Between Shifts

Between Shifts

 World Trade Center disaster unfolded between shifts, so 11 firefighters--instead of 5--responded and are now missing. Disaster struck at the worst possible time. The World Trade Center catastrophe unfolded between firefighting shifts, prompting firefighters at the end of their tours to jump onto departing trucks alongside other firefighters just starting their day.

That is why 11 Rescue Co. 5 firefighters, instead of the five or six who usually man a rescue squad, went to the crash scene -- and are now missing. The elite company left for Manhattan at around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, shortly after they returned to quarters from a minor steam leak at Bayley Seton Hospital in Clifton at about 9 a.m. They haven't been seen since.

A 12th member of the 25-man unit, Bill Spade, who drove into Manhattan alone on the Tactical Support 2 truck while the others were at the Bayley Seton job, made it out of the collapse and was hospitalized for three days. He went home yesterday. "It's just unfortunate the way it happened. They got us in between tours," said Firefighter John Burgess of New Springville, a member of Engine 158 in Mariners Harbor.

For the family of one Rescue 5 firefighter, it was a day of turmoil. Charlie Margiotta was told at 10 a.m. yesterday that his son, Firefighter Chuck Margiotta of Westerleigh, had been found. The firefighter was reported to be in critical condition in a hospital, the father said. But despite "almost confirmed" word about the rescue, the father said his son was not listed as found later in the day. "Either the lists are wrong or the people have no names and there's so much confusion," the firefighter's father said. "It's been a high-low to the point where the family is getting run down."

Despite the presumed deaths of scores of comrades, most firefighters outside Rescue 5 were eager to get to ground zero. "I just want to get in there. I don't want to sit here and wait," said
Firefighter Paul Albrecht, a Concord resident assigned to Engine 158 in Mariners Harbor.
"They're saying there's still people alive in there," he said. Firefighter Paul Gaither of Engine 158 was also eager to get to the Trade Center disaster area, where he had not yet been. One firefighter on Clove Road, who had been to the wreckage, said he dug for 16 straight hours.

"It looks like New York in the first 'Planet of the Apes' (movie)," said a firefighter with Ladder 79 in West Brighton. The firefighters waited hours, and then huddled in a large group, before
they finally entered the buses for Manhattan sometime after 7 p.m. "It was shock first," Firefighter Eddie Turner of Westerleigh said of the demolition, a few hours before he was summoned to Manhattan. "But now, the anger is definitely setting in.
 Staten Island Advance