9/11 Stories: Former FDNY'er Tommy Casatelli


On 9/11 Tommy Casatelli was 30 years old, with 6 years under his belt with the FDNY in Brooklyn after serving with the Marines in Desert Storm. He felt infallible. He was training for the New York City Marathon and the half iron-man, running 10 miles on September 9th, despite being ill with the flu. Feeling even worse, he still reported to work the next night.

His mentor, 36-year-old Brian McAleese, a young dad with 4 kids under 5, was assigned to drive the fire truck Tuesday morning but offered to switch with Tommy and let him drive, so it would be an easy shift for him. After that, he said, Tommy could take a couple days off and recover from the flu. It’s a common practice/perk in the FDNY: swapping shifts and jobs to make life easier when needed. Barely an hour after they agreed to switch jobs that day, the first plane hit The World Trade Center. By the time Tommy drove his buddies to the site, the second tower had been hit.

Tommy watched his brothers bravely march off , with Casatelli staying behind on the rig. That was the last time Tommy saw them. He was the only one on his truck to survive 9/11. Tommy survived the collapse of both towers but says when he left Manhattan for Brooklyn, he was gone. He might as well have been buried in the rubble. The guilt of living was unbearable. Casatelli kept thinking, “I was supposed to die, not Brian."


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