9/11 Stories: Richie Alles

Battalion Chief Richie Alles had just completed a 24-hour shift in Canarsie, Brooklyn on the morning of September 11th. It had been an exceptionally busy night. Richie was doing paperwork and was in no rush to get home. His wife was at work as a nurse at Long Island Jewish Hospital and his 11-year-old daughter was in school. Always a news junkie, Alles had the tv on as he worked, when the first plane hit The World Trade Center’s North Tower. The first reports were it was a small plane. Then came word, no, it was a passenger jet. Alles immediately started envisioning how he’d respond if he was assigned to a firehouse in Lower Manhattan. The plane had hit the 80th floor. The elevators wouldn’t be working. How would they get all the gear up the tower? As his mind raced through various scenarios, a second plane hit the South Tower. The FDNY announced a total recall of all firefighters. 

City buses were used to rush the firefighters to Lower Manhattan. While they were on the bus, news came that the South Tower collapsed. Alles says the news was “a real smack in the head”. He remembers thinking, “ We just lost, I have no idea, how many civilians that are in the building, in the process of being evacuated, and all the firefighters and fire officers who were operating in that tower”. Alles would later learn one of his two best friends in the FDNY, 45-year-old fellow Battalion Chief Eddie Geraghty, was one of those lost. Alles says, “On that busload of maybe 50 of us, you could hear a pin drop”. The second tower collapsed 20 minutes before they arrived on the scene. “There was no time to mourn or grasp the devastation, the loss of life, because in my mind, when your training kicks in, I fully expected to be part of the largest search and rescue operation in our lifetime on American soil. We had a job