“Though I live in California now, I used to live in New Jersey. The World Trade Center towers could be seen from my backyard. I was also a volunteer firefighter there. So, that fateful morning was very emotional for me. One year later, I still get choked up when I watch it on television or read about it. It’s very painful. I hope our country never forgets.”
Joe Barbarotta
Sales Manager
Haldeman Inc.
Los Angeles, CA

Michael Senter recalls that morning all too vividly. It’s noticeable in his voice and his eyes. The CEO of ABCO Refrigeration remembers watching the horror unfold before him while standing outside his company’s Long Island City headquarters, located in Queens, just across the East River from midtown Manhattan.

“Just one year ago,” begins Senter, starting out slowly but gradually picking up speed, “we stood in front of our headquarters in Long Island City and watched the towers burn and ultimately fall as fire engines, police cars, and ambulances streamed past our building.”

There is a slight pause, as if Senter has stopped to review the agonizing pictures of September 11, 2001. They just won’t go away.

“Truthfully, 9/11/01 seems as though it happened just yesterday and, at the same time, it seems as though it has been an incredibly long year since it occurred,” he finally says. “Although we at ABCO Refrigeration did many things in the days and months following 9/11/01 to contribute to the relief effort — from donating ice machines to the blood bank, air conditioners to the police, clothing, food, and cash to central relief funds, and authorizing employees to donate time to the relief effort at full pay” (there’s another slight pause) “— nothing ever felt adequate, not in the face of the magnitude of the loss suffered by one child, one wife, one mother, one father.”

“I remembered watching Pearl Harbor during the holiday season, and realized each generation will have its struggle, a time that we are unprepared for the next thing in our lives, the loss of innocent life on a mass scale or a single life, the unity it brings forth in one’s beliefs and country. I think of my sons, and it scares me, but I’ll go on with my faith. Out of all bad comes the good, and a lot of good has come since [9/11].”
Karen Gery
Operations Manager
Gery Heating & Cooling
Pittsburgh, PA

Here at The News, we debated writing about that fateful day. After all, this is a trade publication, not a daily newspaper. In this case, I truly believe it’s in the best interest of this industry, and the country in general, for everyone to look back at what happened that day as we approach the one-year anniversary.

When we think of an anniversary, we usually think of something joyful, like a birthday or a wedding anniversary. Not September 11, 2001. Yet here we are, almost a year later, and it is still hard to fathom. To understand. To make sense of.

“The events of September 11 made me step back and take a much harder look at just how lucky Americans are to have freedom in everyday life activities.”
Mark Willingham
Service Technician
Aircond Corp.
Columbia, SC

Senter, who oversees 16 branches (more than a few are located near or in New York City), still gets goose bumps when he talks about that day.

“With respect to commemorating 9/11/01, we truly believed if we were to do or say anything at all, we wanted to be, first and foremost, respectful of the many thousands of people who had lost loved ones just one year ago,” he says.

“As large and complex as New York City may seem at times, it seemed like a small town after 9/11/01. Everyone knew someone who had lost a loved one: a senior vice president’s cousin, who was an officer in the Port Authority police; a best friend of our Long Island City branch manager, a firefighter who perished and left behind young children and a young wife; a neighbor who was a partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, who left behind a wife and four children under the age of 10 … and many, many others.”

Senter is thankful not one of his 250 employees died that day. BP Air Conditioning Corp., a NYC mechanical service contractor, was not as fortunate. Technicians Felix Calixte and Arturo Sereno perished in the towers’ collapse.

“On 9/11, BP will be hosting a memorial for the men lost,” says Jack Fanneron, VP of service. “We will be installing a bronze plaque on our building in their honor.”

The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association (PHCC) also lost one of its own, Norma Khan, the manager of member services. She was aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon.

“We are fast approaching the day that all of us Americans will never forget. And we at PHCC will never forget our friend and coworker Norma,” says Bill Trombley, PHCC’s president. “On September 11, 2001, we were about to start our annual meeting and our national convention. But that day and the events to come would change our moods from a happy fun-filled week to one that I will never forget.

“Early that day, we received the sad news about Norma. You can expect what happened then — I felt lost that this happened to someone I knew. I asked myself why, and what happens next to her son?”

Soon after 9/11/01, PHCC established a scholarship for Nor-ma’s son, Imran, who is now living with his uncle, Norma’s brother, an American Airlines pilot. Imran’s scholarship fund now has more than $124,000, and when he is ready for school, PHCC says it is ready to help.

“I had the privilege to meet with Imran and his family at the PHCC office shortly after the tragedy,” continues Trombley.

“I know that Norma is with God today, and she is keeping her watchful eye on her son. At this year’s convention, I am planning a tribute to Norma to remind everyone that she was our friend and coworker, and that PHCC has felt a deep loss and will never forget September 11, 2001.”

Charlie Wallace, Quality Service Contractors’ executive director, says, “If there is a parade in heaven, I believe that Norma would be out in front, waving the biggest American flag. She is leading all the others who perished with her. She wants this senseless killing to stop.”

“I was watching live coverage of the first attack when the second plane went in. I think about the children who will not see their mothers or fathers again. I think about the husbands and wives who had their life partners taken away before it was time. I think about the moms and dads who had to bury their children. I think about the folks on the flight that went down in Pennsylvania, fighting to save their lives and the lives of countless others who would have perished.”
Mark Hunt
Comfortable Home Technologies
Ballston Lake, NY

Like most Americans, ABCO Refrigeration is not about to let September 11 go by without doing something. At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2002, there will be a moment of silence at every ABCO Refrigeration branch, from Brooklyn to Staten Island to the Bronx. Customers are being asked to join in for that moment, before having breakfast and conversation.

Senter ordered more than 10,000 copies of a special edition of its ABCO Gram newsletter. Pictured on the black-lined cover is the American flag, with the word “Courage” above the flag. Contained in the four-page newsletter are historic speeches that are planned to be read the morning of September 11, 2002, at the Trade Center site. Included in the mix are Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (Nov. 19, 1863), Franklin Roosevelt’s “The Four Freedoms” speech (Jan. 6, 1941), the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Preamble to the United States Constitution.

“On the cover of the special ABCO Gram, we defined ‘courage’ as we did one year ago on the title cover of the ABCO Gram that followed September 11, 2001 — ‘Courage: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, or pain with moral strength and endurance.’”

We are sure that you, our readers, will remember September 11, 2001 in your own ways. And never forget it.

The News conducted a Web survey requesting comments from readers as to how September 11, 2001, affected them personally and professionally. You can view these and additional memorial comments in the accompanying article “Web Exclusive: Comments From The News’ Sept. 11 Poll.”

Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446; 248-362-0317 (fax); markskaer@achrnews.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 09/09/2002