Joe Torrillo was a 25 year Lieutenant with the NYC Fire Dept. who spent the first 15 years of his career in Engine Company # 10, across the street from the South Tower of the World Trade Center. While recuperating from a severe injury on New Years Eve in 1996, Joe was assigned to convalesce in the office of fire safety education and soon named the Director of this public-based program. In his new position, Joe would co-design a children's state-of-the-art fire safety learning center, which opened in October, 2000.
This new venue, "The Fire Zone ", in the heart of Manhattan, was nominated and won the coveted "THEA" award at the Emmy's in 2002. Shortly thereafter, Joe worked on a project with Fisher-Price Toys to help design a new children's "action figure", which was part of their line of "Rescue Heroes". This new action figure was named "Billy Blazes" and was a likeness of a NYC Firefighter, who was an addition to their other "Rescue Heroes ." In conjunction with the Executives of the Fisher-Price Corp., Joe chose the "Fire Zone" as the location for the press conference to introduce "Billy Blazes", and then keeping with a safety theme, ironically chose the date of September 11, 2001, because 9/11 is the Emergency phone number in New York City.
On the way to the press conference at 9 a.m., Joe was about an eighth of a mile away from the World Trade Center, when American Airlines Flight #11 struck the South Tower at 8:46 a.m. Fearing for his Firefighter brothers, Joe diverted to the scene to render assistance. Three minutes after donning borrowed bunker gear, at 9:03 a.m., the second jet, flew over Joe's head and slammed in to the South Tower. With a background in Structural Engineering, Joe made an immediate assessment that everyone above the fire was doomed to death, and the buildings would collapse.
While Joe was involved in the rescue operation, the South tower fell at 9:59 a.m. Joe was buried alive with a fractured skull, broken ribs, broken arm, crushed spine and heavy internal bleeding. Shortly after being found alive in the rubble, they removed Joe on a long spine board and placed him on the deck of a boat on the Hudson River, with the expectation of getting him to a hospital. As emergency personnel were holding his split scalp together, the North Tower fell and buried Joe alive again. He was alone in the engine room.
Joe was once again rescued from the debris and taken to the Jersey City Trauma Center. Because he was wearing a borrowed set of firefighting clothing with the name Thomas McNamara, Joe was misidentified and declared missing for three days. By the time the sun set on the evening of September 11, 2001, Joe had miraculously survived the collapse of both Towers, but with life-long injuries. Today Joe Torrillo travels the world as a professional speaker with a quest to make our country the "Re-United States of America", resurrecting patriotism, trumpeting the men and women of the Armed Services, mentoring adolescents, and inspiring audiences of all sizes to embrace change and never give up on their dreams.
- Buried Alive With the Will to Survive - From Devastation to Inspiration
- (Your company) - Teamwork Now More Than Ever
- Putting the Spark in (your company's) Fire
- Prejudice, Stereotyping, and Discrimination
- The Price Tag of Greed, An Overview of a Chutes and Ladders Life
Adversity/Challenge, Motivation, Risk, Safety, Politics/patriotism, Celebrity
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