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Retired FDNY Lieutenant Describes How He, His Crew, And Woman They Saved Somehow Made It Through Collapse Of North Tower On 9/11

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It was one of the most powerful stories of heroism from 9/11. A group of firefighters somehow survived inside the collapsed World Trade Center for four hours and managed to save a woman's life.

CBS2's Michael George recently sat down with one of those firefighters to look back at what happened that morning.

Retired FDNY Lt. Matt Komorowski's memories of Sept. 11, 2001, are always close.

"This was my helmet on the day of 9/11," said Komorowski, formerly of Ladder Company 6.

"Why is it important for you to have this here in your home?" George asked.

"It reminds me of the firemen that we lost that day. It reminds of all the lives we lost that day," Komorowski said.

Twenty years ago, Komorowski and the other members of Ladder Company 6 went into the north tower searching for survivors, trying to climb more than 90 flights of stairs as debris fell around them.

"My captain turned to us and said, 'Firemen will die today.' And that was a very poignant moment for all of us," Komorowski said.

911 survivor stories
Josephine Harris, center, and the crew from Ladder Company 6. (Photo: FDNY)

When the south tower collapsed, Ladder Company 6 got the order to evacuate. That's when they spotted Josephine Harris, who needed help getting down the stairs.

"We were taking her down. At about the eighth floor, our building came down," Komorowski said.

The north tower collapsed on top of them.

"I immediately screamed to the guys in front of us to move," Komorowski said.

What happened next almost defies explanation. The entire building around them was destroyed, but stairwell B, the spot where they were assisting Harris, remained standing.

"Where she stopped turned out to be the spot we needed to be," Komorowski said.

They spent four hours trapped in the rubble, but all six men on the crew and Harris made it out alive.

"There were so many other firemen that day that were doing exactly what we were doing. Why we survived, we have no idea," Komorowski said.

Harris, who worked as a bookkeeper for the Port Authority, stayed close with Komorowski and the other firefighters who saved her.

"We had a special bond with her. She was our guardian angel. If she had continued down to the lobby and then our building came down, we wouldn't be around," he said.

In 2011, Ladder Company 6 served as pallbearers when Harris passed away, carrying her one last time.

Komorowski credits his wife, kids, and therapist for helping him deal with his post-traumatic stress after 9/11. During his career, he became a mentor for young firefighters.

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