4. Appendix: NYPD Helicopters in the Recollections of First Responders

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The results from this appendix were developed via a Google site:nytimes.com search on 01/03/2011 for mentionings of “helicopter” among the 9/11 Task Force Interviews. I received 649 results, with the intended Task Force Interviews just on the first two pages. I repeated the order, replacing “helicopter” by “chopper”, which yielded 640 results, three of them from the Task Force Interviews. Replacing “chopper” by “gyroplane” or “whirlybird” yielded no results from the Task Force Interviews.


In sum, there are 21 references to helicopters to be found in the Oral Histories published by the New York Times, following the method described above. Below are the relevant excerpts from the Task Force Interviews, containing the helicopter references, in the sequence I received from the Google search.

When I got to Church Street, the second plane hit. We didn’t know it was a plane; we thought it was helicopters going around. I thought a helicopter went into it.

Firefighter Arthur Riccio, December 10, 2001

We got off the rig, we started walking south to the command center when a Police Officer stopped us and said, “hold up, guys. I have helicopters –” he was on the cell phone “– on the cell phone here.” And he says “When this one comes down, it’s coming right for us.” Meaning coming up West Street.

Firefighter Brendan Lowrey, January 9, 2002

The radios had gone silent, you know, guessing, because the repeater tower went down. Nobody knew what was going on. I thought I heard a helicopter. There were a lot of people running, lots of patients or would-be patients running past us.

EMT Richard Zarillo, October 25, 2001

There was a group of people there. There were people waiting for assignments. I remember someone saying they wanted to know if they could land helicopters on the roof. I think Chief Cassano said it can’t be done.

Battalion Chief Dominick DeRubbio, October 12, 2001

We all ran into the kitchen. Everybody regrouped in the kitchen. We were watching the news, and they had helicopters in the air immediately with the footage. We were discussing more than likely we’re going to go down there, this is going to be a big fire.

Firefighter Edward Cachia, December 6, 2001

I was just saying, my brother-in-law, he has a picture taken from a helicopter after Two World Trade fell. This whole area was engulfed, all the way over to the rivers.

Firefighter Thomas Spinard, January 11, 2002

At one point I was asked to get the operations with the helicopter into motion. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I could not get ahold of the dispatcher to do that.

Chief Joseph Pfeifer, October 23, 2001

We worked it out with a Police Officer, I believe, or maybe even a sergeant from ESU by the name of Techie who would — where the cops would be landing their helicopters, where we would be landing the Medivac helicopters.

Captain David Fenton, December 18, 2001

And a lady walks up to me and says a plane hit the Trade Center, and I looked at her like she was crazy. I said it might have been a helicopter, not a plane. So I kept walking.

EMT Jason Charles, January 23, 2002

It was just I heard a plane struck the south tower. I remember saying how is that possible? In my mind, I´m thinking it might be a news helicopter.

Chief Steven King, November 21, 2001

I looked up. I saw a helicopter, and I was trying to figure out what he was doing. Then the second tower exploded and started coming down.

Lieutenant Richard Skellington, December 11, 2001

But that plane and the rumble, especially because you hadn’t heard a plane since; maybe a helicopter or two. But that sound, that was — and just to see all these fighter jets over New York City was very, very strange.

Paramedic Tracy Mulqueen, October 4, 2001

The sound was incredible. We didn’t know what it was at the time. We thought it might have been a bomb. I remember right before that I saw a helicopter passing by and I thought maybe it was a helicopter, we were thinking a bomb, but we knew at this point something wasn’t right.

Lieutenant Wayne Mera, December 12, 2001

All of a sudden we heard the helicopters. They were guys coming in from New Jersey, cobras, so they were our attack helicopters.

EMT Mark Mazur, October 19, 2001

Then as I looked up, I saw this helicopter hovering from in front of one of the buildings, it was the first one that was hit.

EMT James McKinley, October 21, 2001

By this point, John Claire, Commissioner Claire, as well as Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Richmond, who were also at the upstate meeting, were flown back apparently by state troop helicopter.

Dr. Glenn Asaeda, October 11, 2001

We got there before the second plane hit, so we got there after the first plane. Everybody was speculating that it was a possibility that it was a news helicopter that had lost control and slammed into the tower.

EMT Felipe Torre, October 9, 2001

[…] I didn’t even look up. I just remember hearing like the helicopters. Everybody was just running wild, and I pretty much couldn’t see.

EMT Sean Cunniffe, October 26, 2001

At that point I was going, where the hell are the choppers? That´s my mentality, going where the hell are the jets, where the hell are the choppers.

Firefighter Timothy Burke, January 22, 2002

I abandoned my vehicle at about the Staten Island ferry terminal. I pulled over there, by where they have the chopper pads on the East fiver.

Chief Mark Steffens, October 3, 2001

So he told me that basically the state police were securing a chopper for him and the other two physicians to fly them down. That was my last communication with him.

Paramedic Manuel Delgado, October 2, 2001


Not all of the references are relevant to our goal. We have to throw out every reference to helicopters insofar the cited person is not actually seeing them, hearing them or being otherwise in touch with them at Ground Zero. This includes just thinking about helicopters, i.e. the recollections of Firefighter Arthur Riccio, Chief Steven King, EMT Jason Charles, Paramedic Tracy Mulqueen, EMT Felipe Torre, and Firefighter Timothy Burke. This includes assumptions from persons talking about helicopters in other contexts, i.e. the recollections of Firefighter Edward Cachia, Firefighter Thomas Spinard, Dr. Glenn Asaeda, Chief Mark Steffens, and Paramedic Manuel Delgado. And this includes persons describing how other people are talking about helicopters, i.e. the recollections of Firefighter Brendan Lowrey, and Battalion Chief Dominick DeRubbio.


Eight recollections remain. Three of the recollectors, Lieutenant Richard Skellington, EMT Sean Cunniffe, and EMT Richard Zarillo heard a helicopter or more; two of them, Lieutenant Wayne Mera and EMT James McKinley, saw one; two of them, Captain David Fenton and Chief Joseph Pfeifer, were handling helicopter operations; last, but not least, EMT Mark Mazure presents a vague account with respect to timeline and the exact nature of the helicopter.

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