LODI, N.J. -- Buried alive not once but twice when the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11, retired FDNY Lt. Joe Torillo had a compelling story to tell graduating Lodi Junior Police Academy cadets.
Nearly 100 7th-grade cadets spent an intense seven weeks at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, mostly involving calisthenics, relay races and other physical training.
They also got handouts and written instruction on important topics, from bullying to peer pressure to drinking and driving and drug abuse.
Visitors included local firefighters and EMTs, a Bergen County Sheriff’s K-9 unit, the sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Identification – which collects and analyzes evidence -- and Sensei David Castro of Tiger Schulman’s Karate of Morris Plains.
They even took a trip to the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Institute in Mahwah.
A big thrill was a visit from New York Giants safety Andrew Adams and linebacker Keenan Robinson, who discussed the choices that brought them to the NFL.
On Tuesday night, the graduates marched into the auditorium escorted by Lodi police, as well as a bagpiper from the Police Pipes and Drums of Bergen County, Teaneck Police Sgt. Jack Garland.
Selected graduates read essays on what the experience meant to them before Sgt. Anthony Mobilio of the department’s Community Policing Unit presented diplomas.
Torillo, a 25-year veteran of the FDNY, spent his career in Engine Company No. 10, across from the WTC South Tower.
He was headed to a news conference on 9/11 to announce the creation of a children’s firefighter action figure when the first plane crashed.
Torillo immediately rushed to the scene and was headed in when the second jet struck.
The South Tower then collapsed, burying Torillo alive with a fractured skull, broken ribs, broken arm, crushed spine and heavy internal bleeding.
Rescuers removed him on a long board for a trip to the hospital when the North Tower fell, burying him again.
It took 45 minutes for rescuers to find the unconscious hero – who at the time was wearing borrowed firefighters’ gear with a colleague’s name on it.
Torillo, who sustained lifelong injuries, was positively identified three days later.
He now travels the world as a professional speaker, hoping to inspire audiences and mentor youngsters.
Lodi’s young cadets were inspired by law enforcement experts who introduced them to police work up close.
“The core function of this program is to provide an interactive learning experience that focuses on the different aspects of police work,” Police Chief Vincent Quatrone said.
“It provides the youth of the community an avenue to experience and appreciate the role that police officers play in our society, while building the bridge of cooperation and respect between the youth and law enforcement,” the chief said.
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