NYFD firefighter shares 9/11 memories at Rice Lake commemoration

By: Aaron Dimick Email
By: Aaron Dimick Email

RICE LAKE, Wis. (WEAU) -- On the 10th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, remembrance ceremonies have been taking place across the country and right here in the Chippewa Valley.

At Rice Lake’s 9/11 commemorative ceremony on Sunday afternoon, WEAU 13 news spoke with a New York City firefighter who survived the World Trade Center attacks.

Salvatore Rignola, a New York City fire marshal said on the morning of September 11th, 2001, he was on his way to work when he got a call from a co-worker telling him a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers.

Rignola said he rushed to the World Trade Center to find mass chaos.

“Boom, the second plane hits. I look up at the North building and people are jumping out of the building. I see people holding hands jumping out and people trying to make parachutes out of curtains,” Rignola said.

The firefighter said he ran into the towers to coordinate rescue efforts, but was able to get out before the first tower collapsed.

“People are going to say, ‘Where was God at this time?’ Those Twin Towers had 20,000 people a day in there. There were so many people who should have been killed. It could have been a lot worse than 3,000 victims,” Rignola said.

Ten years later, Rignola spent the afternoon telling his story to hundreds of people at Rice Lake’s City Park.

He says he was compelled to come to Wisconsin, to tell all of how his faith in God got him past the grief of losing friends in the attacks.

“Having strong faith and families will get you through. I’m a guy who likes to spread God’s word. Usually I try to block it out, I try not to think that my friends were killed and I lived but seeing everyone here, it was wonderful,” Rignola said.

While we remember those who died in the attacks, the 9/11 survivor said there are many things to be learned from that fateful day.

“There were a lot of warnings of what was going to happen. After 9/11 everyone talked about how we were united. We should put the nation first, learn from examples and not let out guard down,” Rignola said.

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