From the Archives: Project Renewal Remembers September 11th, 2011

From the Archives:

Memo From Ed Geffner to the

Board of Trustees

October 2, 2001

In the wake of the horrendous attacks New York City suffered three weeks ago, I wanted to let you know how Project Renewal was affected and what we did – and continue to do – to help.

Sadly, two employees, Richard Penny and Edwin Zambrana, who were part of our recycling team at the Towers, were lost on September 11th. We believe they were on the 102nd Floor doing their job when the tower was struck. Richard was a very private person and kept very much to himself. Eddie was a likeable young man who was crazy about basketball and just “good to be around.” We are assisting Eddie’s father in obtaining a death certificate and still trying to contact Richard’s roommate.

The other 18 members of the crew escaped although they were thoroughly traumatized by their experience. Fortunately, our WTC outreach team – two of whom were on duty at the time – made it out alive. All 7 team members have been placed in other PRI jobs as have the 18 recycling crew members. A near-miss was the team setting up the Renewal Farm produce table at the Farmer’s Market. The produce truck was obliterated, but the Renewal Farm workers escaped.

I hope you will share my pride in what PRI did to help. The day of the disaster, the MedVan’s Craig Simpkins and David Wood were at the Bowery Mission when the first plane hit. They drove the Van over to the site and immediately began working with an ambulance company, triaging victims who were then transported to area hospitals by ambulance. Mostly the injuries were related to getting debris out of people’s eyes and giving them oxygen. As the tower fell, they were told to leave the area and drove the van some 20 blocks north. After the 2nd tower fell, they were told to come back, but the MedVan couldn’t navigate the debris, so Craig and David returned to the site on foot and proceeded to spend the day helping triage the victims and offering medical help to the rescuers.

Our vans were dispatched to hospitals to transport medical staff to triage stations and take hospital patients home to free up beds for new patients. The outreach team – Elliot Rivera, Ivan Miller, Wendall Evans, Hector Rivera, and Norine Knowings – assisted by Francisco Hidalgo and the Medical Department’s invaluable Edwin Morales did the driving, a near-impossible task given all the street closings and debris. They continued to offer these services in the ensuing days, working long hours, day after day.

We opened up Kenton Hall as a relief station to the thousands of New Yorkers streaming up the Bowery from the site. There we provided hurting New Yorkers with water, masks, and wet towels, in addition to bathrooms, showers, phones, and beds. The incredible cooking staff, headed by Barbara Hughes, cooked dinner for 75 police at the 9th Precinct, in addition to its normal responsibilities.

And lastly, in a serendipitous piece of luck, we were able to donate some 1,500 pristine pairs of boots originally intended or the Marines fighting the Korean War which were left behind at Camp LaGuardia, now home to Renewal Farm.

We had been storing those boots for more than 10 years and they had become the bane of Ernie’s assistant Ruth Antrich’s existence. When she heard on Saturday night that boots were needed, she went to the rescuers to offer ours. The boots were delivered in time for the second big rainstorm and are currently being used by all manner of rescue personnel.

As you can see, the extraordinary staff of Project Renewal – like so many New Yorkers –went way beyond the call of duty following the horrors. I was, and am, tremendously proud to be associated with them.

Remembering Edwin (Eddie) Zambrana, Jr.

Edwin (Eddie) Zambrana, Jr., 24, had only been with the Project Renewal recycling program a short time before September 11th. That morning, he had friendly conversations with his co-workers. “See you at lunch,” he said to one of them as he boarded the elevator to the 88th fl oor of WTC Building 2.

When Eddie wasn’t working or helping to care for his sick mother, he enjoyed basketball. Not only did he teach children aged 6-18 basketball, but he even had a tryout with a professional team in Puerto Rico scheduled for March 2002.

Remembering Edwin (Eddie) Zambrana, Jr.

Richard (Richie) Penny, 53, had been with the recycling program for about three years before the World Trade Center tragedy. That day, because of his reliability and indefatigability, a Port Authority representative specially requested him to cover a “heavy” assignment: the 100th-90th floors of WTC Building 1.

Soft-spoken and diligent, Richie identified his love of learning as his best quality. Once the valedictorian of his high school class, Richie spent ten years on the streets and in shelters before another social service agency steered him to the Project Renewal recycling program.