America Rebuilds: A Year at Ground Zero
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Engineering the Clean-Up
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Imagining the Future
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Mike Burton
Richard Garlock
Monica Iken
Sam Melisi
Peter Rinaldi
George Tamaro
Charlie Vitchers
Madelyn Wils

'I was dealing with chiefs. Whether they talked to you tomorrow was a function of how well the information you gave them the day before worked.'
Richard Garlock

Video Clip

Walking through the ruins with Rich Garlock

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Richard Garlock - Transcript

RG: On the morning of the 11th, I was at my desk, which faces the north out here. We're on 30 Broad Street on the 47th and 48th floors. I was on the phone talking to my wife about our upcoming trip to Disney World. I heard what I thought was like a truck rumble, like when they hit the metal plates in the road and there's that impact. So I just kind of kept talking on the phone but then I started to see the paper float by the window, just a couple of pieces of paper. My immediate thought was that it was some marketing stunt. I thought that someone had got a big hot air balloon that was filled with some sort of advertising slips and had gone off over the city and dropped these leaflets down. We're right next to the Stock Exchange so there's always these gimmicks going on about stocks being listed today. You know, Krispy Kreme rolled out an entire donut factory right on Broad Street one morning. So that was my immediate response. Then the volume of paper went from being a hundred sheets to being thousands. I leaned forward, closer to the window and then I saw that there was smoke coming out of the tower. The phone rang to one of our partners, Rick Zottola, and it was a gentleman who used to work for us, Frank DeMartini. He was so good he was wooed over to the World Trade Center and took over the World Trade Center construction department. He was on the phone saying that something had happened and that he needed us to come over to help ascertain what the situation was. So we got a team together and we were on our way.

RG: We were on our way to the Trade Center and we had gotten to Trinity Church when we heard the roar of the second plane. We didn't understand then that it was the second plane…but we heard the roar of a plane, looked up and saw the plane kind of flash its belly at us and then disappear into the tower. Then there was a tremendous explosion and a fireball. The embers just floated down at that point. A mass of people just rushed at us, running through and passing us. The thoughts at the time were that we're under attack. This was obviously a concerted effort and the first thing that happened was not an accident. With the second event, we wondered where the plane was going to hit. Then we just thought, it's got to be time to get out of Manhattan. We had this office, which is now one of the taller buildings in Lower Manhattan, and we thought, "Is the plane going to hit here next?" I remember looking up at the building and just being absolutely in awe. It was too much information. I looked at the building and I saw how much was damaged. I was really looking at what would be the eastern face, with the fire coming out and with the windows breaking. I had to step back, further to the south so that I could see more of the south face. Then I started seeing where those columns didn't exist anymore and I couldn't comprehend it fast enough. It was almost like an information overload, when you get so much information, you can't focus on it. All of this took place over three seconds, but I just felt like I couldn't even think about anything at first. Seeing the fire and seeing the columns not exist anymore was incomprehensible.

RG: When I walked to the south, I had to step back maybe twenty or thirty feet to see how many columns were missing. At the time, the towers were still standing. They took this hit, but they were still there. There was this fire going on, but at that point, I was in awe that it was still standing. The damage that we saw on the outside was so great and I knew the core was right inside the tower. You had the exterior frame and then you had the interior core. I just was like, "What am I not seeing? If it's this bad where I can see, what am I not seeing? How bad is it in there?" But they were standing.

RG: My thought process when I started to realize what had happened was that there were so many columns missing and yet it was still standing. The loads had been redistributed to whatever was still intact and it was there. The fire was not that great at that time, whether it was because it used up a lot of the oxygen, or because it hadn't really ignited what caught fire later. My immediate thoughts were that it was heavily damaged but that it was still standing. It was also clear that we had to evacuate. Everybody needed to evacuate…all of Lower Manhattan. We were under attack! I thought, "There's going to be more. Where was the next plane going to hit next?" At that point in time, I did not feel that it was going to collapse.

RG: We came back after we saw that. We came back to our office and we got everybody ready to evacuate here. We were also trying to reach anyone that we could reach. But all the lines were dead. People were calling in from California and Pennsylvania and we were like, "Hang up, man, we're trying to reach six blocks from here. We're trying to reach Port Authority. We're trying to reach the Fire Department." We're trying to reach these people and we never were able to make those connections. So as all that was happening, someone screamed and we looked out the window and saw tower two collapsing. We watched as it fell. Within seconds, we were enveloped in the dust and debris that was part of that tower. We made sure the windows were shut and sealed and we realized that we were kind of caught between, is there another plane coming and we have all this stuff that's now falling outside. Then over the radio we heard that we had military flying over Manhattan and all airplanes were grounded and it was not going to be another plane. During that time that we were still enveloped in the cloud, we heard tower one collapse. Some time later we felt the air was clear enough for us to all leave and get out. When I got back to Manhattan two days later, seeing Ground Zero up close was everything I envisioned or had the nightmare of. I wasn't surprised by anything that I saw. It was as bad as I imagined it would be from the devastation of those towers coming down.

RG: I honestly try not to think about this stuff.

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