Alex Philippidis Remembers 9/11

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WPCNR NEWS AND COMMENT. From Alex Philippidis of Genome Web Daily News, Mary Ann Leibert, Inc.  September 11, 2016:

Alex, well-known local reporter around Westchester County for the last 30 years sent along this remembrance.

Two weeks after 9/11, I wrote this article sharing this story of something good that came from something evil… No link to this story exists any more, so I copy it in its entirety below:

Helping the heroes

From: Westchester County Business Journal, Oct. 1, 2001

“The World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a living representation of man’s belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his belief in the cooperation of men, and through this cooperation, his ability to find greatness.” – Minoru Yamasaki, architect of the Twin Towers

Nearly three weeks have passed, but the memories are as fresh as ever for Jay Martino and 50 of his colleagues about the hell they witnessed at Ground Zero of the terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center.

“It’s an unimaginable site of destruction. You search your mind to come up with the right verbiage, the right adjectives. How can I describe what I saw? It’s a horrific scene,” said Martino, a general superintendent with Granite/Halmar Construction Co. of Mount Vernon.

Martino, head of the Masons & Concrete Contractors Association of Hudson Valley Inc., led a team of workers who answered their industry’s call to send volunteers and heavy machines to the tons of wreckage that comprised the Twin Towers and five smaller buildings.

Granite/Halmar was among dozens of construction contractors in and around Westchester that sent resources to the World Trade Center in response to a memo distributed to all 650 members of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) of Westchester and Hudson Valley Inc. of Tarrytown.

Yonkers Contracting Co., which helped build the World Trade Center in the 1970s, donated 100 trucks to the rescue effort, while Tilcon New York Inc. of West Nyack and four subcontractors donated equipment and personnel from their 21 quarry and asphalt facilities in New York and New Jersey.

“I think more than any other industry, construction contractors and workers comprehend the enormity of the task at hand because we understand the magnitude of what it takes to create such magnificent structures and buildings,” said Ross J. Pepe, CIC president.

“Everyone in our industry has a deep and new-found appreciation of the ironworkers, operating engineers, laborers, Teamsters and other union workers now at the site as the world watches these guys on TV doing a job that nobody would ever want to do.”

The World Trade Center took half a decade to build, but only two hours for terrorists to level in the series of attacks that shook the world on Sept. 11.

County construction industry responds
The following day when CIC asked for volunteers, hundreds answered the call. Fifty of them came from Granite/Halmar, which had hired them for its many projects under construction – such as the new international arrivals terminal and an expansion of the British Airways terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“They said they needed cutoff saws, tools, oxygen tanks, manpower. So I put the call out to all of our foreman asking if any of them would volunteer,” Martino recalled “We loaded a half-dozen pickup trucks with oxygen and acetylene gas tanks, plus dust masks, goggles, safety glasses.”

The Granite/Halmar men joined other CIC member companies in assembling at Yonkers Raceway, then following a state police escort south to lower Manhattan. Authorities have divided the area in and around the World Trade Center into four zones, each overseen by a construction contractor: AMEC p.l.c.; Tully Construction Inc.; a joint venture of Turner Construction and Plaza Materials Inc.; and Bovis Lend Lease and two subcontractors, Grace Industries Inc. and Gateway.

Granite/Halmar entered the site working for AMEC, which controls the northwest zone of the recovery area, Granite/Halmar had worked for AMEC at the Kennedy airport projects.

“We hooked up with a firefighter, a captain. He escorted us to ground zero. Right away we went to work with the firemen. They were elated to see us. They had nothing. They had no cutoff saws we could see. They had one set of torches. They were working their way through the pile of rubble with picks and shovels. Everything was done by hand,” Martino said.

“We were cutting steel into pieces. We took everything we could handle and loaded it into 5-gallon barrels, then kept passing them on down the line,” Martino said. “We worked till late in the evening, 11 or 12 o’clock at night.

“It was just amazing, the amount of debris and structural steel there was around. You stood on steel beams that had just collapsed. You’d look at the steel and it was completely clean.

There was no concrete to be found. You didn’t see any chunks of concrete. The fire was so great the concrete had disintegrated.
“You’d see bits and pieces of carpet, and every once in a while, there would be a bumper to a vehicle. You stood on the steel beams which had collapsed,” Martino said.

Not once during their time at Ground Zero did Martino or his men spot any bodies, or any parts of bodies.

“I was not looking forward to anything like that. I was looking to help and I would have gone anywhere I was told to go. But I kept wondering. What would I do if I saw something? How would I react?”

An especially welcome sight, Martino said, was the hundreds of volunteers who catered to weary rescuers: “Every time you turned around, you heard. Do you need something to drink? Do you want something to eat? They had buckets of water and Gatorade. They had Power Bars.”

Just three years ago Martino and workers from GraniteHalmar’s predecessor, Halmar Builders of New York Inc., transformed the drab exterior public space outside the World Trade Center into World Trade Center Plaza, a public plaza complete with granite pavement and landscaped areas.

Looking at a poster-sized photo of the plaza outside his office, Martino paused. “I feel funny seeing the pictures of it now.”



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