Eight months into this "light-duty" position, Joe was ultimately named the Director of this public-based program. In his new position, Joe would co-design a children's state-of-the-art fire safety learning center, which opened in October, 2000.
This new venue, "The Fire Zone ", in the heart of Manhattan, was nominated and won the coveted "THEA" award at the Emmy's in 2002. Shortly thereafter, in January of 2001, Joe worked on a project with Fisher-Price Toys to help design a new children's "action figure", which was part of their line of "Rescue Heroes". This new action figure was named "Billy Blazes" and was a likeness of a NYC Firefighter, who was an addition to their other "Rescue Heroes ".
In conjunction with the Executives of the Fisher-Price Corp., Joe chose the "Fire Zone" as the location for the press conference to introduce "Billy Blazes", and then keeping with a safety theme, ironically chose the date of September 11, 2001, because 9/11 is the Emergency phone number in New York City.
On the way to the press conference, that was set for 9 a. m., Joe was about an eighth of a mile away from the World Trade Center, when American Airlines Flight #11 struck the South Tower at 8:46 a.m. 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.
Three minutes after donning borrowed bunker gear, at 9:03 a.m., the second jet, flew over Joe's head and slammed in to the South Tower. With a background in Structural Engineering, Joe made an immediate assessment that everyone above the fire was doomed to death, and the buildings would collapse.
While Joe was involved in the rescue operation, the South tower fell at 9:59 a.m. Joe 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 Joe alive again. He was alone in the engine room.
About 45 minutes later, Joe 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, Joe was misidentified by that name, and Joe was declared missing for 3 days.
By the time the sun set on the evening of September11, 2001, Joe had miraculously survived the collapse of both Towers, but with life-long injuries.
Sadly, "Billy Blazes" would come to represent the 343 New York City Firefighters who had made the supreme sacrifice of their lives in the rescue effort.
Today Joe Torrillo travels the world as a professional speaker with a quest to make our country the "Re-United States of America", resurrecting patriotism, trumpeting the men and women of the Armed Services, mentoring adolescents, and inspiring audiences of all sizes to embrace change and never give up on their dreams.
- From Devastation to Inspiration
Buried alive twice on the day that everyone remembers where they were when America was attacked 4 times in 3 different locations; Joe survived with major life threatening injuries. Listen to Joe how he recounts every second of being buried twice, and his road to recovery and inspiring audiences around the world.
- Teamwork Now More Than Ever
In a weak economy, with constant threats of downsizing and layoffs, human behavior will fester in many different ways. Competition has always been the name of the game and will always be what most employees consider their path to job security. Unfortunately, at the end of the day a company suffers from cut throat competition. All Firefighters consider every “save’ and every rescue a team effort and rightfully so. Why not take a Firefighter’s attitude, carry it to the common workplace, and instill the concept of teamwork for the benefit of all. Joe inspires all levels of employees to keep a “Team State of Mind” in all of their projects and job duties. Attendees leave this session with a renewed sense of their important individual role as a part of the Team!
- Putting the Spark in your Company’s Fire
This is a corporate focused presentation focused on bringing all levels of employees and managers together, and re-identifying the intent of a person being dedicated to their work or job. Joe parallels his own career as a 25 year Lieutenant with the N.Y.C. Fire department as both a labor leader and an upper manager. The end result has “the workers” and “the boss” recognizing and appreciating each others’ contribution to the efforts of the company.
- The Price Tag of Greed, An Overvie of a Chutes and Ladders Life
In a world where all too often the ownership of materialistic things becomes a person’s priority, people in general have an insatiable need to satisfy their every want and desire. Unfortunately, greed often leads to a life of crime and other misdeeds. Truth be told, after all is said and done - most people end up losing much more than ever stood to gain. Along with their losses, come severe regrets that compromise their happiness, dignity and respect forever. Additionally, their families often pay the cost of their unsavory behavior as well. Joe was a poor kid from an Italian ghetto in Brooklyn, New York who was exposed to a life of crime as a young kid. Instead of following in the footsteps of gangsters, he earned his way in to the most accomplished and respected organizations in the world, the New York City Fire Department. Hear the stories of people of fame and notoriety who threw it all away for the sake of illegal and immoral actions. Using simple arithmetic, people will be amazed how devastating costly greed inflicted mistakes can be. Everyone from the Mafia to missionaries will be discussed, and attendees will think not twice, but a hundred times, before they themselves fall to errant ways. The final message to the audience is simple: It can take a lifetime to build a reputation, but you can lose it one split second.