A Quarter Century Later, First WTC Attack Still Jarring for PA Leaders

By Steve Coleman, Media Relations Staff

Twenty-five years after the first major terrorist attack at the World Trade Center site, the horrific memories of that snowy winter day are still vivid to Alan Reiss and Lillian Valenti.

Reiss, employed as the Port Authority’s lead electrical engineer for the World Trade Center towers at the time, was on the B-2 level of 1 World Trade Center at 12:18 p.m. on February 26, 1993 when terrorists detonated a bomb inside a Ryder rental truck parked nearby. Immediately, he saw a big piece of steel fly behind him, but it took a few minutes for him to process the fact that a bomb just exploded.

After first helping Port Authority colleagues and others evacuate the area, Reiss returned to the basement area where the blast occurred and saw complete devastation: cars flipped over, water pipes broken, a huge crater left from the impact. Electrical circuits were arching and a heavy thick black smoke filled the area, migrating upwards into the massive office towers. Six people died in the attack, and more than 1,000 were injured.

“It was like a scene out of Dante’s Inferno,” said Reiss, who became Director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department in 1998 and today serves as the agency’s Director of World Trade Center Construction.

Valenti, currently the agency’s Chief Procurement Officer, was a Senior Human Resources Specialist and on the 61st floor of 1 World Trade Center that day. She and her colleagues had no idea what happened, but thought initially it was caused by a Con Ed transformer. Soon realizing it was a more serious event, she moved quickly to begin evacuations, paying particular attention to the disabled, those suffering from asthma or women who were pregnant. A triage center was established on the 43th floor, and groups were sent down the stairwells to safety up until 6:10 p.m.

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Alan Reiss and Lillian Valenti

This Monday, Reiss and Valenti will attend their 25th Memorial Mass at St. Peter’s Church near the WTC, along with colleagues and the families of the victims. The annual commemoration event helps keep the memories of that day, and the efforts to restore the towers to normal operation, fresh in both of their minds

“It was a herculean effort to get the towers reopened,” Valenti recalled. “Every step of the way, we never lost sight of those who lost their lives, and they were the source of our energy and resilience.”

Hours after the 1993 attack, when the incident scene stabilized, Reiss was finally able to call home and speak to his wife and son. During that conversation, he told them: “You won’t see me for a couple of months because I have to rebuild this place.” His words turned out to be prophetic. Valenti also called her husband that night from a hospital, where she had accompanied a pregnant staff member, to say she was fine.

“There was a building and people who needed my help and I probably would need to be at my ‘home away from home’ for some time,” she said.

In the weeks and months that followed, Reiss spent many sleepless nights restoring key electrical and HVAC systems to the towers and shoring up the building structure where the bomb had exploded. “This was my home, my building,” he said. “We were ready to do whatever had to be done to get it back opened.”During that same time, Valenti organized a staffing operation on the first floor of what was then the Alexander’s Department Store space to accommodate displaced agency staff and third-party vendors. It was a 24/7 operation to deploy field, operations and management staff in an organized manner. On March 19, 1993, the first tenant – New York Gov. Mario Cuomo – moved back into the towers. In the following months, all but one tenant, a law firm, returned to the towers.

All these years later, Reiss believes that day changed the way Americans looked at terrorism. “Before this attack, I don’t think this country ever thought about this type of terrorist attack before,” he said.

 

Posted in 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, Uncategorized, World Trade Center

Love and the Oculus: A Perfect Match

By Joseph Iorio, Media Relations Staff

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Bustling with pedestrians, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, better known as the Oculus, welcomes millions of tourists and daily commuters each year.

In 2016, when the Oculus fully opened to the public, its architect, Santiago Calatrava, envisioned it as a piazza for Lower Manhattan, similar to the large and unrestricted gathering places seen throughout Europe. Today, visitors pass through the white, marble-laid network of underground passageways to shop, dine, meet friends or just marvel at an architectural masterpiece.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Portfolio today focuses on a different trend at the Oculus: wedding pictures.

Over the past year, an increasing number of couples have selected the Oculus as the memorable centerpiece and backdrop for their wedding photos. It may seem unusual, and such events are still rare, but the “simplicity, modernity and neutral colors of the design make for the perfect setting,” says Nora Bourabah, an aspiring architect and bride-to-be who’s scheduled to have her pictures taken in the Oculus this May.

Nora

It’s a classic New York love story: Nora from Brooklyn, her fiancé Chris from Queens, meeting in Manhattan (the couple now lives in Astoria). They chose the Oculus because of its aesthetic appeal, but also because they met nearby at a place Nora worked as a waitress — though, as an architectural consultant, the building’s design has much more personal and expressive meaning to Nora.

“The Oculus expresses unity and hope. Everything about the Oculus is about bringing people together,” she said. “To us, it’s about growth and change and a testament to the spectacular, awe-inspiring things we are capable of,” she said. The couple’s actual marriage is scheduled for the View of the World Terrace Club near the WTC, the place where they met nearly seven years ago.

0022As planning is key to any aspect of the marriage ceremony, one last bit of pre-wedding Oculus photo advice for the betrothed: You need a permit from World Trade Center operations, which is lovingly offered through the Port Authority’s website (www.panynj.gov).

Posted in Oculus, The Oculus, Uncategorized, World Trade Center, World Trade Center Transportation Oculus

French Artist Brings Eye Candy to the PABT

By Rudy King, Media Relations Staff

Bus and car passengers filing through the Port Authority Bus Terminal now have more than crowded lines, ticket windows and travel schedules to keep them busy. They’ve got enormous candy sculptures to sweeten their daily commute.

The first-ever “pop-up” art gallery at the PABT is the work of renowned French contemporary artist Laurence Jenkell, whose striking new exhibit is an exciting visual addition to the facility’s Quality of Commute initiative. “Crossroads of the World” is scheduled to run through January 2019 and features 30 of Jenkell’s life-sized, Lucite-wrapped candy sculptures, as well as 80 additional pieces on display throughout the bus terminal’s North and South wings.


One highlight of the bus terminal exhibit is Jenkell’s tribute to the 37 fallen men and women of the Port Authority Police Department, who were among the first law enforcement personnel to respond to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The “Tribute Candy” is wrapped in the pattern of the Port Authority 9/11 Remembrance Flag.

Her unique draped and twisting candy art arrived last month at the bus terminal, the latest stop in a world tour that began in 2011 at the G20 Summit in France. Since then, it’s moved to Spain, Singapore, China and the United Arab Emirates. In all, her work is represented in more than 25 countries, including in major private and public collections.

Jenkell’s artwork dates to the early 1990s, when she first started experimenting with different mediums that included watercolor, charcoal, oil, acrylic and engraving. She eventually discovered inclusion resins – the material that gives her current artworks its particular sheen and resiliency –and very quickly developed her own original technique.

Location of sculptures at the PABT:

 

Posted in 9/11, bus terminal, PABT, Port Authority Bus Terminal, public art, Uncategorized