Some time back I shared some of the stories about the Marriott Hotel from Firehouse Magazine’s “WTC: In Their Own Words.” Now, after posting the painting of Ruben Correa, I thought I would share a little more. Engine 74 was assigned with Engines 54 and 23 plus Ladder 1 to evacuate everyone from the hotel from the top floor down. The chief wanted them all to have forcible entry tools. Engine 74 took the elevator to the 18th floor, then hiked to the 22nd where the pool and hotel gym were. Part of a plane’s landing gear was in the Jacuzzi. They were on the 21st floor heading single file towards the stairwell when the South Tower came down on them. The hall rocked like a ship at sea one of them wrote later. The men of Engine 74 just happened to be in the luckier south end of the hall and survived the first collapse. Everyone answered the roll call but Ruben Correa. He must have been at the end of the line.
No one immediately realized that the Tower 2 had fallen or that most of the rest of the Marriott was gone. They only knew that a mountain of debris blocked the hallway where Ruben was last seen and that this was the same for every floor as they descended. (They continued to check every door for occupants as they made their way down.) On the 6th floor the stairwell was blocked and the floor plan changed. They came across firefighters from Ladder 12 who were considering rappelling down six flights through a window using a hoseline. (This is where Juarbe (L12) and Petti (B7) ran back up to the 17th floor to get rope.) Engine 74 decided to clear the stairwell instead. One flight down they found four or five civilians and freed them from the debris. Ladder 12 joined them. They continued to clear a passage down to the 3rd floor – where, although they could finally see outside the building again, they still did not know WTC2 was down. At this point the hotel’s banquet manager was with them and led them to the large “Harvest Room” for another possible egress. This is where they were when the North Tower collapsed – and took almost all of what remained of the Marriott with it, including the upper floors they had just left. The firefighters and the civilians with them held onto hotel curtains and evacuated one by one by sliding on their backs down a steel beam into the debris field below.
John Breen of Engine 74 would write: “I was thankful for Ruben’s help. I believe he helped me get out and was there for me the whole way through.” Note: Engine 54 lost four men; Engine 23 lost five; all men from Ladder 1 survived.