Never Forget: Retired NYPD Police Officer Says Now His Job Is To Keep Talking About September 11
WAXHAW, N.C. – “The only way I can describe it is hell on earth,” says Frank DeMasi. He was an NYPD officer in the Emergency Service Unit on September 11, 2001. He raced to the scene when the first plane flew into the World Trade Center. He was in lower Manhattan when the second plane hit. He remembers, “Even two or three blocks away, I can feel the heat on the back of my neck.”
As he made his way toward the towers, he saw and heard things no one should: people jumping from the windows. He says, “They decided at a certain point that, ‘what’s behind me is a worse scenario than jumping.’ And I cant imagine a human being have to make that decision. How could jumping out of the 90th floor ever be a better decision as to what’s behind you?”
DeMasi was just minutes away from going into the towers when they collapsed. As a debris cloud chased people away, DeMasi took cover under a truck. For nine minutes, he waited, and wondered if he would suffocate. He says, “(It was) pitch black on that sunny day, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.” And, “I really thought I was gonna die under that truck.”
DeMasi crawled out, and went back to what was left of the towers. 23 NYPD officers died that day. 14 were in DeMasi’s unit. Their names were: Sgt. John Coughlin, Sgt. Michael Curtin, Sgt. Rodney Gillis, Det. Joseph Vigiano, P.O. John D’Allara, P.O. Vincent Danz, P.O. Jerome Dominguez, P.O. Stephen Driscoll, P.O. Ronald Kloepfer, P.O. Thomas Langone, P.O. Brian McDonnell, P.O. Paul Talty, P.O. Santos Valentin, and P.O. Walter Weaver. DeMasi says, “We were family. We were brothers.”
In the following weeks and months, DeMasi worked to find survivors, and then, body parts. He says, “It would be cause for excitement, as if you found someone. Because we knew some family is going to have closure. Someone will have something to bury of their loved one. A mother, a father, a son, or daughter.”
DeMasi set up a table in his home 18 years ago. It displays a cross made from tower steel, a bolt and glass from the towers, and a thin piece of metal from the plane that hit the South Tower. He says he used to wonder why his 14 friends were killed and he wasn’t. Now, he’s settled on this: “Maybe I was here for a reason. Maybe I am here to continue their legacy and talk about them and tell people my story in hopes they never forget that day.”
Tune into WCCB Charlotte this Saturday morning at 8 for our Remembering 9/11 20 Years Later special. We’ll be live from Uptown for the Flags of Remembrance Ceremony and the 9/11 Firefighter Stair Climb.