Eleven years ago today was just another shift at the Warren, Michigan WasteWater Treatment Plant. Assigned to the operation of its lone incinerator, my job was a cakewalk. “Cake” is the term we turdherders give to the dewatered sludge that is sent via conveyor belts to be burned. A shift inspection of the unit and all readings were taken. Then I settled in to monitor the operation of the incinerator.
Having previously worked at the City of Detroit’s world’s largest WWTP, the Warren gig really was a cakewalk. As Sr. Operator at Detroit’s Incineration Complex II facility, there were 8 of those bad boys to operate. With a raucous crew of 7 commandos, we’d burn (literally) tons of dried “cake” every shift in Detroit. With 5 separate crews rotating through the week, we’d compete with each other to see who could incinerate the most dried sludge. More often times than not Crew IV kicked major butt. Our supervisor (Noys Hillis..now deceased, so he won’t mind my sharing this vignette) was an old-school kind of boss. He’d call me in the control room of Complex II at the beginning of a midnight shift with this order:
“Hurley…kill the roof lights and ram as much sludge as you can through those incinerators!”
Okie Dokie boss…you got it.
Of course, this was before the construction of the three large stacks you see pictured above. Killing the roof lights was necessitated in order to avoid spotlighting the spewing of ash through the stacks all over DelRay & Southwest Detroit. Not only did Crew IV win the do-do burning competitions on a regular basis, but we were also responsible for painting the residents of Delray’s homes & cars with a bronze colored ash. The EPA did not have a very good sense of humor about the methodology we utilized in the discharge of our duties, hence, the construction of the three stacks. That way, the ash would float over the Detroit river and paint the town of Windsor Canada with a nice brown tinge. With Burning zone that ranged from 1400-1900 degrees, it could be a very hot place to work.
Fast Forward To September 11, 2001.
As stated earlier, it started as a normal shift at the Warren WWTP. …until my union steward Pat Conte burst into the control room. He was out of breath and the pallor of his countenance was more Caucasian than usual. “Hey Hurls! A plane just crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers! Put the incinerator on auto-pilot and get to the lunch room stat!” Like all good 99%er self-entitled union scum, the rank & file had a decent lunchroom equipped with a computer, stereo speakers, a sub-woofer and a TV. Operators began streaming into the lunch room, followed by maintenance personnel and even some management types. We stood there in disbelief as the 2nd jet hit.
Up until that point, most of us were in a state of shock and denial. None of us saw the first jet hit. Many of us thought some idiot in a Cessna high on weed may have been the cause of the first crash. I’ll never forget the audible gasps and cries of “Oh’ No!” as the second jet exploded into a fireball inside the 2nd Tower. Grown men…seasoned pros…hardened tradesmen…were reduced to shock and fear in a nano-second as the fireball erupted on the screen in front of us.
“Oh sweet Jesus” one non-believing fellow employee exclaimed.
At that point, everyone in the lunchroom became a believer in one sense or another.
Many just quietly wept while others expressed outrage and anger.
All of us were powerless.
Over the next weeks as the footage became available, hatched plans laid bared and the drumbeat for war sounded, a numbing acceptance began to settle in. 11 years later that has not abated. Watching this clip today did not engender any hate towards anyone of the Muslim faith…just a heart of compassion for those fallen and those who survived, still living with the scars.
WARNING: THIS CLIP IS NOT EASY TO WATCH..but I couldn’t help it this morning. The carnage depicted at the 4:40 mark of the clip took away my breath. I’d never seen bodies splattered at the base of the towers and cement painted a crimson red with the blood of our fellow Americans.
My good friend and brother-in-arms Gary Williams just shared this;
“Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops”