The pain of the world will be revisited each year on this day of remembrance and prayer, especially for those at a tower company who knew many of those people in a sister company who died in the collapse of the twin towers on September 11, 2001.
General Telecom, a subsidiary of American Tower Corporation, with headquarters on the 83rd floor of One World Trade Center, lost 13 employees after a plane commandeered by terrorists crashed into the tower on September 11, collapsing the 110-story building.
Thirty-seven people worked at GT’s headquarters, but by a series of coincidences many of them were not in the tower that day. Like many others, GT employees literally were on their way into the building or in some cases, inside the tower, when disaster struck. GT’s president, Brian Metherell, was in Los Angeles on business when the planes struck the twin towers.
Many tower contractors were meeting outside of D.C. on 9/11
The day that America lost its innocence is indelibly tattooed in the memories of all wireless industry workers, some very close to the three plane crash locations.
American Tower’s construction services group was an hour into an all day presentation on estimating before approximately 70 of the nation’s largest wireless general contractors outside of Washington, D.C.
The group’s regional manager of safety and health, Francis Hartnett, who had just completed a session on the tower owner’s safety requirements, rushed through the conference room’s doors announcing, “Two jets have crashed into the twin towers; it looks like America might be under attack.”
“When it was first announced, I thought he was joking,” said Florida contractor Douglas Coberly, president of B&C Contracting. “This can’t possibly be happening. It’s beyond belief.”
But Hartnett’s resolute stare belied any other message than the frightening truth and attendees silently hurried to the hotel lobby’s TV to view footage of the Pentagon crash. For more than five minutes the silent crowd just watched the unfolding events.
A South Carolina contractor closed his eyes, staring up at the TV and began to pray. A few close by attendees joined in. Disbelief turned to concern for their co-workers’, friends’ and family’s safety. Overburdened cell sites prevented communications.
Anger had not visited yet. However, it would arrive and be a constant companion.
Less than two hours before, a number of contractors viewed each other as prey. The morning’s life-changing events formed a mutual bond of caring and a better understanding of the frailty of life for many of them.
Some contractors lent money to people that they didn’t know who were short on cash, others offered to go out of their way to drive people home to their families – still unsure of what catastrophic events might occur.
With airlines grounded, many people teamed up to travel thousands of miles in their vehicles or rental cars, some traveling on I-95 near the Newark, NJ Airport with hundreds of planes sitting jarringly silent.
Through a tear-streaked view across the Hudson River, they sadly witnessed the smoldering ruins of ground zero.