By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
DC 37 members were crucial first responders to the deadly rampage in lower Manhattan on Oct. 31 that claimed eight lives and sent eleven injured people to the hospital.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the incident “an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.” Officials called it the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since thousands of lives were lost when the World Trade Center towers were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Local 983 Urban Park Rangers in Hudson River Park first spotted a rental truck speeding southbound on the bicycle and jogging paths at Houston and West St. around 3 p.m.
“They made the first calls to 9-1-1,” said Local 983 President Joe Puleo. The driver mercilessly plowed into pedestrians and cyclists along the West Street path. Victims laid strewn and broken among crumpled Citibikes. “In the midst of confusion,” Puleo said, “these first responders rushed to alert authorities and aid the injured.”
Immediately, 911 Operators in Local 1549 were flooded with calls. They dispatched to Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Service workers in Local 2507 and Supervisors in Local 3621, who raced to help the injured.
“People with minor injuries were taken to Beekman Downtown Hospital and those seriously injured to Bellevue Hospital,” said Local 3621 President Vincent Variale. He ran from union headquarters to the site, “I heard the gunfire,” he said. “My instinct was to run towards the danger to help.”
Police immediately blocked traffic in both directions from Park Place to 34th Street.
EMS workers found six dead at the scene; two victims died later. Medico-Legal investigators in Local 768 gathered evidence at the scene and with Local 983 drivers, transported the dead to the city morgue at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.
The chaos halted a mile from its start when the deranged terrorist rammed his truck into a school bus at Chambers and West Streets. Four on board were hurt. Local 420 members and Bellevue staff treated the wounded.
The horrific episode ended when a police officer shot the attacker in the abdomen as he staggered from his crushed truck into the intersection firing a pellet gun, witnesses said. The terrorist later identified himself with ISIS.
School support staff in Local 372 — the School Aides and Cooks, Crossing Guards, and Paraprofessionals — worked with teachers and principals to kept hundreds of children safely harbored at P.S. 234, I.S. 89 and Stuyvesant High School; shaken students were released to parents later that evening, floor by floor. The next day DC 37 dispatched social workers from the Personal Services Unit to give members counseling to cope with the psychological impact of the terror attack.
Two days after the shocking incident, NYPD Tow Operator Angel Benitez, of Local 983, hauled the wrecked rental truck from the crime scene as police installed new concrete barriers at the bike path’s crosswalks.
“Once again the corps of New York’s first responders—its unionized municipal workforce, including our brave members — are expertly trained and prepared to respond to disasters and dangers such as this latest terrorist attack,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “We are proud of the men and women who unselfishly put themselves in harm’s way to aid and protect others.”