by Allan Rosen
Few people realize the hard work and sacrifices made by MTA employees on September 11, and during the six months afterward shifting through the debris. Unlike the fire and police departments and the Port Authority, the MTA suffered no casualties, although 120 family members were lost and some of the first responders are still suffering the after-affects on their health.
Nine years later, on September 13, the MTA held a commemorative service for those employees through a very moving heartfelt ceremony in Battery Park in front of the damaged Sphere removed from the Trade Center site and near New York City Transit headquarters at 2 Broadway. Several people found it difficult to speak recalling the events of that horrific day, as if it were yesterday.
First responders including a train operator, a bus superintendent, a Response Team Supervisor, and a Chaplain eloquently described what it felt like to be there that day. From the MTA employees who guided people to safety to the heavy lifters searching for survivors and later for bodies, to the bus drivers shuttling rescue workers and victims’ families, each did their part exceedingly well. As one of the speakers put it, there was no one giving orders, and if you paid these people a million dollars, they could have not worked any harder.
You can say many bad things about the MTA, but in times of crisis, the agency excels. I know how many people were involved, and the extent of the efforts of New York City Transit and Bridges and Tunnels employees, because I was an MTA employee at the time and was called upon to assemble the charges to be submitted to the consortium of Insurance companies for reimbursement. That effort took me three years and resulted in a check to the MTA for $30 million. The documentation consisted of 30 volumes that was two feet thick, with the size of type used in a telephone book.
Pictured in front of the sphere at the left are Jay Walder, MTA Chairman and Tom Prendergast, NYCT President to his right. Some of the other speakers are also shown. According to the modest brochure handed out, The Sphere designed by Fritz Koenig (45,000 lbs, steel, bronze) was “conceived as a symbol for world peace. For three decades, it stood in the World Trade Center plaza. Damaged during the tragic events of September 11, 2001, it endures as an icon of hope and the indestructible spirit of Americans. It was placed in Battery Park in 2002 in memory of all who lost lives to terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.”
The media is always around to cover the failures of the MTA. Too bad they are not around to cover the successes as well.