A 9/11 Hero
How one New York firefighter survived disaster
by Peter K. Johnson

John S. Picarello arrived at the World Trade Center after United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. He rushed to the staging area in the Marriott hotel between the Twin Towers, where 100 firefighters and rescue workers were waiting for assignments. His mission was to help supervise fire operations on the 75th floor of the North Tower.

Suddenly a rumbling started to reverberate through the hotel lobby. Within seconds the building was vibrating and shaking.

Taking only a few steps, Picarello dove or fell to the floor near a wall. He cried out: "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" Then everything came crashing down around him.

Expecting to die, Picarello thought: I hope this doesn't hurt. Let it be over quick. An eerie silence and darkness took over.

Moving his limbs he realized he was still alive. He heard groans and saw flashlights being switched on. Chunks of concrete and twisted steel were piled to the ceiling less than 36 inches from him. Thirty-four firefighters were killed that morning when the South Tower collapsed on the hotel.

After digging out survivors, Picarello and his comrades found an open corridor that exited the building. They stumbled into a murky maze of fire, smoke and rubble at the foot of the still intact North Tower.

Picarello was ordered to report to the FDNY command post and request four ladder companies and a rescue company. After passing under the North Tower bridge he heard the same rumbling sound again. He looked up and saw the huge aerial on top of the tower swaying.

"My heart was in my throat," he says of witnessing the collapse of the North Tower. "I had no doubt in my mind this was it."

Running like a madman he scurried under an abandoned truck. Then everything turned black and he began choking and vomiting. He escaped but still suffers from the shock of 9/11. How he serves Christ has changed.

"There's a compassion I didn't have before. If you don't have an intimate walk with God when times are good, there's no way you're going to get a hold of Him when all hell breaks loose."

"Reprinted with permission from Charisma & Christian Life, August, 2006. Copyright Strang Communications Co., USA. All rights reserved. www.charismamag.com."