NEW YORK — Thousands of New York City transit workers flooded lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks, lending crucial support and expertise at the city’s most difficult hour. town.
More than two decades later, they want their due.
Officials of the Transportation Workers Union Local 100 – which makes up about half of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s workforce – are angered by what they see as a lack of representation for their members at the National September 11 Memorial Museum downtown.
Transit workers who spent months clearing rubble, rebuilding tracks and driving buses near Ground Zero in 2001 and 2002 visited the museum last week. But they saw little of their sacrifice represented; mostly just an NYC Transit pin said to have been worn by former Governor George Pataki near the site.
The union launched a petition last week, demanding that museum curators give them more attention.
“The lack of recognition and respect from the National Memorial Museum is outrageous, insulting and hurtful,” said Local 100 President Tony Utano. “They need to fix this once and for all.”
Lee Cochran, a spokesperson for the museum, said staff had worked with Local 100 for years – and in 2019 dedicated the Memorial Glade near the World Trade Center to “all the rescue and recovery workers who have worked at ground zero for the nine months after the attacks”.
“Our curators have expressed interest in collecting personal effects for our permanent collection and have recorded oral histories, and we have two documentaries in our archives about the responses and memorial efforts of New York City transit workers on 9/11. and after,” Cochran said. “We certainly look forward to continuing to work together to tell this important story.”
Local 100 spokesman Pete Donohue says dozens of transit workers have died from illnesses breathing toxic air at Ground Zero, and at least 300 others have claims processed or pending with the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.
Alan Grande, who worked in New York City Transit’s plumbing department during 9/11 and spent days cleaning sewers after the Twin Towers fell, said it was important to remember everyone’s sacrifice during those dark days. This includes police officers, firefighters – and all who have flocked from across the country to help the cause.
“Transit workers had two truck miles going into lower Manhattan,” Grande said. “We had electric generators and lights, equipment that no one else had or knew how to use.”
Grande said he was still thinking when he spoke to the families of the victims – and that he is proud to have served in what he calls a “battlefield”.
“A museum is supposed to explain to people around the world what happened at this site,” Grande said. “It could show more. They made incredible efforts to show what happened, but I believe they could do more.