Giavanna Diesso, of Smithtown, got stuck in the dressing room at Kate & Hale clothing store on Main Street in Port Jefferson Village on Tuesday afternoon. She was shopping with her mother and friends.
The clothing store is located in an old bank building and the dressing room area is behind a propped steel vault door.
Giavanna's 7-year-old brother closed the door.
"I was pushing and they were pulling and it wasn't opening," Giavanna told Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne.
Giavanna's mother, Danielle Diesso, asked store employees if there was any way to open the door. When they quickly realized there wasn't, she called 911.
Within minutes, members of the Port Jefferson Fire Department responded.
Assistant Fire Chief Steve Erland said their first goal was to make sure Giavanna had enough air to breathe.
"Once we identified there was a vent entering, then we stepped back and we took a role in determining whether we're going to go through the door or the wall," he said "We ended up choosing the wall."
Erland said they had Giavanna FaceTime with them so they could see the inside of the room and the door and wall from the other side.
Erland said the wall was composed of 18 inches of brick and concrete.
"We used hammer drills, we used our jaws of life, our cutter," Erland said. "Pretty much any tool that was on our rescue truck we used to get access to this area."
Erland said they went through so many demolition hammers that they had to call a nearby tool rental store for more hammers.
Taylor True Value Rental owner Brian Iadarola said he gave the firefighters the hammers at no cost.
"The object of the game was to get them out of here as fast as possible," he said.
Erland said more than 60 first responders responded to the scene, including from the Terryville Fire Department, Port Jefferson EMS and Suffolk County Police Emergency Services.
Giavanna said she was nervous as she waited to be freed from the room. Firefighters instructed her to get as far away from the demolition activity as possible, so she crouched in one of the far dressing rooms with the curtain closed.
"I was pretty nervous," Giavanna said. "Just like scared at the moment, but I knew that there is a way out."
Giavanna said she kept herself calm by FaceTiming with friends.
Giavanna's brother Vincent said he was scared they wouldn't be able to get his sister out.
Giavanna said she could hear her brother crying.
"Is she ok?" Giavanna recalled hearing her brother ask.
Giavanna said eventually she saw a hole pop through. Firefighters pulled Giavanna through.
The entire operation took 90 minutes.
"I'm coming out and I just see like a whole crowd," she said. "And I'm like, wow that's a lot of people!"
Danielle Diesso said she ran to her daughter to give her a hug.
"I could not wait to get to her," Diesso said. "I was so relieved. I gave her the biggest hug of my life."
Diesso called the first responders her heroes.
Giavanna smiled for a group photo with all of the first responders.
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