"We all made it out. My friend and her husband were not able to make it. So I'm just thankful God that my family made It," stated Winter Thomas, a resident who managed to escape from the ninth floor along with her stepfather, mother and siblings.
Officials said that 19 people died in Sunday's fire, nine of them children under 16 years old.
It doesn't make sense. Thomas stated, "These are kids I grew-up with, kids with whom we went to school."
They stumbled upon unresponsive bodies on the ground as they went down.
Sandra Clayton, 61 years old, heard her neighbors shouting in the corridor: "Get out!" Get out!
She raced up the stairs and grabbed Mocha, her Maltese Shih Tzu 2-year-old Maltese Shih Tzu, as she ran.
She said that the smoke smelled like toxic chemicals. The smoke was already thickened and black by the time she reached the stairwell.
She struggled to find her phone flashlight but was too shocked. She was unable to see and stumbled down the stairs. Soon, other tenants were also there. She described how panicked screams and tears echoed up the stairs.
She recalled, "I ran down the steps as fast as I could, but people was falling all around me, screaming," from St. Barnabas Hospital where she was treated with smoke inhalation.
She fell three times and was sometimes trampled on by others who were trying to escape the darkness.
She let go of her dog at one point as she tried to brace herself for a fall.
She cried, "I tried to feel for her, but there were so many smokes," she stated, her voice becoming more emotional. "I had no choice but to save my life."
She finally made her way out of the building after a few minutes that seemed like they would never end. She gasped for breath and wondered aloud what had happened to Mocha up the stairs.
She described the horror as "so horrific". "I was so scared."
Mocha didn't make it. She later claimed that the smoke caused the dog to become unconscious.
Nicole Anderson sat back and counted her blessings as the evening fell. She believes the fire was already blazing when she rode down the elevator with her family to their car.
The family was able to see firetrucks speeding down the street after only a few minutes.
Anderson, 43, said that Anderson didn't think much about it, as he grew up in the same building. Soon, a neighbor called to report that their building was on the verge of burning. She turned around, but she could only make it a few blocks away from her house. She continued walking the remainder of the way.
She said that it was "dark black smoke" coming from a lower level.
Jose Henriquez was an immigrant to the Dominican Republic who was caring for his two grandkids, and his niece. He initially thought that the false alarms were an annoying interruption to their morning.
Henriquez stated that false alarms may have caused residents to not take action when the fire broke out.
Henriquez closed the door tightly and inserted a wet towel below the smoke-filled hallway.
He opened a window to let in the cold air through it. The video shows the children looking out of the window at the 10th floor as they express alarm at the smoke.
The family managed to get past the ascensing firefighters. They used dampened COVID-19 faces for protection from the smoke and were careful not to slip into pools of water.
They passed a dead dog on the staircase as they went down.
Luis Rosa, who was also on the 13th Floor, had also heard the fire alarm and was annoyed that it was likely another false alarm.
His mother and he began to worry when a notification appeared on his phone.
The smoke was beginning to drift into his apartment on the 13th floor. The sirens started wailing in the distance.
He opened the front door but found that the smoke was too thick to escape.
He recalled, "OK, we can’t run down stairs because if run down stairs, we’re going to be suffocating."
He stared out the window, trying to see his options.
He said, "All we could do is wait."
He heard the door pounding about 45 minutes later. It was a firefighter who gave the all-clear.