Duty Calls: Honoring Our First Responders

Lt. Joe Torrillo

The public is invited to attend Duty Calls: Honoring Our First Responders at the Julie Rogers Theatre on Tuesday, March 21, at 6 p.m. This event will recognize first responders from Beaumont Police and Fires Departments, and Beaumont EMS. 

The committee, which includes Anna J. Brian, Carol Gary, Elaine Henderson, Barbara Marshall, Barbara Otto, and Robin Troy have joined forces with Mayor Becky Ames and the City of Beaumont to help show support to first responders and provide each one of them a copy of the devotional book, Strength for Service to God and Community. 

This is a book of daily devotions for police officers, firefighters, healthcare workers and other first responders written for men and women who rush into situations where others are running the opposite direction. It helps the mind, soul, and spirit find peace.

Though the event is free to attend, you can help with a VIP sponsorship, which levels start at $250 and are tax deductible. Proceeds will benefit the 100 Club of Southeast Texas. For sponsorship opportunities, call (409) 880-2804. 

The prelude to the event is a sponsorship VIP reception with guest speaker, Lt. Joe Torrillo. Torrillo is a retired New York Fire Fighter who miraculously survived the collapse of both towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

Torrillo was about an eighth of a mile away from the World Trade Center, when American Airlines Flight No. 11 struck the North Tower. Fearing for his Firefighter brothers in Engine Co. 10 and Ladder Co. 10 across the street from the Towers, Joe diverted to the scene to render assistance.

While he was involved in the rescue operation, the South tower fell at 9:59 a.m. Torrillo was buried alive with a fractured skull, broken ribs, broken arm, crushed spine and heavy internal bleeding. Shortly after being found alive in the rubble, they removed Joe on a long spine board and placed him on the deck of a boat on the Hudson River, with the expectation of getting him to a hospital.

As emergency personnel were holding his split scalp together, the North Tower fell and buried Torrillo alive again. He was alone in the engine room.

About 45 minutes later, he was once again rescued from the debris, and taken across the Hudson River, where he awoke in a hospital room at the Jersey City Trauma Center in New Jersey. Because he was wearing a borrowed set of firefighting clothing with the name Thomas McNamara, he was misidentified by that name, and Torrillo was declared missing for 3 days. 

By the time the sun set on the evening of Sept.11, 2001, Torrillo had miraculously survived the collapse of both Towers, but with life-long injuries.