Witnesses, rescuers, relief workers and others

Author: Notre Dame Magazine

Sophomore Tom Galvin‘s father, Thomas Galvin Sr., deputy chief of the New York fire department’s Division 3, was inside the Marriott hotel adjacent to the World Trade Center’s first-hit (north) tower and about to take command of operations in the south when the south tower collapsed. About 40 firefighters were in the hotel at the time, and he was among the 30 who escaped. . . . NBC News correspondent Anne Thompson ’79 was at home on the upper east side of Manhattan and getting ready to go to work when she saw the first tower burning on television. The newsroom told her to get down to the World Trade Center. A cab could take her only as far as the Manhattan Bridge, so she started walking toward the office complex, still more than a mile away. She was hoping to spot an NBC camera crew and satellite truck along the way but never did. At Fulton and Broadway, a block or two from the towers, she says, she heard an earthshaking rumble followed by a tidal wave of dust, soot, ash and heat coming down Broadway — the collapse of the south tower. Unable to outrun the cloud, she pressed herself against a building and covered her face for what seemed like five minutes. Debris rained down. “A beautiful sunny day went black. It was almost impossible to breathe. I choked on all the sediment in the air.” It was only after she went into the building, she says, that she learned what had happened. The building’s staff gave her and the others seeking refuge towels and water along with face masks. She phoned the news desk again, found out where the network’s satellite trucks were and headed back outside. “I got about 15 yards from the building and I heard the rumble again,” she says. As she raced back inside, the north tower came down, sending dust and debris into her building through its broken windows. A fire marshal eventually told everyone they had to leave the building because it might not survive another explosion or collapse. Her navy blue suit gray with ash, her hair matted, her eyes red from all the dust clinging to her contacts, she began walking up Broadway wearing the face mask. She says it took another hour of walking and two more phone calls before she finally found a news crew and truck. She went live on the Today Show and began reporting for the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. . . . Joe Delaney, a senior executive with the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche and president of the Notre Dame Club of Staten Island, helped develop a disaster management plan for his company’s more than 4,000 employees in the World Financial Center (across the street from the World Trade Center) after the first WTC bombing in 1993. He witnessed the second plane hit the towers and then helped evacuate. He was two blocks away when the south tower imploded. Some people suffered respiratory problems from the dust cloud, he says, but Deloitte & Touche lost only one employee. In 1994 the accounting firm moved out of the World Trade Center because of the parking garage bombing. The firm had occupied what became Cantor Fitzgerald space, says George Travers ’90, a partner with Deloitte & Touche. . . . Lou Zacharilla ’80 M.A. had worked in the second tower as senior partner and co-founder of Alan Anthony Inc., a strategic business development firm. But the company was unable to negotiate a new lease on its 86th-floor space and on August 7 moved to a building five blocks southeast of the complex. . . . Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw nearly became a victim of the airliner hijackings. In planning a September recruiting trip with a stop in New England, she originally reserved a seat on United Flight 175, which became the second plane flown into the World Trade Center. Fortunately, one of her assistant coaches convinced her to leave from the Providence, Rhode Island, airport instead. He was taking a flight home out of that airport the same day. The two ended up driving a rental car back to South Bend along with men’s head coach Mike Brey, whom they ran into in the airport. . . . In September 2000 Greg de Sousa ’95 gave up his job in the financial world to become a New York City firefighter. Nine months after graduating from the fire academy, word of the attacks reached the fire company where he was working, 12 miles north of Manhattan. He became part of the rescue and recovery crew at Ground Zero and later described the experience in a piece for a special issue of Scholastic magazine (see links). . . . . Officer Tim Malin ’99 of New York’s 13th Precinct (Gramercy Park) finished his shift at 8:30 the morning of September 11 and headed home on a train to Westchester, New York. When he arrived, he turned around and went back to participate in the rescue and recovery effort. Malin had worked for the dotcom DoubleClick Inc. before deciding to become a police officer. His precinct lost two people. . . . Officer Paul Mertens, son of Jack Mertens ’54, also helped extract bodies from the rubble at Ground Zero. One was a comrade whose wedding he had attended two months earlier. Another son of Jack Mertens was with a volunteer fire company that went to the Bronx to cover the neighborhood while its local company was called to the trade center. . . . Firefighter Fred Cassel ’86 of the Linden (New Jersey) Fire Department joined other professional and volunteer firefighters from Union County to cover the Staten Island area so its companies could respond to the emergency. After two days he and a few coworkers joined in the work at Ground Zero. For months afterward he and other volunteers continued to work at the landfill in Staten Island where debris has been taken. They searched for Vehicle Identification Numbers of destroyed vehicles, possible body parts, aircraft parts, and any other personal effects or seemingly important items. . . . Mine Safety Appliances Company in Pittsburgh, headed by John T. Ryan III ’65, chairman and CEO, shipped truckloads of gas masks and other essential equipment to Ground Zero. . . . Bradley Mayer ’92 witnessed the attack while walking his dog across the East River in Brooklyn. He later agreed to serve as art director on the national relief telethon America: A Tribute to Heroes. He was asked to volunteer his talents (no one associated with the program was paid) by the show’s production designer, with whom he’d worked previously on such projects as the GQ Men of the Year Awards, MTV/VH1 telecasts, Faith Hill and Marilyn Manson concert tours, and the Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus. . . . Mike McNerney ’90 was seated at his computer and had just taken a look at the scene of the burning World Trade Center on CNN.com when his own building was jolted. He was working in the innermost ring of the Pentagon. He says he figured a bomb had gone off. “I didn’t even consider a plane. Go figure.” McNerney is a policy analyst in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs. As of late November he was spending the majority of his time supporting the Defense Department’s role in humanitarian relief in Afghanistan. Last summer he was supposed to relocate to new offices in the area of the Pentagon hit by the plane, but the move was postponed due to administrative reorganization and delays putting finishing touches on the offices. . . . Two days after the attack, Tom Gibbons ’84, Notre Dame’s regional director of development for New York City, and friend Jeff Alton ’84, a financial consultant, went down to Ground Zero to see if they could lend a hand. They ended up collecting food from nearby stores and restaurants for the work crews and helping shuttle workers in and out of the site. On Thursday they were assigned to a FEMA support site and worked the night shift. On Friday they reported at 11 p.m. and didn’t leave till 5 p.m. the next day. . . . At one point Gibbons looked up and recognized former Notre Dame football player Mike Rosenthal ’99, now with the New York Giants. He was there with his wife, Lindsay ’99, and two other alumni who play for the Giants, Dusty Zeigler ’96 and Luke Pettigout ’98. The group had been doing volunteer work in New Jersey and came over to cheer up the troops and see the devastation up close. . . . At a memorial service September 20 in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Philip Purcell ’69, chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Company, talked of the heroism of Cyril “Rick” Rescorla, the company’s first vice president for security. Rescorla led the evacuation of Morgan Stanley employees from the second tower. He perished when he went back to check for stragglers. Purcell likened him to the Good Shepherd in the Bible who looks for the one sheep missing from the flock. . . . ND law professor Jimmy Gurule, on leave while he serves as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for enforcement, is overseeing the investigation into the money trail behind the terrorist attacks. . . . . Father Malloy visited Ground Zero 40 days after the attacks as the guest of New York City Police Sergeant Eddie Colton, one of the officers who came out to campus for October’s Blue Mass. Monk toured the entire site and even descended into the remains of the south tower. At the temporary morgue at the site, everyone had a story to tell, Monk wrote in his journal from the trip. The towers were office buildings, “Yet, in the rubble, they had found no glass, no desks, no filing cabinets, no evidence of the primary work that went on.” Someone told him that the search dogs, trained to find people trapped at disaster sites, were becoming emotionally scarred from sniffing out only cadavers. To revive the dogs’ spirits, the rescue units had begun staging simulated rescues with live people.