Wednesday, October 12, 2011

9/11 Search Turns into a 10-Year Rebuilding Crusade

Bottom Photo by Nadine M. Post for ENR DETERMINED On 9/11, Lyons, wearing his firefighter-brothers spare gear, went looking for him at Ground Zero. Lyons has worked there since. Related Links: Witnesses to 9/11, Devoted to Rebuilding World Trade Center At New York's New World Trade Center, Uncommon Cooperation

Brian Lyons, 51, has worked on 10 projects at Ground Zero. The man is on a personal crusade to rebuild the World Trade Center "bigger and better than before." His mission was born on 9/11, when he made his way to Ground Zero to look for his 32-year-old brother—a firefighter with Squad 41 in the South Bronx. Lyons had last talked to Michael, an eight-year veteran with the New York City Fire Dept., at about 7 a.m. on 9/11.

"I knew my brother was down here—Squad 41 was a rescue unit," said Lyons, during a break from his job with Tishman Construction Corp., a unit of AECOM Technology, as project manager for the WTC Transportation Hub.

To double-check, as the phones and transit were not working, Lyons walked from Manhattan to the firehouse. It was empty. So he donned Michael's spare gear and borrowed his car to drive to Ground Zero. He got through security checks by saying he was joining "his" unit.



Lyons never found Michael. But he ended up helping the assessment teams check the stability of surrounding buildings, including the Deutsche Bank building, which had a gaping hole in its front face. While up in the building, everyone heard a noise and started running, thinking collapse was imminent, Lyons recalls. Suddenly, the group's flashlights all died. In the dark, Lyons opened a door and came upon a room full of batteries.

Lyons stayed at Ground Zero for three weeks straight during the rescue and recovery. He then spent nine months on the cleanup. Next came the restorations of the nearby subway line and the PATH train. The Freedom Tower, 7 WTC, the Freedom Tower again, and 3 and 4 WTC followed before the hub.

Lyons says Michael's widow, who was seven months' pregnant on 9/11, and their two daughters, currently 11 and nine years old, are OK, thanks in part to strong family support. As for Lyons, he finds his work satisfying. "Ten years later, we are in a very good place," he says.