LAS VEGAS – During trying times in the automotive industry, retired New York City Fire Chief Richard Picciotto reminds dealers to keep things in perspective.
He should know.
Picciotto, the highest-ranking firefighter to survive the World Trade Center collapse and the last fireman to escape the devastation, shares his experience at National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention here in a speech to attendees.
“You have to put priorities on life,” Picciotto says. “You can’t get caught up in the everyday living or trying to make money and trying to better yourself, as everyone does. You have to put priorities on what’s really important. People know their own priorities, but a lot of times it takes tragedies to bring them out.”
Picciotto was on a stairwell between the 6th and 7th floors of the North Tower when it collapsed, trapping him and 13 other men and women. In his book, Last Man Down, Picciotto describes his first-hand experience of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
While trapped, Picciotto tried to remember if he kissed his wife before heading out to work that fateful morning.
“You take things for granted that are so important,” he says. “Your family, your friends. If, God forbid, you lost it, then you realize how much you really do appreciate what you have.”
Picciotto and the 13 others trapped within the crumbled tower eventually were pulled to safety by firemen.
Picciotto retired from the department a year after the attacks, with 30 years of service. He currently serves as a volunteer firefighter in his community in upstate New York.
“I still miss it,” he says. “It was a great job.”
As a firefighter at Engine Co. 76 and Ladder Co. 22 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Picciotto says he commuted 70 miles (113 km) to work from his home in Chester, NY, in his “beat-up blue 1991 Honda Accord.”
He has since purchased a ’04 Accord, retiring the ‘91, which had more than 160,000 miles (257,488 km) on it.