Marvin Bethea


It was just massive chaos, and somehow I wound up being in a bank, the First Chemical bank, I think I might've wound up going one block up on Broadway because they needed a paramedic in there. I didn't have a radio on me, I said, "Listen everybody. Stay here. I'm gonna go up and get some ambulances to get you people out of here." So they're all like, "Al lright fine, no problem."

And as I went to step out of the bank, somebody yelled, "The tower, the tower, the tower" and I'm like, "What?" And I looked up and at that point, I could see the tower was just coming down and I'm like, "Alright, take cover in the bank, take cover. The building's collapsing." And it sounded like an earthquake that was just getting louder and louder and getting closer and closer.

And I remind you we were in total daylight. It was a very nice day that day, and we just went from daylight to total darkness and when I say darkness, normally at night you can still see. You couldn't see anything. It was like being totally blind. You couldn't see anything. You couldn't see an inch in front of you.

So while all of this is going on, picture somebody standing there with a bucket of dirt, throwing dirt down your throat also. So you couldn't see. You're getting hit by all this debris, and now you can't breathe, suffocating with all this stuff coming down into your lungs. And we were in total darkness. I truly thought that was it for me, I was gone.

And finally, when the dust did clear a little bit, I was able to lead the people out of the bank and just tell everybody, "Keep going north. Keep going north," and at that point, everybody was able to walk out of there. Then I went back down to the Trade Center trying to find my partner.

In this relationship, working in an ambulance, you learn to trust your partner, and Jimmy's like one of the best partners. He is the best partner I've ever had. I mean, we trust each other. I have 25 years on the job and Jimmy has 32, and so you become closer with your partner a lot of times than you do your own spouse, and so you have a very special relationship. So now I'm trying to find Jimmy and I can't find him.

So now I'm trying to find the ambulance, and then I see these two feet sticking out of the ambulance and I'm like, "Oh my God," and I run to the back of the ambulance, and there's some lady wedged on the floor. Jimmy was back there he had about six or eight people in the back of the ambulance. We're all passing the oxygen mask around just trying to breath. He's like, "Thank God you're alive" and I helped get the lady up and he says, "I'm going to take these people to the hospital," and I'm like, "Alright fine, I'm going to stay here and help here." So he says, "Alright, see you in a little bit."

At which point I got out the ambulance, there was a lady who'd come out of the second tower. She'd collapsed right there in front of the tower. She was bleeding. She was crying. And so I ran over, I picked her up, told her to look at me, "You're gonna make it, don't worry, you're going to be ok." And no sooner than I said that, I heard a rumbling and I knew exactly what it was, and I was standing right in front of the building when the second tower came down.

And I was a very fast runner. She's like, "Don't leave me," and I grabbed her and we started running, and we realized, we're not gonna make it. It was just massive chaos. And I grabbed her and we dove into the hotel Millennium, right in front of the Trade Center. As we dove in to the Hilton Millennium, we got covered and buried inside the Millenniumwith all the debris, and once again, had all this dirt come down your throat, couldn't breathe, couldn't see. I got hit with all this debris and everything. In my heart I'm thinking about Jimmy, because he was driving off. I'm thinking Jimmy's dead.

I crawled out of a space, about maybe two feet. Being a little guy, I was kind of able to scoot myself out. I told everybody, "Just stay here in the hotel. Stay here, so I can find out what's going on." I just could not believe the destruction. I remember seeing body parts. I saw all these emergency vehicles that were there. The lights were on - all these emergency vehicles going on, but there was nobody there.

I'm looking, looking inside the vehicles. The vehicles are on fire. There's all this paper from the building that's scattered all over the place. And as I'm looking around, it's almost as if, after the building fell, there's a dead silence. You couldn't hear nothing. When I came out, it was almost as if I was the last man on earth, because I didn't see anybody for blocks.

I'm standing there like, "This can't be happening. This cannot be happening." As I'm standing there, I'm trying to use my cell phone to let somebody know I'm still alive, and the phones are not working. I'm standing in the middle of the street and all of a sudden, I see to the right of me, what looks like an emergency ambulance coming toward me with flashing lights. I'm saying to myself, "Okay, now my mind is playing tricks on me. Now I know what it's like to be in the desert with the whole mirage thing."

As the vehicle's coming closer, it had strobe lights. I was able to remember a distinct light pattern. I'm like, "That looks like one of our ambulances." Then I said, "No, I got to be hallucinating. I'm hallucinating."

Sure enough, the ambulance came closer and closer. The next thing I know, Jimmy jumps out of the ambulance and he's like, "Marvin! Marvin!" I'm like, "Jimmy!" And we just ran and hugged each other because I thought he was dead and he thought I was dead.

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