If you read our March 2009 Juniper Berry you know about the early life of Joe Magnus. This is what you read and it is a prelude to his life story, entitled, “The Resonant Voice.”
“When Joseph was a 13-year old boy in Czechoslovakia during World War II, his life was a living hell. In 1944, the Russians had beaten the Germans back to the small Czech town of Roztoky where Magnus and his mother lived. They were forced to flee with other townspeople into the surrounding woods where they dug themselves bunkers and huddled down, trying to evade capture and death.” Young Joseph volunteered in the Czech underground resistance and fought the Nazis that helped push the Germans back and save countless civilian lives. His stories of death and destruction are enough to affect even the most battleworn veteran soldier. Joe was only 13 years old and he grew up fast during WWII.
Later on after emigrating to the United States he joined the US Army.
In this issue of the Juniper Berry we will give you a snapshot of Joe’s life story after the war and it will certainly tease you into wanting to read the whole book.
Joe, who is very proud to be an American, still has a heavy accent but you will have no trouble understanding what he is telling you. He writes the following about his introduction into the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corp.
“One Sunday I was going to church with my wife and two people in front of the church approached me and asked if I would like to join the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps which was being formed. I told them that I do not know anything about running the ambulance. I did sign up to volunteer in 1973 and thirty-seven years later I am still there. I am the only original member still with the organization.
I was one of the first people to complete the Emergency Medical Technician class at Syosset Hospital on Long Island.
Several years ago I was awarded ten thousand dollars by the Emigrant savings Bank for volunteering for so many years. I donated this money to the Ambulance Corps.
There were three other elderly patients whom I treated and transported to the hospital. After they got well and were released from the hospital, they made a will and donated five thousand dollars each for our Ambulance Corps.
There was one patient that I could never forget. One evening we responded to a call on East bound service road near Sixty-nine Street in Maspeth. When we arrived on the scene, I observed that there was a truck and under the truck there was a patient. I went under the truck and there was a young girl approximately ten years old. When I said I am Joseph I will help you, she started to cry. That is what I wanted to hear. When they cry they are still alive. I cleaned her mouth and nose and administered oxygen. After checking her from head to toe, I noticed that she had broken bone in the right forearm. I splinted the arm and bandaged other minor injuries. At this time her mother came on the scene. We transported her to the nearest hospital.
Six months later while I was sitting in the back room at the ambulance headquarters, a young girl walked in with her mother. The girl carried a bouquet of roses. They asked the dispatcher that they are looking for Joseph Magnus. The dispatcher directed them to me. She was dressed in a beautiful white dress. The girl handed to me the roses saying “Mr. Magnus, I want to thank you for your help when I was lying under that truck.”
Upon seeing her and hearing her thanking me, tears came from my eyes. That was my reward for sure!”
This is what Joe Magnus writes in his book about September 11, 2001. What you see is that our very own Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps played a big part in the massive rescue effort that took place on that awful day in 2001. As you read Joe’s account of the event, you hear his still heavy accent but you have no doubt that Joe Magnus, the American, is at work trying to save lives with his fellow EMT’s from the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps. The memory of that terrible day seen through the eyes of Joe Magnus will be sobering as you read Joe’s account of events that changed how we live in America forever –
“On the morning on September 11, 2001 I was at home doing work on my computer. My wife went out on the Avenue to get a newspaper. When she came home she said “call someone to bring the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance here and ready to go.” “Get ready to go where?” I asked. “World Trade Center buildings are on fire,” she said. My two friends came with the ambulance in eight minutes.
We continued driving on Long Island Expressway toward the Queens Midtown tunnel. Police were on the road allowing only emergency vehicles to go through. When we were just about to enter the tunnel the South tower was collapsing. I took several pictures as it was falling down.
Once in Manhattan, we were driving downtown. On each side of the road there were people looking downtown towards the burning building. When we were two blocks away from the burning building, we were flagged down that two people are sick on the sidewalk. Two of our EMT’s went on the sidewalk to help them. They cleared their throats, administered oxygen and released them. While I was taking pictures of the burning building and people jumping down, all of a sudden the North Tower started to collapse. People started to run away from the building.
We turned the ambulance facing uptown. We put on the ambulance at least twenty people and drove uptown by the East River. Our second ambulance with three EMT’s showed up. There were many ambulances here from New York City, New Jersey and Upstate. All the ambulances were lined up on the West Side Highway. On the Hudson River piers, there were many medical people with the tables and equipment set up to treat the injured.
We were here until the evening, waiting. In the evening we were dispatched downtown again with two of our ambulances. I must confess that I always thought of New Yorkers as very cold and unfriendly. This day I learned how wrong I was. As we were driving along, people came out in droves offering us food and soda. They even offered us to come to their homes and lie down for couple of hours. I was very proud of New Yorkers and always will be.
We were downtown until the next day twelve o’clock noon. There were many workers who were pulling out survivor and dead people from the debris. Our two ambulances worked there six twenty-four hour shifts. Between each shift we would get five hours of sleep, wash up and change into a new set of clean clothes. I remember one person they put on the table you could not tell whether the person was male or female. It was burned beyond recognition. I noticed there was a wedding band on the person’s finger. Tears came from my eyes when I saw this. I knew that children might be involved. On the second night at two o’clock in the morning Elizabeth Taylor paid a visit to the workers. She thanked us for helping out and gave me a big hug.
Working at the World Trade Center six twenty-four tours, we treated and transported thirty-eight patients to various hospitals. We used thirty-eight oxygen cylinders to administer oxygen to people who had difficulty breathing. When we came there, the second building was still standing. You could see people jumping down from the burning building. In some cases you could see people holding hands and jumping down together. It was horrible sight to see.
One day President George W. Bush came down and was met my Mayor Rudy Giuliani and governor George Pataki. He made the speech and thanked the workers for helping out.
When we returned home with two ambulances, we took inventory of ambulance equipment. Cost of our equipment that we lost there was $18,000. Later I wrote letters to our community asking for contribution to replace lost equipment. People were very generous responding to our help.
I had many pictures that I took when the buildings were burning and falling down. I made a computer presentation and showed it at the local schools, churches and community organizations meeting. When people watched the presentation, tears were coming from their eyes.”
There you have Joe Magnus’ vivid account of September 11, 2001. It makes you proud to have a group of men and women that make up the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps in our midst and, most of all, proud to be an American.
Photos: (below) Joe Magnus with Elizabeth Taylor at Ground Zero on September 12, 2001. With President George Bush in the White House in 1990 and with his late wife Margaret and Mayor Mike Bloomberg at the Elmhurst Gas Tanks site dedication in April, 2004.