Journal Express, Knoxville, IA


February 14, 2014

In the House of Wood

Meeting a Hero


Knoxville —

Torillo was rescued and placed on a boat to be transported to a hospital in New Jersey. That's when more debris fell on the boat, burying him once again. 

Again, he was rescued. His life was saved, although, because he was wearing someone else's gear, Joe Torillo was declared dead. His vehicle had been found in the debris. He was nowhere to be found.

New York City considered him dead for a few days. However, as he told the story, he said his wife knew in her heart that he was still alive. 

Speaking to a room full of journalists, questions were sure to arise following his presentation. He was asked if he dealt with survivor's guilt. What he did suffer from, the first couple of years after 9/11, was survivor's anger. While 343 fellow firemen died in the most honorable way imaginable, he was jealous for a time that he was not able to march into Heaven along with so many of his brethren. 

He has since pushed that aside and focused on sharing his story. What I also enjoyed about his presentation was his unapologetic patriotism. While he didn't want to offend anyone born outside of the United States, by calling this nation the greatest on Earth (which it is), he praised America quite a bit. 

I wanted to shake his hand, but quite a line was already in place. Besides, he was signing pictures and I didn't know if he was charging for them. (He wasn’t.) I didn't really want to pay for one.

Later on, as I was walking around the skywalk with Pella Chronicle Editor Clint Brown, we ran into him. We had a nice conversation with him. He raved about the skywalk system. 

It's always nice when I have the opportunity to shake hands with an American hero, especially one who seems to have the same kind of temperament as myself. On top of all of that, Torillo spoke in the morning. He was in his full dress uniform for his speech and when I saw him again that night, he was still there, in full uniform. I don't know if he had another engagement or not, but I liked the fact that he seemed genuinely interested in our state and our profession. 

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Upon completion and reopening of Third Street, should the City of Knoxville wait to start the next stage of the Streetscape and Infrastructure project until 2015?

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