A Year Later, Downtown NY Remembers 9/11

NEW YORK— As the nation reflects on the tragedies of last year, New Yorkers showed their strength in numbers as they gathered near ground zero yesterday morning to show support and remembrance for the lives lost on 9/11. Despite high alerts, tourists continued to flock to the city this week as a sign of respect, and filled NYC’s Lower Manhattan hotels with each observing the day in private ways. The Embassy Suites Battery Park City here, which stands across the street from ground zero and which housed several television news crews this week, held a breakfast on the morning of Sept. 11 for all its employees, a spokesperson said. The staff observed a moment of silence together at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane struck the World Trade Center. According to the spokesperson, about 95% of the hotel’s team members were working Sept. 11, 2001, and in honor of the day, the Embassy Suites hung an American Flag over its entrance. It’s the same flag that the staff flew from the roof on Sept. 12th last year. Marriott International’s New York City hotels also prepared special observances yesterday to honor their lost sister property— the Marriott World Trade Center— along with the two Marriott employees who died in the attacks last year. Earlier this month HOTEL BUSINESS® spoke with the company’s NYC spokesperson, who said all of Marriott’s hotels here would feature two 10-12ft. trees in their lobbies on 9/11 in honor of the two lost employees. The trees will later be planted in various New York City parks in their memory. In addition, the Marriott Financial Center, located steps from ground zero and which suffered significant damage after the attacks, illuminated a battery-operated candle in every window last night, in time with the lighting of the eternal flame in nearby Battery Park. The NYC Marriotts also held two moments of silence. While much has been reported this year on the heroic events that took place in the twin towers last year, the New York Times this week paid tribute to the selfless acts of Marriott’s employees last Sept. 11, including the two staff members who lost their lives. The company’s 22-story hotel, tucked under the enormous towers, “served as the mouth of a tunnel, a runway in and out of the burning towers for perhaps a thousand people or more,” the paper reported. At 8:46 on Sept. 11, 2001, landing gear from the first plane pierced the hotel roof and crashed into an office next to the swimming pool on the top floor. Despite the destruction, a group of Marriott workers, from managers to porters, stayed behind to make sure their guests got out. As hundreds of people fleeing the towers arrived in the hotel, the workers steered them into Tall Ships, the house bar, where an exit took them to police officers on Liberty Street, according to the Times. At 9:59, when the south tower collapsed, the evacuation had slowed to a trickle, and the lobby was occupied mostly by hotel workers, firefighters and police officers. Part of the lobby turned out to be a safe zone, shielded during the collapses by reinforced beams that had been installed by the Port Authority after the 1993 bombing, the report said. Richard Fetter, the resident manager for the Marriott, who led the evacuation effort, was in the protected zone of the lobby when each of the towers fell. “Nicks, scrapes, little bruised here and there, but no bones broken,” Fetter recalled to the paper. Yet to this day, no trace has been found of Joseph Keller, the hotel’s executive housekeeper, nor audiovisual engineer Abdu Malahi, who both helped get scores of people out of the building. The two employees, who had master keys, went room to room to warn guests. Malahi also took firefighters up to the roof to inspect the damage. No precise number of casualties for the Marriott exists, but it is likely, based on eyewitness accounts analyzed by The New York Times, that no fewer than 50 people inside the hote