A Survivor's Story

Ronald T. Coyne

New York City Fireman

At 0900 hours, my Partner Trihn Dihn (trin-din) had just come out of Kings County Hospital.  I could hear screaming coming over the radio for back up units forthwith.  As soon as I made our unit available, we heard the dispatcher tell us to switch to citywide frequency and report to the World Trade Center.  I heard on the radio that there was some sort of plane accident, which would not have been the first I have ever done.

As we were traveling down Eastern parkway I could see the large amount of smoke coming from tower one.  When we got on the Brooklyn Bridge I was taking snap shots of the explosion.  It was then I saw the second plane hit tower two.  I knew we were in for a rough day.  Trin turned to me and grabbed my hand saying, "I am really scared, Please make sure we don't separate".  I explained to Trin that there was nothing to fear, God would protect His own.  As I was explaining salvation to her, we were stopped by the police and were told that we needed to bring in a doctor.  I let the dispatcher know whom we had on board and asked where they wanted us to go.  

We were assigned to Vesse and West side highway.  As we came around the corner and under the tunnel for the west side, all I could hear was screaming and people running in our direction.  That's when I noticed all the debris and smoke.  Tower one had just collapsed no more than twenty feet in front us.  It was a blizzard of gray ash.  I told the doctor to open the narcotics bag and for my partner to get in the back with the doctor.  I saw elderly people trying there hardest to find a way out but for them there was none.  I jumped out of the ambulance and started to pick people up over my shoulder two at a time to get them in the back of the ambulance.  We managed to fit about twelve people in there sharing oxygen from each other. I told my partner I was going to look for other survivors.  I grabbed as many mask's as I could carry and a couple of cases of water.  I was handing them out as I was heading towards tower one, but there was no access at all.  I cut down a side street to tower two.  I had noticed people trying to get out of an emergency exit but could not.  I had cleared the debris and counted twenty-five people inside.  I had explained to them it was not safe because they were too close to the building.  I had explained to them the conditions outside and helped them make makeshift mask to keep them safe.  I told them to hold hands and not to let go for any reason.  I had lead them to safety and then headed back towards tower two.  

There were some police officers and I breaking windows to check for children or unconscious adults.  That's when I hear this loud clap of thunder.  I saw a tidal wave of cement and smoke coming directly towards me.  All I could do was run as fast as I could.  I kept repeating to my self Psalm 23; “The Lord is my Shepherd:  I shall not want, He maketh me lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.”  That's about as far as I got before the Lord showed me an SUV, I attempted to break the back window three times before it finally gave in.  It was too late I had already been covered in ash, oil and other particles; I climbed in and went between the rear seat and the front seat for cushion.  I remember saying to Our Lord, “God please don't let me die like this.  My work for you is unfinished.  Lord you are my Savior and my Rock.  Your will be done.”  It was total darkness from the ash, my shirt was catching on fire and so were my socks.  “Father God, I can't breath” I said.  I was falling asleep from no oxygen.  I felt as if someone had been giving me respirations, there was peace and calm around me.  I knew right then and there it was the Holy Spirit breathing for me.  After about a half hour I was able to tunnel my way out of the vehicle, thanking and praising God for my near untimely demise.

My other concern was; where was my partner?  I went back to the area where I parked the ambulance.  They had all been incinerated or crushed.  My heart fell from my chest.  Yes I am a very happily married Christian man, but Trin was my partner and I have a different love for her also, we have been through a lot together as partners.  I could not live with myself had I left her there to die.

As I was looking for her I came across a lot of dead EMS, NYPD, FDNY personnel that I had worked with for a long time.  It was too much to handle.  I finally found Trin at one of the triage areas.  I just fell and cried.  She came and gave me a hug and then slapped me.  She said, "You always do this to me, playing hero, I don't know if you were dead or alive."  Then hugged me again.

I was ordered to go to the destroyed vehicles ands salvage what ever I could since we were short on supplies.  Once again I had to pass my deceased co-workers.  The smell of blood and burnt flesh was becoming normal.  After I did what I was told, I was ordered off the scene by the duty captain, I am not much for listening to authority.  I needed to be there to at least make the attempt to help more people.  Finally at 2300 hours (11p.m.) I was told that if I did not leave the scene they would take me out in hand cuffs.  When I got back to Brooklyn, I was ordered to get to the hospital.  When I got there my oxygen level was 88%.  You are dead at 84%.  But I never lost faith.  I just kept talking with Jesus and had this overwhelming comfort.  I had to leave the hospital because I kept hearing the news and the screams and the buildings falling.  All I wanted to do was go home and hug my wife and my 4 children.

When I did finally get home in the clothes that I was wearing, I saw my wife and fell into her arms and cried, just saying to her how horrible it was without going into details.  God has things for me to do she said, and we as a family will pray and find out what.  I am now suffering from high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning, Pneumonia and I was told that there are crystal like substances in my lungs and should come up on their own.  I am here in body, however I left a major portion of my life behind and I am not really sure if I will ever get it back.

But I still rest in the comfort of the Lord and my wife who has to deal with the nightmare I get and the crying I do in my sleep (if I sleep).  To sum it up, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Philippians 4:13

In His name,

Ronald T Coyne

New York City Fireman

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