Cleanup and Recovery

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2006-09-07 Print this article Print

David Rosenzweig, 61, is Verizon's vice president of network operations for the state of New York, a position he held on Sept. 11, 2001. The 35-year veteran of Verizon was, and still is, the company's top executive based at 140 West Street in New York Cit

Cleanup and Recovery

Q: How did you restore service?

A: On Tuesday [Sept. 11] we were up at Varick Street keeping an eye on things. It wasn't until the evening that we realized it was going from bad to worse. The next morning we developed a plan--get it clean, get some power on site, turn stuff on and see what was working and wasn't working.

We brought in structural engineers to find out: Is the building going to stand or is it going to fall? We determined it was going to stand, so we started to clean it out. In some cases, we shoveled out--God only knows what we were shoveling. It was a grayish, dirt-like substance. There was nothing identifiable except steel girders. The power engineer told us, "You need 4 megawatts to run this building." So we placed generators on site, and we were charging batteries by Friday night. We made the first call out of the building on Sunday night. We brought our phone switching systems back over the course of 10 days or so. A large, large amount of digital cross-connects [the cables that connect equipment] and switching equipment was damaged.

There was nothing elegant in the restoration process. We threw cables out the windows to reach lines that were one or two blocks away--normally, that's an intricate underground system. In every case we could, we replaced damaged equipment with new equipment. In October, we had new equipment show up, in some cases upgraded equipment. The physical damage to the outside structure took much longer to repair.

Q: How did the events of 9/11 change your outlook professionally?

A: Well, it reaffirmed what I believed in--No. 1, the way we built the business was right. It confirmed that the methods and procedures and the stuff we purchased, the way we configured it, was essentially correct. One point I want to make. Some people say, The Internet was more robust than the telephone network [on 9/11]. But take this analogy: The U.S. interstate highway system is a robust network of routes between New York and San Francisco. But if someone parks a truck in your driveway it doesn't matter what happens over the long haul. If your only route to the network is severed, you're out of service.

Q: How did 9/11 affect you personally?

A: I've looked at this from a number of different perspective. No. 1, I'm alive. I look across the street. It's essentially the grave of 3,000 people. My faith in human beings was reaffirmed. I saw people helping out and rising to the occasion and getting things done. I'm so impressed by what people can do when they put their mind to it. The first time I got home was Friday night [Sept. 14]. I got in the house probably midnight--I live in Huntington [a New York suburb on Long Island]. My wife said, "You look terrible and smell like diesel." I said, "You've been watching this on TV, but I assure you what you're seeing isn't 1% of what it's like."

For me, it was personally uplifting. Everyone I worked with wanted to pick up an M-16 and go over to Afghanistan. But my thought was: This is the way we need to fight, right here. For a short period of time, there were no motivational issues. No one said, "I can't do it." The clarity was just perfect. It's what we normally search for in business on a daily basis.

It was an extraordinary situation. At the time we were just enraged and consumed and devoted at the same time. For six weeks, you can actually operate that way. Five years later, I'm impressed today maybe more than when I was going through it.


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