07/08/2002

First On the Scene: 1 of 3

The Unsung Heroes of September 11

 
Never Forgotten

As Thomas Hart, business representative of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local Union No. 94, 94A, 94B, New York City, rallied his members in the days following the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, the deepest grief etched on the attentive faces were for their own Local 94 heroes. Four brave men died that day:

John Griffin Jr., a supervisor, always looked at a problem from the worker’s point of view. A big man with an even bigger heart, he was one of the founders of The Torch Foundation, which raises money to help children in need, and a member of HOPE, which helps children get away from the city for a weekend. Lending extraordinary assistance in evacuation during his descent from the 88th floor of the WTC’s north tower on September 11, Griffin did not survive.

Charlie Magee was an engineer’s engineer. Although he was a supervisor, he would think nothing of rolling up his sleeves and pitching in to get the work done. Recently appointed chief engineer at the World Trade Center, he served his country in Vietnam only to lose his life in the senseless attack at the Trade Center.

It has been [10 months] since the travesty of Sept. 11, 2001, in our great nation. Many heroic stories have been told since that day. There is one story, which has not yet been told: The men and women of the Operating Engineers [of New York City] are truly unsung heroes of the World Trade Center disaster.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, under the leadership of Michael A. Carney and Kuba J. Brown, is comprised of two very different divisions. The first division consists of the Stationary Engineers. Many of these men and women are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the beautiful office buildings, which make up the New York skyline. The engineers are trained to operate and maintain the building systems. These complex systems keep the environment in these buildings both comfortable and safe.

The second division is comprised of the Hoisting and Portable group. These engineers are responsible for the heavy equipment used to help build this beautiful city. Often they are called upon to risk their own safety on many of these large pieces of equipment.

On September 11, the tale of these engineers became one of heroic actions. At 8:48 in the morning, the first plane struck the WTC’s north tower. The 40 engineers that were on duty at the Trade Center sprang into action. They began to do their duties as prescribed in the New York City Fire Code. Having been trained in maintaining the fire-safety plan for the building, each one of these individuals reported to their respective posts – beginning in the lobby, waiting for the New York City Fire Department to respond to the call.  As the brave firemen arrived on the scene, the men and women of Local 94 had already begun the evacuation of the first tower.

Local 94 members were already in the stairwells assisting people to safety. Some of these engineers had reported to the fire pump rooms to assist the fire department in hooking up their equipment to fight this monster of a fire. At this point in time, no one was even remotely thinking about the possibility of a building collapse, the safety of the buildings. Tenants were the first concern.

Still other members of Local 94 were out in the Quad between the twin towers as the second plane hit. They were there again assisting the firemen in hooking up to the building standpipe systems to fight the fire. Many of these individuals experienced horrifying visions, of the many victims who jumped to their deaths. Our heroes continued to work in the Quad as these people continued to fall. They never turned their backs on the responsibility they accepted in becoming a building engineer.

When the first building came down, all hell broke loose. People lost control of the situation and began to run for their lives. Four members of Local 94 paid the ultimate price. They never made it out of the collapse. John Griffin, Charlie Magee, Vito DeLeo, and David Williams all stayed and continued to assist in the evacuation. Each of these Ground Zero heroes left behind families. Their bravery and courage will live on in the history of our great nation, city, and Local 94. We should never forget the sacrifice each of these members made to ensure as many lives as possible should be saved.

As the buildings continued to come down that morning, the work continued. There are countless stories of Local 94 members who barely made it out of the ruins with their own lives spared. Yet, they continued to assist people in the surrounding area.

Many of the members that were on duty that morning began shuttling people to the river behind the World Financial Center and putting them on ferryboats. As the boats departed for the safety of the New Jersey Shore, the engineers went back to assist more of the people they serviced everyday in the Trade Center. Many continued this until there were no other people to take across the river. They took the last boat out.

The actions of these fine men and women did not stop at the doors of the Trade Center. The members of Local 94 operate many of the buildings surrounding the towers. In every building in the downtown area that morning, engineers continued to rise to this horrifying challenge. Many of the engineers in the World Financial Towers witnessed from their buildings’ own setbacks, some 40 stories up from the street level, as the second plane hit the north tower. Horrified by the actions taking place, they maintained enough composure to evacuate their building.

Buildings surrounding the area were all experiencing the situation. The crew of 90 Church Street was putting out burning airplane parts on the roof of their building when the United States Marshal asked them to leave the building. Over at 100 Church Street, the crew whisked the Mayor and his staff through underground passageways to safety. The members of Local 94 were there to ensure the safety of the tenants and of the buildings, which they report to work in everyday.

Further away from the epicenter, engineers were in the street and lobbies of their buildings, ushering people into safety. They assisted total strangers into the safe haven of their buildings.

Although we can never put an exact count on the number of lives that were affected that horrible morning, as a result of the actions of the members of Local 94, there are still many stories that have yet to be told. I will never forget these stories as they begin to unfold, during our healing process. These men and women returned to the site and continued to work amongst the ruins. These people understand that the greatest revenge of any terrorist act is to show the world that we will succeed.

The actions of these first responders and first on the scene may never be told to the public. For those of us that represent them and work closely with them everyday, we will be forever grateful. God bless each and every one of you, your families, our nation, and Local 94.

   Thomas M. Hart, Business Representative, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local Union No. 94, 94A, 94B, New York City

Following is an account of five members of Local 94, whose commitment to the profession was truly exemplified by their “first on the scene” actions on September 11th – in the lobby, the stairwells, the engine rooms, manning pumps, securing floodgates, and protecting gas lines. They stand as representatives for those who lost their lives that day, as well as for many others who continue to recover from their horrific experiences. Most importantly, they are examples of the many facilities professionals who report to and protect commercial buildings and their occupants everyday.

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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


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Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
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Add highly responsive multi-zone comfort to any building project, in any climate. Our CITY MULTI H2i R2- and Y-Series VRF systems give you flexibility to fit the needs of any building. Enjoy 100% heating capacity at 0°F outdoor ambient, and 85% heating capacity at -13°F outdoor ambient.  For more information, log on to www.mitsubishipro.com


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