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Operating Engineers in Action at the World Trade Center Disaster
What we did, what we learned, and how we’re using the lessons of 9/11 to train IUOE members and others for future emergencies
Responding to Horror
Operating Engineers in Action at the World Trade Center Disaster
What we did, what we learned, and how we’re using the lessons of 9/11 to train IUOE members and others for future emergencies
September 11, 2001
In the rubble of the fallen World Trade Center towers, frantic efforts to find and rescue survivors gradually gave way to a long, grim, and extremely hazardous disaster recovery operation. Members of the International Union of Operating Engineers were the first of the first-responders. Stationary engineers on duty in the World Trade Center complex and adjacent buildings conducted orderly evacuations that saved thousands of lives, and IUOE members operated the heavy equipment at Ground Zero. While initial rescue work was still under way, IUOE General President Frank Hanley dispatched an Emergency Management Team from IUOE’s National Hazmat Program, based in West Virginia. The team operated nonstop at Ground Zero from September 17, 2001, until the recovery and cleanup operation drew to a close nearly a year later, providing personal protective equipment, monitoring workplace hazards, helping to establish a safe workplace despite appalling conditions, and working closely with Local Union leaders and members — as well as city, state, federal and private agencies — to ensure that the lessons learned at Ground Zero will be used to train and protect IUOE members and others responding to future disasters whether natural, industrial, or inflicted by terrorists. This report is a tribute to the more than 1,500 unsung heroes, members of our Union, and all workers who responded to the World Trade Center disaster and contributed to the completion of a uniquely challenging rescue and recovery operation, safely and in record time. This is their story. There are many other IUOE members whose stories are just as compelling and many who worked and contributed to the rescue and recovery effort. Here we have only been able to tell the story of a few; many others were involved.
We dedicate this report to the seven IUOE members who lost their lives on September 11, and to all the victims of the attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania; and to our Union brothers and sisters who responded to unspeakable horror with courage, compassion, and skill.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Page In Memoriam ................................................................................ 1 Introduction .................................................................................. 8 9/11/01; Timeline of Terror ........................................................... 12 Part 1 - First of the First Responders: Stationary Engineers.................. 19 Part 2 - Rescue and recovery ................................................................ 34 - Voices from Ground Zero.......................................................... 40 - We never lost sight of what we were doing ............................... 46 Part 3 - Protecting the workers at Ground Zero ..................................... 47 - From bedlam to a functional training program........................... 77 - How it was at Ground Zero ....................................................... 80 Part 4 - Proactive training for an uncertain future: IUOE’s Homeland Security Division .................................................... 90 - Homeland Security training at IETTC........................................ 99 Photo Gallery ........................................................................................101
Seven members of the International Union of Operating Engineers — Vince Danz, Vito DeLeo, John Griffin, Jr., Bill Krukowski, Charlie Magee, Fred Scheffold, and David Williams — were lost in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. To their memory we dedicate this report and our ongoing work in the fight against terrorism. The following tributes are adapted from the New York Times series “Portraits in Grief.” Dates of original publication are shown in parentheses. Where additional information has been supplied from local unions or other sources, it appears in brackets.
Vincent Danz IUOE Local Union 138 Vincent G. Danz was a member of the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit’s third squad in the Bronx. ESU officers are experts in areas like psychology, rappelling, scuba diving, first aid and marksmanship. Officer Danz liked the excitement and challenge. [Officer Danz was also an Operating Engineers apprentice.] Officer Danz, of Farmingdale, N.Y., was also a husband, and father of three daughters, including an 8-month-old. With the two older girls, he liked to watch “SpongeBob SquarePants,” a Nickelodeon cartoon. “He was a special breed,” Felix Danz said of his brother, who at 38 was the youngest of nine children. “I’d ask him if he had any good jobs lately. He’d say, ‘Yeah, I had this subway pin job,’ where some poor soul was taken out by the subway, or even worse, was still alive. “The ESU guys are the ones who go on the tracks, find some way to lift up the train and get those people out,” Mr. Danz continued. “He wasn’t boastful. He wasn’t one of those guys with the swelled chest at the bar. He loved his 1
work and the guys he worked with. They would die for one another. My brother and his partner went into the trade center without any questions. They knew what to do and how to do it. Unfortunately, this thing was bigger than either of them.”
Vito DeLeo IUOE Local Union 94 Vito DeLeo was in court in March 1994 when four defendants were convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. A trade center mechanic who had grudgingly worn a hearing aid since the explosion, Mr. DeLeo had been fixated by the trial. He plastered his office with clippings about the case. When the verdict came, he rushed to meet his wife, Sally Ann, to have a vodka on the rocks in celebration, he said in an interview with the New York Times at the time. “I had chills coming down my body when I heard it,” he said. “For my colleagues who are deceased: ‘We can’t bring you back, but I hope now that your souls will rest in peace. Never surrender.’” Mr. DeLeo, 42, who was 150 feet from the explosion in 1993, was partly deafened by the blast. Nonetheless, he helped dozens of people escape from the building, said his cousin Helen Potenzano. [He received commendations from the FBI, ATF, and NYPD.] Witnesses told the family that Mr. DeLeo, a father of two, was back at it again on Sept. 11. “He was a hero twice,” Ms. Potenzano said. [He was safely two blocks away when he decided to return to the building to continue helping. He was last seen guiding NYPD officers up Stairwell B in Tower 2.]
John Griffin, Jr. IUOE Local Union 94 As an engineer and director of operations for Silverstein Properties, the company that leased the World Trade Center in July, John Griffin first thought something big — maybe a transformer — had blown up. He threw a fire extinguisher through the glass wall of his 88th floor offices on 2 World Trade Center, looked up at the havoc on the floors above, and knew that it had been a plane. Survivors said he quickly handed out wet towels. “He was at the back of about 30 people they were evacuating,” his wife, June Griffin, related from the accounts of survivors. “He had been in fires before — he should have gotten out.” Before that day, Mr. Griffin, 38, focused on other passions — the Rangers, the Yankees and the Giants; doing school projects back in Waldwick, N.J., with his children Jenna, 11, and Julie, 9. [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.] Mrs. Griffin speculated that her husband, instead of running for the exits, headed for the fire control center, where his training as a fire safety officer would have directed him. [He was last seen on the 86th floor with another engineer, who escaped.] “He was an engineer,” Mrs. Griffin said. “He must have thought, ‘Buildings don’t just fall down.’”
William E. Krukowski IUOE Local Union 15 When Bill Krukowski gave up his motorcycle — and, by the way, skydiving — he took up with a bicycle. He got his exercise riding the bike to work at Ladder Company 21 in Manhattan from his home in Bayside, Queens. He was a firefighter for about three years. He grew up in Bayside and went to Holy Cross High School and Nassau Community College. While he was waiting to be called to the Fire Department, he worked in construction and with the New York Department of Sanitation at Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, where the rubble from Ground Zero has been taken. Firefighter Krukowski was separated from his wife but spent a lot of time with his son, William Lee, 10. “I am so proud of the kind of father my brother was to his son through all the difficulties of his personal relationship,” said his sister, Virginia. His other love was supping up a car and then trying it out on a drag strip, his mother, Barbara, said. His father, Walter, said his son would also be remembered as a collector of junk, most of which Firefighter Krukowski brought to his grandparents' place in Connecticut, where there was more room. “Thanks, Bill,” his father said to him. “I know what I’ll be doing someday when I retire.”
Charles Magee IUOE Local Union 94 Charles Magee was flying a singleengine plane to the Grand Canyon when the radio died and the gas gauge went from full to empty. He diagnosed the problem fast (loss of electrical power), looked at his flight charts, and set down safely at a nearby airfield. “He was like that,” said Janet Wexler-Magee, his wife of 13 years. “He would say, ‘Let’s move forward with a rational plan.’” Such were the nerves and skill that catapulted Mr. Magee from budding technician 30 years ago to chief engineer for the World Trade Center complex. Mr. Magee knew how things worked. He oversaw the hundreds of miles of ventilation ducts, pipes and electric wires of the complex — the arteries of what amounted to a small city. Mr. Magee, 51, started the job six weeks before September 11. Though he was expected to wear a tie, he still loved to roll up his sleeves and fix things, and teach the buildings’ younger engineers. Ms. Wexler-Magee, who shared in many of her husband’s nervy pursuits, now plans to take up another. “I’ve started taking flying lessons,” she said.
Fred Scheffold IUOE Local Union 15 Over dinner, Fred Scheffold, chief of the 12th Battalion in Harlem, liked to laugh about fighting fires. Like the time he fell off a fire escape or the time he rescued the skinny man and left the fat one for his partner. “He never told us the bad stuff,” said Kim Scheffold, a daughter. “He loved going into fires and rescuing people and he loved his men.” At home in Piermont, in Rockland County, Chief Scheffold skied, golfed, ran marathons and read everything. He also sculpted logs with a chainsaw, painted furniture in crazy-quilt colors and taught his three daughters to reach high and not give up. His shift had just ended when the station alarm rang Tuesday morning but he jumped into the truck with the others. At 1 World Trade Center, he pushed through crowds to the staircase, intending to climb to the top. The building rumbled. “Doesn’t sound good,” he said to a friend. But he kept on pushing forward.
David Williams IUOE Local Union 94 David Williams, 34, was an engineer at the World Trade Center, and after a dozen years there he knew the stairwells and elevator shafts like the back of his hand. He was also a stand-up comedian whose stage name was Dogface and who found joy in making total strangers laugh. Facing the audience in a club, he would ask, “Where are the real people?” His favorite refrain was, “Real people do real things.” 6
Six feet tall with a smooth shaved head, he found a certain balance between the job he did all day and the shows he got to put on at night, said his longtime friend, Dwayne Davis. He was a devoted father to his children, Lashonna, 14, and Bishme, 9. Lashonna called him her best friend and her fashion designer. He was engaged to their mother, Debra Johnson, who said his two careers were helping him toward his goal of buying a house. Away from the limelight, his smiles were genuine. “He was the happiest that I had ever seen him,” Mr. Davis said. On September 11 he escorted a group of real people, all frightened office workers, from the flaming towers to safety two blocks away. Then [along with Vito DeLeo] he ran back, to help bring out more. [He was last seen on the plaza, helping people out and away.]
General President Frank Hanley
I have had the honor to serve as General President of the International Union of Operating Engineers for 13 years and have been a member since 1958 — all my adult life. Never in all these years have I been so proud of this Union and its members as in the days and months following the savage terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Eighty-nine of our members, stationary engineers, were at work in the World Trade Center complex when the attacks occurred. They were truly the first of the first-responders. Many performed heroic work — shutting down HVAC and power systems, striving to maintain communications, comforting the injured and disoriented, guiding and assisting fire, police, and EMT personnel as they arrived at the site, manning engine and pump rooms, securing floodgates, protecting gas lines, and helping thousands of people to escape the mortally wounded towers. Seven of our members died in the line of duty when the towers collapsed. Their bravery and courage live on in memory. Our prayers are with their families, now and forever. After the towers fell, hundreds of other IUOE members — heavy equipment operators, working at construction sites throughout the New York City area 8
and beyond — rushed to Ground Zero and began aiding in the rescue efforts. Within hours, our members brought in the first heavy equipment — the cranes and grapplers — and had them up and running in record time. They helped organize the rescue efforts, and when the rescue efforts tragically became a site-recovery operation, they operated and maintained hundreds of machines — cranes, excavators, backhoes, cherry pickers and others — around the clock, under extremely hazardous conditions, for nearly a year. Operating Engineers members also set up and operated the Fresh Kills recovery and disposal site on Staten Island. They manned it from start to finish. Immediately after the attacks, I dispatched our West Virginia-based Operating Engineers National Hazmat Program (OENHP) team to the World Trade Center site with instructions to help protect the safety and health of everyone working there — not only our members but all site workers as well — by providing personal protective equipment. The team became the lead organization providing safety and health equipment and training to the more than 1,500 workers at Ground Zero, and remained at the site until the recovery work came to an end. We can all take pride in the fact that the Operating Engineers were the largest contingent of labor on-site throughout the recovery, and of our members’ contributions to making it one of the safest job sites in history. There were no fatalities and fewer than three dozen serious injuries during the recovery work at Ground Zero. That is a tribute to all who toiled there, but particularly to the IUOE heavy equipment operators whose powerful machines, in less skilled hands, could easily have been lethal to those working in close proximity. Our anti-terrorism work started at Ground Zero, but it didn’t end there. Along with everyone else in the United States, we knew immediately that we had 9
entered into a new and potentially dreadful era of terrorist actions against vulnerable targets. Long before the WTC recovery work ended, we were taking steps to help our members cope with future attacks. We have developed a pioneering training program in Homeland Security, designed primarily but not exclusively for our members. In July 2002 we established the International Union of Operating Engineers - National Homeland Security Division at our facility in Beckley, West Virginia. This is among the first such program in the nation and the first among the nation’s unions. We are emphasizing, “training the trainers” — IUOE members and others who undergo training, become certified as Homeland Security trainers, and then share their expertise with others. Hundreds of Operating Engineers members, both stationary engineers and heavy equipment operators, have already been trained as trainers, and in turn are in the process of training thousands of others. Training for stationary engineers combines classroom and practical instruction and covers a range of topics, including assessing a facility to identify vulnerabilities; taking preventive action to improve the facility’s ability to withstand an attack; securing a facility and maintaining communications; assessing the post-attack environment and assisting in orderly evacuations; and restoring the facility. Training for heavy equipment operators includes dealing with chemical and biological agents in a recovery setting, using personal protective equipment, and doing deconstruction work in hazardous conditions. I call this a pioneering program because that’s exactly what it is. In the wake of the 9/11 disasters in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, we knew there was no such thing as a single off-the-shelf textbook that could be used to train workers in responding to terrorism. We had to develop our own plans and adapt existing materials to them. We have now developed seven major training programs, including one international effort, and entered into agreements with several federal and state government agencies, private sector organizations, and other units. In
recognition of our work, the Department of Energy awarded us its first grant to conduct a Homeland Security and Energy Infrastructure Protection Course. Countless members of our Union have contributed their skills and time to making this program work. I would especially like to acknowledge the dedication of Don Carson, director of our National Hazmat Program / International Environmental Technology and Training Center and his able staff; and the strong support for the program on the part of the officers and members of our Local Unions involved in the World Trade Center rescue and recovery work. This report will give you a look at what we learned on and after September 11, 2001, and what we have been doing since then to respond to horror. We have included both a general narrative and several first-person accounts by IUOE members who were at or near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning. I especially want to thank Mike Catalano, Vinnie Cella, Jimmy Derella, Ted Feaser, Jose Gregori, Pia Hofmann, Nick Lanzillotto, Nick Lusuriello, Ed McCabe, and Danny Noesges for their thoughtful contributions — and their commitment to apply the awful lessons they learned to protect others against terrorism. No one can say with certainty when, where, or in what form future terrorist attacks will occur. All we can do — and must do — is to prepare for them as best we can. That is the purpose of our Homeland Security training, and that is our promise to our members.
9/11/01: Timeline of Terror
8:00 am 8:14 am 8:20 am 8:24 am American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, departs from Boston for Los Angeles. United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767, departs from Boston for Los Angeles. American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757, departs from Washington’s Dulles Airport for Los Angeles. After losing radio contact with American Flight 11, air traffic controllers hear hijackers warning passengers on an open mike, and alert several air traffic control centers that a hijacking is in progress. United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757, departs from Newark for San Francisco. American Flight 11, hijacked and carrying nearly 10,000 gallons of fuel, crashes into 1 World Trade Center — the 110-floor north tower — tearing through floors 94-98 and setting them ablaze.
8:42 am 8:46 am
8:47 am 8:50 am 8:55 am
United Flight 175, westbound over New Jersey, changes course, first south and then east toward New York City. Air traffic controllers lose contact with American Flight 77. An announcement is heard in 2 World Trade Center — the south tower, also 110 floors — that the building is secure and workers can stay. Many ignore the announcement and make their way out of the building. United Flight 175, weighing more than 200,000 pounds and traveling at more than 580 m.p.h., strikes the south tower between floors 78-84 and explodes in an enormous fireball. Superheated fires engulf the upper floors of both towers.
9:15 am 9:17 am 9:21 am
President Bush, in Florida, says the U.S. has suffered an apparent terrorist attack. The Federal Aviation Administration shuts down all New York City area airports. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey orders all bridges and tunnels in the New York area closed. 13
9:25 am 9:33 am
An air traffic controller spots American Flight 77 moving toward Washington, notifies military air defense. Air traffic control supervisor alerts the Secret Service that American Flight 77 is heading toward the White House. The plane is seen making a 360-degree turn near the Pentagon. United Flight 93, westbound over Ohio, turns and heads southeast. American Flight 77 crashes into the southwest side of the Pentagon, generating a huge explosion and fireball. Evacuation and rescue efforts begin immediately.
9:36 am 9:38 am
The FAA orders all flights grounded and all flight operations halted at all U.S. airports — the first time in the nation’s history that air traffic nationwide has been brought to a standstill. Aboard United Flight 93, several passengers make cellphone calls reporting that the plane has been hijacked and that other passengers are planning to storm the hijackers. Sounds of a struggle are heard. President Bush leaves Florida aboard Air Force One, destination unknown.
The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses in a 10-second spasm of catastrophe. A massive cloud of dust and debris begins to engulf lower Manhattan.
10:00 am 10:06 am
The White House is evacuated. Secret Service agents armed with automatic rifles take up positions in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. United Flight 93, heading toward Washington, crashes in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. With fires raging, part of the Pentagon’s outer ring collapses. In Washington, the Departments of State and Justice are evacuated, along with the World Bank. The FAA orders all US-bound transatlantic flights diverted to Canada. The north tower of the World Trade Center collapses, generating a tremendous cloud of debris and smoke. Like the south tower, the building falls fast — 12 15
10:10 am 10:22 am 10:24 am 10:28 am
seconds, only three seconds longer than it would have taken a stone dropped from the top of the tower — but to onlookers it seems to take place in slow motion. 11:00 am Frantic rescue efforts begin to get under way in the burning rubble of the towers. Only 18 people will be found alive in the next two days. The last survivor will be pulled from the rubble 27 hours after the fall of the north tower. Mayor Giuliani orders Manhattan south of Canal Street evacuated. UN headquarters in New York City is evacuated. President Bush speaks from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.
11:00 am 11:05 am 1:05 pm
1:45 pm 5:28 pm
Warships are ordered to New York and Washington. 7 World Trade Center, after sustaining severe damage in the fall of the twin towers and burning all day collapses. Other nearby buildings has suffered heavy damage and is burning. All seven buildings of the World Trade Center complex have been destroyed. President Bush returns to the White House. Rescuers with dogs begin finding bodies in the rubble.
7:00 pm 8:00 pm
Some 15,000 people managed to flee the towers before they fell. But 2,801 people are dead, including the 147 passengers and crews aboard American Flight 11 and United Flight 175. Among the victims are 343 firefighters and paramedics and 60 police officers. In all, 450 emergency responders are dead. Seven members of the International Union of Operating Engineers are among the dead at the World Trade Center. In Washington, 184 people are dead at the Pentagon, including the 59 passengers and crew aboard American Flight 77.
In a field in Pennsylvania, the 40 passengers and crew of United Flight 93 lie dead. The death toll for September 11, 2001: 3,025
Part 1 First of the First-Responders: Stationary Engineers
Eighty-nine stationary engineers, members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, were on duty at the World Trade Center complex on the morning of September 11, 2001. They operated the center’s power, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, fire safety and air quality systems — its vital heart, linked to a vast network of ducts, pipes, and wires. In the immediate aftermath of the two attacks, IUOE stationary engineers were the first of the first-responders, in some cases initiating evacuations several minutes before police and firefighters arrived. In the midst of chaos and confusion their prompt and professional response helped save thousands of lives. Seven of our members did not survive the death of the towers. Four of them — Vito DeLeo, John Griffin, Jr., Charlie Magee, and David Williams — were WTC stationary engineers who were last seen rescuing office workers or guiding police and firefighters. Three others rushed to the stricken towers and were among the 403 firefighters and police officers killed in the collapse. Vince Diaz was a member of the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit and an apprentice-operating engineer. Bill Krukowski was a firefighter with Ladder Company 21. Firefighter Fred Scheffold was chief of the 12th Battalion. It honors their memory to think of them all as first-responders — because they all were. What was it like to be a first-responder on that terrible morning? Three survivors of the attacks — Ed McCabe, Mike Catalano, and Joe Gregori — tell their stories in the following pages.
Moments of terror and heroism: Ed McCabe’s story
A stationary engineer and IUOE member, Ed had been working at the World Trade Center since 1987. He commuted to work as usual from his home in Queens early on Tuesday morning. He arrived at 82 level about 7:30 a.m., got coffee and met with the others on his crew. His supervisor, Hector Baldinado, assigned him to service strainers on the B5 level of Tower 1. At about 8:45 a.m., he was in the refrigeration plant of the B5 level when he suddenly felt the building shake. An instant later, a door to his left was blown off its hinges. Boris Bronsteyn, his colleague, and a 30-year veteran, was taking readings nearby. The freight elevator shaft exploded into the area where they were. (Later Ed would learn that the jet fuel had filled the elevator shaft causing the explosion.) Ed walked up to the door and tried to open it but it was jammed, but he was able to force it open. Entering the smoke filled office of Turner Construction, he saw that all of the office partitions within 50 feet were blown down by the force of the explosion. He helped several people who were bleeding and burned.
One, Bianca, was uninjured and asked if he could show them how to get out. He led several people down the stairs and across the refrigeration plant to the Path Train Station, where the injured received help from EMS, who were setting up and aid station. Then he went back to the Turner offices to bring others out the same way. He made several more trips, leading to safety 13 people in all. He returned to the refrigeration plant and turned on the all news radio station, 1010 WINS, to hear the announcer say, “once again, a plane has hit Tower 1 of the World Trade Center”. After hearing this, he decided to “get the hell out of here”. Several engineers started to make their way to the Path Station. On his way there, McCabe was stopped by a group of firefighters who asked him to guide them back to the Turner offices so they could search for survivors. He told them he “had already checked”, but they were insistent. When they reached the blown out door, the lights went out. The second plane had hit and power was lost. The firefighters had no flashlights and told McCabe to stay put as they left to go get light. As he waited in the dark, he heard ominous sucking noises from the elevator shaft and realized it was air being sucked up by the fires raging above. When the firefighters didn’t return, he headed back to the Path Station taking the escalator out of the building. 21
He was horrified to see people plunging down from the upper floors of the towers; office furniture and debris was littering the streets. He ran first north towards Barkly Street, then east towards the Brooklyn Bridge. Around him thousands of people were running and debris was falling. Ed’s boss made a general announcement on the walkie-talkie advising all engineers to rally at the pump station by the West Side Highway, across from Tower 1. He got to the pump station where he found some friends, engineers and others who work with him in the towers. “No one”, he recalls, “even considered that the towers might come down.” They sat down, leaning against the outside wall of the pump station and looking up at the towers. It was a minute or so before 10:00 a.m. While standing outside the pump house, McCabe recalls hearing what sounded like a low flying jet and people screaming, “it’s another plane”. With that, everyone started running again. Smoke and dust rolled over the area around them. People were panicking and ran down into the pump station. After a few minutes, they made their way up through smoke and dust only to see that Tower 2 collapsed. “It looked like nuclear winter; everything was covered with dust; everything the same shade of gray; screaming sirens. You just couldn’t believe it – it was so surreal.” The group from the pump station made their way to the river. When they got to the water’s edge they leaned against the railing. The wind, blowing west to east across the river, cleared the sky above them. Just then, “just like the cavalry”, ferries began pulling in from nowhere and men started helping people aboard. From a ferry’s deck, Ed looked back at the North Tower enveloped in smoke and flame. As he watched, it began to fall, coming down almost in slow motion, or so it seemed. “All those people,” he said to himself. “All those people.” The ferry took the survivors across the river to Liberty State Park where they used the water fountain to clean up the best they could and began the long process of getting home. Ed called his wife, Kim, and has parents to let them know he was O.K. at around 2:00 p.m. The next day he checked in at the Local 94 hall on 44th Street with a fellow worker, Michael Pecoraro, where they learned the rescuers needed welders, so they grabbed their gear and went
back to the site. Ed didn’t tell Kim right away. He stayed there assisting PDNY until organized teams took over two days later.
Evacuating a building and getting out alive: Mike Catalano’s story
Mike Catalano, stationary engineer and Operating Engineers member, was the chief engineer for Salomon Smith Barney at 7 World Trade Center, where the investment firm occupied 30 of the building’s 47 floors. The building sustained major damage when the towers fell. Fires burned throughout the afternoon, and the building collapsed at 5:28 p.m. I’ve worked at the World Trade Center since 1990. I usually get there around 6:00 or 6:30. I check in with the midnight guys to see what’s going on. It’s a 24/7 building, always action. I happened to be on the phone that morning with Charlie Magee, one of the members we lost. He was chief engineer for the World Trade Center complex. My son was supposed to start work there on the 14th. I gave the chief the correct spelling of my last name, my son’s name, his uniform size — we were joking. Hung up the phone around 7:30. About 8:00, when everyone is in, we go up to the chiller plant above the top floor and have our morning meeting. I was with Ron Friedman, Billy Rogers, and Doug Popola. Around 8:45 we just felt and heard a thump. We didn’t hear an explosion, and we didn’t see anything, but we had heard the same 23
exact thump in 1993, the bomb blast. We knew instantly it was something. What — we didn’t know. I got everyone on the radio. Our job is to keep everything running. I keep a guy in the BMS [Building Monitoring System] room. Everything was monitored. We sent two guys to the generator room. We have enough power there to light up downtown Manhattan. No exaggeration. I sent two guys to check the fans. I went to the 44th floor, where there’s a big conference room — we call it the war room — where the whole wall is windows, looking across to the towers. Looking up, we could see a gouge. No fire – just smoke. We heard it was a plane. Everyone was shook up. About five minutes after we started watching, we saw bodies coming down. When we saw that, I knew that regardless of what it was, it was bad. After a few minutes I went back to my office on the 47th floor. I checked in with the guys in the chiller plant. We had big machinery running up there. Keep everything running, I said, but if you have to go, just leave. I checked in with our guys on the 5th floor and said the same thing. I went to get my guy from the BMS — I said, “Come on, we have to go down and evacuate.” As we’re going to the elevators, the second one hit. We’re 47 floors up and our building is less than 100 yards away. When that second plane hit, we got knocked around and we got scared. That’s when we said, we’re out of here. Ron Friedman was by my side from that point on.
We had good radio communication, even later when the south tower was coming down. This company was top of the line. We were well trained. We knew exactly where to go, what to do and how to do it. When the second plane hit the south tower, we were heading to the elevators to go down. I said, “No elevators.” We used the staircase. We had our uniforms on and our radios and our badges. The staircase was packed. People were evacuating on their own. It was very orderly. We had fire drills every month. They didn’t evacuate the whole building; they evacuated to certain areas. People knew where to go and they were going. We made it down in minutes. Now we’re at the third floor lobby. Remember, Salomon Smith Barney was a tenant in that building. We had our own internal procedures and security, but we had to check with the building. I met up with our head of security, Pete Mulroy — he went back in the building after the towers collapsed and got trapped in there and they had to bring in a hook-and-ladder fire truck to get him out. Anyway, I meet up with him and he says, “What’s going on?” I said, “It’s pretty bad, Pete.” He said, “I know.” He started calling evacuation on a floor-by-floor basis. But there was still no official evacuation, even though we had been informed that the Secret Service and two other major agencies were already gone. I told the overall head of security that we’d better call an official evacuation. He said, “Now Mike, it’s across the street. We’re not in a state of emergency.” I said, “I don’t care what’s going on across the street. There are bodies 25
dropping outside. People are panicking. Let’s get everyone out, now.” And he said no. I almost lunged at him. Fortunately the property manager of 7 World Trade in its entirety was there. He looked at me and said, “Mike, are you calling for evacuation?” I said, “Absolutely.” He gets on the PA system and speaks throughout the building. That was good because whoever was staying behind got the official word to get the heck out. Now the cops are coming in. They thought to evacuate the whole Trade Center, all seven buildings, starting with the towers. So they set up chains, to guide people which way to go. We didn’t want them to go to Vesey Street — too close. Remember, the main lobby was on the third floor. You take two escalators down. We shut them down so that people could go up and down them manually without a problem. We sent them through the side doors — through the loading dock and onto Washington Street, next to the Verizon Building. We told them, “Don’t look back and keep going.” We got them down to the side doors and then the police guided everybody out safely. While that’s going on, the head of Emergency Medical Services comes in. We have four loading bays. The porters, the elevator operators, everybody set up a whole triage system in our bays. The sad thing was that there weren’t any people to care for. The people above the floors where the planes crashed knew they weren’t getting out, but we didn’t know. Pete Mulroy, our head of security, says, “Mike, I’m concerned. You know we’ve got to check these floors.” I said, “Look, Pete, I’ve got eight guys here. I’m not going to force them to go up. But if they want, they’ll team up and they’ll go and start searching the floors.” Every one of them volunteered. They made sure everybody was out. Now in the lobby, it’s quiet. The police are downstairs. Guys are still doing different things. I check in with them. Billy Rogers, up in the chiller plant, gives us a play-by-play of what he’s hearing on the radio. He tells us what the second explosion was. It’s hard to believe what he’s telling us. Then he says another plane crashed into the Pentagon. Now it’s getting real quiet. We don’t know what type of planes they were.
Vinnie Lanzetta, the oldest guy in my crew, around 55, is stationed at the fifth floor generators with a helper, Ron Galeato. It’s scary there. They don’t know what’s going on. Vinnie gets on the radio. “Mike?” “What’s up, Vinnie?” “Where are you?” “We’re in the lobby. What do you want?” “Do I have to stay here on five?” “Yes.” Then I hear this sad voice from the radio: “I don’t want to stay here.” “LOL, all right, come to the lobby.” I told Billy to keep the chillers running and have everybody come to the lobby. I go on the street level. It’s quiet and eerie. We go to the lobby on Vesey Street and I’m watching hundreds of firemen and policemen, EMS, and we’re looking up. We can’t believe what’s going on. We didn’t really see any plane parts but we saw debris everywhere. Billy calls me on the radio and says, “Mike, get to a phone.” Ed Campbell, the building manager, is calling from his dentist’s office in New Jersey. He’s sitting there freaking out. He wants me to call him. I run up the escalators to the third floor lobby. I get on the phone and call Billy and ask him for the number. The first number I write is 7. That’s all I got. Then everything went pitch black. The rumbling, the screeching, and the noises — you can’t imagine. I really can’t describe it. It was nasty. I’m telling you the building was shaking. Ed Campbell saved my life. If I’d still been down on Vesey Street I’d have been killed. The people who were there — many didn’t make it. Now we’ve got me, Pete Mulroy, Doug Popola, Ron Friedman, and Diane, who works security, is screaming. We just grabbed her and ran behind the wall and lay down and covered our heads. We thought we’re dead. What I expected next was a fireball. It sounded like a missile when that south tower came down. I love my wife and kids very much, but they didn’t come into my 27
mind. I just thought we were dead. As a matter of fact, my friend Ron Friedman looked at me and said, “This is how we’re going to die?” That’s what went through my mind Later I asked Diane what made her scream. She said she saw bodies come flying through the air. We lay on the floor for a minute. I thought we were dead. We were just waiting to die. And it passed. Everything got calm. It was pitch black. There was dust. You can’t breathe. We all have our flashlights. We smell smoke. The only way out is through that lobby that just collapsed. I said, “I’m not going that way.” We went up one floor, to the cafeteria on the fourth floor. There are windows everywhere but you can’t see out them because a cloud has engulfed the building. It’s pitch black. All of a sudden lights come on. Nine generators all start. They have 30 minutes of fuel to run. We go to the nearest exit. There’s no handle on the door and the door is locked. We can’t get out. We’re kicking at the door. There’s another exit on the other side of the kitchen area. We’re all concerned about the gas lines. We open that door and the smoke is terrible. We slam that door. Now we go back to the dining area. The power plant is right above the cafeteria. We were going to break a window and go out that way. I threw a chair at the window and it bounced back. The window wouldn’t break. The radio is still working. Billy says he’s on his way down. Then one of our crew freaked out big-time. He’s saying, “I don’t want to die. What are we going to do?” I said, “We’re not dying in here.” That’s when we decided. We wrapped our faces with wet towels and we went out the staircase with all the smoke. We couldn’t get to the other one. As we’re going down, we see fire hoses. I said, “Just follow the hoses to get outside.” And then we’re out, on Washington Street. Pure sunlight. We’re in another world. What we had gone through for almost half an hour stuck in that building — when we got outside it was a beautiful day. Except it was all white. Four inches thick everywhere. Silica, asbestos, sheet rock. We all meet behind the building. From there you couldn’t really tell the tower was down. Vinnie was coming down the staircase with Billy while the first tower was coming down. Vinnie sees me outside. He hugs me and collapses 28
in my arms. The EMS gives him oxygen. Right then the second tower, the north tower, comes down. Those two just made it out. If they had been coming out of our building when the second tower fell, they’d have been dead. Vinnie was a diabetic. He was stressed. But as he was down on the ground it was shaking from the tower coming down, and he got up and ran — left us in the dust. That’s adrenaline. We ran north on Greenwich Street past Chambers Street [four blocks away] to a complex where I used to go to meetings with the other chiefs and the big bosses. All our fellow engineers were there. They were happy to see us. “Thank God,” they said. We were hugging each other. Cops were coming around telling us to put out cigarettes. A plane flew over. It was one of ours, thank God, but everybody hit the deck. It was so chaotic. At this point we’re still in touch with our complex. Over the phone we get the official word to go home. And we finally get through to our wives. The cops are closing down the streets. Everybody got evacuated eventually to Canal Street. As we’re walking, I’m limping. I’m thinking I’ve got a pimple on the thigh of my leg, and I’m saying to myself what a time to get something like this. We’re talking about who lives where. We all head east and work south to catch one of the bridges to walk across. I’m not sure which bridge I used. If you ever saw the marathon on TV, where people are lined up with water, that’s what it was like when we were walking over the bridge. People were giving us wet towels, water. Are you hungry? Go over here. Need to use the bathroom? Over there. I never saw that before. It was unbelievable how everyone was helping everybody. Now we go to Atlantic Avenue. It’s the next main road that heads east. If you live in Queens, you got to go east. My parents live less than 10 miles away from the Brooklyn Bridge in Howard Beach. I call my wife at work. I told her to go to her mother’s house. I said I’d meet her there somehow. I call my father. I said, “Get in the car and start driving up Atlantic Avenue. I know there’s going to be a lot of traffic, but I’ll eventually meet you.” 29
There were three of us together at this point. Joe Gregori, a locksmith named Gary — I don’t know his last name — and me. There had been eight of us, but we split up to go home in different directions. The ones that weren’t going to Brooklyn, they walked straight up Manhattan. The tunnels were closed, and the only way out was the George Washington Bridge. I spot my father’s car. My father says, “You look all right.” Well, we were perfectly clean in front, but our backs were covered with dust and grime. I turned around and he saw our backs. We get in the car. He takes me to my mother-in-law’s house, where my wife is waiting with our car. I drive Joe and Gary home. I take the Sunrise Highway. There was not a soul on the road. I dropped them off and went home. The first thing I did was go into the bathroom and pull my pants down. My leg was black and blue from my knee to my groin. I have no idea how it happened. Then I went to the liquor cabinet, and I took a drink of Johnny Walker Black like you wouldn’t believe. You know what it’s like to get into your house after something like this? It’s unreal. You’re watching it on TV. I watched my building come down on TV. I just thank God my son never started there. If my son had been working in the towers, I would have gone back in for him.
Turning off the coffee pots on the way out Jose Gregori, assistant engineer at 7 World Trade Center and IUOE member, came to the U.S. from his native Spain in 1981. After obtaining his engineering license a few years later, he worked as a helper at 21 Penn Plaza before moving to 7 WTC in 1990. He worked closely with Mike Catalano and the rest of the engineers at the building. “We were a good group,” he says, “like family — until somebody took our building from us.” Like so many others, he remembers how beautiful it was in the early hours of September 11. “Coming to work, it was so pleasant just to be outside on the plaza.” He went to Mike’s office, got his first assignment — meeting with a technician from Johnson Controls — and went with the technician to check the Building Management System. Then Mike called to ask him to meet with him at the chiller plant on the 48th floor (the building had 47 floors of offices plus a floor for the chiller plant). 30
He was on his way there when he heard something that sounded like an explosion. The building shook. He thought first of a ruptured pneumatic valve in the chiller plant and continued heading for the 48th floor. Passing windows on the south side of 7 WTC, he had a view of the north tower. Smoke was pouring out. He looked at it in disbelief. “I couldn’t see the plane,” he recalls. “So I was guessing it was a transformer. Or a bomb.” For a few minutes more, life at 7 WTC went on almost as usual. Joe remembered the watchwords drilled into his crew after the 1993 bombing: “Stay calm and communicate.” He responded to a radio call to check a report of malfunctioning fans in the 26th floor mechanical room. On his way there he noticed people standing in the hallways and at the windows, anxiously trying to figure out what was happening. He was checking a fan when he heard another explosion. He didn’t know it was the second plane, crashing into the south tower, but he did know that people around him were starting to panic. He went to a south-facing window and looked out. Seeing the flames and smoke, he thought about how fast a fire can spread in an office building even without the aid of aviation fuel. “Fifty thousand people,” he kept thinking. “Fifty thousand people.” He went next to the 48th floor to help Billy Rogers with a problem in the chiller plant. From there he called his wife, Maria. She already knew. So did his mother, who had called from Valencia, Spain, even before the second plane hit. He tried to reassure his wife. A call came in from two second-shift helpers wanting to know if they could help. Joe and Billy went outside — onto the roof — to get a better look at the towers. Evil-looking flames and dense smoke were pouring out of both. What they saw next shocked them to the core. Silhouetted against the flames, people were climbing out of windows, and then jumping. Some were afire. Some were holding hands. “Billy, let’s go,” Joe said. But getting away wasn’t that simple. Mike Catalano had called everyone to the 3rd floor lobby. Floor-by-floor evacuation was under way — soon a full 31
evacuation would be ordered — and Mike asked for volunteers, in teams of two, to go back up and check the floors, just in case anyone was left behind. Joe partnered with George Hall, the cleaning superintendent. Not many people were still in the building, but as they climbed they did run into one high-ranking executive, who kidded them: “Joe, you’re going the wrong way!” It wasn’t much of a joke. Floor by floor, they forced open locked doors, checked every office and cubicle, every bathroom, every pantry. Looking back, Joe is struck by how conscientious they were. “We found some coffee machines that were still on, and we thought we’d better shut them off because we didn’t know when we would be coming back to the building. Little did we know that we would never return to 7 World Trade Center.” They were searching the 28th floor, on the southeast side, when the building suddenly began to shake violently, and in the next instant it was engulfed in smoke and a sound “like being run down by bulldozers — noise like I’d never heard.” The south tower was collapsing, and projectiles of steel and masonry were being hurled into 7 WTC. Mike was on the radio, calling everyone down. Joe and George made their way out of the building mostly by feel — the stairwells were dark and full of smoke. Finally, once outside, they paused with the other members of their crew. Vinnie Lanzetta had passed out, and an EMS technician had started him on oxygen. Joe was holding the oxygen bag when the floor beneath them started shaking. The north tower, only some 100 yards away, was coming down. “I ran faster than I could,” Joe recalls. “But Vinnie ran even faster.” Later — much later — Joe was among the throngs who walked over the bridges to Brooklyn. Covered with pulverized asbestos, he looked like a ghost. He was still shaking. At some point he allowed himself to turn around and look back. Through the smoke he could glimpse the skyline of lower Manhattan. “But no more twin towers,” he said to himself. The words seemed unreal, until he forced himself to say them again. 32
“No more twin towers.”
Part 2 Rescue and recovery
Like Americans everywhere, members of the International Union of Operating Engineers in the greater New York City area — including Connecticut and New Jersey — were stunned by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, which many of them witnessed on television. Unlike most Americans, however, they had skills and experience that would be desperately needed in the urgent task of rescue and recovery. From all over the area, IUOE members came forward, checking in with their local officers or heading straight to the site and volunteering to help. Ted Feaser was in his garage at home on Staten Island. September 11 was his first day of vacation. Ted is the Director of Mechanical Operations for the Bureau of Waste Disposal of the New York City Department of Transportation, in charge of the Fresh Kills Disposal Site on Staten Island. Ted and his whole family are Operating Engineers members: he and his brother Robert and his three sons are all members of Local Union 14. Just after 8:45 the phone rang. It was his youngest son, Francis, who worked near the World Trade Center. “A plane just missed the top of my building and hit one of the towers,” Francis said. A few minutes later, another son, Ted, Jr., called from the courthouse in Brooklyn to say he’d seen a plane coming down over Manhattan and turning toward the towers. They talked about what was happening, and about what they could see on television. The way Ted remembers it, almost as soon as he got off the phone it rang again. This time it was Pete Montalbano, the Bureau’s First Deputy Commissioner. “Ted, we need you to come in and mobilize equipment,” he said. It was just after 10:00 a.m. The south tower was down. Where it had stood there was a huge pile of burning rubble. Nobody knew whether there were people alive in the ruins. Within an hour Ted had assembled a crew and had about 18 pieces of heavy equipment ready to go. He convoyed them across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, through Brooklyn, and to the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, where they awaited police orders. Ted went back to the Fresh Kills site and rounded up its rough-terrain vehicles and 65-ton crane. By this time both towers were down and 7 World Trade Center was burning. It collapsed at 5:28 p.m. 34
around 7:00 p.m., the order came to bring the larger pieces of equipment into Manhattan and to the site. Robert Feaser was driving the crane. On the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge it overheated, and he pulled over to let it cool down. Ted and Robert got out and stared across the Upper New York Bay. Lower Manhattan was in total darkness — something neither of them, life-long New Yorkers, would ever have believed possible. By the time Ted and Robert arrived at Ground Zero, Francis and Ted, Jr., were already there, assisting with the rescue efforts. Like many other members of the Operating Engineers, they were at the site within hours after the attacks. Francis was among the first equipment operators to arrive and helped get the initial rescue efforts under way. He was operating a grappling backhoe, moving steel for the rescuers. The 110-floor towers had pancaked into a 16-acre, 11-story pile of rubble — roughly five floors above ground and six below — punctuated by sections of the towers’ facades spiking into the night sky. Noxious smoke, fumes and flame poured out of the pile, which was also highly unstable, creating grave risks for the rescuers. But few held back. Firefighters, police, heavy equipment operators and other volunteers — in those first few hours they all worked as one.
From a rational standpoint it hardly seemed possible that anyone could have survived such a catastrophe, but there’s more to rescue work than being rational. Thousands of office workers and hundreds of first-responders were missing. If any of them were alive in the rubble, they had to be found. The volunteers dug into the pile wherever they could, at first using nothing more than shovels, crowbars, and work gloves. Firefighters attacked the flames, maneuvering past the many fire trucks and police vehicles that had been demolished in the collapse. Then came the heavy equipment. Within hours, cranes and grapplers were beginning to move steel so that rescuers could probe cautiously and carefully beneath it. The Operating Engineers running the grapplers set up a daisy chain, positioning their machines so that they could pass steel from one machine to another and then into trucks lining up at the southeast corner of the pile. One of he most remarkable things about the rescue operation was how rapidly and spontaneously it organized itself. In the early hours and days there were no hierarchies, no bosses, no regulatory agencies overseeing the work: just hundreds of men and women who knew what had to be done even if they didn’t know what they would find or what might happen to them if the pile shifted beneath them, or if the smoke blinded them at the wrong moment, or if they were laid low by toxic fumes. The equipment operators in particular were taking big risks, but they were willing to risk a life to save a life — and because they were pros, very good at their jobs, they didn’t put other rescuers needlessly at risk. But the hard fact was that all of the rescuers were fighting their way into more than 1.5 million tons of compacted rubble. It was like digging through one of the biggest landfills in the world, only worse. In the first 24 hours only 17 survivors were found. Another survivor, a woman named Genelle Guzman, was pulled out of the rubble 27 hours after the north tower fell. She was the 18th and last person to be found alive at Ground Zero.
By the third day, the round-the-clock rescue and recovery operation was becoming somewhat more systematic. The site had been divided into four sectors and everyone was beginning to get a better sense of what was expected and how to get the job done. Then, for nearly nine months, work proceeded on a 24/7 basis until May 30, 2002, when a ceremony ending with the tolling of bells at 10:29 a.m. — marking the moment when the second tower fell — brought the recovery operation to a formal close. That didn’t mean that work was finished at the site, however: it continued for most of the rest of the year.
More than 500 members of the Operating Engineers worked the recovery operation, typically in 12-hour shifts. They were the largest contingent of the more than 1,500 workers at Ground Zero, and their responsibilities were among the greatest. In unskilled or careless hands the giant machines they operated — almost always in close proximity to workers on the pile — could have been lethal. It is a testimonial to their skill and dedication that there were zero fatalities at Ground Zero. As Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has noted, this was “perhaps the most complex construction project in the history of the world, outdoors, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, never stopping, regardless of weather — lots of
heavy equipment, lots of new techniques that nobody had ever tried to clean up something like this before.” Despite these unprecedented challenges, over the course of more than 3 million man-hours of labor only eight people were seriously injured in falls, three were seriously burned, 15 were trapped or struck by a falling object, and six were hurt by slipping or tripping: fewer than three dozen serious injuries in all. None was life threatening. And not one was caused by unsafely operated heavy equipment. “We were lucky,” says Ken Holden, commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC), which assumed overall responsibility for the recovery operation. But there was more to it than that, and credit deserves to be widely shared. Under Holden’s direction, the DDC — a small city agency — tackled a staggering task for which no one was prepared. It did the job with the assistance and dedication of scores of skilled men and women who could never have imagined such a catastrophe but who, when it happened, rose to the challenge of working long hours under extremely hazardous conditions in order to find survivors — and, when there were no more survivors to be found, honored the dead by painstakingly searching for and recovering any remains even in the midst of a gigantic construction/demolition project.
No one who worked at Ground Zero, or at the Fresh Kills landfill where the remains of the towers were trucked and barged, will ever forget what it was like. And no one else will ever really understand. The members of the Operating Engineers who gave of their time and energy and skill are at work at other jobs now. Some of the stationary engineers who worked together at the World Trade Center complex are working together in other New York City buildings. Heavy equipment operators who gently lifted girders and masonry so that rescuers could probe carefully beneath them are working construction sites that seem tame by comparison. Many have used what they learned to help train others who may someday be called upon to respond to terrorism. Unlike the victims of the 9/11 attacks, their lives go on. But for anyone who worked at Ground Zero, nothing will ever be the same.
Voices from Ground Zero
Jimmy Derella Spider crane operator Operating Engineers Local Union 14 I was in Vietnam and never wanted to see anything like that again. I don’t want to see anyone die. I saw enough of that. They talked about survivors — down deep you could hope, but after the first day I knew there weren’t any survivors. A lot of people died in there that shouldn’t have died. There were nearly 3,000 civilians that died for no reason. There were people up there in that restaurant, waiters, and dishwashers making $5 an hour. They died. Does anyone care about them, why they died? I have an opinion. It was a lack of training. A lot of civilians should have escaped. And a lot of firefighters too. If they’d been properly trained. Here’s what I mean. Jet fuel burns at 2400 degrees. Steel loses half its strength at 1100 degrees. You’ve got 40,000 tons of building sitting above the fire. You know you can’t send a man 90 stories up carrying 80 pounds of equipment when you know there’s no water at the top. There’s no need to send these people up there. Why are you sending people up? Just issue orders to evacuate.
But I’m not a fireman, I’m an engineer. I ran the spider crane, removing the steel that fell into the American Express building. That was not impressive. What was impressive was the engineers who were on top of the pile — and this is where Don Carson and his team comes in. The operators on the pile had no protection. You didn’t know what you were breathing. Someone said it was unsafe. The city said it was safe. You didn’t know what to believe. We had no training. Those of us who were in Vietnam, we knew how to use gas masks. But the average person, if you were hit with gas, you’d be dead before you got your mask on. First you have to find it, then you have to clear it, then you’re dead. What did we know? We needed help, and we got it from the Operating Engineers hazmat team. Training is everything. Be prepared, not only as a nation, but as an engineer. Be prepared. Why should you wear a mask? Be prepared for what you do. And you have no idea what you’re bringing home. You wear the same clothes and the same shoes day after day. My wife would just throw my clothes in the washing machine. I had no idea what was in there. We have to be trained to control risks. Training, yes. Mr. Hanley is doing a fantastic job. What I want more than anything is better training for our members. The engineers on the pile, they were the very best. Even though there’s maybe 750 members in Local 14, it’s a small family. I know what Pia Hofmann can do. I know what Nick Lusuriello can do. I know what Danny Noesges can do. When they asked certain people to come down here, they knew the people they were asking and they knew what they could handle. We know what our members can do. They put the very best of the best people on that job. On the other hand, every city agency had to justify why they were there. It’s human nature, and there was big money being made at Ground Zero. We had more agencies and more and more interference. “You can’t walk through here.” Why can’t I walk through here? I can’t get to my crane. They don’t care. We had 8,000 policemen. They’d stop you 82 times. Where do you want me to leave my car — in Jersey? We should be treated with the same respect as other first-responders. Every city should have engineers trained and ready as first-responders. If we have to be assigned to the fire department or the police department, fine, I don’t care 41
which one it is, but we should have engineers ready to be there to run the backhoes, cranes, whatever is needed to assist the police or firemen. There’s no doubt in my mind — in this world we live in now, we’re first-responders. Pia Hofmann Grappler operator Operating Engineers Local Union 14
With all due respect for the firefighters and police who died on 9/11, I got real tired of the double standard — honor guards for those who died in uniform, bag ’em and tag ’em for civilians. All the machines would be shut down for a firefighter, but it’s business as usual when we find a civilian. After how many months, I don’t know, I got fed up. A guy says, “Shut the machine down, we’ve got a body over here.” I said, “Civilian or uniformed officer?” The guy says, “We think it’s a civilian.” I said, “Oh, then I can go back to work real quick then. Because all you’re going to do is shove it in a body bag and get it the hell out of here, right?” I was almost crying, I was so frustrated, knowing what I was about to see. I said, “I’ll tell you what — I’ve got to make a couple of phone calls. You’re not moving that body. I want the same thing you get for the firefighters. I want the police down here. I want a flag, and I want an honor guard down here. Or you’re not getting this body.”
He’s looking at me like I’ve got two heads. I call Bobby Gray [Local Union 14 master mechanic]. He can tell how upset I am. “Calm down,” he says, “I’ll be right over there.” I said, “No, Bobby. This is what I want.” He calls one of the operators, Kenny Clemmens. He was working on a crane above me. Bobby must have told him to come down and get me calmed down. I said, “I don’t have to be calm. How long have we been watching this going on?” Well, they did the right thing. They called the police and we formed our own honor guard and we took the body out of there. It was a female. We had found her hand earlier — just a hand with a ring still on the ring finger. I’ll never forget that. It got a little better after that. They started to do the right thing because people were fed up with what was going on. Nick Lusuriello Crane operator Operating Engineers Local Union 14 I got there the second night. I went to Ground Zero and went to the guy I was supposed to relieve. At first he wouldn’t get out of the rig. I know the feeling because once I got in, I didn’t want to leave either. It was inevitably a slow process. You couldn’t start cutting everywhere because they were still thinking there might be survivors. Everything went slow. But everybody was doing their specialty and it went very well. We worked out our shifts among ourselves. We worked 12 to 12. And you didn’t leave until you were relieved. That’s the way we all wanted it. We only had problems after people got organized. Then we had too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Parking, for instance — definitely not a big deal in the great scheme of things, but a good example of things that made the work harder than it needed to be. I’d ask one of the ten cops at the gate where I could park my car. “I don’t know, but you can’t park there today.” So the captain comes over and says, “What’s the problem?” I ask him where we’re supposed to park. There are police cars parked everywhere. He asks
me, “Where would you park if you were on a regular job?” I say, “I’m not on a regular job.” That’s an understatement. Even now I find it very hard to put my feelings about that job into words. To this day I’m not even sure how I feel. Danny Noesges Crane operator Operating Engineers Local Union 14 It was a situation where they had to go in and do what they had to do immediately to try to save as many lives as they possibly could. Rescue was number one and you went at that as best you could. If you could move a piece of steel out of the way so they could get in closer, that’s what you did. The ramifications came later. They didn’t have enough precautions. Maybe
next time they’ll be ready. I remember there was one individual down there by the second week, a rescue guy from some other state, who had a full-face respirator. There weren’t many around. What do you do in this situation? We thought we were going to go in there and rescue some people. But I’m sure they’re learned an awful lot from this. You’ve got to take every precaution you can, but again you’ve got the expense, the money, the training. You’ve just got to hope and pray, that’s all. 44
Everybody is still dealing with the ill effects from the site. I went up to Mt. Sinai a few weeks ago. I have a sinus and ear infection. I took a breathing test and treadmill too. They told me I have a problem with my exhalation. You know, when we got masks, I did put one on. I used it. But it was just a tough environment. In the beginning, when it was a crisis, everybody pulled together, and it was a beautiful thing. Then it got political, so it got ugly. No end of hassles. They would change your ID tag. Instead of bringing the new tag to you, they would make you get in line to get another one — after 12 hours on the job, or more than that, when you were ready to go home. That just added needless stress. Somebody could have been sent around with the new tags and had us sign for them and collect the old ones. Let me tell you, if you were held up at the gate, you were really held up. And parking was a pain. You leave your car against a barrier, maybe 10 blocks away. You try to hitch a ride. It didn’t need to be like that, and it wouldn’t be, if we were treated on a par with the other first-responders. Another thing about this kind of collapsed-building rescue operation: The first machine to be in there should be hydraulics. Get the hydraulics in there and then put the other rigs together in the staging area. It takes a lot of men to put them together. In the meantime the hydraulics can roll on in, to get the heavy lifting started. When we were finally moving out, when we couldn’t do any more with the crane, my partner said, “You’re a Vietnam vet, do you want a flag?” So I took one home. I was going to give it to my son, but I didn’t want to fold it. So I found an embroiderer to put gold thread on the bottom of it and put on red and white stripes. In the right hand corner it says: “The World Trade Center Ground Zero 9/11/01.” I had it framed in a blue marbled frame. I gave it to my son. It was truly an honor to go down there and represent Local 14, and to do what we could in that terrible situation. Would I go back tomorrow? God forbid, if something would happen, I’d be there tomorrow. I don’t think my wife would be too happy about it, but I’d go. 45
‘We never lost sight of what we were doing’
The Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island has been receiving New York City’s refuse since 1948, at the rate of some 13,000 tons per day. But on the morning of September 11, 2001, the landfill was in the process of being shut down after a protracted controversy about its environmental impact. Fifteen Operating Engineers were handling the final phases of the shutdown. Most of the site’s fleet of heavy equipment had been mothballed, with intakes and exhausts blocked. But when the call came to bring the equipment to the disaster site, the Operating Engineers at Fresh Kills responded immediately (as described elsewhere in this report). They were the first of the heavy equipment operators to begin rescue and recovery work. The planned closing of Fresh Kills was put on hold to accommodate the unplanned need for a site where more than 1.5 million tons of disaster debris could be brought. Ted Feaser, the same veteran Operating Engineer who convoyed the site’s heavy equipment to Ground Zero, was in charge of the disposal operation. He began the ramping-up process, bringing equipment back online, adding new equipment, and calling dozens of Operating Engineers back to work to handle the debris that was being shipped to the site, initially by trucks and then by barges. Every load had to be carefully screened for human remains and evidence. Because of the hazardous materials being brought to Fresh Kills, the site was designated a Level B contaminated site. That meant that throughout the entire recovery period, workers had to wear Tyvex protective suits, boots, gloves, and hard hats. Asbestos and silica were particular health concerns. Responsibility for the site was shared by numerous federal agencies including the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and Army Corps of Engineers, as well as several state and local agencies. The screening process was elaborate. A three-stage system with six sifting stations was established with large and small shakers fed by 14 conveyor belts, which passed the contents through an inspection system under tents. Debris was spread out and inspected by hand. Fifty Operating Engineers, heavy equipment operators and maintenance workers, worked two shifts of 12 hours each. Ted Feaser set up the safety-training program for these men, who worked in their protective suits no matter the weather. Vinnie Cella worked at the site arranging schedules and assigning the nearly 250 pieces of equipment to men who worked three days on and three days off. Equipment operators transferred the material from the docks to the tents and then to the final burial. “The work itself was hard,” Cella recalls, “and we were under additional strain as human remains and personal belongings — belts, wallets, purses, family photographs — showed up in the debris.” A morgue was set up for the human remains, which, no matter how fragmentary, were treated with the utmost care and respect. “We never lost sight of what we were doing,” Cella says. “It was a somber place because every one of us knew what we were handling. It wasn’t trash to us.”
Part 3 Protecting the Workers at Ground Zero: IUOE’s Role
Rescue and recovery efforts in the ruins of the World Trade Center were initially chaotic. Systems in place to manage disaster response were strained to the limit because many of New York City’s key first-responders were among those killed in the disaster. Some of the rescue workers swarming over the pile — such as the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams that rushed to the site from other cities — were well trained for urban disaster work. Others were ill prepared for what they encountered. No one, of course, could really have prepared for such a hellish scene. In the first hours and days, rescuers focused single-mindedly on trying to find survivors. They kept a wary eye on the pile, which was burning and shifting beneath them, and on the girders impaled in the rubble, which could come crashing down on them without warning. Early on they were anxious, too, about rumors that damaged adjacent buildings were about to collapse. But otherwise they gave little thought to their own safety or health.
Everyone at Ground Zero knew, of course, that they were working in an extremely hazardous environment. But beyond that they were in a world of uncertainties. The pile was so hot in places that the soles of work boots melted. Open fires erupted without warning. It was hard — sometimes impossible — to see through the smoke. It was hard to breathe, and you didn’t know what you were breathing. It was hard to communicate. The one certainty was that the pile was potentially lethal. In it were some 425,000 cubic yards of pulverized concrete mixed with asbestos, silica, lead, heavy metals, fiberglass, and human remains. For the first few days no one knew much about what might be getting into the air that the rescue workers were breathing. In the beginning few had respirators, and there was no system in place to inform them about the hazards they faced and how to mitigate risks. Operating Engineers were running cranes, grapplers, bucket scoops, cutting machines and bulldozers. The ground beneath them was extremely unstable. When fires flared up, dense black smoke blinded them, and their machines would often disappear from view. Their eyes watered, their skin itched, they had no idea what they were breathing, and they couldn’t afford to let down their guard for a moment even though they were working 12-hour shifts. Other rescuers were working in dangerously close proximity. Given the situation at the site, that was unavoidable. All this made for an exceptionally hazardous working environment.
With scores of Operating Engineers members working on the pile, the International Union immediately became concerned about protecting them. While the initial bucket-brigade rescue work was still under way, General President Frank Hanley called Don Carson, director of the IUOE National Hazmat Program (OENHP) at Beckley, West Virginia, and asked him to dispatch a team of health and safety experts to Ground Zero.
Based on the campus of the Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Academy at Beckley, with additional support staff in Morgantown, West Virginia and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, OENHP has more than 20 years’ experience in Hazardous Materials and Emergency Response training. The staff includes safety and health professionals, industrial hygienists, and a complement of master safety and health instructors (operating engineers), and has expertise in a wide range of safety and health issues including Human Factors Assessment (HFA) and Environmental Management (EM). OENHP is the central organization providing safety and health support to the IUOE’s more than 400,000 members. OENHP conducts Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training as well as other safety and health training that is available to the entire membership as well as to Department of Energy (DOE) workers, other trades, and other requesting organizations. OENHP continually monitors technology developments and develops new training modules to keep the IUOE and its members on the leading edge of workforce protection. 49
OENHP’s International Environmental Technology and Training Center (IETTC) include a technology test facility to evaluate emerging EM technologies, including personal protective equipment (PPE). The center has state-of-the-art training classrooms and equipment, and a distribution center, which is used to generate and distribute informational materials. OENHP has a mobile unit that contains state-of-the-art emergency response equipment and can be rapidly deployed by highly trained response personnel. The OENHP Emergency Management Team, led by Carson, traveled to New York City in an OENHP mobile training unit. The team arrived on September 16 and set up a base adjacent to the north side of the disaster site. Then, beginning on September 17, the IUOE team operated nonstop at the site for nearly a year. Working closely with Local Union leaders and members at the site, the team provided personal protective equipment (PPE), trained workers in how to use PPE, assisted workers suffering from heat stress, monitored workplace hazards, worked with city, state, 50
federal and nongovernmental agencies to establish an increasingly safe workplace, and sought to ensure that the lessons learned at Ground Zero will be used to protect others responding to future disasters whether natural, industrial, or terrorist-inflicted. The IUOE team, supervised by a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), included industrial hygienists, safety professionals, master safety and health instructors, and Operating Engineers from New York Locals 14 and 15, with Don Carson in overall command. Additional support staff was brought to the site to aid in distributing PPE and coordinating safety and health information and technologies. The IUOE team received important support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services charged with conducting and supporting research to determine the effects of chemical, biological, and physical factors in the environment on human health and well being. As part of its mission, NIEHS has supported HAZWOPER training since the early 1980s, including the IUOE’s HAZWOPER training program.
Don Carson contacted NIEHS Director Dr. Kenneth Olden and Program Administrator Joseph “Chip” Hughes as the IUOE team was getting organized and asked for their assistance in providing personal protective equipment, including respirators, at the site. They responded immediately, providing assistance for respirators distributed by the IUOE team and offering additional support throughout the site recovery operation. OENHP also received support for its work at Ground Zero from the Environmental Protection Agency, and its work at the site and in subsequent homeland security training has been supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Assurance and Office of Environmental Management, and by the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, West Virginia. In addition to NIEHS, the IUOE team at Ground Zero interacted with numerous agencies including: Department of Energy (DOE); Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); Occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA); Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); City of New York Department of Design and Construction (NYDDC); New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH); New York Police Department (NYPD); Fire Department of New York (FDNY); Bechtel; AMEC Construction; Bovis Lend Lease; Tully Construction; and Turner Construction. The IUOE team maintained working relationships with the four main site contractors — AMEC, Bovis, Tully, and Turner — and with Bechtel and Liberty Mutual, the contractors assigned overall responsibility for safety and health at the site. Soon after beginning work at Ground Zero, OENHP established a working relationship with the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center (NTTC) at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia, to promote the use of effective emergency-management technologies at the site. NTTC had prior working relationships with FEMA mitigation and technical personnel that were useful in reaching out to other agencies to make them aware of the technologies that were available.
Worker protection activities
The IUOE team provided more than 15,000 respirators as well as hearing and eye protection and training — a safety-and-health response unsurpassed by any other organization at Ground Zero. IUOE industrial hygienists led the way in conducting air sampling to quantify health-risk exposures. The team sought to provide comprehensive protection at the site, providing PPE and training not just to Operating Engineers but to everyone working at Ground Zero: laborers, firefighters, police officers, the National Guard, FBI and FEMA agents, and other government officials.
Key accomplishments: • IUOE staffed the site’s Personal Protective Equipment/Heat Stress station on a 24/7 basis as requested by the City of New York Department of Design and Construction (DDC). Distributed Personal Protective Equipment (15,000 respirators with proper cartridges, hard hats, safety glasses, ear plugs, etc.) to all workers on site. Conducted Safety and Health Orientation Training for over 1,500 workers at the site. Conducted air sampling, first on a daily and then on a periodic basis, with a focus on assessing the quality of the air breathed by 53
heavy equipment operators; coordinated and shared results with FEMA, OSHA, EPA, and NIOSH, as well as city and state agencies. • Produced and distributed user-friendly brochures, in Spanish as well as English, on the hazards at the site — including asbestos, lead, heavy metals, silica, dust, benzene, and heat stress — and the types of respiratory and other protection needed. Maintained a 24-hour toll-free hotline staffed by industrial hygiene and safety experts to answer workers’ and contractors’ questions on health, safety, hazardous material cleanup, and access to DOE technologies. Monitored health and safety issues at the Fresh Kills recovery and disposal site on Staten Island. Worked with several major medical institutions to assess the physical and psychological effects of the work at Ground Zero. With support from DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), acted as advocates for state-of-the-art responder-protection technologies, informing governmental agencies, site contractors, and other organizations with personnel at Ground Zero, and pressing for stepped-up research and training — as well as development of a consortium of agencies to promote rapid deployment of (and instantaneous access to) effective technologies.
• • •
In addition to distributing respirators, the IUOE team conducted respirator fit tests and checked to ensure that proper cartridges were used. During the initial rescue efforts these were necessarily interim measures rather than quantitative fit tests. Later, during the recovery phase, the IUOE team in partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the New York Department of Health, and 3M Company and MSA, producers of respirators, provided quantitative fit testing to ensure compliance with OSHA standards. Industrial hygiene sampling was a rigorous and long-term effort. Personal and area samples were collected over a 180-day period. The sampling included nuisance dust, asbestos, silica, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), lead, fibrous glass, inorganic acid gases, freon-22, and heavy metals. Concerns existed about vapors from decaying flesh, leaking and burning freon from the largest chiller plant in the world, and vapors from burning plastics. Sampling activities were coordinated with OSHA, EPA, and other agencies, and information was shared among all organizations. Collecting personal air-quality samples required that standard protocols be followed. These included selection of the method, preparation of the sampling media, deployment, and subsequent retrieval of the sample. Sample collection subjected the industrial hygienists and safety specialists to the same hazards as the workers operating the equipment. It was necessary to access the unstable debris pile, avoid continuously moving heavy equipment, hang the sampler, and then repeat the process to retrieve the collected sample. Locating the operator or the machine when the sampling time had elapsed was an exercise in tenacity. Some sampling systems took weeks to find and recover. Sampling systems using real-time remote radio frequency sampling capability such as the LifeLine and VitalSense telemetric monitoring systems would have eliminated numerous safety and health hazards for those conducting the monitoring. In addition, if this type of real-time monitor were available, workers could be pulled out of an area (or not allowed to enter it) when contaminant levels are too high rather than determining exposure levels after the fact.
Assessing the site
While the IUOE’s activities at Ground Zero were primarily aimed at helping to protect our members and other workers, the team also made general observations of conditions at the site. Keeping in mind that conditions at Ground Zero were never what would have been considered normal at a construction or demolition site, the team nevertheless raised and discussed numerous concerns. For example: • Heavy equipment operators often had difficulty working their machines safely and breathing normally while wearing respirators, so they did not always wear them (reinforcing our belief that research on the next generation of respirators needs to be given high priority). Getting other workers to wear respirators at all times was difficult. Firefighters generally did not wear them; National Guardsmen wore them occasionally; and a respirator-required zone was neither firmly established nor enforced. Moving vehicles were always among the greatest dangers on-site. Overhead hazards, including man baskets and lengths of rebar dangling from trucks, were an ongoing safety problem.
Personnel and welding equipment were transported in the same lift, which could and did cause injuries. Man baskets are not permitted in New York City, but the need for them at Ground Zero was so great that an exception was made. Open pits were not adequately marked. There was no effective way to assess the potential long-term health risks from the diesel exhaust of the heavy equipment and trucks. Normal requirements for proper foot and eye protection were not consistently enforced at the site. Workers were provided hearing protection, but many did not wear it.
Contaminated clothing that should have been left at the site was often worn home, potentially exposing family members to the contaminants from the site. Decontamination procedures were adequate but were not consistently followed. Many workers did not pass through the decontamination area and thus did not remove all contaminants from their clothing and shoes. 57
Open cabs allowed airborne contaminants to flow freely into the cab, but operators, even on equipment where cabs could be closed, in many instances kept the cab open to improve visibility and air circulation. Closed cab doors do not provide adequate protection for operators. NIOSH has found that cabs leak, allowing air and airborne contaminants inside, and that many companies seldom change the filters on the cabs, allowing contaminants to build up and degrading filter efficiency. HAZWOPER training is critical for this type of disaster response. Meeting HAZWOPER criteria under 29 CFR 1910.120 would have greatly enhanced worker safety and health. The heavy equipment operators who have been HAZWOPER-trained via the IUOE National Hazmat Program were able to educate others in how to use the proper personal protective equipment to safeguard their health and safety at the site.
As previously noted, the IUOE team interacted with many other agencies to protect workers at Ground Zero. For example, the team worked with NIOSH respirator experts to determine the appropriate type of respirator to purchase for Operating Engineers and other workers at the site. As a result, half-face air- purifying respirators with combination high efficiency particulate filters capable of protecting against organic vapors and acid gases (P100/OV/AG) became the standard for the site. The IUOE team and NIOSH also worked together to determine a change-out schedule for the respirator cartridges. OENHP gathered used cartridges at the end of a shift and sent them to NIOSH, which ran a standard test to determine whether breakthrough had occurred. Breakthrough did not occur on any cartridge tested — in fact none were close to breakthrough. This information helped OENHP to recommend a change-out schedule with a large safety margin: change-out at the end of each shift, usually every 12 hours. The IUOE team also worked with OSHA, providing respirator fit testing, physical evaluation, and training in accordance with OSHA regulations (29 CFR 1910.134); with EPA, OSHA, and the New York City Health Department on conducting air sampling and sharing the results; and with NYCOSH on providing Spanish-language information on site hazards. 58
The IUOE team participated in regular conference calls with the “Consortium” that oversaw the recovery work. The consortium included most of the federal, state, and city agencies involved as well as the site contractors. During these conference calls, sampling data and updates were shared. Collaborating with these agencies allowed OENHP to maintain excellent working relationships and to stay abreast of developments at the everchanging site. The team was also able to act as an advocate for DOE and other emergency management technologies, informing consortium members on available technologies and pressing for the best protection available. Technologies identified as having potential site applicability included: • • • • • • • • • Petrogen Oxy-Gasoline Torch; Keibler-Thompson Remotely Operated Demolition Equipment; Delta Temax, Inc. Personal Ice Cooling System; Transport Plastics, Inc. Soft-Sided Waste Containers; Excel Automatic Locking Scaffold; Nochar PetroBond Absorbent Polymer Oil Solidification Agent; Brokk BM 150 Remote Control Concrete Demolition System (Duane Equipment Corp.); Mega-Tech Services, Inc. Blade Plunging Cutter, BPC-4; and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Breath Analysis Instrument.
As a general point regarding the non-adoption of these promising technologies, it is worth recalling that the occupational safety-and-health chain of command at Ground Zero (discussed above) involved so many players and inputs that there was no clear indication of where the buck actually stopped. There was no single “safety czar” with the power to direct the site contractors to protect workers by adopting a particular technology. There were no penalties for sticking with the status quo. While it is a valid point that an emergency rescue-and-recovery operation on an epic scale is not the best place to introduce let alone validate new technologies, consideration must be given not just to the question of how best to assess such technologies but also to ensuring that they become part of the arsenal of emergency response before rather than after the fact. Heavy equipment in use at Ground Zero included eleven metal-tracked backhoes, six metal-tracked grapplers, five rubber-tired front loaders, one 1,000-ton crane, and a steel-tracked pile driver. The IUOE team worked with the heavy equipment operators on numerous equipment-related safety concerns, including • • • Access/egress to/from the cab in a hazardous environment; Use of cab enclosures to minimize exposure to dust and vapors; Wearing personal protective equipment, including respirators, hearing protection, gloves, safety shoes, and over boots, to minimize exposure to inhalation hazards, exhaust noise, and potentially hot surfaces when approaching or leaving the machine; and Heat stress from working 12-hour shifts in the unseasonably warm autumn weather and from exposure to the fires on the pile.
The IUOE team had other concerns. For example, control of access to the site was haphazard, particularly at the outset. Later, after a secure perimeter was set up, access was theoretically limited only to those personnel who needed to be on-site, such as firefighters, police officers, and Operating Engineers and other site workers and supervisors. However, it was often the case that anyone who looked as though they belonged on-site could walk in or out without attracting the guards’ attention. As a result there were serious 60
concerns about the presence on-site of people who were not properly trained in — or aware of — the hazards.
Control of egress was a concern for another reason. Particularly during the early phases of rescue and recovery, personnel decontamination procedures and stations were often inadequate. Workers either left the site via unofficial exits or did not fully decontaminate before leaving by the official exits. Vehicle decontamination was also inadequate. Trucks loaded with debris as well as any other type of vehicle on the site went through the same station and were sprayed as they drove through. Using fire hoses, workers sprayed the vehicle from several different angles but could not assure that all parts of the vehicle were decontaminated. In addition the small utility vehicles (Gators) that were used on the site were routinely driven out of the site and into surrounding areas without ever going through the vehicle decontamination points. Dust control, an important concern, was accomplished mainly by wetting down the debris pile, using specialized water-spraying trucks and fire hoses. Other methods included using mobile wet sweepers and vacuum sweepers, 61
covering debris-carrying trucks with tarps, and spray-washing the trucks as they left Ground Zero. The decontamination tent set up and operated by the EPA was more than adequate to facilitate the proper cleaning of respirators, clothing, boots, and the body. The tent was equipped with heavy-duty brushes to clean boots, large sinks in which to clean hands and face, and a bleach solution to properly clean respirators. Workers were expected to go to the tent to clean up and service their respirators at the end of each shift, but many workers — tired and hungry after a 12-hour shift, eager to go home, and averse to delays — did not do so. As a result, there were ongoing concerns about improperly decontaminated footwear, improperly stored respirators, and insufficiently frequent change-outs of respirator cartridges.
Delays in developing a plan
A major concern was that it took 48 days — from September 11 until October 29 — to develop a safety and health plan for the rescue and recovery operation. Another 30 days passed before formal health and safety-training onsite began on November 12. At one level the absence of a formalized plan was perhaps inconsequential, since the workers on-site with the support of the IUOE team and other entities were able to address the most pressing safety concerns on a day-to-day basis. However, the absence of a plan may well have had detrimental impacts on the health of the workers at the site, since it meant that there was no systematic strategy to address risks — such as exposure to asbestos and volatile organic chemicals — where early and ongoing testing is necessary to determine the probability of experiencing health effects that may not become evident for a long time. The Ground Zero plan was to be developed by Bechtel Corporation. Nine governmental entities, including federal, state, and city, were involved in developing and signing off on the plan. The plan as originally drafted had numerous deficiencies, including the absence of input from the unions representing the site workers. Operating Engineers representatives were twice denied access to the plan. Part of the difficulty in developing a plan in a timely fashion was that, from the outset, responsibility for control of the site was diffuse. At times the chain of command seemed more like a string: pushing against it could be an exercise in frustration. 62
In OENHP’s opinion, there is much to be learned from the nation’s experience with mine disasters. Following decades of mine disasters in which thousands of lives were needlessly lost, a model of mine rescue responsibility and control was established under the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The system, which is set out in regulations and policies, assigns overall authority for rescue and recovery to the federal government. Mine operators are charged with providing and paying for the necessary personnel and equipment, who work under MSHA’s direct authority and supervision. The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) is in charge of enforcing health and safety regulations in the nation’s workplaces (except for mines and for selected other industries, e.g., nuclear facilities covered by the Department of Energy). A construct similar to MSHA’s mine disaster authority should be considered for OSHA-covered workplaces. The key point is to establish clear lines of authority in regulations and policy.
At the World Trade Center site, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was the primary coordinating agency for disaster response and recovery activities under the Federal Response Plan. OSHA was a participating agency under that plan. 63
FEMA is charged with establishing disaster-specific safety and health guidance and policy in cooperation with OSHA and other agencies. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, OSHA adapted a consultative role based upon the Federal Response Plan guidance, which provided for OSHA to provide specialists to assist disaster response agencies and to consult and train. The logic was that FEMA and other agencies would be acting in a controller capacity in a disaster setting but would and should not be held to the same standards to which employers are held under normal circumstances. Throughout the rescue and recovery, OSHA personnel were continually onsite in a consulting role. It should be noted that their presence at the World Trade Center stood in stark contrast to their absence from other construction and workplace sites. According to OSHA’s own statistics, the average workplace can expect to be visited by an OSHA inspector once every 26 years.
OSHA never dropped its consultative role despite the changing nature of the worksite. In November 2001, OSHA entered into a cooperative partnership with the New York City Department of Design and Construction, the Fire Department of New York, the Building and Construction Trade Council of Greater New York, as well as the four prime contractors, called “The World Trade Center Emergency Project Partnership,” which provided for a joint labor/management safety committee with daily meetings, a requirement that each prime contractor assign a full-time safety, health, and environmental inspector and provide weekly reports including injuries and illnesses samples, maintain first aid bags and enhance sampling for hazardous substances, and provide safety orientation training for new workers. The agreement went into effect November 20, 2001. While it is true that the World Trade Center disaster was of a magnitude and character not envisioned in any planning manual — and thus to some extent a confused response regarding lines of authority was inevitable — a lesson that emerges is that clear lines of authority do need to be drawn in advance of need. Although OSHA has thus far had relatively little experience in dealing with major workplace disasters, the times would seem to call for giving the agency more authority to manage such sites — and to train its personnel so that they can do the job with the kind of competence and confidence that inspires trust.
Assessing technologies at the site
The IUOE team at Ground Zero and OENHP headquarters staff pursued previously established contacts with the Department of Energy’s National 65
Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and Environmental Management (EM) staff to explore DOE-funded innovative technologies that could benefit the rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts at Ground Zero.
How well did technology do?
The rescue and recovery operation at the World Trade Center site utilized accepted and approved personal protective equipment, and hazards were continuously assessed to help ensure adequate worker protection. As noted, NIOSH respirator and contaminant penetration tests confirmed that proper respirator cartridges were being used at Ground Zero, and conservative change-out schedules were adopted to ensure that workers were protected from airborne hazards at the site. However, just as at any hazardous waste cleanup or other site where respiratory protection is required, many workers had problems with respirators, resulting in underutilization. Many workers reported that respirators were uncomfortable, hot, reduced visibility, and made it hard to breathe (especially if a worker had a cold or other respiratory problem and was already congested). The need for improved technology for respiratory protection (from airpurifying respirators to self-contained breathing apparatus) has long been 66
recognized by DOE, NIOSH, MSHA, OSHA and other agencies. Experience at Ground Zero underscores the need to give higher priority to such technology. Workers at disaster sites and hazmat incidents should not have to make choices between taking health risks or wearing protective equipment that they feel impedes them on the job. Similarly, hazard assessment methods need to be improved. At Ground Zero, measurement of airborne contaminants was done by accepted sampling protocols, but the complex and inherently hazardous nature of the site meant that much time was consumed in accessing sampling sites, locating them later to retrieve the sample, and then completing the analysis. Despite its drawbacks, this approach worked well within the framework of
conventional exposure monitoring. However, it could not capture the instantaneous or short-term exposures to which workers can be subjected. Rapid or real-time monitoring was not done at Ground Zero. Using real-time detectors such as hand-held VOC and laser-based particle analyzers could have provided an added measure of protection. Similarly, using remote detection systems such as infrared gas analyzers would have provided an opportunity to assess localized hazard levels in real time. Robotic systems could have been utilized for collection of environmental samples. Moreover, these systems could have utilized accepted or recognized standard protocols
while minimizing the exposure of safety and health personnel to airborne and other hazards in an unstable environment. Among the many lessons learned during the long rescue, recovery, and cleanup operation at Ground Zero, it is clear that there is a broad need for improved technologies across a spectrum of concerns including communications, hazard monitoring, worker protection, search and rescue equipment, and recovery and cleanup related equipment. DOE and other agencies have valuable experience to offer in the area of research and development of technologies to make the mission better, safer, and cheaper. DOE should develop a clearinghouse to serve as a one-stop shop where technology status and availability information could be obtained instantaneously to rapidly deploy any technology. Additionally, DOE and other government, academic, and private entities need to develop a proactive consortium approach that would bring together experts in technology development to determine research and development needs and priorities. Such a consortium would also provide a means to develop an infrastructure for all organizations to share knowledge and information when and if attacks similar to those of 9/11/01 occur in the future. Congress is currently considering legislation designed to mobilize technology and science experts to respond quickly to the threats posed by terrorist attacks and other emergencies. While this appears to be a step in the right direction, assurance is needed that all applicable sectors will be included in an infrastructure of this type in order to ensure that all possible available technology solutions are considered and brought to the attention of the right people during (and preferably prior to) an emergency situation. In addition, a technology consortium or infrastructure needs to be able to think outside the box, looking at the ways in which specific technologies might be used outside their original purposes. For example, the soft-sided waste containers proposed for use at Ground Zero can be, when full, very effective barriers with important benefits to site access/egress control.
A technology consortium approach might also have been useful in improving assessment of the effects on workers from airborne hazards at Ground Zero. OENHP and medical specialists from Johns Hopkins conducted pulmonary function tests (PFTs) on some heavy equipment operators at the WTC site. Out of hundreds of operators on-site, the Johns Hopkins staff was only able to test 20, which is roughly 10 percent of all the tests they performed on site. Even to achieve that low number, the technicians had to take the testing equipment up into the cab of the operating equipment and perform the PFT there. The PNNL Breath Analyzer, described above, by measuring volatile chemicals in exhaled breath would have given more valuable data on actual exposures since it can quantify the chemical exposure of an individual worker, estimate the target tissue dose from that exposure, and provide a clinically meaningful evaluation of the potential adverse health risk due to the exposure/dose. PFTs, in contrast, could only tell if respiratory function was affected at that moment in time; they could not tell if it would be affected later or if any other body organ or system might be at risk. As noted, however, the PNNL technology was not adopted, in part because of cost considerations. Among other things, a technology-advancing consortium approach might be able to direct sufficient funding to emergency planning so that it would not be necessary to make trade-offs between cost and worker safety.
• Equipment: The firefighters at the World Trade Center began the ascent of the 110-story twin towers burdened with axes and other tools, heavy bunker gear, and 60 pounds of breathing apparatus. Anyone who saw them in action will agree that the defense of tall buildings requires the accelerated development of the next generation of personal protective equipment. First-responders are ill prepared to fight the kinds of dangers we face in an era when tall buildings may be targets. Modernization is long overdue.
• Working around heavy equipment: Experience at Ground Zero underscores the need to develop guidelines for firefighters, police, medical personnel, and others who are not experienced in working at close proximity to heavy equipment. At Ground Zero, rescuers sifting through the pile for signs of survivors or remains were not always readily visible to the equipment operators, especially when they stood within the jut of the boom. There was a constant risk of death or severe injury from the claws of the equipment. Darkness, lighting shadows, and smoke from the burning pile added to the confusion of 70
the workplace. IUOE has initiated development of a set of model guidelines for emergencies involving heavy equipment. • Emergency Response Centers: The World Trade Center attacks clearly demonstrated the need for greater planning and preparedness for disasters and emergencies. It also demonstrated that the emergency response community, while reasonably were prepared for localized situations, is ill prepared for large-scale domestic or international incidents. The U.S. military response system could serve as a model for the development of a National Emergency Response System. Emergency response centers could be established on a regional basis, equipped to staff, supply and support first-responses to disasters, and to coordinate the efforts of military, homeland security, and private-sector responders. Stationary engineers and heavy equipment operators must be an integral part of such an initiative. • Guidelines for tall-buildings disasters: The stationary engineers at work at the World Trade Center complex and adjacent buildings acquired first-hand experience in securing and evacuating tall buildings under crisis conditions. They represent an important resource for governmental and nongovernmental emergency response planners, and they should be closely involved in development of safety and health guidelines for tall-buildings emergency response plans.
A safety triumph
Whatever its flaws, the rescue and recovery operation at the World Trade Center was a triumph in one key respect: not a single worker at the site was killed. Under the circumstances, this was truly miraculous. The location was among the most dangerous work sites in the nation’s history. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which might have been expected to take control of the site, voluntarily abdicated its enforcement authority without legal basis and assumed a consultative posture.
The management of the 16-acre site was complicated, overlapping, confusing, and difficult to work with. Four different contractors with four different ways of doing things had responsibility for four-acre parcels. Communications were difficult. Interference from competing local, state, and federal agencies caused confusion; contradictory directions caused delay and disorder. The workspace, although huge, was densely populated with equipment and workers. Overcrowding of both was a constant problem. At any given moment more than 1,500 people might be working at the site. Spacing between machinery — and between machinery and adjacent workers — violated safety regulations as well as long-established safety practices. Equipment was pushed to its limits. The ten-story rubble pile was unstable; rescue workers toiled in hot, confined areas; fires were rampant; visibility was at times nonexistent; work was conducted around the clock. Inexperienced volunteers initially worked extremely long hours without breaks. Rescuers unfamiliar with the location or the risks involved neglected their own safety as they fought the pile in search of survivors. Psychologically, the site was among the most daunting ever faced by workers anywhere. Included in the recovery work was the job of finding bodies and body parts and carefully recovering them along with the rubble. Shifts were 12 hours long, seven days a week. In addition, workers typically drove an hour or more to get home. And then all too soon it was time to come back. The work was mind numbing. Anxiety was an integral part of every day — every minute — on the job. The dangers of working in the underground part of the pile were as great as in any mine in the country — greater, probably, because well-run mines have effective systems to shore up the roof and ventilate the work spaces. Hazards from fires and falling objects dwarfed any other work site. Rescue and recovery work went on nonstop for more than nine months. But there were no fatalities — zero — among the more than 5,000 men and 72
women who worked at the site. Nor were there any permanently disabling injuries. In fact there were fewer than three dozen injuries serious enough to result in lost workdays. While moving out more than 1.5 million tons of debris, only eight people were seriously injured in falls, three were seriously burned, 15 were struck by falling objects, and six were injured by slipping or tripping. In what Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has called “perhaps the most complex construction project in the history of the world,” the absence of a single fatality is a testimonial to the skill and dedication of the men and women who worked at the site. The heavy equipment operators were hand-picked — chosen for their superior skills and their ability to work in difficult settings. They had support from the IUOE team and many others, but the bottom line is that they were the best.
A healthy beginning
Health protection for the rescuers and recovery workers was not good. Most rescuers worked without respiratory protection. Recovery workers frequently worked without personal protective equipment. As time passed, more and more workers and officials began to recognize the health risks and to pay more attention to the need for respiratory protection. Exposures to dangerous toxics occurred and negative health implications are being exhibited by a significant percentage of those who worked on the site. Long-range implications, while unknown, are of concern to the IUOE. We are working with Mt. Sinai Hospital and John’s Hopkins University to ensure that our members receive the proper evaluation and treatment.
What would we do differently?
Many of those involved in the rescue and recovery operation at the World Trade Center site have given much time to pondering the question: “What would we do differently?” On the whole, the operation went extremely well, particularly in the sense that no more lives were lost at the site after 9/11. But the short answer to the question is simple: Now we must plan ahead. No one could have anticipated a situation in which the two tallest towers in New York City would be hurled to the ground within a half hour of each other on a 73
clear September morning, snuffing out thousands of lives and destroying five other buildings in their fall. But now that the unthinkable has happened we must plan for the next such disaster, hoping that it will never occur but taking all necessary steps to be ready if it does. Despite its shortcomings, the consortium approach used to manage the World Trade Center recovery operation can serve as a rough model for the kind of consortium needed to advance emergency management technologies and planning. It is essential to have such an infrastructure in place in order to promote the kind of coordinated thinking and planning that involves all those who have a stake in emergency management. When a disaster of any kind occurs, the emergency-responder community will have only one thing in mind: “Get to the survivors!” A disaster recovery operation is not the place for someone to come forward with a promising new technology to prevent heat stress. Research, education, dissemination of information, and training must all take place before the disaster occurs rather than while responders are coping with it. Labor unions have a vital role to play in an emergency management consortium. As we saw on September 11, stationary engineers became firstresponders when their buildings were attacked, and heavy equipment operators were first-responders when the towers came down. They were essential components of the rescue efforts and then of the long recovery operation that followed. They willingly placed their safety and health at risk to save others, and they would do so again tomorrow. But now that we as a nation have been forewarned, there is broadly shared responsibility to see to it that the emergency responders themselves are as fully protected as possible. It cannot be stated too strongly: In an era when tall buildings and other facilities are possible targets, Operating Engineers — both stationary engineers and heavy equipment operators — are by definition firstresponders. It should be national policy to ensure that they, like other emergency responders, are well-trained and properly equipped to meet the grim challenges of the 21st century.
Many governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations such as the International Union of Operating Engineers have a vital stake in creating an emergency-management consortium capable of developing and deploying technologies that will enhance our ability to bring emergencies under control both speedily and safely. As part of its commitment to homeland security, OENHP is participating in a task force being formed by the Environmental Protection Agency Emergency Response Team. Its mission is to improve responders’ and site workers’ health and safety in a range of emergency situations including combating the effects of weapons of mass destruction. Participating in this task force provides OENHP with another mechanism to promote and track technological developments and ensure their effective use in emergency situations.
OENHP is using the lessons learned at Ground Zero in its new Homeland Security Division, which is now training stationary engineers and heavy equipment operators in anticipating and responding to large-scale disasters whether natural, industrial, or caused by terrorism. Trainees will know how to assess threats, enhance and protect building security, safely evacuate a facility, and initiate and participate in rescue and recovery operations. Practical steps based on Ground Zero experience are a key part of the training program. For example, every trainee will be fit-tested for half-face airpurifying respirators, thus ensuring that in time of need they will have a properly functioning protective respirator and will know how to use it. OENHP is also developing a database of heavy equipment operators and stationary engineers who have been trained and are available to respond to large-scale disasters. Ground Zero was many things. First and foremost it was a place of horror and grief. But it was also a place where, day after day, month after month, courageous men and women came to honor the dead. They did so by never giving up the search for any trace of the victims. They did so by carefully and conscientiously dismantling and removing 16 burned and blasted acres of lower Manhattan, clearing away the weight of terror so that the world’s most vibrant city could stand tall again.
The men and women who worked on the pile at Ground Zero, and who worked at the World Trade Center’s final resting place at Fresh Kills, do not think of themselves as heroes, any more than do the stationary engineers who helped save so many lives on the terrible morning of September 11, 2001. They do not seek recognition, but they do deserve all the support we can muster. The International Union of Operating Engineers and our National Hazmat Program were privileged to play a useful role in protecting the safety and health of our members — and indeed all workers — at Ground Zero. We pledge our best efforts to ensure that they are prepared for the challenges that may lie ahead.
From bedlam to a functional site training program Ralph Pascarella is in charge of safety and health for IUOE Local Union 30. A lifelong New Yorker, he was as stunned as everyone else by the September 11 attacks. Then a phone call sent him into action. Jack Ahern, Business Manager for Local Union 30, had received a call from General President Frank Hanley, who explained that he had asked Don Carson, director of IUOE's National Hazmat Training Program in West Virginia, to take the center's mobile training unit to New York City and offer whatever help he could at the World Trade Center site. Ahern asked Pascarella to assist Carson. Hanley had also called Thomas Maguire, Business Manager for Local Union 15, representing heavy equipment operators in Manhattan. McGuire, in turn, asked Bruce Murphy, the Local Union's training instructor, to work with Carson. Maguire also arranged for New York State officials to escort the IUOE mobile unit to the site. With lower Manhattan closed to traffic, that was the only way to get there. On September 16, Carson drove into the playground of Stuyvesant 77
High School, just north of Ground Zero, and parked the unit. That night Pascarella and Murphy met with Carson at the trailer. Ground Zero and the surrounding area was "utter bedlam," Pascarella recalls. "The ground was covered with office paper, family photos, muck. It gave you goose bumps. Smoke clouds hung in the air. The smell of death was everywhere. It was unimaginable, indescribable." The IUOE men had the same thought: "What are we going to do? Where do we start?" But they went to work. The rubble pile was more than ten stories high. Huge shards of the fallen towers' facades stood at crazy angles in the burning pile as though hurled down from the sky — as indeed they had been. Pascarella and Carson walked around the site. It was late at night, but in the harsh glare thrown by the light towers that had been brought in, it could have been midday. "The work was really just starting to get organized," Pascarella recalls. "Cranes and machinery were in place. The bucket brigade was still working but was about to end. Looking around, I thought, ‘Now I know what "surreal" means.’ “We've got to get the trailer set up," Carson said. "We've got to get some help to the guys working on the pile." It was clear that no one was giving much thought to the rescue workers' safety, and the IUOE men were sure that someone was going to get killed. The next morning they began to equip their station with essential supplies such as water, respirators, gloves, and hard hats. They quickly realized that they needed more room. Local Union volunteers went online and began looking for tents. They found a firm in North Carolina which, when informed of where the tents were needed, immediately donated two. (Regrettably, the name of the company was subsequently lost in the initial 78
confusion.) "We looked like a set from ‘MASH,' "Pascarella says. Then the IUOE team acquired portable power generators, set up a communication system, and installed air and dust monitors, a fax and office computers. Much of that took time. But by 6:00 a.m. on September 17 the IUOE team was handing out respirators, water, safety goggles, glasses, boots, and blankets. They continued to distribute safety and health equipment for nearly a year, until the recovery and cleanup phases came to an end. "There was no fittesting or training at first," Murphy recalls. "We just got what we could into the hands of the workers on the pile." Gradually they reached the point where they could take a little time for instruction. Toward the end of October, the Union contracted with 3M Corporation to install a respirator fit-testing system. After that, working with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the New York State Department of Health, the IUOE team provided more than 2,400 fit tests as part of respirator training. Then Mine Safety Appliances, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with Olympic Glove, of Elmwood, New Jersey, and Vallen Safety Supply Company, of Houston, Texas, joined forces to donate equipment and testing on a 24-hour basis for six weeks, conducting quantitative respirator fit-testing, training, and medical evaluations. More than 4,000 site workers were seen during that time. The IUOE team joined with other organizations to launch a site safety and health orientation program that got under way early in October. The IUOE team provided this training for all site workers in cooperation with representatives of the Teamsters, Laborers, Carpenters, and Ironworkers unions. A three-hour course was developed using a PowerPoint presentation to highlight site hazards. Training took place in one of the few undamaged rooms in the American Stock Exchange building on Trinity Place, just south of Ground Zero. "We trained over 2,000 site workers," Murphy recalls, "and the Port Authority, the Fire Department of New York, and the New York Police Department used our materials in their training." Training covered safety risks, health effects, exit locations, mental stresses that could be expected, and where to get help. Once the program was under way, only workers wearing orange Operating Engineers training certificate badges were allowed on the site. Pascarella and Murphy taught most of the classes, which continued for months as new workers were rotated into the site. Classes started at 6:00 a.m. and went on as long as necessary: some classes began at midnight. "Ground Zero was terrible from a safety and health standpoint in the beginning," Pascarella says. "But it got better as time went on. And we
learned so much. Now we're better prepared for whatever we may have to face in the future."
How it was at Ground Zero
Reporters visiting Ground Zero during the rescue and recovery operation often spent time watching the Operating Engineers at work. Here are excerpts from four of their reports. · · · Union Provides Hazmat Training at Ground Zero Washington Post reporter Ben White visited the IUOE Emergency Management Team at Ground Zero in mid-October, 2001. NEW YORK, October 16, 2001 — A month after the twin towers vanished from the Manhattan skyline in blinding clouds of dust, what's left at Ground Zero still smokes. Thick plumes rise from the twisted heaps of ruined steel. This smoke is of deep concern to federal, state and city health officials worried about workers cleaning up the site. The World Trade Center towers had served as cities unto themselves with all the attendant fuels, paints, insulating materials and other substances that when incinerated and released into the air may pose long-term health risks. Add to the mix exploded jet fuel and organic material from the nearly [3,000] people presumed killed and you have what Don Carson calls a gigantic, uncontrolled demolition site, a place whose acrid exhalations can change in composition by the minute depending on the direction of the wind and the depth of the digging.
Carson runs the National Hazardous Materials Training Program for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Carson's union, assisted by funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), has been on the scene in lower Manhattan since September 16, distributing respirators and training workers on the spot in the safest methods to deal with potentially lethal materials. In addition to training, workers must be monitored over time — ill effects from inhaled contaminants may not show up for years. So Philip Landrigan, director of environmental and occupational medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, is working with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and NIEHS to create a database of Ground Zero workers, particularly those at high risk for toxin exposure. Carson's union already enjoyed a strong reputation as a leader in the field of hazardous material training, in part through necessity: IUOE members often operate machinery at toxic waste cleanup sites. So they would have played a role at Ground Zero under any circumstances. But they are particularly vital now, as many hazardous material specialists in the New York Fire Department perished in the initial response. First and foremost, Carson and his colleagues train their own workers, the operators who run the huge cranes lifting debris from the site. But they are also training thousands of others: the ironworkers and other 81
laborers on the debris piles, the police who control the scene, the firefighters on hand to search for bodies, National Guard troops, federal emergency workers, federal law enforcement personnel and volunteers. Carson, a native Tennessean now living in West Virginia, patrols ground zero in a motorized cart, handing out respirators and gently browbeating anyone not wearing one, particularly if they are anywhere near the debris piles. "That won't do a damn thing for you," Carson told one young police officer wearing a surgical mask last week. "Try this," he said, tossing the officer a respirator. Too often, according to Carson and others, the high-risk frontline personnel resist the respirators and other precautions. These are often construction workers accustomed to putting things up, not deconstructing blasted-out war zones. "The problem here is that it's obviously not a standard construction site," said Bruce Lippy, an IUOE industrial hygienist. "It's a very dangerous place and this is not normally how these people operate. There are a lot of people not wearing respirators. We've been hammering on the guys to wear them."
In addition to wearing masks, IUOE and other groups training personnel at Ground Zero urge workers to change after leaving the site and put work clothes in a plastic bag to avoid bringing asbestos or other dangerous materials home. All vehicles coming in and out of the 82
site are hosed off. Operators are told to keep the cabs of their cranes closed. Lippy said he has taken some 60 samples from around the site, looking in particular for traces of lead and asbestos. His samples have not shown dangerous levels so far, backing up readings done by the Environmental Protection Agency. But Lippy is not certain these levels will remain safe. The North Tower, he said, had asbestos sprayed on the first 40 floors. The remains of these floors are likely pancaked at the bottom of a pit where fires still burn. "I don't know that there won't be a lot heavier concentrations," as workers dig deeper, Lippy said. "Everything is very fluid here." Mount Sinai's Landrigan noted that most sampling for asbestos is done over an eight- to 10-hour period when the average amount of asbestos in the air may be low. But asbestos can be stirred up in quick bursts. "At any moment when a worker picks up a beam or turns over dust, the potential exists for asbestos to kick up in that worker's face," Landrigan said. Prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer and other diseases. On-site testing of workers for the national database will begin soon. And Carson will continue his rounds, prodding people to slip on their respirators. "You do not smell asbestos," he said. "You may smell body parts, you may smell Freon. But it's the things you can't smell that can really hurt you the most." · · · Ground Zero Crews Face Own Pain The New York Post ran this report by Douglas Montero on December 17, 2001. After three hard months of nonstop digging and searching for remains, the workers at ground zero haven't had time to recover from their own emotional wounds.
"You live, you eat, you sleep ground zero," said Gregg Nolan, a maintenance foreman in charge of cranes and heavy machine operators. "We can't get away from it . . . our reality, down here, is sifting through the rubble and body parts. While everyone tries to have a normal life, the tragedy still exists for the construction workers." Most of the workers have been at ground zero since day one. They're the guys who showed up to help find survivors and did so for two weeks without even knowing whether they'd be paid. Soon, the work became an obsession. Vince LaTerra is a 43-year-old labor foreman who spends 15 hours a day, six days a week at ground zero. He sleeps in an apartment a few blocks away and, on rare occasions, he goes home to his wife and three kids between the ages of 11 and 15. "When I get back into the real world, I feel weird because the folks have no idea what I've been through," said LaTerra. "When I'm not here [ground zero] I'm not at peace, I don't know what to do with myself." LaTerra, like others, has compared the job to the Vietnam War. They just can't adjust to the tranquility of life after seeing the death and destruction of the nation's worst tragedy. Some barely get a chance to see their wives. They bitterly remember being unable to attend school Christmas shows, parades or birthday parties for their own children because they are at ground zero where the digging cannot stop. John Giaquinto, who owns a fleet of trucks that hauls debris, remembers a day off when he visited Home Depot and casually saw buckets on display. "I started thinking about the bucket brigade and I just lost it — I couldn't control myself," said the strapping Giaquinto, tears welling in his eyes. Bobby Gray, a master mechanic for the International Union of Operating Engineers, said he's worried about his members and other ground zero workers. 84
"What I'm afraid of is, when all this stuff is cleaned up and everything stops. I'm worried about the down time. I think, down the road, these guys are going to be deeply affected by all of this." · · ·
The Workers: As Dig Goes On, Emotions Are Buried Deep The New York Times ran this story by Charlie LeDuff on November 18, 2001. The workday for the heavy machine operators at ground zero begins as it ends. In darkness. It is bad for those who work the early shift, because the only sunshine they see these days is framed by the crater that still hisses and spits like a snake. It is bad, too, for those who work the late shift, operating in the mud and the slop under the lights and with suspect footing. The World Trade Center job is a bad one, a torturous and consuming business. It goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The smell has crept into the workers' clothes, and the place has invaded their dreams.
The work of the firefighters and the police officers and the National Guardsmen has been documented. But the job now largely belongs to the operating engineers — those 300 or so men and women from the International Union of Operating Engineers, Locals 14 and 15, who pilot and maintain the heavy machines like cranes and excavators, frontloaders and the wrecking ball. Their job is to crush, rip, tear, scoop and load the wreckage. That is not to slight the ironworkers and carpenters and other trades personnel who do important and necessary work, but it is the demolition and excavation engineers who are the dwellers of the pit. ''My survival mechanism is to not look at it,'' said Jaime L. Valladares Jr., who has operated an excavator on the rubble since September 12. ''You take all of that emotion and you bury it deep down inside you, and you try never to let it come out.'' Others deal differently. Bob Gray, a master mechanic who belongs to IUOE Local 14, but who looks more like a professor than a proletarian, speaks of one of the Vietnam vets working at the site. ''After a month on the job he was back in the jungle. It was the smell, the smell of bodies. He left for a few weeks and got himself together. He's back now.'' A few men have asked off the job, but only a few, Mr. Gray said. Others stand around the hiring hall on Northern Boulevard pleading for the work. Ground zero has become a sought-after duty. Ten weeks after the World Trade Center attacks, it is hard to find an operating engineer who has taken more than a few days off. Eighty-five hours of their weeks are spent on the pile, and now they have taken to calling regular society the ''outside world.'' ''Home is the odd thing,'' said Gregg Nolan, a bald and bearded barrel of a man with a wife and four children who is a foreman of the excavators. ''Home is not normal.'' People like Mr. Gray and Mr. Nolan talk about going to the local bar and approaching the entrance and looking in at the people laughing and drinking and leading very normal lives. They look at that and then turn around and leave. ''It's like I don't belong there,'' Mr. Gray said. 86
According to the union, work is going well and ahead of schedule. With 25 excavators and 12 cranes, officials estimate that 40 percent of the debris has been removed. The two towers are below ground level now. The demolition of another building began on Thursday with the aid of a wrecking ball, a device that had been outlawed in Manhattan for 20 years. The operating engineers say that they have been put between a rock and a hard place. They have to make progress, their supervisors tell them, and they are no longer allowed to stop the excavation unless they are specifically told by a man in a white hard hat. But the operators and the firefighters have worked shoulder to shoulder since the beginning. They bailed buckets together the first week. And the operators worked under the supervision of the firefighters until a few weeks ago. Then City Hall decreed that the number of firefighters on the site would be limited to 25, citing safety reasons. After protests by the firefighters and complaints from their widows, that number has been brought up to 75. But union officials say the firefighters have no power to stop the demolition. The machine operators say they will not turn their backs on the firefighters, though. And so, in an unspoken pact, the excavators will dig, and if anything looks out of place, they will take the load and spread it to the side so that the firefighters may scour it for bodies. In the meantime, they will turn to another patch and remove that. It is now classified as a construction site, but it is a strange stage with the flowers and memorials and the iron-beam cross-salvaged from the carnage. Weary workers sneak catnaps in the trailers and sheds. Because of their prolonged proximity to the wreckage, every machine operator has what is being called “the cough,” brought on by the diesel and dust and smoke and water and asbestos and ground porcelain and glass. And the dozens of machines work around each other in a sort of terrestrial ballet. The operators talk of the small moments when they stop and look to the heavens and see the stars. This makes them feel human again, only to turn around and see the smoke and destitution. Thanksgiving is this week, and the crew would like to have off. Danny Nolan, a hard-charging man on the wrecking ball, has had few 87
personal days since September 11. There will be a skeleton crew working out of respect for the families, and people like Mr. Nolan (no relation to Gregg Nolan) said it was the right thing to do. ''If I had people in here, I'd want to know someone was looking too,'' Danny Nolan said. Danny Nolan has nightmares now, waking up screaming about the job sometimes. Friends from the past who have died visit him, like the old friend whose name he will not speak because of a belief that the name now belongs only to the soul. In the dream, the friend takes him into a strange room and shows him actual items that Mr. Nolan has seen recovered from the World Trade Center, things like African artifacts. ''The place is playing tricks on me, I guess,'' he said. · · · A Nice Change In New York This account by syndicated columnist Mary McGrory was published in the Washington Post on November 25, 2001. NEW YORK CITY — The flags flop in the bracing autumn sunlight that shines down on the median strips of the city's grand avenues. Right behind them march the Christmas trees, all strung with lights and ready to go. New Yorkers never forget what happened on September 11, but they are looking ahead, too. New Yorkers' foul ordeal made them kin to the first observers of Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims. This year, Americans are making pilgrimages to the maimed city, which has a new image as well. New Yorkers overwhelmed the country with their valor and their human kindness when about [3,000] people lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center. They have been exposed as closet niceniks. "They don't necessarily want to be thought of as nice," says Brooklyn native Ralph Pascarella, who spends his life among the ruins. Pascarella is a union official, director of apprenticeship training at Operating Engineers Local 30, but now on loan to the city's Hazardous Materials Division for the gigantic and awesomely organized cleanup effort. He doesn't try to hide his pride in being part of history. He's proud of his mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and of his president, George Bush, and he thinks he's helping unionism, too. 88
"We've had a bad rap, but now they can see we are making sacrifices to help," he says. In the pre-calamity past, New Yorkers would sometimes be nice when they thought no one was looking and they were dealing with fellow Gothamites. But their conduct after the fall of the Twin Towers has been exemplary — especially that of their valorous policemen and firefighters. Fellow citizens responded with heartbreaking generosity and solicitude, bringing the public servants coffee and sandwiches and socks, and hanging around Ground Zero at all hours to applaud as they came off their shifts. The workers with their walkie-talkies, hard hats, respirators and cell phones who practically live at Ground Zero call it "The Zone." At its heart, gigantic grapplers dig into the debris, some of it still smoldering, and firefighters sift the rubble for human remains. The backdrop of the scene is the grotesque skeleton of the north tower, its blown-out window frames staring like a blind giant. Pascarella hopes for fewer tourists at the ruins. He understands the impulse for closure, to mourn, to bear witness, to say that they have been there. But he thinks visiting now is like going to a battlefield while the battle is still on. He wishes sightseers would wait until "we can get it cleaned up and a proper memorial in place." That would be approximately a year from now. The disaster-driven civility could last even longer than that. Chester Deptula, general manager of the Surrey Hotel on the Upper East Side, thinks it will. His hotel is full for Thanksgiving weekend, many rooms occupied by foreigners who tell him they "need" to be in New York at this time. New Yorkers, of course, have had their famous self-esteem ratified. They feel with reason that they helped to give one in the eye to Osama bin Laden, who did not anticipate their extraordinary resilience and resourcefulness. Innkeeper Deptula says the city is changed beyond recall. He swears all aspects of daily existence have changed for the better, even on the subway. People tell him that there is much less pushing and that some have been seen to give up their seats to others. New York has horrendous problems now, with some quarters of its economy as devastated as the financial district. But morale is not among them. It is entirely possible that New Yorkers, having found the uses of politeness and overt caring, will be unable to kick the habit. 89
For the moment, they have overcome surliness and put-downs as decisively as the United States and its allies have punished the Taliban.
Part 4 Proactive Training for an Uncertain Future: IUOE’s Homeland Security Division
Nick Lanzillotto, chief engineer for Merrill Lynch at the World Financial Center and a member of Operating Engineers Local Union 94, watched the attacks on 9/11. “I think all of us who were there were affected in different ways,” he says. “I had to get everybody out, make sure they were safe, but afterward I never had a chance to deal with it, to absorb everything.” He adds: “I feel like there’s still a lot of frustration and aggravation over it. When we got Merrill Lynch back up and running in record time, it wasn’t really done for Merrill. It was done more for the country, to get the stock market up and running again. It had a big effect on the country’s psyche. To me, it seems inconsequential. But now some positive things are being done in response to these attacks. This Homeland Security first-responder training program the Operating Engineers have put together — it’s given us some 90
sense of purpose. We’re doing training here in New York City, and we’re training other guys in how to protect themselves. It really helps. God forbid we ever need to use this training — but it’s been my therapy.” The Operating Engineers at work in lower Manhattan on 9/11 were well trained for their jobs, including knowing how to evacuate a building. But they weren’t adequately trained to cope with such a catastrophe. For instance, as IUOE member James Derella points out elsewhere in this report, they didn’t know they were watching fires that were heating steel well beyond the point where it loses structural integrity. Had they known, the towers and surrounding buildings might have been evacuated sooner and more completely, with less loss of life. That’s hindsight, of course, and conjectural as well. Engineers bravely did what they could — and, as this report has shown, that was a lot — based on the information they had. But one of the first lessons of 9/11 is the need for improved training for firstresponders. Soon after 9/11, General President Frank Hanley asked: “Are we prepared to handle an attack in San Francisco or Chicago, and if we’re not, what should we do to get prepared?” Even while the recovery efforts at Ground Zero were getting under way, the IUOE National Hazmat Program team began to think about how to help IUOE members to better prepare for other terrorists attacks or similar large-scale disasters in the future. Don Carson, leader of the IUOE team at Ground Zero and director of the National Hazmat Program and its International Environmental Technology and Training Center (IETTC), based in Beckley, West Virginia, drew on his experience in hazmat and occupational health and safety to begin identifying 91
some of the flaws evident at the World Trade Center site. One in particular was the lack of a centralized overall incident command center at the site to direct and coordinate all of the recovery efforts. The situation for weeks after the attacks was chaotic, confused, and disjointed. Carson was struck by the contrast to mine rescue procedures following a mine disaster. In the mining industry, as a result of long experience with horrendous disasters and needless loss of life, a formal emergency-response structure has evolved and is codified in law and regulations establishing a clear line of authority and responsibility for rescue and recovery. In a mine rescue situation, representatives of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) go to the scene immediately and assume overall responsibility for everything from making life-and-death decisions about rescue strategies to controlling access to the site. Depending on how mine management and local rescue teams are handling the situation, MSHA may control the site with a light hand or a heavy one. But everyone understands the chain of command. Everyone knows where the buck stops. The mine rescue structure is a useful model that can be adapted to other environments. Carson and his staff quickly realized that the National Hazmat Program could benefit from exposure to mine rescue teams and their command structure, and mine rescue teams could benefit from participating in the National Hazmat Training Program. In pursuit of improved training and response systems, the IETTC immediately began developing training based upon the World Trade Center experiences. A first crossover training program, merging mine rescue teams with Operating Engineers training to create an Enhanced Mine Rescue/Hazmat Training Program, took place in February 2002. Twenty-five West Virginia state inspectors, who made up the West Virginia Mine Rescue team, trained for a week in Homeland Security and Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER). In turn, the mine rescue teams taught the IUOE National Hazmat group about the mine rescue structure. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) supported the training and the development of new training models based upon the experiences and lessons of the World Trade Center. 92
In April 2002, General President Frank Hanley established an ad hoc committee of Operating Engineers members and trainers to develop courses and materials on Homeland Security for Stationary Engineers. On July 15, 2002, General President Hanley created the International Union of Operating Engineers National Homeland Security Division based at the International Environmental Technology and Training Center. Two months later a training class for 60 Operating Engineers members was conducted — one of the first Homeland Security classes in the country. Much like the National Hazmat Program, the National Homeland Security Division training includes a “train-the-trainer” component which permits trainers to conduct their own courses, in turn training Local Union officers and members as well as others. Representatives of several government agencies participated in this training program as observers. Recognizing the need to combine our efforts with other ongoing programs, we have partnered with governmental entities and other groups who have expertise which we can share. Notably we have developed a working relationship with the West Virginia Army National Guard Homeland Security Program and the Center for National Response and Camp Dawson to develop joint training for Operating Engineers members and others, including stationary engineers, in identifying threat indicators, vulnerability assessment, and incident control systems. An additional partnership has also been undertaken with the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service to utilize electronic analysis of evaluation for the training programs. In addition to creating completely new courses, the ongoing courses at the National Hazmat Training Center were modified to include lessons learned from the World Trade Center and Homeland Security courses. A second Mine Rescue Hazmat Training program, this time inviting mine rescue teams from four states and the federal government, was undertaken in August 2002. There were 32 participants in the one-week course. In September 2002, the IETTC conducted the first training session for stationary engineers expressly focusing on Homeland Security concerns. Sixty Operating Engineers participated in the one-week course. In addition to beginning new classes, ongoing training at the IETTC was modified to include Homeland Security components. In the October 2002 93
Train-the-Trainer Course for Master Safety and Health Instructors, a Homeland Security component was added which enhanced the training that these 47 trainers received and enabled every IUOE training center in the country to begin the training of heavy equipment operators in Homeland Security and the lessons learned at the World Trade Center. As a result of the success of these programs, the U.S. Department of Energy contracted with the IUOE to develop a Homeland Security Energy Infrastructure Protection Training Program. This course focuses on protecting energy infrastructures from attack and improving methods of prevention. The first training session was held in December 2002.
If homeland security measures are to be effective wherever the threat of terrorism exists, efforts must be made to reach out to America’s allies. Poland has been strongly allied with the United States since 9/11. Building on a long-standing relationship with the Polish mine rescue system, the IETTC initiated a prototype International Cooperative Homeland Security Program for a Polish Mine Rescue and Security team. As this report was going to press, 20 Polish mine rescuers, police, and firefighters were on their way to the U.S. to begin a one-week course in Homeland Security and HAZWOPER training.
Additional Homeland Security Energy Infrastructure training, with DOE sponsorship, is scheduled to take place in April 2003. Homeland Security Division training focuses first on prevention and then on mitigation of damages. The course, still evolving, covers how to assess your facility’s vulnerabilities, how to protect critical information, and how to prepare a crisis handbook. Training also focuses on different types of attacks — including chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological — and how to deal with them. The basic course covers topics such as hazard communication and personal protective equipment. Special courses have been developed on building security and decreasing building vulnerability, energy infrastructure, and chemical industry protection.
Homeland Security training extends far beyond the training that takes place in Beckley. IUOE’s emphasis on “Training the Trainers” makes the program national in scope and breadth. With their extended reach, graduates of Beckley programs have been able to train more than 3,000 IUOE members and others since October 2002. What distinguishes the Operating Engineers’ efforts from many others is the fact that training is already under way and the lessons of 9/11 are being taught and disseminated nationwide. The Homeland Security Division is working with other organizations and governmental agencies to build on the IUOE’s experience by sharing expertise and developing more joint programs. Soon after Governor Tom Ridge was appointed as President Bush’s advisor on homeland security, General President Hanley informed him of the IUOE’s 95
program and offered assistance. Since the formal organization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), General President Hanley has met with Secretary Ridge and his staff, and planning for joint initiatives is in progress. Current Homeland Security Division program priorities include:
Training materials: Materials development is an ongoing process. Crisis management handbooks and other materials are constantly being refined. Materials focusing on building security, chemical and energy infrastructure facilities, and assessment systems protocol are in use even as they are being expanded and improved. The Homeland Security Division is collaborating with numerous agencies including the West Virginia National Guard, the Center for National Response,
the National Technology Transfer Center at Wheeling Jesuit University, the Orange County Florida Police Department, and the New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia Offices of Homeland Security. • Innovative programs: IUOE aims to develop homeland security training programs that are not redundant to other programs and that meet specifically defined needs as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
Leveraging resources: There are many advantages to working with groups already trained, such as mine rescue teams, in order to leverage resources and expertise.
Integrated training: Groups who will need to work together in a disaster setting should train together. Whenever feasible, the Homeland Security Division will encourage integrated training. An example is a planned training program for Western Pennsylvania emergency responders. The training group will include Operating Engineers stationary engineers and heavy equipment operators, firefighters, police, National Guard, and medical personnel. After training together they will be better equipped to work together in a crisis. Risk identification and prevention: Homeland Security Division training emphasizes prevention, which begins with identification of risks and follow-up to evaluate facility vulnerabilities and opportunities to improve security. Operating Engineers are well positioned to identify risks and to bring them to the attention of those responsible for security. IUOE and the West Virginia National Guard are working together on courses and materials focused on risk identification, assessment, and action.
National Training Smart Card: To facilitate rapid identification of local and regional emergency responders and to improve control of access to disaster sites, the Homeland Security Division is working on the development of a national training ‘smart card’ which will contain a complete record of the card carrier’s training and experience. Discussions are under way with the U.S. Department of Labor and other agencies.
The tragedy of September 11, 2001, taught us many lessons. One is that in an era of multiple threats to our security, the training of emergency responders must take a great leap forward. Another is that Operating Engineers are on the front lines, both in the defense of facilities and in rescue/recovery operations, and should be trained with other emergency responders to respond to terrorist or other crises at their places of work and in their communities. Hazmat and HAZWOPER training must be brought into the 21st century in order to confront the expanded array of threats now facing the United States and other nations. IUOE’s National Homeland Security Division is helping to meet these challenges head-on.
Homeland Security Training at the IUOE’s International Environmental Technology and Training Center (IETTC) February 2002 Mine Rescue / National Hazmat West Virginia Mine Rescue Team 25 participants, 1 week August 2002 Mine Rescue / National Hazmat Mine rescue teams from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia 32 participants, 1 week September 2002 Homeland Security Training 60 stationary engineers, 1 week October 2002 Hazmat refresher / Enhanced Homeland Security Program 47 participants, 3 weeks December 2002 Homeland Security and Energy Infrastructure Course 20 participants, 1 week March-April 2003 International Cooperative Homeland Security Program. 20 participants, 1 week April 2003 Energy Infrastructure Training 20 participants, 1 week
Appendix HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Blair Brin IUOE Local 501 Los Angeles, CA 90057 Mike Catalano IUOE Local 94 N. Babylon, NY 11703 Jim Coates IUOE Local 399 Chicago, IL 60661 Russ Klein IUOE Local 39 Hayward, CA 94541
Sean O’Neill IUOE Local 68 Newark, NJ 07105 Ralph Pascarella IUOE Local 30 Richmond Hill, NY 11418 Jesse Wagner Temple University Philadelphia, PA Rick Watenpool IUOE Local 95 Gibsonia, PA 15044