(Originally published by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth)
Seeking Justice for 9/11 Heroes: An Interview with New York Area Fire Commissioner Christopher Gioia
Andrew Steele: On July 24, 2019, the Franklin Square and Munson Fire District, which oversees a volunteer fire department that serves a hamlet of 30,000 residents, just outside of Queens, New York, made history by unanimously passing a resolution that supports a new investigation into the events of September 11, 2001, becoming the first legislative body in the country to do so.
Today, we’re joined by the man who introduced that resolution, Christopher Gioia. He’s a former firefighter and chief of the Franklin Square and Munson Fire Department, and now a commissioner that oversees that department. Mr. Gioia, welcome to the show.
Christopher Gioia: Thank you very much, Mr. Steele.
Steele: Before we get into the big news that everybody is talking about in the movement, and all throughout alternative media, we want to get to know you a little bit more, so please tell us about yourself and your career.
Gioia: Well, let’s see. I am presently in the construction industry. Franklin Square Fire Department is a volunteer fire department. We’re comprised of people from all walks and all trades. I’ve been in Franklin Square, I guess, for most of my life. I grew up maybe a block away from the firehouse, so when I was growing up, I used to sit on the curb and watch the firetrucks go by. I always wanted to be a fireman.
In the meantime, I completed high school, and I had joined the Marine Corps. When I had gotten out of the Marine Corps, I came back to town, and I wanted to continue my service, because the fire department is a paramilitary organization, so I went to the fire department, and I joined the local fire department. I’ve been with the Franklin Square/Munson Fire Department now for 32 years. I rose through the ranks, lieutenant and captain. I went through the chief’s office. We have three chiefs, second assistant, first assistant, and then you become chief of department. Those are two-year terms.
Then some years went by. We also have the fire district, which is comprised of five fire commissioners, who are responsible for the buildings and the grounds, the maintenance of the equipment, uniforms, and such. Pretty much, it’s administrative, and you pay the bills, but it is an elected position, and you have to submit a petition and run for office, and there are other people out there that you have to run against, so you actually have to mount a campaign. Then whatever monies, because it’s public money, everything has to be done according to state law. Everything has to be voted on, and there’s policies and procedures, and everything has to be on the up and up and above board.
We are audited by the state. We have our own internal auditors. Every penny is accounted for, and we do run a tight ship over here. I’ve been a commissioner now for about, I guess, three years. They’re five-year terms, so I’m probably about halfway through. You lose track of time. When you get older, things have a tendency to blur a little bit.
Steele: Is it just one term that you have or are allowed, or are you allowed to run again, when the five years are up?
Gioia: You can run again for another five-year term. You could actually stay in office. The other four commissioners have been in office 10, 15, maybe 20 years, so I’m pretty much the new kid on the block. The other members… We have another ex-chief, who’s sitting on the board, as well. He was chief of the department back in the late ’80s or the early ’90s. That would actually be Commissioner Malloy. Then you have Commissioner Saltzman, who is a member of Engine Company Number Three. You have Commissioner Lyons, who is a member of Engine Company Number Two. Commissioner Joseph Torregrossa, he’s the chairman, and he’s also a member of Engine Company Number Two.
You can run again. Five-year terms is a long time, but if you’re in there, and you like what you’re doing, it’s pretty procedural after… For me, personally, after being chief and being commissioner, coming into the district, it’s actually a less hectic pace. When you’re chief, you respond to every call, and you’re out there on the front lines. Pretty much, the commissioners are the ones in the background, just paying all the bills. It’s a lot less hectic. It’s more relaxed. When you get a little older, you want to be a little bit more relaxed.
Steele: I understand that myself, as I’m getting older. Believe me. Now, please tell us about your 9/11 story. Where were you on the day of September 11th, and how did you first hear the news?
Gioia: On 9/11, I was working… As I said, I do construction for a living. I’m a construction surveyor. I work for a large construction company. I was working on new construction of a small power plant on the river, the East River in Brooklyn, just north of the Williamsburg Bridge. I was working with a gentleman, who works in Upstate New York. We were working. We’re less than two miles from the Trade Center, and you have a spectacular view of Manhattan from the Brooklyn side of the river.
We heard this explosion, me and my partner, and he remarked something like, “Is somebody blasting around here?” Because he knew what the sound was. It didn’t register, so we looked around, and somebody said, “Hey, look! The Trade Center, the Twin Towers, is on fire.” We were looking at it, and we’re like… We pretty much knew right away. We’re like, okay, a plane hit it or a helicopter hit it. It was up high, and there was enough smoke and fire that we could see.
Then somebody ran out of one of the trailers and said that a plane had hit the North Tower. It was a spectacularly beautiful day. It was just this beautiful blue sky. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and it was this perfect day. I’m thinking to myself, I’m like, this guy, whoever was flying the plane, how could you hit the building? It’s just absolutely perfect flying weather.
I have survey equipment, which is pretty much like a telescope, so we focused the instruments on the North Tower, and I could see the imprint of the plane. I could actually see everything. Just looking at it, it was registering that we all thought it was maybe a small propeller plane, like a Piper Cub or something like that, but just from looking at the damage, it was like you knew that it was something larger.
In the meantime, then, the person… People were running around, scurrying, and they didn’t know what was going on, and then all of a sudden, we were watching. Then from our vantage point, we couldn’t see the plane coming from the other side, because the second plane that hit the South Tower came from the Statue of Liberty side, which is the New Jersey side, and the building exploded, and it blew out on the side, and then all hell broke loose. We were like, we’re under attack, you know?
People just wanted to leave the job. Me and my partner, we were transfixed on what we were seeing, because we had the instruments set up, and people wanted to see what was going on. We actually could see people waving for help. I could see people waving their clothes from the windows. I actually saw the lady who was perched at the bottom of the impact hole in the North Tower. I believe she was identified, and she ultimately wound up being killed, but I saw her.
Then it got even worse, because then you saw people jumping out of the building, and then that was it. I couldn’t watch it anymore, and I had to get home to my wife and my kids. My son was just about a year old. I told my boss. I said, “Listen, I’m out of here,” so I jumped in my truck, and we’re about… From Brooklyn to my house is probably about 20 miles, and it’s about maybe five or six miles to get to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
When I had driven about five miles to get on the expressway, when I got up to the expressway, I looked in the rear view mirror, and the whole sky of Manhattan down by the Trade Centers was just blacked out by this cloud. I guess the North Tower had collapsed, but I didn’t know it yet. People had just stopped on the highway, and everybody was just staring. I turned on the radio, and then all kinds of reports were coming in. I just, I flew home, and I made it home in record time. It must’ve taken me 15-20 minutes, because I was literally doing 90 miles an hour down the highway to get home.
I got home, and I threw open the door. My wife looked at me, and she goes, the South Tower just collapsed. I couldn’t understand. I said to her, I go, “What do you mean the South Tower just collapsed?” I go, “What happened to the North Tower?” She said, “That one collapsed 15 minutes ago.” I just sat back down on the couch with my wife, and we just sat there, and we watched TV. We were just in shock, because it was just too much to take in. We just sat there, and we just watched, watched the TV, and we just watched everything, as it unfolded.
Steele: It was horrible enough to watch it on television from Florida, where I was at the time. I can’t imagine standing there watching what you just described through your equipment that day, and seeing that. I know for New Yorkers, it had, of course, a more profound impact, because they actually lived it, people in New York and in the surrounding areas. It happened right in front of them. I understand that you had friends that died on September 11th. Do you want to tell us about them, and the lives that they lived?
Gioia: Yes, that’s correct, Andrew. I lost three of my friends, who were city firemen. One of them, Thomas Hetzel, was in the department here in Franklin Square. The other two lived in Franklin Square, and I was friends with them. I grew up with firefighter, Robert Evans. We used to pretty much hang out, maybe down at the park. He was a friend from school. Then the other firefighter, Michael Kiefer, he was one of these kids who used to come around the firehouse on his bicycle, and he was a… We’d call him a buff. He would have his scanner, and he would follow the trucks around. He grew up, and he joined the fire department.
He went into the towers. He responded. They never found him. I think they found little bits and pieces of Bobby. I was speaking to his sister the other day. They actually recovered some more parts or bone fragments. Tom they found in a stairwell. He was on his way out of the building. I was really good friends with Tom. I pretty much grew up with him. I went to his wedding. We did things together, and he was a good friend. They were all good people.