by The Chief Engineer
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A Day of Terror
September 11th, 2001 dawned in New York as a crystal clear day - a perfect day. Throughout the city, Stationary Engineers were readying their buildings for the Tuesday morning influx of tenants. Everything and everyone was at the city's normal hastened pace. None knew that within just a few hours, their city and the lives of everyone within would never again be the same.
Mike Pecoraro helped hundreds to escape only to find himself trapped and staring death in the face.
Mike Pecoraro had gotten up from bed at 4 a.m. to make his normal 2 hour commute from his Long Island home to the World Trade Center, where he worked as a Stationary Engineer on a roving crew that serviced all of the buildings at the complex. The 36 year-old father of two stopped and bought breakfast on the way into One World Trade Center and changed into his work clothes. At about 6:45 he went to the mechanical shop in the second subbasement, ate his breakfast and chatted with his co-workers who were also arriving for the normal 8:00 a.m. beginning of their shift. Mike's assignment that day would be to continue constructing a gantry that would be used to pull the heads from the 2,500 ton chillers, located in the 6th sub- basement level of the tower. 49,000 tons of refrigeration equipment were located in the lower level of the tower. The 2,500 ton units were the smallest in use.
Joe Shearin managed to override an overhead garage door mechanism, saving trapped occupants from certain death.
Donning his hearing protection, respirator, gloves and eye protection, Mike, along with another engineer, began the work day using a large grinder to smooth down the welds on steel they were using for the gantry. Deep underground, in an area surrounded by solid bedrock, the noise made by the grinder reverberated from the walls as sparks flew from the spinning grinding wheel.
Tom Hart reaches out even today to assist survivors deeply hurt by the World Trade Center attack.
High above in the management office, on the 88th floor of the tower, John Griffin, Jr., the father of two and the new Director of Operations at the World Trade Center, was also beginning his day. John had been hired by the buildings' owners, Silverstein Company, just two months earlier. The son of an Engineer, John seemed born to the job and by all account was more than capable of shouldering the challenge of running one of the largest buildings in the world. John worked with Charles "Charlie" Magee, the Chief Engineer at the Center. Along with the 35 other employees who made up the management staff of the World Trade Center, they began their day high above the bustling city, managing what was a city within the city.
Paula Daly works each day to help survivors suffering the emotional trauma of September 11th.
Joe Shearin, the 36 year-old Assistant Chief Engineer at the World Trade Center, began his day by distributing work orders to his crew. The father of a 2 year-old daughter, Joe loved nothing more than the work he did and the place he worked. His best friend, Vito Deleo, another Stationary Engineer, worked with him. The two were all but inseparable. They worked together almost every day. It was generally accepted by all who worked on the maintenance staff that if they saw one, the other had to be close by.
Mike Carney, President and Business Manager of IUOE Local 94, continues to lead his Local through its darkest hour.
That morning a note had been left for Joe by the Chief Engineer of the midnight to 8 a.m. shift telling him that a tenant on the 38th floor wanted to see him as early as possible. So after distributing the work orders to his staff, he entered one of the tower's elevator cars and headed up into the building.
John Griffin, Sr. sadly related the final moments of his son's life to the Chief Engineer.
Deep below the tower, Mike Pecoraro was suddenly interrupted in his grinding task by a shake on his shoulder from his co-worker. "Did you see that?" he was asked. Mike told him that he had seen nothing. "You didn't see the lights flicker?", his co-worker asked again. "No," Mike responded, but he knew immediately that if the lights had flickered, it could spell trouble. A power surge or interruption could play havoc with the building's equipment. If all the pumps trip out or pulse meters trip, it could make for a very long day bringing the entire center's equipment back on-line.
September 11, 2001, two hijacked commercial aircraft are flown into the World Trade Center towers.
Mike told his co-worker to call upstairs to their Assistant Chief Engineer and find out if everything was all right. His co-worker made the call and reported back to Mike that he was told that the Assistant Chief did not know what happened but that the whole building seemed to shake and there was a loud explosion. They had been told to stay where they were and "sit tight" until the Assistant Chief got back to them. By this time, however, the room they were working in began to fill with a white smoke. "We smelled kerosene," Mike recalled, "I was thinking maybe a car fire was upstairs", referring to the parking garage located below grade in the tower but above the deep space where they were working.
John McGinley, an Engineer at the WTC was on the 56th floor of Building 2 when the attack occurred. Today he has trouble working in buildings taller than ten stories.
The two decided to ascend the stairs to the C level, to a small machine shop where Vito Deleo and David Williams were supposed to be working. When the two arrived at the C level, they found the machine shop gone.
"There was nothing there but rubble, "Mike said. "We're talking about a 50 ton hydraulic press -- gone!" The two began yelling for their co-workers, but there was no answer. They saw a perfect line of smoke streaming through the air. "You could stand here," he said, "and two inches over you couldn't breathe. We couldn't see through the smoke so we started screaming." But there was still no answer.
Sergei Siletzky was a helper at WTC. At the time of the attack, he was attending class at Local 94.
The two made their way to the parking garage, but found that it, too, was gone. "There were no walls, there was rubble on the floor, and you can't see anything" he said.
They decided to ascend two more levels to the building's lobby. As they ascended to the B Level, one floor above, they were astonished to see a steel and concrete fire door that weighed about 300 pounds, wrinkled up "like a piece of aluminum foil" and lying on the floor. "They got us again," Mike told his co-worker, referring to the terrorist attack at the center in 1993. Having been through that bombing, Mike recalled seeing similar things happen to the building's structure. He was convinced a bomb had gone off in the building. Mike walked through the open doorway and found two people lying on the floor. One was a female Carpenter and the other an Elevator Operator. They were both badly burned and injured. Realizing he had to get help, Mike ascended to the Lobby Level where he met Arti Del Bianco, a member of his work crew. People were now coming down the same stairway from above the lobby and Arti and Mike had to stay where they were to direct people out of the stairway door and into the building's lobby. If they didn't, people descending could walk past the lobby door and unwittingly keep descending into the sublevels of the building.
Gerard Tate, an engineer who rushed to the World Trade Center, discovered trapped firefighters in the ruins and summoned the help which saved their lives.
On the 38th floor, Joe Shearin exited the elevator and began his walk down the hallway to meet with the tenant who had requested to see him. About 50 feet down the hallway, he heard a loud explosion and was lifted into the air. "I can't even tell you how far I traveled," he recalled. When he landed, people were already coming out of their offices into the hallway. "They were screaming, hollering," he said. "They were asking what they should do and where they should go". Joe directed them down the stairwells and out of the building.
Kuba Brown, Assistant Business Manager of Local 94, directed the union's response in the initial hours following the World Trade Center attack.
What Joe first believed was that an equipment room on the 43rd floor, which had an electrical substation, had blown up. He proceeded up the 5 floors to that level. Upon reaching the 43rd floor, "there were patches of ceiling that was just down on the floor, water pipes were broken, water was gushing like a brook or river that was just running down the corridor of the machine room". He began yelling to see if anyone was in the room and received no reply. He made his way to one of the tower's stairways and began the walk down to the lobby. "When I came down the stairwell (to the lobby level) and I looked toward West Street, I just couldn't believe what I saw," he recalled. "There was glass and people cut, covered in blood".
Stunned by the sudden collapse of the towers, survivors made their way to safety through an enormous dust cloud.
Making his way out of the building, he found debris falling from the top of the building. Still not understanding or knowing what had happened, he made his way back to re-enter the building. As he went around the west wall he saw two people. "They were pretty -- I never seen anything like that before," he said, his voice choking from the pain of seeing it again in his memory. "This individual, she was that badly burned, but she was still alive," he managed.
James Berg, who represents employers on the Local 94 Board, came immediately to the aid of members impacted by the attack.
In the Management Office on the 88th floor, the scope of the catastrophe was more evident. John Griffin Jr. and Charlie Magee also thought at first that an electrical substation had blown up. The force of the explosion lifted furnishing into the air. One desk had flown up and landed five feet away. The falling debris and furnishings blocked access to the stairwells. The room began to fill with smoke. John, Charlie and others began to break out windows to get air into the room.
Peter Pizzo, an engineer for Lee Technologies near the WTC, laid on his back on the roof of his building for two and one-half hours keeping condenser coils from clogging and jeopardizing the hi-tech equipment inside the facility.
They realized they had to escape and managed to clear a way to a stairwell. They made certain that they had all the occupants from the floor together and then began the long descent down the stairwell.
Ralph Urizzo, an engineer and National Guard member, was activated and sent to the World Trade Center on September 11th.
On the way down the stairwell, John kept talking to his co-workers, keeping them calm as they made their way down. They began to meet firemen coming up the stairs, so some congestion started within the stairwell. At each level, other building occupants were streaming into the stairwell and the group of 35 from the Management office became separated by the mass of people trying to leave the building.
No one ever saw John Griffin Jr. or Charlie Magee after that. If they did make it to the first floor, they would have immediately joined the fire command personnel. They would not have left the building.
All that was ever recovered of John Griffin Jr. was one credit card, bearing his name.
Raymond Macco, Delegate for Local 94, helped to account for some of the 150 engineers initially missing after the attack.
Mike and Arti stayed in the stairwell at the first floor of the tower directing people through the doors. People flooded the stairwell and a great amount of water was also streaming steadily down the stairs. Describing the people coming down Mike said: "Some were burnt, some cut, some screaming, some fine; like there was nothing going on".
"Literally thousands of people came by us down those stairs," Mike said. At one point, an engineer had to run down the stairs to bring some tenants who had inadvertently passed the first floor, back up to the lobby level.
The smoke in the stairwell was constant and at one point, Mike told Arti that he was going to catch a quick breath of fresh air. He walked out into the main lobby of the building, seeing it for the first time.
"When I walked out into the lobby, it was incredible," he recalled. "The whole lobby was soot and black, elevator doors were missing. The marble was missing off some of the walls. 20-foot section of marble, 20 by 10 foot sections of marble, gone from the walls". The west windows were all gone. They were missing. These are tremendous windows. They were just gone. Broken glass everywhere, the revolving doors were all broken and their glass was gone. Every sprinkler head was going off. I am thinking to myself, how are these sprinkler heads going off? It takes a lot of heat to set off a sprinkler head. It never dawned on me that there was a giant fireball that came through the air of the lobby. I never knew that until later on. The jet fuel actually came down the elevator shaft, blew off all the (elevator) doors and flames rolled through the lobby. That explained all the burnt people and why everything was sooted in the lobby."
Spotting someone from the New York Port Authority, Mike asked him what had happened. He told Mike that a helicopter had struck the building. Mike immediately thought the helicopter must have struck at or near the lobby level. He made his way back to the stairwell and told Arti what he had found. "Arti, I think we better get out of here," Mike recalled telling him. "If something falls on us here, we are done."
They decided to try and re-group with the other Engineers and together left the stairwell. There were hundreds of firemen on the scene by then. "Everything was chaotic," he said. "People were running in every direction. People were on the mezzanine. The second floor had a ledge that went all the way around the inside of the building's lobby. It was packed with people that were coming out of all the other stairwells".
Brian Muller, an engineer in Building 4 of the World Trade Center, was left with deep emotional scars from his experience. ﾠ
Joe Shearin had managed to make his way on to West Street where he met an Emergency Medical truck that had just pulled up. He asked the technician if he could help the burned women he had seen and the technician told him to help by carrying equipment into the tower. Joe filled his arms and accompanied the technician into the building and stayed with them, and helped take the woman to the ambulance outside.
Upon re-entering the building, Joe started to hear a rumbling sound. "I knew what was happening," he said. "That was Two World Trade Center starting to come down". He entered one of the elevators that serviced the lobby floor and below and rode it down to where the mechanical shop office was located. His plan was to make certain everyone he worked with was out of the building and then exit the building through the parking garage. Entering the mechanical shop office, he found two people inside and yelled for them to get out. He then went to the parking garage and towards the doors that led out to West Street.
"I could see people up against the rollup doors, banging on the doors and stuff like that". Seeing his building uniform, they yelled at Joe to help open the door. Joe moved quickly to the door operating mechanism and managed to put it into manual mode. Opening the door, they all fled into the air above as 2 World Trade Center crashed down around them.
Nicholas Lanzillotto, Chief Engineer for Merril Lynch at the World Financial Center, safely evacuated his building then worked 24-hour shifts to bring his building back into service.
Mike Pecoraro and Arti made their way out of Tower One and went to Tower Two. They encountered a crowd of people standing outside the tower, not knowing what had happened. Apparently, they had witnessed a fireball come through the lobby after the second airplane had struck that tower, but they were entering directly from the subway underground and had as yet, no idea of what was happening. Mike and Arti told them all to leave and go home. They then made their way to 4 World Trade Center where they encountered a guard who initially was refusing to leave her post. "Just go home," Mike told her. "You don't have a job, it's done". Reluctantly, the guard left and walked towards the north side of the complex.
Still believing that a helicopter had struck the tower, Mike finally learned the truth when two female police officers informed him of the jetliners. Feeling that they were not doing enough, the two decided to go back to One World Trade Center to see what they could do to help and to take another look in the 4th subbasement for Vito Deleo and David Williams.
A search of the subbasements again turned up no one. The building at this point almost seemed empty. A telephone was ringing in one of the shops. Mike answered it and found a tenant on the other end requesting that the heat be turned off in their office.
"I just shook my head and hung the phone up," he said. He wanted to call his wife and tell her that he was okay, but could not get through on the line. He finally managed to reach his wife's employer and asked her to relay a message to his wife that he was all right.
Mike and Arti then decided to make their way to the Pump House which was located away from the buildings at the far end of the complex. The World Trade Center used water from the river for their condenser needs. This water was pumped through a 60 inch main, fed by large pumps located in the Pump House, near the river. Their walk there would take them again through 2 World Trade Center.
No sooner had the two reached Tower 2 when Mike stopped and turned to Arti. "I have a bad feeling," he told Arti. " I don't know what's in there, but I know what's back there," he said indicating Tower 1 where they were. The two decided to go back to 1 World Trade Center, cut through the lobby and make their way around the complex using a different, longer route to the Pump House.
When they re-entered Tower 1, they saw more people coming down the same stairwell where they had earlier been assisting. "They were more hurt, more burnt, more tired," he said. They helped them exit the building asking each if there was anyone up the stairs that needed assistance. "We'll just run up and we'll grab them and get them out," he told them. But each person reported that there was no one in the stairwell that they had passed. Finally, a Port Authority worker descended the stairwell. They asked him if there was anyone left up in the building. The man said nothing, just shook his head and exited the building.
Mike and Arti decided it was time to leave as well. They left the stairwell and re-entered the lobby. As they walked to the exit, they heard a roar and the floor began to shake.
"Banging so hard that we fell down on our knees," he said. "I'm looking south, at the building, Arti's looking at me, we locked eyes and he is screaming at the top of his lungs...I can barely hear this guy. He's screaming, "What the f? is that?", and I am screaming back at him, that I think it's another plane".
In reality, as the two were kneeling in the lobby of 1 World Trade Center, its sister building, 2 World Trade Center, was crashing down upon them. "The building was just bouncing and bouncing, the floor was bouncing. I figured another plane already hit the building". Mike related. "I'm looking ahead and I see all the windows, either three story tall windows or four story tall windows, 10 feet wide; shatter. All of them broke at the same time. All the glass flew over my head. I'm looking up, on my knees, with my hands on the floor, and I saw all that glass. You're talking glass three inches thick, go right over our heads. I saw that some of the firemen who was standing on the perimeter (mezzanine) was blown right off the top. They just flew over the top. I can't put a number on it, maybe ten. Bunch of firemen were guarding doors there. They got blown off. Don't know where they went. I saw pieces of debris as big as cars go right over my head without stopping. Like a line drive right over my head," he said, raising his hand to indicate an approximate 4 foot level. "I put my head down, put my hands over my head. I still had gloves in my hand. I put the gloves over my head and there was a wind that came through the revolving doors that blew me -- 100 feet to the far wall, right by the visitor's desk. The floor was covered with sheetrock (powdered) and water so it was like a soup. It was very slippery".
"You couldn't see anything now. There was dust in the room. My eyes were covered with dust and debris. I got hit in the back of the head with something so hard I fractured my elbow on the floor. Something stuck in the back of my calf and I just got beat all over the left side of my body. Then the building started bouncing even harder. So hard it was lifting me off the floor, bouncing me on the floor".
"I had somebody fall on top of me. That freaked me out. I kicked that person off me because I didn't want them on me. And then it just stopped. It was dead quiet. There was no sound except this hissing sound coming from -- I believe it was steam pipes, at the edge of One World Trade Center. There was no people, no sounds, there was just quiet. I was alive!"
"I still had my flashlight in my holder, my walkie-talkie was split in half. I couldn't call anybody. I turned the flashlight on, people jumped all over me, that must have been standing right next to me. I don't know who they were. All they wanted was help. How do we get out? I turned the flashlight off and put it back in my holder because it didn't do a damn thing (within the thick dust) and I told them, just follow me. I told them I was an engineer in the building, I think I know where I am, follow me out, we're gonna give it a try. There was pandemonium. Nobody would listen to me. They just left. I don't know where they went or who they were".
Mike was having trouble breathing in the thick dust. He cut a piece of cloth from his T-shirt and put it over his face. Arti was nowhere around him. He couldn't hear him and certainly couldn't see him. Mike heard a sound near him in the dust. He crawled towards the sound. The sound was coming from a fireman lying on the floor near him. Some type of alarm was apparently triggered on the fireman's air pack. Mike tried to wake the fireman, but there was no response. He tried to get to the fireman's air pack and mask but could not see through the dust how to remove it or get to the air he so desperately needed.
In desperation, Mike grabbed the fireman's coat, relit his flashlight and began dragging the unconscious fireman out of the building. "He was easy to drag," Mike said. "the floor was so slippery". He moved in the direction he thought was out, but he was wrong. If Mike had turned left, he would have easily exited the lobby. But, blinded by the dust and disoriented from the pounding he had received, he turned right and was forced to travel three-quarters of the distance of the building before finally reaching a door.
Along the way, another fireman came out of the dust and grabbed at Mike. "Who are you?" he yelled. Mike told him he was an engineer in the building. The fireman replied: "Good; how do we get the hell out of here?" Mike replied: "I'm not really sure. I thought this was the way out and now I'm not sure".
More firemen appeared through the dust, they grabbed the unconscious fireman who Mike was dragging and said "let's go!" Slowly moving through the thick cloud, Mike led the fireman through the lobby. "There was piles of stuff on the floor," he said. "I don't know what it was. There were people on the floor we were falling over". Somehow, Mike managed to lead them to the South Entrance of the tower to a door which led to the Marriott Hotel. Debris blocked all of the doors from the building. The men managed to move through broken windows to the outside. "That's when we started to hear people hitting the ground," Mike said.
In a state of shock, Mike and the firemen watched as bodies struck the ground in front of them. "They were just bouncing off the ground right in front of us," he said, emotion filling his voice. "I saw people jumping before I came back in to the building," he said. "They were jumping, about one every minute, maybe every two minutes. Now you're talking one every five seconds hitting the ground".
"I said this is bullshit. Whatever the hell that was, I lived through that, and now I'm going to get killed by some guy jumping out of the building? You could hear them. You could hear them hitting the ground. It was like nothing you ever heard before. It was a very hollow, soft sound. And you knew exactly what it was. They must have seen the other building come down and just mass exited the building".
A fireman grabbed Mike and said, "You know what you're going to do? You're going to start running and you're going to hit the wall in front of the building. One way or another, you're going to keep running!"
Mike told the fireman, "all right", and made a break from the building. "I made it about four feet out the front of the building and I fell over somebody that was on the ground," Mike said. Scrambling back to his feet he continued a dash through the dust towards the outside. "When I tell you the stuff (dust) on the street was a foot deep, that's conservative. I'd say over a foot deep. It was like walking through a blizzard of snow".
Mike ran north and suddenly found himself out of the dust cloud. He saw fireman and fire trucks lined up the street. Finally, he could breathe. The firemen who had been with him stayed in the building; perhaps to regroup. Mike never found out or saw them again.
Mike continued walking north, one block, then another. Eventually he reached a small garden intersection where, sitting on a bench, he found Arti.
As the dust cleared, the full scope of the devastation began to reveal itself. The loss of police, firefighters and equipment was unprecedented in American history.
Throughout the day, they walked through the dust and debris. Stunned and speechless, they made their way as if by instinct, to the one place they knew they would be all right.
The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 94, resides in a small building a few blocks from Times Square on West 44th Street. The gray stone building is home to 6,000 Stationary Engineers who work in the City of New York. The union is managed and led by Mike Carney, the President and Business Manager.
Unfortunately, on September 11th, Carney was in Seattle, Washington attending a labor union conference. When he first heard the news of what was taking place back home in New York, he frantically tried to book the next flight out of Seattle, but by then the government of the United States had made the unprecedented decision to ground all non-military aircraft flying to, or over the country.
Local 94 employees Renay Carrozza (top, a claims supervisor, and Jillian Farrugia, a benefits clerical worker, gave comfort to the engineers who made their way to the union hall on September 11th.
As members straggled into their union hall, they were immediately met by the staff working there. "They just kept coming," said Jillian Farragia, a Benefits Clerical Worker at the union. "Some were upstairs; some were downstairs in the engineering building. They came straight here. They waited as more people came. They couldn't believe. They were in shock".
From the moment the news had broken of what was taking place at the World Trade Center, the phones at the union began to ring. Wives, husbands, fathers, mothers and children were calling, hoping for news of their loved one. The Delegates (Union Business Agents) immediately went into action compiling a list of all missing engineers. Kuba Brown, the Assistant Business Manager issued directives which brought food into the union hall and provided private areas for the members to gather and console each other.
Collateral damage to buildings adjacent to the World Trade Center was extensive, resulting in the necessary demolition of several of them.
A list of approximately 150 names was compiled of engineers who had yet to be found. These were engineers who were seen entering a building at or near the World Trade Center, but not seen leaving. The Delegates started phone calling every member who worked in the area to see if they had seen anyone on the list. Next, delegates fanned out through the city visiting every triage center, hospital and eventually, every temporary morgue.
Working throughout the night, by 7 o'clock the next morning, they had found everyone on the list except four; John Griffin Jr., Charlie Magee, Vito Deleo and David Williams.
The streets of New York were nearly empty except for debris in the hours following the attack.
In the days that passed, the Union was in mourning for the loss of her four sons. But other problems began to arise. Problems that could imperil the Union and would eventually test to the limit, the unity and leadership of Local 94.
Mike Carney had directed operations with a telephone attached to his ear for the first several days. When flight restrictions were finally lifted, he raced to New York.
Tom Costello, a delegate with Local 94, and Arthur J. Orzano (below), Training Fund Administrator with Local 94, assisted in the search for missing engineers.
Initially confronting Carney was the terrible loss of the four union members and the need to care for their families not only during their period of grieving, but into the future as well. A second problem confronting Carney was that as a consequence of September 11th and the loss of the 7 buildings that made up the World Trade Center, 150 members of the Union were effectively without jobs.
Miraculously, the second problem nearly solved itself. According to Carney, employers began to call the union hall. "We'll take 3" or "we'll take 5" the callers would say, referring to the hiring of engineers left jobless. "I cannot say enough about the employers," Carney said. "From all over the city, they simply stepped forward, looking for ways to help".
Luis Ramirez was a helper at the World Trade Center. Since the attack he has yet to find permanent employment. His car has been repossessed and he is being evicted from his apartment.
The first problem was also soon solved. Local 94 is just one Local Union in the mighty International Union of Operating Engineers. Under the leadership of the Union's General President, Frank Hanley, local unions and their combined membership of over 400,000 men and women from throughout the United States and Canada stepped forward to offer help, contributions and support. Other organizations and associations joined in as well. The Chief Engineers Association in Chicago donated $10,000 to Local 94, for support of their membership and families. Chicago's IUOE, Local 399, established a fund to help the engineers and families in New York.
In the early hours rescue workers combed through the debris in a desperate search for survivors.
A third problem encountered, was far more difficult to surmount. Local 94, like most local unions, provides for the medical insurance coverage of their membership. They operate, in effect, a small insurance company for their membership and their members' families.
All insurance companies work on the theory that only a given percentage of their insured parties will file claims at any given time. So for example, if everyone who was insured by State Farm Insurance Company, Allstate Insurance, or any other insurance company were to file an insurance claim at exactly the same time, these companies may not have the funds on hand to immediately administer to every claim.
The Federal Building, adjacent to the World Trade Center site, is presently being repaired with the able assistance of its Local 94 engineering crew.
Yet this is exactly what happened to Local 94.
Besides the physical maladies inflicted upon some Stationary Engineers from the devastation that occurred at the World Trade Center, nearly every member and each of their family members were traumatized by the event.
"We had children begging their father or mother to not go to work," said Tom Hart, Safety Officer at Local 94. "All they knew was that terrorists had targeted a building and their mother or father worked in a large building". Wives and husbands of engineers were also showing signs of traumatic stress. "When I accepted a job downtown," Mike Pecoraro, a survivor of the World Trade Center told us, "my wife broke down and started crying. She didn't want me working in another building".
Tom Hart and Gerald Tate both assisted at Ground Zero in recovery efforts.
Engineers were also manifesting signs of illness. According to Tom Hart, some engineers who survived the devastation refused to go back to work. "They just told us to never call them again. They never want to work as an Engineer again," Hart said. "Some locked themselves in their bedrooms, never getting up from bed," he concluded.
Faced with this unprecedented problem, and faced with the staggering financial liability that confronted the Local Union's health insurance program, Mike Carney called all the Trustees of the Health and Welfare department into a meeting.
Once again, Local 94 seemed blessed. The Trustees, comprised of employers and union members, not only approved coverage for all members, but they took the nearly unbelievable step of increasing coverage to pay one-hundred percent of the mental health needs of all members and all of their family members!
The World Trade Center site as seen today.
In addition, the New York City Central Labor Council, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, stepped forward with trained counselors to offer assistance to those in need. Paula Daly, a Coordinator with the Labor Rehab Council, related how on the very night of September 11th, the Central Labor Council was having telephone lines installed. By morning, 11 lines were open with a toll free number for a crisis hotline that was established. Under the leadership of Van Jones and Brian McLaughlin, labor unions from throughout the East Coast were contacted and came to New York to help. Offices were constructed and calls were being taken from people asking for help in finding a family member.
"By the afternoon of the 12th," Paula told us, "we were doing critical stress debriefing. At every union we got the same response," she related, "which was: I don't think they can make it over to you, can you come here?" And according to Paula, that is exactly what they did. Reaching out to help, the New York Psychological Association and the Institute for Temporary Psychotherapy provided 100 therapists within 48 hours.
The fence surrounding St. Paul's Chapel, located adjacent to the World Trade Center site, has become an impromptu gallery for well-wishers and visitors to the site.
On September 12th, therapists met with Local 94 members at their union hall. "It was pretty clear by assessment," Paula said, "that the gentlemen who had survived September 11th were going to need a lot of help, emotionally".
Nearly a year had passed when the Chief Engineer visited the men and women of Local 94 in New York. As we conducted our interviews, we found that nearly every person we talked with was still in need of emotional support.
Joe Shearin, who survived the devastation, told us that he still has the same dream every night. "I wake up in a grave yard, and I am scrambling through the graves looking for names on the tombstones," he said.
Union members, fire and police personnel joined together in one of the many tributes to those lost on September 11th.
Brian Muller, an operating engineer in charge of 4 World Trade Center, was outside in the plaza of the World Trade Center when the first plane struck. "People say they saw bodies," he told us. "To me they were my tenants; my tenants that I protected for a very long time".
"I wish I could change things in my life," he said, "if I could put them back like it never happened; in a heartbeat -- in a heartbeat".
More than 2,800 lives were lost in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. Workers gave silent respect to the remains of each victim found in the ruins.
Many we spoke to were still in counseling, private therapy and on medication to help them cope with the images that still haunt them. Others, we were told, may begin to experience symptoms in the future as a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A special hard hat was used by IUOE members working at the World Trade Center site.
"We are going to be there for them," said Mike Carney. "Every member; what ever it takes; no matter how long it takes".
In the wake of the unprecedented attacks on New York and America on September 11th, much has changed and more is in the midst of change. Americans, who for so long relished their right to move freely, must now adjust to the intermittent challenge to their identity and their possessions. Chief Engineers and Facility Managers throughout the United States must now take into consideration the very real threat to their tenants and properties.
The new federal Department of Homeland Security, State Legislatures and municipalities are all considering new legislation or policies aimed at making commercial properties safer. While government progresses, other organizations and individual property administrators already have taken steps to improve security and develop emergency plans for their buildings. What remains to be seen, is if they will learn from the tragedy of September 11th, 2001 and understand the vital importance of incorporating facility engineers as a measure of first response.
From the beauty of its architecture to the zaniness of inhabitants in Times Square, New York has always held a spell over Americans and the rest of the world, as the quintessential great American city. Always maintaining an aura of wonder and excitement, as well as hope for the millions of new Americans who arrive there each year, New York will always be America's City. And the proud men and women of New York's Operating Stationary Engineers will always be regarded as the people who keep that great city running.
As we were reminded in New York, when the first fireman and the first policeman arrived on the scene, the stationary engineers were already there.
The International Union of Operating Engineers seems to be taking a leadership role in applying the lessons learned from September 11th. Frank Hanley, the General President of the Union told us: "The senselessness and cowardliness of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the indescribable hurt and sorrow they inflicted on innocent people will live in my memory forever. I will carry always a feeling of empathy and sympathy for the victims of those attacks and their families, especially for those members of the IUOE who perished and their surviving families".
Hanley continued: "I think the actions -- many of them heroic in nature -- of those IUOE members who were working in the complex at the time of the attacks, including those who died, emphatically drive home the point that IUOE stationary engineers play critical roles as first-responders to such tragedies".
In concluding, Hanley told us: "Given that, I intend to re-emphasize the necessity of the premier training programs the IUOE offers its stationary engineers, and to expand them to include specific training as first-responders in the event of tragedy. I also intend to make certain those powers-that-be in the corporate and government arenas become cognizant of the exceptional skills and know-how our members bring to the job, as was evident in the immediate aftermath of the WTC attacks".
As that union and other property management and owners associations and organizations gear up for the challenges of the future, the Chief Engineers will be tasked with the duties of ensuring their staff receives the necessary training, as well as assuming the leadership role in any emergency first-response effort at their facility.
What the men and women of New York went through on September 11th, 2001 will forever remain with us. The quick thinking and hard work of building engineers was evident in the fact that buildings surrounding the World Trade Center site were back in complete operation within hours of the attack. These buildings proved critical to the rescue and recovery effort mounted at the site.
No sense can ever be made of what happened one year ago in New York. But we Americans have a 200-year history of overcoming adversity. After all, that is what America is all about. We are a nation comprised of people determined to overcome adversity. We are a nation built by people who came here determined to build better lives for themselves and their families. We are a nation of new builders, more of whom arrive at our shores every day. This is the source of our strength. This is the assurance of our future.
Six plans have been submitted for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. As we learned during our interviews, there will be much disagreement on which plan will be adopted. Indeed, many feel no rebuilding should ever be undertaken.
But in the end, we are confident that New York will rebuild the site. That is what we do here in America.
Ways You Can Help
The Chief Engineer asked everyone we met and spoke with in New York how our readers may help. Below are the three suggestions we obtained and information on how you can help and/or make a difference:
Write a Letter:
Mike Carney, President and Business Manager of IUOE, Local 94, told us that what is needed most at this time by the men and women of his local, is perhaps recognition for what they have endured and what they have accomplished, as well as words of encouragement from other Stationary Engineers and the American public.
If you or someone you know would like to send a note to the men and women of Local 94, Mr. Carney will be happy to accept the note and see to it that the membership of his local union receive it.
Address your cards, letters or notes to:
Mr. Mike Carney
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local Union 94
331-337 West 44th Street
New York, New York 10036
Make a Contribution:
Readers who wish to support the recovery and rehabilitation efforts ongoing in New York may do so by contributing to:
The IUOE Local 94 Disaster Relief Fund
331-337 West 44th Street
New York, New York, 10036
The American Red Cross in Greater New York
PO Box 3864
Church Street Station
New York, NY 10008
As the United States undertakes issues of homeland security, it is clearly apparent that the safety and security of tenants in commercial, industrial, institutional and large residential buildings can only be maintained through the proper training and inclusion of facility engineers within emergency response plans. If we are to learn anything from the tragic events of September 11th, it should be the fact that facility engineers are the first responders to any emergency event within their facilities.
Let your U.S. Senator, Congressman and State Representatives know that future plans to safeguard American lives within commercial properties, must include attention to the men and women who operate and maintain those properties.
Call or write your representatives.ﾠ
Taking on a story as large as that of the attack on the World Trade Center was something we admittedly did not give enough consideration to. Obviously, we are not Time Magazine and certainly do not have the staff or other resources that would make covering a story of this magnitude easier than it was. If we had given more consideration to it, we still would have undertaken the task, but perhaps we would have been more prepared for all that we encountered and certainly more prepared for the vast range of emotions we came to experience during our reporting.
That our staff was spending part of each morning describing their various nightly anxiety attacks became more apparent as our deadline for this magazine grew nearer. Each day, I, as Editor, was forced to decide which accounts we would print and which accounts we could not fit into our tiny magazine. Clearly, this was the hardest of all the decisions I had to make for this story. During our reporting, we audiotaped over 20 hours of accounts from Engineers and others who were in the World Trade Center buildings, helped with the rescue or clean-up, or still work today to assist the survivors and family members of those who perished. In addition, we filled three notebooks with interviews and observations and captured 735 photographs.
Every interview we obtained is remarkable. Together, they not only could fill a book, they undoubtedly will. In the same way that accounts of the attack on Pearl Harbor are still being published or put on film today, more than 50 years later, the attack on the World Trade Center will be written of in accounts published more than 50 years hence. During the course of that time, the heroics and the suffering of those we had the honor of meeting will perhaps be brought more fully to light. For now however, the story is still unfolding, the wounds are to fresh and the shock still apparent. What was experienced by some that we interviewed simply cannot yet be related. They witnessed scenes that no human being should ever have to see or experience. Many who we interviewed are under the care of physicians and counselors; many are on medication. All that we interviewed were wounded.
We also found something we never expected within this story. We found love. The men and women of New York's IUOE Local 94 have such a deep and abiding love for one another that we were simply left in awe. From the genuine concern and care shown by Mike Carney, their President and Business Manager, to every member we spoke to, a bond amongst them was all too apparent. Forged under the heat of tragedy and tempered by the care and compassion they have for each other, this bond is such that we were left certain that in the end, they would together, find a way to heal each other.
The Chief Engineer gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the men and women of New York's IUOE Local 94 who allowed us into their family and assisted us in obtaining interviews with their members. We are especially grateful to Mike Carney, their president and Thomas Hart, their Safety Officer who facilitated our visit so well. We also thank the New York Times, for allowing us the use of a photograph by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Vincent Laforet for our front cover. Most especially, we thank the men and women of Local 94 who gave to us their time and their trust.
We will never forget.