Torillo, now retired, had started out that day heading to a press conference where a Fisher-Price action figure that he helped design was going to be unveiled. Called “Billy Blazes," the toy was made to represent a New York City firefighter. The figure sported a big bushy mustache, just like Torillo’s.
But he ended up racing to his firehouse instead when he saw the first twin tower on fire, where he ditched the dress uniform and grabbed that of another firefighter who was off that day.
Torillo almost died in the attack when the buildings collapsed and he was covered in a pile of steel and concrete rubble. He suffered fractures to his skull, neck and spine, and had internal injuries. “I was buried in the darkness,” he said.
Torillo said he could hear others yelling in the debris. The screams turned to crying, then to whimpers and then finally gave way to silence.
“One by one they all died,” he said. “And I was still alive.” He was finally dug out by rescuers who could hear the beeping of his firefighter oxygen equipment. Taken to a boat on the Hudson River he heard them saying that he could die.
When doctors later cut his clothes off at the hospital he was admitted under the name of the firefighter who's name was on the uniform . Torillo said he was listed as dead for three days until the mistake was discovered.