Public Employee Press
Terror strikes, our members respond
By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
DC 37 members in seven locals were crucial first responders to the deadly rampage in Lower Manhattan on Oct. 31 that claimed eight lives and sent eleven injured people to the hospital.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the incident “an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.” The heinous attack is the deadliest, officials said, since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 16 years ago.
Local 983 Urban Park Rangers in Hudson River Park first spotted a rental truck speeding southbound on the bicycle and jogging paths at Houston and West streets around 3 p.m.
“They made the first calls to 911,” said Local 983 President Joe Puleo.
“I ran from 20th Street when my partner called. There was nothing but carnage and bodies on the ground,” said UPR Malcolm Smiley.
The deranged driver mercilessly plowed into pedestrians and cyclists along the West Street path. Victims laid strewn and broken among crumpled Citibikes.
“I ran to help a victim, her family was screaming, but she was gone,” Smiley said. “My partner UPR Antonique Bedward and I looked down the path only to see more bodies. It just got worse. I realized this was no accident. It was a definitely a deliberate attack, someone trying to hurt innocent people.”
“In the midst of confusion,” Puleo said, “these first responders rushed to alert the authorities and aid the injured.”
Immediately 911 operators in Local 1549 were flooded with calls. They dispatched Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Service workers in Local 2507 and supervisors in Local 3621, who raced to lower Manhattan to stem the attack and help the injured.
“People with minor injuries were taken to Beekman Downtown Hospital and those seriously injured to Bellevue Hospital,” said Local 3621 President Vincent Variale. He ran from union headquarters to the site, “I heard the gunfire,” he said. “My instinct was to run towards the danger to help.”
Police immediately blocked traffic in both directions from Park Place to 34th Street.
EMS workers found six dead at the scene; two victims died later. “Our members are trained to respond to mass casualty incidents and maintain the highest degree of professionalism and bravery in the midst of chaos,” said Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay.
Medico-legal Investigators in Local 768 gathered evidence at the scene and with Local 983 drivers, transported the dead to the city morgue at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.
The chaos halted a mile from its start when the terrorist rammed the rental truck into a school bus at Chambers and West streets; four on board were hurt. Local 420 members and Bellevue staff treated the wounded.
The horrific episode ended when a police officer shot the attacker in the abdomen as he staggered from the crushed truck into the intersection firing a pellet gun, witnesses said. The terrorist later identified himself with ISIS.
School staff protects students
School support staff in Local 372 — the School Aides, Cooks, School Crossing Guards, and Paraprofessionals — worked with teachers and principals to kept hundreds of children safely harbored at P.S. 234, I.S. 89 and Stuyvesant High School.
“I just left work and was getting in my car when someone yelled, ‘He’s got a gun!’” said Frantz Pierre, a Cook at PS 89. “My son and I ran for cover in a nearby building and stayed in the basement. We had no idea what was going on,” said the Local 372 member. “I reached home and learned I was in the middle of a terrorist attack. It was shocking.”
There was nothing but carnage and bodies on the ground.— Malcolm Smiley
Tribeca locked down
Staff at DC 37 headquarters just two blocks away heard the rapid succession of gunshots. The union and neighboring office buildings and schools were immediately placed on lockdown. Word of the attack sent a measured panic throughout Tribeca. Nonplussed office workers, students, nannies and their charges, and tourists scrambled to safety on an otherwise tranquil and sunny autumn afternoon.
Staff released students sheltered in public schools to parents later that evening, floor by floor.
The next day DC 37 dispatched social workers from the Personal Services Unit to give Local 372 members counseling to cope with the psychological impact of the terror attack.
Brave DC 37 members
Two days after the shocking event, NYPD tow operator Angel Benitez of Local 983 hauled the wrecked trucks from the crime scene as police installed new concrete barriers at the bike path’s crosswalks.
“We waited until the FBI completed its investigation before we could tow the totaled vehicles,” said Benitez. Cameras showed the suspect had visited the area two days before the attack and knew several public schools and colleges are located in the area. “I wondered about copycats or if anything else would happen that day,” said Benitez. “It felt like 9/11 all over again.”
“Everyone held each other up that day,” UPR Bedward said. “It was tough emotionally. I focused on doing all I could to help as many people as I could.”
“Once again the corps of New York’s first responders — its unionized municipal workforce, including our brave members — are expertly trained and prepared to respond to disasters and dangers such as this latest terrorist attack,” said DC 37 Executive
Director Henry Garrido. “We are proud of the men and women who unselfishly put themselves in harm’s way to aid and protect others.”