“It’s a Boy! It’s a Girl” read the blue and pink signs on the front lawn of Tyree Bacon’s Islip home in late August. Three weeks earlier, Bacon’s wife, Carrie, had given birth to twins, a daughter, Sarah, and a son, Tyree, whom they call Teddy. Their births and that of their daughter Maggie three years earlier has brought the New York State court officer’s life almost full circle from nine years ago: from death and destruction to new life. Bacon, now 45, survived the collapse of Tower 2 on Sept. 11, 2001, because he rescued a severely burned woman. She later died. In rescuing her, he saved himself.
Three of Bacon's colleagues were killed in the collapse and for several years he was plagued with survivor's guilt. He served two tours in the Air Force Reserve - one of them in Iraq. Today, he said, he has slowly come to trust there is a reason he was spared.
"I have to believe these kids are going to do something good in this world," he said of his children.
On the morning of Sept. 11, Bacon was drinking a cup of tea at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse at 100 Centre St. before starting his shift as a court officer when the first plane struck. It was 8:46 a.m.. Within minutes, Bacon, who was also a volunteer firefighter for the East Islip Fire Department and an emergency medical technician, was on a jury bus with several other officers heading toward the site about 10 blocks away. While they were on the bus, at 9:03, the second tower was hit.
At the site, Bacon partnered with fellow court officer Thomas Jurgens. They treated several people - among them an older woman having a heart attack and a man with a severe head cut - and met up with court officers Mitchel Wallace and Capt. William Harry Thompson.. Going against the stream of evacuees, the four made their way downstairs to the mall in Tower Two, one level below the street. There a group of officers was resting along with a half-dozen injured civilians. One was a severely burned woman.
"I turned around and said, 'I'll take her,' because she was the critical patient. Turned out to be the best decision of my entire life," he said.. He placed her on a stair chair - a kind of stretcher - and introduced himself. She was conscious and could talk. "She told me she was 32 years old and worked on the 78th floor." She told him her name, which he forgot.
Still inside the building, they had moved about 100 feet when someone yelled, "Get down." That was followed by a "horrible noise," a tremendous rush of air, choking debris and dust. The tower had collapsed almost straight down.
"I was thrown to the ground and shot about a 100 feet. That was the last time I saw Tommy, Harry and Mitch. Fortunately I was outside the fall zone.". He got on his phone and yelled, "Mayday! Mayday!" The woman grabbed him by the shirt. "Please, please don't leave me," she begged him. He couldn't see her, the air was so thick with debris and smoke.
"I told her, 'Sweetheart, I promise; don't worry, we're getting out of here.' " Relying on his firefighting training, he found a wall and felt along it. Finally they made their way back to a corridor. He heard yells from people above ground and they were helped up the stairs.
"I came out and everything was gray and there wasn't a sound to be heard," he said. The triage area he had used minutes before to treat the two patients was gone, the ambulances overturned and burning.. He dropped off his patient - still alive - at another quickly assembled triage area and went back to the site to look for people to help.
Minutes later, the other tower came down. Bacon soon learned his patient was Doris Torres from the Bronx, who died several days later. He passed on his phone number to her sister, and months later, she called him.
Months after that, he met with her family. The family keeps an empty spot for Doris at the dining room table every Thanksgiving.. "They said there is an empty seat next to hers for me and I knew they meant that," he said.
To this day, Bacon's is the only call Torres' mother will take on Sept. 11.
A little more than a month after the buildings fell, Bacon was activated for duty by the Air Force. He served for a year at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. In January 2008, he was deployed to Kirkuk in Iraq.
While he was there, he had an American flag flown over the base to honor Doris Torres. When the flag was taken down, he sent it to her family.