Tarrytown Man an Integral Part of 9/11 Project

Here is one Hudson Valley resident’s personal story of this horrific and tragic aftermath, and his part in our nation’s healing. I share it as I did last year.

By Janie Rosman

towersAfter living through the nightmare and subsequent aftermath of September 11, 2001, Ray Tuohy learned his boss had a contract for construction on the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, part of the World Trade Center (WTC) complex. Tuohy, who has worked construction in New York City since 1997, requested to be part of that job — and was made foreman.

“It’s what I do,” the Tarrytown resident humbly said, four years into the project. No stranger to the WTC, Tuohy worked there from 1990 to 1993, leaving his job before the building was first attacked on February 26, 1993.

“It sounded like a freight train with the devil riding on it,” he said when the North Tower crashed into the clear September 11 morning. “There was dust everywhere, and it looked like something out of a bad Godzilla movie.”

Television depicted the visual and auditory; one could only imagine the emotional impact of being there. “I saw shoes everywhere, in the street, it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen,” he said..

The steel towers twisted as they fell into the Manhattan streets. One woman fell, he said, and another person picked her up.

“Everyone came together, no barriers of race, religion, beliefs — we were all one that day, and for a few months,” Tuohy said quietly. “I miss that. I’d like to bring back the feeling when people were friendly to one another.”

Making his way home that day was no easy feat, he said, despite acumen and training as a proud member of Tarrytown Volunteer Fire Department. Once back in Tarrytown, he joined the entire department on standby for the duration of the day.

The next day, Ladder 37 was called to the Bronx for mutual aid to cover FDNY Truck 37’s calls, and Tuohy joined the crew. Two days later, he went to work on the site.

“My brother, Andrew Tuohy, was in town; my father, Matthew Tuohy, though retired from Engine 85, the Bronx, said he ‘needed to be with his boys,’” he said. Despite ending his own 15-hour tour with the TVFD, Tuohy set off with them.

One of the amazing experiences, he recalled, was that people reached out to help one another, like those on the West Side Highway handing water bottles to emergency personnel and first responders. Thousands of people lined the highway, cheering those headed for lower Manhattan to help search for friends, loved ones, colleagues, and bodies.

The community rallied support for its own and for those less fortunate, taking up collections, organizing fundraisers and drives. Diane Tuohy assembled 10 family members to help trucks at the American Red Cross in White Plains. Tuft’s boot drive raised $6,000 for the Andrew A. Fredericks National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, honoring one of the 343 firefighters who died that day rescuing others.

One building planned for the WTC site is a transportation hub; its retractable skylight for daylight and fresh air is built so each year, on the morning of September 11, sunlight falls onto the floor inside, where visitors can pass behind the base reflecting pools.

Two of the nearly 3,000 names engraved in the bronze panels edging each pool — victims of the 1993 and 2001 attacks, and symbolically grouped together — are Tuohy’s cousins, Port Authority officer Paul William Jurgens, and Supreme Court officer Thomas Edward Jurgens, 26.

Set in the footprint of the former Twin Towers, and dedicated on September 11, 2011, they symbolize a void and also healing, he said.

The new One World Trade Center, north of the memorial, stands 1,776 feet tall, its 200-foot dimension is the same square footprint as the Twin Towers. Its observation deck will be 1,362 feet, the height of Tower Two; the glass parapet, reflecting light in it like a kaleidoscope, will be at 1,368 feet, the height of Tower One.

Both One WTC and the museum are slated to open in 2014, after delays caused by a construction shut-down due to funding issues and months of clean-up after Hurricane Sandy.

“We’re building what the hate tore down,” Tuohy said, his voice quiet.

My article originally appeared in The Hudson Independent in 2013.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

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