Rescue & Recovery at 20: Sal Annerino, DSNY

  • May 23, 2022
A man in dark pants and a white short-sleeve button-down shirt stands in front of the Last Column

Annerino in front of the Last Column, May 2002. 

Next Monday, on May 30, we'll mark the 20th anniversary of the formal end to rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. With one more week to go ahead of this milestone, we're sharing the stories of rescue, recovery, and relief workers in recognition of their tireless efforts, sacrifice, and spirit.  

The following Q&A features Salvatore (Sal) Annerino, who, on 9/11, was a district superintendent with the New York City Department of Sanitation. 

Where were you on 9/11? 
That morning, I was at work on 215th and Broadway in the Bronx. I was a district superintendent for New York City Department of Sanitation. I remember hearing someone scream, and we all ran to watch the TV. From our location, we could see the buildings smoking. We saw a plane pass us overhead, which we now believe was the second plane. As soon as we saw multiple planes hitting in different places, we knew it was a terrorist attack.  

What role did you play in the rescue & recovery efforts?
From September 12 to May 30, I was assigned as a district superintendent for New York City Department of Sanitation at Ground Zero. On September 12, I led convoys of about 300 people and equipment. On the site, we were given sectors to oversee. For months, we did everything. We were involved with the fire department, police department, FBI, doing search and rescue. In all my time there, I never saw a desk, a phone, a chair. It was all pulverized. 

When we first started, I was involved with hauling the fire trucks out of the area. The first firetruck I worked on removing, there was an excavator trying to load it onto the back of a flatbed truck. The firetruck was too large to fit on the flatbed, so we made the decision to cut it in half. As we were doing so, it caught on fire. It hurt me to tell the commander we needed help putting out the fire on the truck. When I got close to the truck as we were loading it, the side door opened, and a dress uniform hat tumbled out. As I watched it fall to the ground and land at my feet, I felt the souls of these lost firemen rush through me, and I passed out right there for a moment.  

Can you describe the bond you feel with other rescue & recovery workers? How has this community impacted you?
I made a lot of friends down there and helped a lot of people down there. I met people from all over the world. On Facebook, I have four groups that I’ve started for DSNY, for souls that we’ve lost, and some other groups. The group has helped so many people, including me. At the same time, it has taken a huge toll on me because I’ve helped so many widows and people who are sick cope. 

What does May 30th mean to you? 
To me, May 30 meant we could put the disaster behind us. DSNY marched behind the last piece of steel, and I was able to sign the last column before it was removed from the site. I signed CASA LUV, which stands for "Cindy Annerino" [his wife] and "Sal Annerino."

Do you have any 9/11-related health issues?
I am registered with the World Trade Health Program for 12 different illnesses. My wife is registered with one, ovarian cancer, from her time handing out water at St. Paul’s Church to workers.  

To the generation who is growing up with no memory of September 11th, why is it important to share your story and the stories of others with them?   
People need to never forget. This world is crazy. There are people that don’t care about the lives of other people. Everybody needs to remember what can happen, and what did happen, in New York City on 9/11.

All those we lost need to be remembered. All those that are sick need to continue to get care. We need the continued support of the government. We have people who take medicines that cost $30,000 a month. We need access to treatment and doctors.  

Anything else you'd like to add? 
There was a school, PS 226, who invited us to have lunch. They presented us with an award and sung the song “Heroes” to us. After that, we stuck our heads into one of the classrooms. It just happened that the teacher’s husband was also a Sanitation worker. The students were so excited to have us there that they all rushed to give us hugs. When those kids just hugged us, it was such a relief to us. There are some good, sweet memories that I have. There are bad memories that I won’t talk about, but there are good memories I have as well.   

Compiled by Caitlyn Best, Government and Community Affairs Coordinator

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Blue baseball cap with FDNY in gold yellow letters and Squad 18 under that in white letters

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