BOSTON (CBS) – Former New England Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi was at the dentist 10 years ago Sunday.
Being a Tuesday, it was an off-day for the Patriots. He recalled hearing the initial report of a small plane hitting one of New York’s Twin Towers. By the time he was out of the dentist chair and on his way home, it was clear what tragic events were unfolding.
With three brothers in the New York City fire department, the attacks hit home for Andruzzi.
All three of his brothers responded to Ground Zero.
“I can never fathom what they went through during that time, especially my brother Jimmy, who was in Tower 1,” Andruzzi recalled to WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton. “What he went through to get out of that building; running out of it as it fell behind him. As well as my other brothers who were called in; my younger brother just graduating the academy; not even putting out a fire yet and he’s running down there.”
Andruzzi Recalls His Brother’s Story On 9/11
Andruzzi’s brother was on the 27th floor of Tower 1 when when Tower 2 began to fall. He recalled it was a little bit of luck that got him out of Tower 1 alive.
“One of his colleagues had chest pain and thought he was having a heart attack. That slows them up a bit. As Tower 2 fell, they pick him up and they make it down to the fourth floor. They can’t find an exit, and there’s a guy in a suit yelling down the hallway. He remembers feeling through the hallway, it’s pitch black, and finding the exit. To this day they don’t know who that was but they made it down to the lobby and watched the marble wall crack around him. Running out of there they come to find out his buddy only had a strained muscle. It slowed them down enough that they weren’t climbing to the station base up on the 60th floor. So he made it out there within seconds, minutes of his life, along with a lot of people close to him. But he still lost a lot of close friends and colleagues.”
From WBZ NewsRadio 1030: Andruzzi Remembers 9/11 with Brothers
All three of the Andruzzi brothers survived the horrific events of 9/11. It took Joe nearly six hours to hear that good news, with his father, a New York City detective, giving him the news.
“My brother gave (someone on the streets) our parent’ numbers and told them to call, just tell my parents he was alive. They were nice enough to call, and my parents got in touched with me,” he said. “(I was) Relieved, but not overly relieved. He was still down there, still part of the initial rescue efforts and the mayhem that was going on.”
Andruzzi Remembers Hearing His Brother Was Okay
The Patriots honored the Andruzzi brothers on the field on Sept. 23, 2001, just 12 days after the events of 9/11. They were once again honorary captains in New England’s preseason finale against the Giants on September 1st.
In May of 2007, Andruzzi was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was forced to retire from football, and battled the disease for three months at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His final treatment was in August 2007, and the former offensive lineman has been in remission ever since.
He won his battle through support with from his family.
“(I received) some words I can live by and they come from my brother,” said Andruzzi. “I helped him as much as I can, and he helped me; along with my other brothers and family. He gave me some choice words and I live by them; ‘What doesn’t skill you makes you stronger,’ and I try to live by that every day of my life. Getting stronger each day and moving forward and striving for my foundation to help others.
Andruzzi started the Joe Andruzzi Foundation to give financial assistance to families that are struggling with cancer. He also funds the CJ Buckley Brain Cancer Research Fund at Children’s Hospital, named after a young boy he met with inoperable brain cancer in 2001.