“Everyone remembers that sunny Tuesday morning in September…”
That’s the chilling beginning of a 25-page chapter in “Verizon Untethered,” a newly published book about the company’s history. It continues:
Verizon CFO Doreen Toben was on the phone and looking out of her window south from the 39th floor of Verizon’s 1095 Avenue of the Americas, or Sixth Avenue, headquarters. She had a clear view straight south about four miles and clearly saw the first plane fly into the north tower of the World Trade Center at approximately 8:46 a.m. She ran down the hall toward [President Larry] Babbio’s office overlooking Bryant Park to the east to alert him.
Babbio and two lieutenants, Paul Lacouture, president of network services, and John Bell, senior vice president of northeast network services, and other executives gathered in the conference room at the southeastern corner of the floor. They watched in horror as flames and smoke billowed out of the tower. [CEO Ivan] Seidenberg quickly returned from an early morning meeting a few blocks away in Midtown to join them, as did head of corporate communications Mary Beth Bardin. The second plane pierced the south tower about 17 minutes later. Like much of America, the executives couldn’t quite accept that this was happening. The nation was under attack. Bardin remembers looking from the television in the corner of the room to the actual towers burning to their south. “Somehow seeing it on TV made it more real. We could not believe what we were seeing,” she said.
They quickly kicked into operations mode. The towers were in the heart of Verizon’s densest telecommunications network, if not the most tightly wired telecommunications node in the world. Four massive computerized switches connected 300,000 Verizon landlines to the outside world. In Lower Manhattan, Verizon also provided nearly 3.6 million data circuits to serve the world’s largest financial center and the thousands of financial services and other businesses, as well as 20,000 residential customers. Most of those copper wires and optical fibers fed into Verizon’s two switching hubs at Broad Street and the 32-story art deco fortress of an operations center completed in 1927 at 140 West Street. It stands adjacent to the complex of World Trade Center buildings that were erected beginning in the 1960s. Ten cellular phone towers were also providing Verizon Wireless service in the area. Bell turned to Babbio. “You’re an engineer. How long do you think that fire can last?” Earlier than most observers, Babbio understood the structural significance of the flaming structures. “I can tell you this. If it burns for more than an hour and a half, we’re in big trouble here,” Babbio said, “because that steel will melt in an hour and a half.”
And that meant the towers were coming down.
The chapter goes on to describe behind-the-scenes network recovery efforts following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, culminating in the reopening of the New York Stock Exchange on September 17, 2001.
“Verizon Untethered” was written by Scott McMurray and published by Post Hill Press and The History Factory, under Seidenberg’s direction. All proceeds from book sales are being donated to Verizon’s VtoV Employee Relief Fund for the use of employees and their families in need.
After the book’s publication in May 2018, Verizon contracted with The History Factory to re-establish a company archives to preserve the type of historical information gathered in the research.
This is great news. As a Verizon employee at the time of the attacks (and still today), I have sought to preserve bits and pieces of artifacts in the company’s files about 9/11 and its aftermath. I’ve posted much of this information on a Pinterest site about Verizon’s response to 9/11.
I would particularly draw your attention to two videos posted there: a remarkable 38-minute documentary, and a 90-second Verizon-backed TV spot called “Lady Liberty” that ran on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The book includes the interesting backstory about that TV spot, which was mcgarrybowen’s first work as an agency.
If you’re a student, researcher or otherwise cannot purchase “Verizon Untethered,” please contact me with your mailing address at my work email — firstname.lastname@example.org — and I will send you a copy and provide information about donating to the VtoV Fund.
Originally published at varettoni.blogspot.com on September 5, 2018.