On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Richard "Pitch" Picciotto answered the call heard around the world. In minutes he was at ground zero of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, acting boldly to save innocent lives as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center began to burn—and then to buckle.
Already a veteran of terrorist attacks, Picciotto was present fighting a similar battle after the World Trade Center Bombing in 1993. Again inside the North Tower, where he found himself years earlier, he focused his concentration on the rescue efforts at hand. But it was there in the smoky stairwells that he heard and felt the South Tower collapse. He then made the call for firemen and rescue workers to evacuate, while he stayed behind with a skeleton team of men to assist a group of disabled and inform civilians in their struggle to evacuate the inferno.
And it was there in the rubble of the North Tower that Picciotto found himself buried for more than four hours after the building's collapse.
Having discovered that members of his team and a 59-year-old grandmother also were alive nearby, he and his men used their radios to send out mayday calls until they made contact with a firefighter on the ground, and a search party was dispatched. When the light finally appeared about four stories above, he climbed upward, reached the top and saw the "unfathomable, mind-boggling destruction." And even then, it was not until after he organized the rescue of the others that he walked across the rubble to safety.
Picciotto will tell his gripping, first-person account that provides a firefighter's view of the 9/11 World Trade Center catastrophe and emergency response when he speaks at 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 12 in Clement Auditorium on the main campus of Austin Peay State University. The event is free and open to the public. Picciotto played a vital role in that massive emergency operation, testified in front of the 9/11 Commission and has additionally appeared on many major networks, including CNN, the History Channel and National Geographic.
Picciotto's best-selling book, “Last Man Down,” is a tribute to the 343 firefighters and 2,400 civilians who lay dead in the rubble that surrounded him on that day. It chronicles his harrowing experience on 9/11, and moreover, it is a heartfelt remembrance of a day of infamy and profound humanity. The book was an immediate New York Times best-seller upon its release in May 2002.
Picciotto is also a former New York City police officer and has served as a fire marshal, an arson investigator, a lieutenant and a captain prior to becoming chief in 1992. He is a 28-year veteran of the FDNY, and for the past nine years, he has presided over the department's Battalion 11, covering Manhattan's Upper West Side. He is the recipient of departmental awards and commendations for his bravery and meritorious service. In a presentation modeled after “Last Man Down,” Picciotto offers a tribute to the lives that were lost that day. His recount is not one of death and destruction, but a celebration of life and its unpredictable nature.
For more information about Picciotto’s speaking event, call the APSU Office of Student Affairs at (931) 221-7341.