Dr. Greg Fried was pinned under the rubble of the south tower of the World Trade Center after it collapsed on 9/11, blinded by the darkness, but astounded he was alive.
Working as the NYPD’s chief surgeon, Fried rushed to the Twin Towers that Tuesday morning when he heard over the police radio that a jet had crashed into the north tower.
He had knelt in front of the south tower to try to stop the bleeding of an injured firefighter when someone yelled the building was coming down. He looked up to see the skyscraper imploding and a cloud of debris hurtling toward him.
“In that instant you think you’re dead and the entire building is coming down on top of you, so I rolled into a ball.” Fried said. “I got hit in the back and could feel numbness in my leg and I realize I’m not dead. I had pain all over the place and I was buried in rubble up to my shoulder in pitch black. I had never experienced blackness like midnight in a coal mine.”
Fried, 70, of Great Neck, who recieved the NYPD medal of valor for his actions on 9/11, will deliver his story of survival and photos of the aftermath of the attack during a 7 p.m. presentation Wednesday at Long Beach City Hall.
He said he’s telling his story to remember the more than 1,000 unidentified victims of the attack and the five children killed on the planes.
“This is not about me. It’s all about those stolen lives,” Fried said. “It’s a seminal event that hasn’t ended yet. It was tragic, but this was murder. These people went to work on an average day and said goodbye to their wife and kids and then they were dead. You could never anticipate this.”
Fried suffered multiple back fractures and a severed artery on 9/11 but returned to Ground Zero a week later anyway to help supervise rescue efforts and conduct medical testing.
He said he can’t stand or sit still for more than an hour without pain shooting down his back. Fried speaks about the 9/11 attacks with relative calm that he said he learned to harness while working as a surgeon. He was also the surgeon on duty during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The body of the firefighter he treated as the tower collapsed was later found nearly a block away and identified by his blood on Fried’s pants.
The surgeon was among one of the first to advocate treating 9/11-related illnesses and line-of-duty classifications for illness disability for officers.
“As I saw the building coming down I was thinking we’re not supposed to get killed. As a surgeon, you control yourself. The last thing you can do is get crazy. The only thing you can do is prepare to get your mind under control and not panic,” Fried said. “You have to put things at arm length, or else every patient you lose will kill you. You put it aside and didn’t anticipate being part of this event. You don’t fear it, you do what you have to do.”