EAST HARLEM — A woman who survived the blast that leveled two Harlem buildings last month and killed her daughter and seven others shared an emotional embrace Friday with the firefighters who rescued her.
Quinones suffered a fractured skull, a brain hemorrhage, a fractured spine and a broken arm and has been undergoing treatment at Mount Sinai Hospital for the last month, but is slated to leave Monday. On Friday, she came face to face with her heroes.
“I have to thank everybody, but most of all, I have to thank all of you,” Quinones gushed after meeting the first responders. “If you weren’t in that place at that time, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
FDNY Capt. Robert Morris, of Rescue 1, one of the units that saved her, described a chaotic scene in trying to get to Quinones, who lived on the fourth floor.
“We had to actually climb up on the pile,” he said. “The footing was very bad. Visibility was very poor because of the smoke.”
“About 50 feet in, on the top of the pile, we saw the smoke kind of move,” he added. “She was laying down. She was conscious. She was looking around. We had asked her certain questions, (but) she wasn’t really responding.”
Morris said they ultimately pushed aside some of the debris and pulled her to safety.
Dr. Peter Taub, from Mount Sinai’s surgery department, praised the quick work of the responders.
“She could’ve suffered much worse injuries,” he said. “Getting her to the hospital quickly really was life saving.”
Doctors said when Quinones first started rehabilitating, she couldn’t walk more than 20 feet. She’s now walking for about 30 minutes with minimal assistance and a cane.
Taub credited Quinones’ grit for getting her through the last month.
“She’s a tough person. She’s a fighter,” he said. “She's not going to let a building fall on her do her in."