In the continuing series "American Hero," The Early Show honors two New York fire marshals and a volunteer firefighter who helped many people on Sept. 11.
One of them is 49-year-old, Ling Young from central New Jersey, who worked on the 86th floor in the second tower of the World Trade Center as a tax auditor for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. She credits volunteer firefighter Welles Crowther, Fire Marshal Ronald Bucca and Fire Marshal James Devery. Devery was the only one of her three rescuers to survive. Although Young escaped the south tower with her life, she was burned over approximately 20 percent of her body and had surgery five times.
The following is her story...
Sept. 11 started out as a beautiful day, says Young. She came in early, before 8 a.m. At 8:46 a.m. she was talking to her boss when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower. "My boss said, 'Oh my gosh I saw a plane hit the building.' Then we just thought it was just a helicopter because we saw a lot of them fly around," says Young. "Things were flying and we actually felt the heat towards our window."
Young and her co-workers ran outside to the corridor, where many other people were beginning to flood and they took an elevator to the 78th floor lobby, where the express elevators are located.
"While we were waiting to decide what to do, someone on an intercom said 'Stay where you are. It's not your building.' I was trying to think of what to do when there was a big explosion (this is when the plane hit her building) and I went from one end to the other and was knocked down to the floor face down. When I got up, I couldn't see because I took off my glasses and my glasses were filled with blood, which is why I couldn't see," she says. She later discovered that her head and face were bleeding too. "I looked around and not many people were moving. Everyone was almost motionless. Now I know they were dead."
She then says she saw two of her bosses alive and while they were standing they heard the voice of a co-working crying out for he had hurt his knee.
"He was against the local elevator bank and we helped him and we sat down because we didn't know where the stair was. Then we heard another co-worker Diane, she was alive but under the rubbish," says Young. "We decided to sit and wait for help. While we were waiting another woman asked for help who was lying around motionless and we said 'we can't help you, why don't you wait till we get help.' Then I saw another woman who I thought was my co-worker. Both legs were cutoff from the knees down. It wasn't her. Then, of course, there were other people lying around not moving. We continued waiting for 10 to 15 minutes."
Soon after, Young says she heard someone announcing he had found the stairs and asking to help those they could. The man was named Welles Crowther.
"I got up and the other four co-workers got up. Diane Gladstone put her hands around me to help her walk, but I couldn't do it because it hurt me. Now I know it was because I was burnt." Young says that she left her with another co-worker and started following Crowther down. "When we got to the stairwell it was kind of cracked and water was coming down. It was cloudy not smoky."
She says he gave her a fire extinguisher to take with her, but she couldn't hold it. She saw Crowther carry a woman on his back and he told everyone to stay close and not to rush. Soon afterwards, he put her down because she could walk and he told them that he was going back upstairs.
Young says as she continued walking down she met James Devery, who had gone into the building with Ron Bucca just after the second plane hit the south tower.
"As I walked down to the 51st floor Jim Devery saw me and he said that I looked like I was in shock and my arms were out. I remember my daughter saying I'm a klutz," says Young. "Somehow I remembered her saying that and I watched every step I walked down."
Devery says Young almost fainted. "I felt her arms and she was burnt." He says he walked her down about 10 floors when another firefighter said they should take an elevator down. When they got down to the lobby, Devery recalls there were dead bodies everywhere.
"When we got downstairs there weren't many people down," says Young. "I don't remember seeing police. There was someone with a bullhorn saying go to the triage and as we walked, we saw the Vesey Street exit and that's how I went outside with Devery. As I was walking, I found a woman taking lots of pictures and then I heard a voice call me. It as my friend Mary Jos (a co-worker and college friend who she has known for 28 years) and somehow I got in the same ambulance."
She credits Jos for also helping save her because she was having difficulty breathing. Young says that because of that she strongly encouraged the ambulance to move and take her to the hospital. "No more than 5 minutes later we were on Park Row and the building (tower two) collapsed," says Young.
"I can't be positive I would have survived," she says. "When we opened the door (to the ambulance), we saw the tail end of the collapse. The ambulance was right outside of building Five. If Jim hadn't gotten me, I would have probably sat and waited." Young says she believes that she and Devery were the last people to escape tower two before it fell, but she doesn't know for sure. But she considers Devery as her guardian angel. The two of them have gotten close and so have their families. She has also gotten close to Welles Crowther's family "Welles was the first one to help me," she says. "Without Welles, I wouldn't have made it to Jim and I could have been killed. Besides Welles is Ron Bucca who showed Jim Devery the stairs... He knew about the stairs because he was on the terrorist team."
Young spent weeks in the hospital recuperating. "So far, I'm not healing the way I should. My left hand has had five surgeries already and in September, I'm going for a sixth surgery because of the scarring," she says. She can walk but not for long, so she uses a wheelchair.
Young wasn't in the World Trade Center in 1993, when the first terrorist attack happened. She said that she worked in the World Trade Center from 1974 to 1990 and then moved back in 1999.