorists eventually crashed Flight 11 into North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Israeli-American mathematician Daniel M. Lewin, a veteran of Israel's elite Sayeret Matkal, may have been the first victim of 9/11. According to an FAA memo, Lewin was murdered by Satam Al-Suqami when he tried to stop Mohamed Atta from taking over Flight 11. This was based on phone calls made by Flight Attendants Amy Sweeney and Betty Ong during the attack. The terrorists eventually crashed Flight 11 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

The 9/11 Memorial at the entrance to Jerusalem presents an American flag rising victoriously from the flames of the collapsing Twin Towers. This was the first 9/11 Memorial outside the United States to contain the names of all the nearly 3,000 victims. A piece of the Word Trade Center is embedded at the bottom of the memorial.

The 9/11 Memorial at the entrance to Jerusalem presents an American flag rising victoriously from the flames of the collapsing Twin Towers. This was the first 9/11 Memorial outside the United States to contain the names of all the nearly 3,000 victims. A piece of the Word Trade Center is embedded at the bottom of the memorial. - Photo by Nehemia Gordon

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  • Michael Mauro says:

    Touching tribute. This will never stop until the Messiah comes to rule and reign. Mankind cannot justly or peacefully rule himself.

  • Sadly, as the USA and the world drift deeper into moral decay, this was not the first “wake up call”, and will likely not be the last.

    I humbly applaud David Brink’s resolve to live the best and most honorable life he can, as a memorial to the dead. “What does Yhwh require of us, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our elohim.

    The “pearl harbor” comments are far more profound than words can express, as the pearl harbor attack was known of in advance, and the sailors were not warned. Overall war intelligence and strategy was deemed of more value than the men’s lives.

  • Donald Smith says:

    Nehemia – Thank you for doing this segment. Every year on the anniversary of 9/11 my heart is heavy to think of the loss of innocent lives on that day. We must realize everyday that we are in a battle. The kingdom of darkness is doing all it can to destroy the Kingdom of YHVH. We must run into our strong tower, our Migal Oz and trust the power and might of our Heavenly Father. We are TRIUMPHANT!

  • Jay Baxtresser says:

    I was just recently in NYC at this chapel and because of Nehemia’s research I was able to tell an Idian gentleman what this meant when he asked me about it. Thank you Nehemia and thank you Yehova for what you did that terrible day. Psalm 61:3

  • dotco8 says:

    This interview was so moving! How I wish it had been a video! Thank you Nehemia, for taking us with you. Please repost this every year for more folks to hear it.

  • Sheila Price says:

    I watched a 3 night series “Road To 9/11” this week, and now seeing and hearing this helps add a few more pieces to a puzzle that will never be completed but helps me visualize the size, the enormity of the buildings, and the sense the sorrow and the honor the memorial represents to those who died that day.
    I find the scripture fused but not burned into the metal quite fascinating.
    The memorial in Jerusalem is beautiful!
    Thank you, Mr. Brink for your service.
    Thank you, Nehemia for bringing this information to us.

  • Tom Kelly says:

    Nehemiah, the remembrance of ” That Day, 9-11″ was very emotional to hear. Thank you for bringing it to life once again. Tom Kelly. From The Olive Branch which you have visited many times.