By Lenis Rodrigues and Claire Elamrousi, Media Relations Staff
When Port Authority Tunnel and Bridge Agent Nicholas Natole recently helped save the life of a bus passenger in cardiac arrest outside the Lincoln Tunnel, he regarded it as just another day on the job. But being a TBA and administering medical assistance, providing traffic control, rescuing passengers and putting out fires isn’t just a job for Natole. It’s a family tradition.
Nick’s brother, Anthony, currently works alongside him as an agent at the Lincoln Tunnel. The brothers got an early education in the field from their father Joseph, now retired after 37 years as a TBA and training instructor. They not only served together professionally, but continue to volunteer together as firefighters in their home town of Hopelawn, N.J., a section of Woodbridge.
As a child, Nick’s father would show him the emergency trucks they used for work. Nick even got to play with the lights and sirens. His father’s coworkers would take him to get soda in New York, and he fell in love with the job.
“It was really fun and exciting working alongside my father and brother,” he said. “The stories he told us as children came to life when we were all sitting in the Lincoln Tunnel garage together. I couldn’t be any prouder to wear the same uniform that he did for all those years.”
Nick, a TBA for three years, recalls the one time the three of them had the opportunity to work together. They had gotten a call regarding a disabled NJ Transit bus leaking fuel. When the brothers arrived at the scene, they realized they needed more resources to contain the fuel spill. So Nick called his father to give them a hand, and two generations worked side by side to clean up the mess.
“It was a special time for me and my sons to work together on this,” said Joseph, who worked as a TBA instructor the last five years of a career, served primarily at the Lincoln Tunnel. “Being able to be a role model to them is a dream come true as their father.”
Anthony Natole has been a TBA for about four years, most of that time assigned to the Lincoln Tunnel. “The most fulfilling part of this job is that for close to two years, my brother, father and I shared the same patches and job,” he said. “There is nothing better than doing what you love to do with your own family.”
Joseph Natole was awarded nine green crosses during his time as a TBA. A green cross is given for rescuing a person from a car accident. He earned one award for saving people from a bus that lost control and struck the Lincoln Tunnel garage in 1988. Another time, he rescued several people by cutting the roof from a pickup truck accident inside the tunnel that had trapped several people inside.
On average, he said, TBA agents respond to at least one medical emergency a day on the Hudson River bridges and tunnels.
“We get called in all the time. Not just for people driving, but for toll collectors who are hurt, police officers, maintenance people,” the elder Natole said. “People think it’s just about helping someone with a flat tire. But if you’re on a bridge or in a tunnel and something happens, our job becomes very important.”
Gerard Lindenmeier, the Port Authority’s general manager for the Lincoln Tunnel, said the family has made a significant contribution to the traveling public. “The mantle has now been passed unto the next generation of Natoles,” he said. “We are in good hands.”