NYC Firefighter, Contractor Speaks Out

How did September 11 affect my business?

Where does one start?

I am a heartbroken, proud NYC firefighter. I always worked in the fire-busiest companies in NYC. I will be retiring soon. I have also worked in the plumbing and hvac field for over 25 years. A little over three years ago, I started my own hvac business so I would be able to finish my 20 years with the city and support my family.

As I watched the fire and then the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings, I knew then that hundreds of my friends just died. My legs went weak. It was just announced that a fifth alarm was operating in each tower. That would put over 100 men in each building.

I wanted to race down to the spot immediately but couldn’t. I was already on duty, manning the station I was assigned to. I had to be strong. I’m an officer. I had to stand tall for my men, but I felt like sitting down and weeping. The junior men said they felt like quitting right there on the spot. It was my job to talk them into being strong and not to quit — and at that moment that was the last thing I felt like dealing with.

The city seemed to be under martial law. I was working in Harlem, which is uptown from the WTC. The traffic was stopped from going downtown. Police cars were racing everywhere and F-14 fighter jets were flying overhead. I think I was in shock for the first two days. None of it seemed possible. There was a mass exodus all day — trucks and cars were leaving the city. No one except police, fire, and emergency medics were allowed to enter the city.

The last thing I was thinking about was my hvac business. It’s a good thing for good office personnel. The second day after the attack, we were closed. We still haven’t recovered. Customers are somber and want to talk about the attack.

I try to go on estimates in between working and going to funerals. Sales are way down.

When I have gone to contractor conventions I have met people from all over the United States with common interests. Usually people joke about not wanting to be in NYC or ever wanting to go there.

I have been here all my life, and this past week even surprised me. The gratitude, praise, thanks, letters, and support have been overwhelming. I, like so many others, have been working in ground zero around the clock. The difference is, I am working with men and women from all over the U.S.

No strong egos, attitudes, or problems. Everyone is working together in a dangerous setting with one common goal. It truly shows the American spirit.

Duane Marcy, owner AirNow Nassau County, NY

Publication date: 10/08/2001