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May 20 , 2008

Nine Months at Ground Zero

The Story of the Brotherhood of Workers Who Took on a Job Like No Other


Hours after two airplanes hit the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, Charlie Vitchers, a construction superintendent, and Bobby Gray, a crane operator, headed downtown. They knew their skills would be crucial amid the chaos and destruction after the towers fell.

What they could not imagine – and what they would soon discover – was the enormity of the task at Ground Zero. Four hundred million pounds of steel; 600,000 square feet of broken glass; and 2,700 vertical feet of building had been reduced to a pile of burning debris covering sixteen acres. Charlie, Bobby, and hundreds of other construction workers, many of whom had helped to build the Twin Towers, were the only ones qualified to safely handle the devastation.

Everyone working the site faced the looming danger of the collapse of the slurry wall protecting lower Manhattan from the waters of the Hudson River, the complexity of shifting tons of steel without losing additional lives, and the day-to-day challenge and emotional strain of recovering victims. Charlie Vitchers became the go-to guy for the hundreds of people and numerous agencies laboring to clean up Ground Zero. What he and Bobby Gray make dramatically evident is how the job of dismantling the remaining ruins and restoring order to the site was far more complex and dangerous than constructing the tallest buildings in the world.

With stunning full-color photographs donated by Joel Meyerowitz – a celebrated and award-winning artist and the only non-newsroom photographer allowed access to the site – and first-person oral accounts of the tragedy from the morning of the attack to the Last Column ceremony, Nine Months at Ground Zero is a harrowing but ultimately redemptive story of forthright and heroic service.
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