NEW YORK (7/1/08)--“We will never forget. We will never give up.” With those words, Richard Picciotto, retired fire chief of the New York Fire Department, summed up his harrowing survival of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, at America’s Credit Union Conference & Exp, which began Monday in New York City. Picciotto has strong credit union ties. He has been a member of Municipal CU for 30 years, he announced and his cousin is employed by a credit union in Miami, Fla.
Richard Picciotto, retired fire chief of the New York Fire Department and survivor of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, stressed the importance of decision making and risk management at Monday’s General Session. “When you’re in an emergency,” he remarked, “people are looking for leadership. They’ll do what you say.” He has been a member of Municipal CU for 30 years. (Photo provided by CUNA)
Picciotto was on a rescue mission in the World Trade Center’s North Tower when it collapsed. The South Tower disintegrated in 10 seconds; the North Tower, in eight seconds. “That sounds like a short time,” he said, “but it’s an eternity. “We were tossed around like rag dolls, free-falling in the blackness,” he continued. “I knew I was going to die. My life flashed before me, and I said a quick prayer: ‘Please God, make it quick.’” Picciotto and 13 other survivors—11 firefighters, one Port Authority officer, and one civilian—landed on the third floor in a void, or air pocket, buried in talcum-powder-like dust. After hours of spotty radio communication with rescuers, he glimpsed a light gray patch amid the blackness. It was a crevice in the rubble, from which Picciotto emerged--a solitary figure atop the once-proud tower’s remains. Picciotto credits tremendous support—both emotional and financial—for helping him get through the experience. He urged conference attendees to establish priorities in their lives--family and friends. “Stop to smell the roses, and appreciate what you have.” Other observations:
* Following Sept. 11, “the feeling of unity was great.” That’s disappeared, he claims, and he blames politicians for that. “Politicians tend to divide us, to target our minor differences” versus our commonalities. *Youth—often tagged the “me generation”--were affected deeply by Sept. 11. Many enlisted in the armed forces as a result. “Whatever your [political] beliefs, the troops are there to fight for us no matter what, and we need to support them.”
Above all, Picciotto is grateful God didn’t listen to his request for a quick ending. “Sometimes,” he observed, “unanswered prayers are the best kind.” America’s Credit Union Conference & Expo, which is presented by the Credit Union National Association, ends Wednesday. For more on the conference, use the link to to Credit Union Magazine’s