Invisible heroes

The attention lauded on the New York police, firefighters, and other rescue workers -- both living and dead -- in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster has been tremendous. And rightly so. They are bona fide heroes.But there is another group of people who have remained relatively invisible -- the facilities professionals who worked there in near obscurity.

By Richard L. Dunn Editor November 1, 2001

Reader response to “Invisible Heroes” editorial:

Accolades to the French response
Restore our morals
Emotional reflection on Sept. 11

Invisible Heroes

The attention lauded on the New York police, firefighters, and other rescue workers — both living and dead — in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster has been tremendous. And rightly so. They are bona fide heroes.

But there is another group of people who have remained relatively invisible — the facilities professionals who worked there in near obscurity, deep within the bowels of their buildings, operating and maintaining the massive machinery that gave the buildings life. They provided the hearts to pump water through the buildings’ arteries and the lungs to provide clean, conditioned air to the spaces. They moved the buildings’ occupants and lighted their way.

The Sunday, October 14, edition of the New York Times included a fine tribute to these people under the headline, “Towers’ Keepers Rushed Back into Danger.” And The History Channel in October ran a program recorded months before the disaster that told about the construction and operation of the “city within a city” that was the World Trade Center.

By any standard, the infrastructure of the World Trade Center was formidable. The 110-story twin towers enclosed an acre on each floor, some 4 million sq ft of space per tower. The air conditioning system moved 9 million cu ft of air per min. And the Operations Control Center handled some 30,000 work orders per year.

As The History Channel program host Harry K. Smith said, its program originally had been meant as a tribute to the people who made it all possible; now it was an obituary.

The NY Times and The History Channel told the stories of 15 of these invisible heroes who died September 11. They are: Douglas Karpiloff, Edward Calderon, Joseph Amatuccio, Francis Riccardelli, Edward Strauss, Eugene Raggio, James Barbella, Ken Grouzalis, Frank De Martini, Carlos Decosta, Anthony Savas, Pete Negron, David Ortiz, Robert Lynch, and Roko Kamaj.

The New York chapter of the Association for Facilities Engineering (AFE) is leading an effort to identify the facilities professionals who died that day. And to help their families, the AFE Foundation has established a memorial fund. If you would like to contribute a donation, please make your check payable to AFE Family Relief Fund and send it to:

AFE Headquarters

8180 Corporate Park Dr., Suite 305

Cincinnati, OH 45242

Credit card donations can be phoned to 513-489-2473.

Regarding the October PLANT ENGINEERING editorial in which you gave accolades to the French for their offer of help and direct assistance at the time: I wish to thank the editor for his comments.

I also wish to note, that as an American who has lived and worked in Europe, on and off, for most of my life, I was not as surprised as the editor seemed to be by the French sentiments.

As Americans, either we have forgotten most of the world’s history, so eager are we to concentrate on the future, or the fact that history has been constantly rearranged by revisionist historians to such a level that the truth has been lost. But as Americans we should never forget the French, as they were there at the beginning…

You may remember that the French were our first allies in the American War of Independence .nch, we may still have been a British colony, at least, until much later.  In fact, Britain actually declared war on France because of the newly signed commercial treaty with the Americans in 1778. 

As you of course know from our American history, fresh from the French victory at Newport, the French fleet (under Admiral Fran%%CBOTTMDT%%ois Paul) moved south and prevented Cornwallis from being resupplied (or some say evacuated) by English ships at Yorktown. Often overlooked by our American history books is the fact that half of Washington’s troops at Yorktown were French. (Some 5000 were under Gen. Jean Baptiste de Vimeur and another 3000 under the Marquis de Lafayette. Yes, this was the same Marquis de Lafayette that just a few months earlier had led thousands of people against the Palace in Versailles leaving the King of France, Louis XVI, under de facto house arrest).defend their shores against the British at home.

Surprisingly, and against much American prejudice, politically I find the French most like Americans in spirit, as evidenced in the famous French tri-anthem of Liberte , Égalite , and Fraternite . These are really just a French abbreviation for saying the same thing that we say in the American Declaration of Independence mixed with the Constitutional Bill of Rights.

I have great admiration and respect for the French in their human spirit, their humor, and their attitude toward life — all of which is reflected in their society, culture, and public projects, although throughout history they have sometimes been a real pain in the behind. Our “special relationship” with Britain will always be different from our relationship with France.

It may not have escaped your notice that the second world leader to arrive in New York just after Tony Blair was Jacques Chirac, the President of there.  

Your October editorial was terrific. Of all that I’ve read about September 11 — and everyone has shared an opinion — I believe yours most captured the way much of the world reacted and rallied around us.

— John Pepper

I like your editorials and look forward to them in each issue. There is always something that I can relate to or use — things I have forgotten over the years, or things that remind me of tasks that need to be done. I have worked in the engineering field for more than 30 years. I served my country in the late‘60s, and it seems like yesterday. Since the September 11 disaster, the world as we have known it will never be the same. It is our generation that is responsible for this. Our morals have been set aside. We have raised our children with new morals, not our fathers’ and forefathers’. It is time we get back to basics. In God we trust. Believe in the Constitution that our Forefathers have laid down for us, the Commandments that our Father laid down for us, and the men that died for us. Train a child in the way that he should go, and he will never depart from it.

— Gary Tibbals

— Carl DeCaspers

emotion your editorial in October. Your reflections on the events of September 11 brought out feelings in me that seemed to have receded to the back of my mind. We were lucky that day. Our daughter was in Tower #1 when it was hit. She, by the grace of God, escaped from floor 61. My wife and I sat by the phone for four long hours that morning not knowing if our daughter was all right — the longest, most terrible hours of our lives. But the call came from her that she had fled to the South Street seaport and was able to get a ferry to Jersey City. Everything you wrote is true and most certainly came from the heart. Thank you sincerely.

— George Mills