Coping With Tragedy’s Aftermath

September 21, 2001
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The September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, have left an indelible scar on many people and businesses. The hvacr trade is no exception.

The loss of life in the New York City service fitter local union was miraculously low, according to Jack Fanneron, vice president of BP Air Conditioning Corp., a NYC mechanical service contractor, but Fanneron said that two of his employees are still missing.

“The pain is tremendous,” he said.

The two BP technicians were in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center (WTC) at the time of the attacks. Both men are unaccounted for, and the company is having a hard time coming to grips with this. “One of the men has been with us for over 16 years and our other tech is a promising new apprentice,” Fanneron said.

The families of the missing men are awaiting any word and have asked for privacy at this time. Fanneron said his company is in the process of setting up a fund for these families.

Just the week prior to the attacks, BP, along with its subcontractors, had 25 to 30 workers on one project alone at the World Trade Center, according to Fanneron. “We had just completed a large project on several of the floors at 1 WTC,” he said.

Fanneron said that quite a few of his company’s clients lost their places of business, and that “BP is missing many of our friends and clients in this tragedy, and we are sincerely appreciative of the rescue efforts which are under way and pray for those lost in these heroic efforts.

“Our company is trying to comfort each another during this trauma that has taken place, hoping that the rescuers will find our missing. I believe our hope is not in our money, our work, our hobbies, and not even in our government, rather in the peace of God.”

John Losey, founder and ceo of BP, said, “We must push on and begin to leave our destiny in God’s hands. We must get back to the basics; it was written by our forefathers and can be read on every coin and dollar bill we use daily: ‘In God We Trust.’”



The Effects Spread

John Ottaviano and Tony Cutaia are the owners of Air Ideal in Mineola, NY. “All of our techs made it out of downtown unscathed,” Ottaviano said. “A few watched helplessly on rooftops as the buildings burned before [the techs started] fleeing the city.

“Our project manager, Bob Matullo, had a heart attack, most likely brought on by all of the stress that we have been feeling this week,” Ottaviano continued. “However, he is in stable condition at the Cardiac Care Unit at North Shore University Hospital.”

Ottaviano said that the short-term effects on business will be tough. “The majority of our business is in Manhattan and unfortunately, this tragedy has virtually stopped all commerce here. The economic outlook was already anemic and now the phone is silent. Our 800 number was knocked out; it is controlled in the area of the disaster. We also have no long-distance outgoing service. All of the major highways have been closed for emergency vehicles only.”

Cutaia described some of the chaos that day:

“We had three trucks in Manhattan. We made temporary contact with one technician who was watching the horror show from the rooftop of a building at 17th Street, a short distance away. He was so frightened and excited he could barely explain what he was seeing.

“We never made contact with the other two men in the city,” Cutaia said. “It was our intention to get them out of there quickly, [but] it was a communication blackout. No cell phones, beepers, or land-line phones were of help.

“When a radio announcement reported the closing of all bridges and tunnels, we knew our techs were trapped in the city. It wasn’t until 7 p.m. that night that I got word that all our people were home safe.”

News reader and hvac servicer Ray Velten said that when the planes hit WTC buildings 1 and 2, he “was in a subbasement Tuesday morning at 5th and 6th avenue in the city doing start-ups on some new equipment, and couldn’t believe what I was hearing on the radio.

“Every tech in New York City [was] thinking of how many times they were in and around the towers,” he said, “working either on the roofs or in the basements. I did a six-month start-up in 7 World Trade during a renovation and can’t even conceive of it falling down like a ‘house of cards’ — unbelievable — 850-ton chillers falling to the ground from penthouse machine rooms.”



Making Donations

Velten recommended that those interested in donating cash or equipment for the benefit of police, firefighters, and rescue/recovery workers send it to the address listed below.

He added this extra advice: “Don’t donate to any people over the phone or by mailings, and never give a credit card number out; do it all with checks or other traceable means.”

Velten said the rescue teams need “dry socks, cough drops for the rescuers working in the dust... everything from dog food and treats for the rescue dogs to food for all the humans…prayers and donations are the most important things.”

Velten added these personal and professional notes: “I drive across the 59th Street bridge every morning and I am still wondering, ‘Where did they move the towers to?’ And I know for a fact that some hvac guys were lost... so pray for them.

“New Yorkers are on the job with their hearts and cheers as the days pass,” Velten said. “People in Manhattan are actually making eye contact with each other and are striking up conversations on the disbelief that they [the WTC buildings] fell down. And I haven’t heard a horn blowing in days with all those cabs; if you have ever been here, you know what I mean.”



The Relief Effort

Brian Hughes, of Hughes Environmental Engineering in nearby Montvale, NJ, said his company was called on to help start-up refrigerated plants to serve as mortuaries.

“We had offered our assistance to the relief effort, and the New York City Economic Development Corp. (EDC) asked us to be on standby for emergency refrigeration needs,” Hughes said. “On Wednesday, they offered to give us a police escort to the Bronx to start up a mothballed refrigerated warehouse that they could use for a morgue.

“Sadly, there were not that many bodies to be found, so they scrapped that plan and we didn’t hear from them again until Friday. They asked us to send a crew to Staten Island Saturday to fire up some screw compressors with Caterpillar gas driven engines for a refrigerated plant that had been shut down for some time. We worked all day, but the entire system was out of refrigerant; so we offered to work Sunday, but the EDC informed us that they didn’t have enough bodies yet.

“I heard that they were putting bodies in refrigerated trailers from the Tropicana plant in Jersey City, NJ, but they quickly realized that the morgue could be a huge operation in place for many months while investigations are performed.”

Hoshizaki America, Inc., manufacturer of ice machines, refrigerators, freezers, and related equipment, donated equipment valued at $20,000 to the disaster relief efforts in New York City. In an attempt to assist rescue workers, the manufacturer is donating refrigerators, ice and water dispensers, icemakers, walk-in coolers, and an electrolyzed water system.

“With a crisis of this nature, everyone’s life is touched. I hope our donation in some way helps those who are supporting the rescue efforts,” stated Mark McClanahan, senior vice president of Hoshizaki America, Inc.

Dario Stanzini, vice president of Hoshizaki Northeastern Distribution Center in Bayshore, NY, is working closely with the Federal Emergency Management Association and the State Emergency Management Organi-zation to expedite the delivery and installation of the equipment.



The Pentagon

Jim Gray, hvac service manager from Varney Electric Co. in Roanoke, VA, said he has a personal link to the attack on the Pentagon.

“My daughter’s brother-in-law, Major Jerry Dickerson, U.S. Army, is missing in the Pentagon,” Gray said. “He was attached to the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“The story that the family is getting is that he helped several people out and went back in to help a women trapped in an office close to his and now both of them are missing.”

For information regarding donations to the families of the missing BP employees, contact John Losey at 718-383-2100; BPTrust@BPAir.com (e-mail).

To donate cash or equipment for the benefit of police, firefighters, and rescue/recovery workers in NYC, send it to The Twin Towers Fund, General Post Office, P.O. Box 26999, New York, NY 10087-6999.

News editors B. Checket-Hanks, Greg Mazurkiewicz, and Peter Powell contributed to this article.

Sidebar: PHCC Sets Up Fund for Norma Khan’s Son

The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association (PHCC) decided at last week’s conference in Reno, NV, to establish a scholarship fund for 13-year-old Imran Khan, the son of PHCC member services manager Norma Khan.

Ms. Khan perished in American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon on September 11.

Contributions may be sent to PHCC Educational Foundation, 180 S. Washington St., Falls Church, VA 22046. Please make any checks out to the PHCC Educational Foundation Scholarship Fund, with a notation that the donation is for the Imran Khan Fund.

Sidebar: How You Can Help

Here are a few numbers you can call to give help during this time of need:

  • To donate blood, call the Red Cross at 800-GIVE-LIFE or America’s Blood Centers at 888-BLOOD-88 to schedule an appointment.
  • To donate money to the Red Cross for assisting victims of the attacks, call 800-HELP-NOW.
  • To donate to the United Way fund to help the victims of the attacks and their families, call 212-251-4035.
  • To make donations to the Salvation Army for helping the victims, call 800-SAL-ARMY.
  • Publication date: 09/24/2001

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