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Cover of Autumn 2002 - Winter 2003 Issue


The View from Ground Zero

Four Longwood Fraternity Brothers Worked Recovery Operations at the WTC

Photo of four Longwood fraternity brothers that worked recovery operations at the WTC
Brothers from Longwood's chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, Joe West '89, Joel Olive '99, Brian Hill '92, and (not pictured) Pete Wray '88, significant roles to the entire operation at Ground Zero.
Hundreds of thousands of people visited Ground Zero after the September 11 attacks. Witnesses saw mass destruction, memorials, and a quiet atmosphere never before seen in lower Manhattan. They also saw thousands of people working to clean up the site, which would eventually take nine months to complete.

Under a contract with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), four brothers from Richmond, working for Earth Tech Inc. in its Emergency Rapid Response Services Department, were sent to the city to assist. They are not biological brothers; rather, fraternity brothers from Longwood's chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon. Joe West '89, Brian Hill '92, Pete Wray '88, and Joel Olive '99, maintained significant roles in the entire operation at Ground Zero.

Aftermath photo of the World Trade CenterJoe West, an earth science major at Longwood, is the program manager for Earth Tech's EPA Emergency and Rapid Response Services contract for New York and New Jersey. He arrived in New York on September 14 and at 1 a.m. on September 15 his assembled crew of Earth Tech employees and subcontractors began to pressure wash and vacuum the financial district. Because of their efforts, Wall Street was able to re-open on Monday, September 17. The cleanup was continued in other areas of Manhattan under Joe's leadership, but he had many other tasks at hand as well. He staffed and managed the city's storm sewer outfalls into the Hudson River and the proper management and disposal of all environmentally hazardous material (batteries, oil tanks, cylinders, etc.) found in the WTC debris and damaged buildings surrounding the site. Joe also oversaw the construction of the 32,000 square foot decontamination center, which served as the central wash station and rest area for the entire clean-up. It accommodated 5,000 to 6,000 people a day with 30 showers, 500 lockers, and it housed the Salvation Army's dining, rest, and counseling service center. Joe described the scene of the first few days with the following statement, "There were two policemen and two army personnel on every street corner, the streets were deserted, there was no power, the pile of debris was still burning, and we were on no sleep. It was surreal ... we were in a war zone." For Joe's efforts, he won one of the most honorable awards Earth Tech offers its employees.

Photo of the decontamination center (wash station)Brian Hill, a physics major at Longwood, was responsible for the design, procurement, and erection of the decontamination center. Joe hired the contractors and then Brian offered the technical information for them to get the job done. They, along with the EPA, selected the structure and one that could be finished in a timely manner. Brian did surveying to find the perfect location for the facility, and he worked on determining how it would obtain power, water, heating and cooling, and other key features. He designed and oversaw the construction of the wash basins, water supply, filtration and discharge, storm water management, heating, ducting and overall floor plan. Joe stated, "Brian was the key in developing and communicating Earth Tech's and the EPA's vision of the wash station to the mayor's office and other agencies involved. It would have not been possible without his competencies and work ethic."

Pete Wray, a business administration major at Longwood, was the resource manager on the project. He made sure everything ran smoothly from inventory, to protective equipment, to vehicles. Pete ensured that each project was staffed with the correct personnel. He created a two-way radio account and frequency for Earth Tech and the EPA workers to communicate more effectively. There were several agencies associated with work at Ground Zero, and Pete made sure appropriate documentation and passes were obtained and documented by Earth Tech employees.

Joel Olive, a business administration major at Longwood, managed the financial aspects of the projects. His responsibilities included cost tracking for million dollar projects; managing and executing purchasing operations by obtaining and managing competitive bids and subcontracts for large purchases; tracking site specific inventory and personal protective equipment usage; organizing pay, medical clearances, and certifications for all site personnel; and maintaining site records and daily operating necessities.

Photo of the World Trade Center clean-up siteTwenty-four hours a day for nine months was how long it took to clear the World Trade Center site. New York City is now looking to rebuild where two of the largest buildings in the world once stood. Joe, Brian, Pete, and Joel were there for approximately two and half months and Joel stated, "It consumed everything I did, every minute of my waking time. The only 'free' time we had was on the ride to and from work and in the hotel for the few minutes between getting there and falling asleep." Brian explained, "Sometimes it seemed like another construction site, but all I had to do was to look over at the pile and remember why we were there." Joe added, "My role as the manager for this contract does not include extended travel ordinarily but when the need and the opportunity arose for me to contribute, my wife (Elizabeth Marvin West, Longwood '89) and I agreed that it was definitely the right thing to do and the resulting inconveniences and extra work for her at home with our children were far less than losses I witnessed in New York. It was an unforgettable experience." Joe, Brian, Pete, and Joel each credit Longwood for the opportunity to learn skills necessary to succeed in their professions. From leadership to communication skills, they were prepared to handle such an arduous task with courage and class. The four Longwood men were exhausted upon their return to Richmond but realizing the impact September 11 had on America, they were proud to have used their expertise to make a valuable difference.

Bill Fiege '95