09.11.12

9/11: The View From Above

It was one thing to visit the World Trade Center site on Tuesday, it’s another to work there every day of the week. On the anniversary of Sept. 11, workers talked about feeling haunted, relieved and, most of all, proud.

While the Inside Edition reporter in leopard skin heels did a live shot, while the family members of Sept. 11 victims read the names of their lost loved ones down on the plaza, Brian Deahl and Joe Gentile stood on the 23rd floor of One World Trade Center, doing what they do most days: working.

Deahl and Gentile are electricians with Five Star Electric, one of the many New York contractors helping put together the 105-story building at Ground Zero that will eventually house a 100,000-square-foot memorial museum. They’d normally have Sept. 11 off, but said they agreed to work Tuesday to run extension cords to the equipment of the passel of reporters who showed up for a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the unfinished project.

The electricians weren’t oblivious to the ceremony of Sept. 11, or the politics that has stalled the museum’s opening, or the protesters crowding the sidewalks who year after year use this occasion to deliver a message to anyone who’ll listen. But on Tuesday, these two guys in work boots and orange vests were thinking mostly about their own losses 11 years ago.

Deahl’s cousin, New York Fire Department Battalion Chief Matthew Ryan, died after rushing into the World Trade Center to save as many people as he could. The man on Gentile’s mind was Dominick Enrico Calia, a municipal bond broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 104th floor of the North Tower. Calia coached Little League for Gentile’s 7-year-old son, Matthew.

After Sept. 11, the boy never played baseball again, says Gentile. “He’s a good kid, thank God, but I always wonder what would have happened ...”

He trailed off. Here on the 23rd floor, it looked like any other construction site—extension cords dangling from the ceiling, boxes of insulation stacked in the corner, steel beams lined up on the floor, utility lights swinging back and forth, sheathed in plastic, dust everywhere.

When a reporter asked on the way up when the museum would open to the public, the tour guide admitted she didn’t know. For months, neither has anyone else, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie squabbled over money and control, including who would pay the operating costs, who would own the land, and who would get to make decisions at the museum. But on Tuesday morning, news emerged that a deal had been struck.

These two guys in work boots and orange vests were thinking mostly about their own losses 11 years ago.

The working agreement calls for an extra $12 million in construction money from the Sept. 11 Foundation, which Bloomberg chairs, along with better coordination on all sides and a new advisory committee to hash out anymore problems that arise. The Port Authority, jointly controlled by Christie and Cuomo, agreed to deed the eight acres of the museum site and memorial to the foundation. The museum is now scheduled to open sometime over the next 12 to 18 months, said Scott Rechler, vice chairman of the Port Authority.

The agreement comes as a big relief to Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority.

Video screenshot

Watch footage of the tour.

“This was our home, where those two pools of water are. The Twin Towers, the Port Authority built them,” he said in an interview. “Completing the project “has been a sacred mission for those in this agency.”

Electrician Chung Fu, standing by on Tuesday to deal with any emergency communications or electrical issues, said he’s glad for that. He’s worked on the site for the past two years, battling “a lot of emotion.” He worked in the World Trade Center back in the '80s, and sometimes feels “haunted,” he said, by standing in the same place. Rebuilding this place means a great deal.

“Pride, that we’re able to rebuild again, as Americans,” Fu said. “We never fail. If we get hit, we come back stronger.”

Added Deahl: “It’s one of a kind. We’ll never see another one built like this, that’s 105 stories. It proves a point.”