Details Uncovered in the Wake of Tragedies

New York and Washington, D.C. -- Although many details of the horrible tragedies occurring yesterday at the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., still are unknown, some information recently has become available on cleanup efforts in the wake of the disasters.

A press release from New York Governor George Pataki’s office yesterday stated that federal funds will be provided to the state and to affected local governments to pay for debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster, and the reparation of public facilities damaged.

Pataki’s office also noted that Regions 1, 2, 8 and 9 of the New York Department of Transportation (DOT) are providing equipment assistance, including tractor-trailers, loaders, dump trucks and rack trucks.

Congress also expects an official request from the White House today for money for disaster relief, according to a Congressional Quarterly daily report. Also, legislation under discussion would give the executive branch transfer authority to draw money as needed for search, rescue and cleanup efforts in both regions.

Additionally, N.Y. Democratic Senator Charles E. Schumer issued a statement saying that it will be some time before government officials know what amount and type of disaster assistance will be needed.

Alan Marcus, head of the public relations agency for Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), says the company is fully cooperating with the city of New York and has offered its services. "This is the kind of situation that brings people together," Marcus said Wednesday. "This certainly is the worst tragedy this city has ever seen, and everyone is doing what they can [to help]."

Houston-based Waste Management Inc.’s Sarah Voss says that the company is in constant communication with federal, state and local officials to offer help. "We’re waiting to get our direction from New York," says Voss, who also notes that both the city and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) are treating the debris as a crime scene and must search all of the evidence before any material is picked up. "Right now, we’re focused on trying to move the MSW [from companies we’ve contracted with] out of area transfer stations" to make room for debris, she says.

Waste Management also has an Atlanta-based emergency response team on its way to New York to help out, if needed. The company’s Disaster Management and Emergency Response team has experience in cleanup efforts such as those following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, she noted.

At press time, the city had not officially asked for assistance, but it appears that many organizations are ready to help. The N.Y. Department of Sanitation could not be reached for comment Wednesday due to downed phone lines.

On a more personal note, Ronald J. McCracken, president of Easley, S.C.-based Bes-Pac and a member of the Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC), Washington, D.C., was in the nation’s capital during Tuesday’s attack and witnessed firsthand the aftermath of the explosion at the Pentagon. According to a message from McCracken, he and other members of WASTEC were in town for an association advisory committee meeting in the Commerce Department when they heard sirens directly after the plane crash into the Pentagon. "It looked to us, from our angle, that the whole Pentagon blew up," he said. They then were told of the World Trade Center tragedy and were evacuated from the building, which was located directly next to the White House. McCracken and the other members escaped safely.