The highest ranking fire official to escape last September’s attack on the World Trade Center, was in the stateline Tuesday. New York city fire chief Richard Picciotto talked to an audience at Northern Illinois University’s student center.
Just one day before the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks chief Picciotto talked about his experiences saving lives and nearly losing his own.
Chief Richard Picciotto remembers the morning as if it happened yesterday. Working to save victims in the north tower of the world trade center, disbelief and shock turned to action, when he learned that south tower had crumbled to the ground.
"I though the south tower had been hit by a bomb and I thought the north would be next. It's a hard decision to abandon a building to leave all of those people behind,” says Picciotto.
As Picciotto and others scrambled for safety the tower they were in started to give.
"I wasn't afraid to die. I didn't want to die but I wasn't afraid to. I just didn't want to suffer,” says Picciotto.
After a few hours beneath the rubble, Picciotto and several others were rescued.
"That day we realized how strong our brotherhood is and how strong our country is,” says Picciotto.
Picciotto's words drew applause from the crowd and even some tears on the eve of the first anniversary of the attacks.
"It was very moving, very inspirational. It really hit home,” says DeKalb resident Gina Vaughn.
Fire Chief Picciotto says it's up to each person to decide what they'll do Wednesday to remember Sept. 11. He says he'll say a prayer for the victims and their families but does not plan to be in New York City.