Photo credit: © Joe McNally
Accession Number: C.2022.25.1
Dimensions: 109 in X 44 in X 1/16 in
Dimensions (Metric): 276.86 cm X 111.76 cm X 2.54 cm
Credit Line: Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum. © Joe McNally
John A. Jonas, Captain, Ladder 6, later promoted to Battalion Chief, FDNY
Life-sized Polaroid photograph taken by Joe McNally depicting FDNY Ladder 6 Battalion Chief, John A. Jonas. Jonas is wearing his full bunker gear. He has his Battalion Chief fire helmet on his head and his Captain helmet tucked under his arm.
On 9/11, sixteen individuals were spared death because of where they happened to be as they were evacuating. Descending Stairwell B after Flight 11 struck the North Tower, three Port Authority civilian employees, a Port Authority Police officer, and twelve New York City firefighters including six men from Ladder 6. Spread out between floors 22 and 2 within this center-situated emergency stairwell, the Ladder 6 crew had been together around the 27th floor, conducting a search and rescue operation, when they felt and heard the vibrations of the South Tower’s collapse.
Hastening to exit down the stairwell, the Ladder 6 group soon encountered Josephine Harris, a civilian Port Authority bookkeeper in need of assistance. Slowing their own evacuation to aid Harris, the fire department rescuers managed to help Harris descend to around the 4th floor. Port Authority police officer David Lim came upon them and paused to offer his assistance. Suddenly, as feared, the North Tower shuddered and began to fail, pancaking on top of all of them with a thunderous noise and fierce winds.
In the shock and darkness that ensued, Ladder 6 Captain Jay Jonas and his men realized that others were caught with them in the stairwell, these included Lt. Mickey Kross from FDNY Engine 16, and FDNY Chief Richard Picciotto, both of whom survived the ordeal.
Several hours later, the group of survivors were being rescued. Harris, who could no longer walk, was lifted out. A shaft of light revealing an egress path enabled the rest to crawl and climb their way out. Captain Jonas was the last to exit.
Jonas, spokesperson for the Ladder 6 survivors, has credited Josephine Harris as their lucky charm. Had they not encountered her where they did and lingered to escort her when they did, he and his men would have been crushed in the North Tower lobby or killed on the nearby street by the building’s avalanche of steel and concrete.