Recovering After
a Devastating Loss

events of September 11 and the following days. The floor that I worked on, 64, lost 17 people in the incident. Twelve of them didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of the danger and did not leave until 10 a.m. They were in the stairwell, on about the 20th floor, when the building collapsed. Miraculously, one of them survived with just a broken ankle and some bruises. Of the other 11, 3 bodies have been recovered and 8 are still unaccounted for. I attended the wake and funeral of one guy and am going to the wake tonight of another. Our office is still recovering as best as humanly possible. We have group counseling sessions daily and individual meetings with a professional counselor as needed. The first few days were really devastating, and now whenever we see co-workers in the hall, we greet them with hugs and kisses. Our agency, the Port Authority, lost about 75 staff—30 of them police. Our executive director, Neil Levin, who had been on the job about 6 months, was in a breakfast meeting at Windows on the World on the 110th floor. Nobody that high up survived.

—Louis Yannaco ’67, president of
the Central New Jersey Alumni Club


Hostile Intent

pentegon, U.S. Air Force Major Harry Brosofsky ’87 thought the loud explosion was a bomb. Although he’d just seen a news flash about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, he still couldn’t comprehend that the Pentagon was under attack. He immediately ran to the Air Force Operations Center, where he’d previously been a duty officer, to help the Crisis Action Team (CAT) field calls coming in on multiple open and top-secret telephone lines. “We didn’t know who was still out there or what their hostile intention might be,” Brosofsky says. “We became the eyes and ears of the Air Force.”



U.S. Navy photo by PH2 (AW) Jim Watson

      The operations center was controlled chaos. The CAT worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to monitor flight activity over the continental United States and coordinated with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to put jet fighters on alert in Alaska and Hawaii. Team members worked to obtain a head count of Air Force personnel evacuated from the building and tried to reassure their own families that they were safe. “There was a desk for each assignment and a CAT chief running the whole operation,” says Brosofsky, who is an executive officer to a two-star general at the Pentagon. “We’re trained to know what to do in a crisis, but at times we had information overload and had to decide quickly what to do with all the information that was pouring in.”
      Located partially below ground in a section of the Pentagon’s C Ring, the Air Force Operations Center was not in direct danger from the attack, but thick smoke and carbon-monoxide fumes quickly became a concern. “We evacuated the building and moved the Crisis Action Team to an outside location,” Brosofsky says. “I stayed in the Pentagon until 6:30 that night to make sure all the classified information was transferred safely to our new location.”
      Following the attack, Brosofsky worked 15-hour shifts for 9 straight days. It wasn’t until he logged on to the Syracuse University alumni web site (www.syracuse. edu/alumni) that he finally began to digest what had happened and became overwhelmed with grief. “I was visiting friends on campus when 35 SU students were killed by a bomb on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland,” he says. “It’s incomprehensible to me that so many innocent Americans have lost their lives in terrorist attacks. I’m sad to say I don’t see any way this is going to end soon.”

—Christine Yackel


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