When the airplanes struck, more than 200 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 3 workers were on site at the World Trade Center Towers. At press time, 16 of these IBEW No. 3 members were counted among the more than 6,000 total missing people. These workers were employed by Denino Electric, Flushing, N.Y.; Forest Electric Corp., New York; Kleinknacht Electric, New York; P.E. Stone Electric, New York; and Petrocelli Electric Co., Long Island City, N.Y.
“Our Local usually had more than 200 workers at the Trade Center because of constant renovations,” said Vincent McElroen, spokesperson for IBEW No. 3. “One worker was killed on his very first day as an electrical apprentice.”
Nine electricians from E-J Electric Installation Co., Long Island City, N.Y., escaped from the World Trade Center before the 110-story Twin Towers collapsed. E-J Electric, which had an office in Tower 2, built and maintained the World Trade Center's entire security system.
One New York electrical distributor lost an employee. Michael Lowe, a delivery driver for Liberty Electrical Supply, Brooklyn, N.Y., was trapped somewhere in the building's lower level just before the towers collapsed.
“I know he was there when that building came down, the No. 1 World Trade Center. He was trapped down in the loading dock and he couldn't get out,” said Claudette Henry, Liberty Electrical's dispatcher.
Lowe was among a number of delivery drivers at the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks, dropping off materials to contractors at the multiple work sites.
Just blocks away from Ground Zero, the Manhattan branch of Kennedy Electrical Supply Corp., Jamaica, N.Y., narrowly escaped falling debris, which landed one city block away. David Weinstein, the company's general manager, described the surreal events his delivery driver witnessed following the crashes.
“We were making a delivery in World Trade Center Building No. 1 when the first plane hit,” Weinstein said. “The next thing our driver, Corey Richardson, knew was that he was in the air being blown over the railing. As bodies started to rain down, Corey left the truck, ran out of the receiving dock and escaped unharmed.”
While the scene inside became chaotic, outside the towers a panicked escape was taking place.
“Several of our drivers watched the plane hit the World Trade Center, as did a number of our outside sales personnel,” Weinstein said. “Our city trucks were beset with people clamoring to exit the area, and as we drove away there were electricians in the cab, truck body, on the roof, on the engine hood and just holding onto the doors. Many people rode this way clear from downtown New York City to our base in Jamaica, Queens. Our World Trade Center truck, however, remains buried under 15 stories of rubble.”
Another area driver narrowly escaped peril after the Sept. 11 crashes. According to Chris Brazill, a rep with Brazill Brothers & Associates Inc., Metuchen, N.J., one of Brazill Brothers' drivers was in the delivery dock with the Kennedy and Liberty drivers and was able to escape.
Just 10 blocks from the World Trade Center site, employees of international distributor Argo International, New York, felt the force of the explosion. When employees went outside to see what happened, many saw the second plane hit.
“No Argo people were hurt, but friends and family members were part of fatalities. It's a sad day for New York City, New York, the United States and the world,” said John SantaCroce, the company's president and chief operating officer.
SantaCroce spoke with authorities on the day of the attack about keeping the Argo building open for rescue teams as a staging area or possibly a hospital, but the staff had to evacuate the facility that afternoon.
While many say that the shock of the event is still lingering, the recovery effort at Ground Zero goes on.
Robert Gargan, the Long Island City branch manager for Graybar Electric Co. Inc., St. Louis, said the emergency personnel require a lot of supplies.
Graybar saw big volume on hardhats, flashlights, batteries, dust masks and gloves, and coordinated that with a lot of different agencies.
Liberty Electrical Supply was one of the local distributors contributing to the search for survivors. The company also donated thousands of hard hats and pairs of gloves, as well as tools, clothes and rain gear.
“On Friday evening after the attacks, we were in the convoy with the New York City Fire Department to deliver supplies to Ground Zero,” said Stephen Mayer, the company's chief financial officer. “The devastation was just beyond belief.”
A number of distributors responded to the tragedy by making their services available 24 hours a day.
Kennedy Electrical Supply faxed an emergency contact sheet to all 1,200 customers listing the home numbers, Nextel codes and cell numbers of all managers and salespeople capable of opening any of its five locations for 24/7 service, Kennedy Electrical's Weinstein said. “It isn't about business. It's about coping with the unthinkable and getting through the emergencies that each day brings.”
W.W. Grainger Inc., Chicago, is keeping its Varick-Street branch near Ground Zero open 24 hours a day as the recovery effort continues. The company mobilized $1 million in cash and emergency supplies, and pooled emergency supplies from its 20 locations within 100 miles of Ground Zero.