• 1st Looting Reference: CHAPTER I

    1. American Ground BOOK version Page 16 and American Ground Atlantic Monthly MAGAZINE version Page 6 (identical text in both versions)

    “I poked through the detritus, knowing from the disturbed dust that I was not the first visitor to have done so. Indeed, it became obvious from the traces where laptops had been, and from all the opened bags, that the room had been systematically rifled for valuables-whether by errant firemen, policemen or construction workers hardly mattered. All three groups were at various times, implicated in awidespread pattern of looting that started even before the Towers fell, and was to peak around Christmas with the brazen theftof office computers from this very building. The psychology involved was complex, and had more to do with the breakdown of the social order-a sense of crisis and special privilege-than with any particular criminal inclination to steal. People urinated on the carpets in Deutsche Bank as well. And presumably the same people who had robbed this room had also written “Fuck Bin Laden” on the display board, because a righteous sense of war was part of the package too.”

  • 2nd Looting Reference: CHAPTER I

    BOOK version Pages 35-36 (Book text altered after MAGAZINE version published) —
    no footnotes indicates this change from magazine text

    “A quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of gold and silver turned out to be a lot of ingots-more than 30,000 in this case. The ingots weighed up to seventy pounds each, and were stacked on wooden pallets that could be moved within the vault by forklift and internal elevator. Their weight was 1.9 million pounds. The vault belonged to the Bank of Nova Scotia. The bank held the treasure to legitimize trading in the precious metals market. In practice it was expected that the metal would remain in the vault, even as it was bought and sold in various forms. There were guards to make sure that nothing went wrong with the stock. It never did. Even after the attacks of September 11 security was not a worry, because the guards had bolted any conceivable access. The treasure lay locked in a vault inside a vault. At least that was the thinking.

    But when, at the end of October, a pathway was finally cleared, down from the north through and old railroad tunnel, the bank’s initial entry team discovered that others had been there before, attempting to pry open the vault’s door and to cut in from above, in both cases unsuccessfully. Though it was assumed that the intruders had been construction workers, (Caution: These words are added only after the magazine version was published. Words in green exist only in this new book version; compare with magazine version text below.)it never became clear who exactly they were, where they had come from, or how they had proposed to get away through these ruins with more than just a few ingots. However, if the unbuilding of the World Trade Center had already shown one thing, it was that workers there were resourceful and persistent.”

  • 3rd Looting Reference: CHAPTER III

    BOOK version Page 158-161 (Book text altered after MAGAZINE version published)–
    no footnotes indicates this change from magazine text

    “For many of the firemen, who tended to have led quiet lived until then, the sudden popularity became a disorienting thing. Even those with the strength to resist the publicity-who stayed off TV, and did not strut in public-seemed nonetheless to be influenced by this new external idea of themselves as tragic characters on a national stage. The image of “heroes” seeped through their ranks like a low-grade narcotic. It did not intoxicate them, but it skewered their view.

    Strangely enough, it was this patriotic imagery that ultimately drove the disunity on the pile, and that by early November nearly caused the recovery effort to fall apart. The mechanisms were complex. On the one hand, there were some among the construction workers and the police who grew unreasonably impatient with the firemen, and became overeager to repeat the obvious-in polite terms, that these so-called heroes were just ordinary men. On the other hand, the firemen seemed to become steadily more self-absorbed and isolated from the larger clean-up efforts under way. The resentments rarely erupted into fistfights (although fistfights did occur) but were increasingly expressed in private conversations on the pile-often on the subject of looting that for the first few months tarnished the Trade Center response.

    The looting was shadowy, widespread and unsurprising.The Trade Center was known to have been hit before by errant policemen and firemen, after the terrorist bombing of 1993. This time the thievery was less intense but longer-lived. It involved small numbers of construction workers and men from the same uniformed groups as before, and it was shallow and opportunistic rather than deeply criminal in intent. It started in the shopping complex, with the innocuous filching of cigarettes and soda pop, and expanded into more ambitious acquisitions . As rumor had it, the tribalism at the site extended even to the choice of goods. Firemen were said to prefer watches from the Torneau store, policemen opt for kitchen appliances, and construction workers (who were at a disadvantage here) to enjoy picking through whatever leftovers they came upon-for instance, wine under the ruins of the Marriott hotel, and cases of contraband cigarettes that spilled from U.S. Customs vaults in the Building Six debris. No one, as far as I know, stole women’s clothes, which hung on racks for months, or lifted books from the Borders bookstore, which were said to be contaminated with dangerous mold. After a few arrests were made, the filching shifted to the peripheral buildings, which were gradually thinned of computers until the authorities wised up and posted guards. It’s important to realize that these transgressions occurred not in a normal part of the city but in a war zone, where standards had changed, food and supplies were provided free of charge, and a flood of donated goods (flashlights, gloves, Timberland boots) was believed to be backwashing onto the streets. It was also a place where the entire nation had been attacked and was responding as a collective, and where therefore, surprisingly for modern America, the meaning of individual property had been diminished. In context the looting simply did not seem shocking.

    Knowledge of it, however, cast a shadow on the use of the word ‘hero,’ and at least once became a source of embarrassment and bitter mockery. One autumn afternoon, at the base of the South Tower ruins, diesel excavators were digging into unexplored reaches of the Trade Center’s foundation hole. Fifty feet below the level of the street they began to uncover the hulk of a fire truck that had been driven deep by the collapse. The work was being directed by the field superintendent for one of the major construction companies, a muscular and charismatic man who was widely admired (and to some extent feared) for his unabashed physicality and his manner of plunging unhesitatingly into battle with the debris. If for no other reason than his confidence in the enormous mechanical power at his disposal, the superintendent believed in acting first and worrying about the consequences later. Early on he made it clear to me that were he in charge, he would clean up the site in no time flat, and that his first step would be to throw the firemen off the pile. Such was his disdain that he might even have included Sam Melisi in the toss, hard as that was to imagine. He assured me that he’d had nothing against firemen before (he shrugged and said, “Why would I?”), but he just couldn’t stand this hero stuff anymore. He didn’t like the moralistic airs these guys were putting on. He didn’t like the way they treated the civilian dead. And he especially didn’t like the fact that they kept forcing his operation to shut down-once for three days straight-while they worked by hand and poked through the rubble for their colleague’s remains.

    Imagine his delight, then, after the hulk of the fire truck appeared, that rather than containing bodies (which would have required decorum), its crew cab was filled with dozens of new pairs of jeans from The Gap, a Trade Center store. When a grappler pulled off the roof, the jeans were strewn about for all to see. (Caution: This sentence is changed from the magazine version, “When a grappler pulled off the roof, the jeans were revealed for all to see.”) It was exactly the sort of evidence the field superintendent had been waiting for. While a crowd of initially bewildered firemen looked on, the construction workers went wild. “Jeans! Look at these! Fucking guys! Jeans!” It was hard to avoid the conclusion that the looting had begun even before the first tower fell, and that while hundreds of doomed firemen had climbed through the wounded buildings, this particular crew had been engaged in something else entirely, of course without the slightest suspicion that the South Tower was about to hammer down. This was not what the firemen wanted to hear. An angry fire chief tried to shut the construction workers up. He offered an explanation-that the jeans (tagged, folded, stacked by size) had been blown into the crew cab by the force of the collapse. The field superintendent, seeming not to hear, asked the fire chief to repeat what he had said. When he did, the construction workers only jeered louder.

    Scattered jeans lay on the pile for several days. The story got around. For Ken Holden and Mike Burton, this and other incidents on the pile amounted to important lessons in their war’s early months: the site would never stand united, as sloganeers said it should, so some other approach would have to be found.”

  • 4th Looting Reference: CHAPTER III

    BOOK Page 181 and MAGAZINE Page 113 (identical text in both versions)

    “Because of the physical unknowns of the debris, as well as the frequent interruptions for the recovery of the dead, the work was done on the basis of open-ended “time and materials” agreements, as opposed to the standard packaged bids, and though some of the truckers cheated, and certain contractors grossly inflated their costs, on the whole, workers never got the idea to slow down and take advantage of the federal largesse. They were by no means perfect. There was looting, of course. And Burton threw an entire AMEC crew of twenty-seven ironworkers off the site for spending a shift doing nothing at all. But Peter Rinaldi, who for all his adult life had overseen construction projects for the Port Authority, regularly expressed his amazement to me at the efficiency of the operation. Never before had he seen a time-and-materials job that functioned so well.” The overtime helped: the heavy-equipment operators, for example, were earning at a rate of up to $200,000 a year, and some of the firemen and the police, whose pensions were based on their last level of pay, were experiencing such a windfall that financial logic required them to retire after leaving the site. But it would be a mistake to think that people were going around silently counting their blessings. They were in fact responding to the attack with all their might. They were going the country’s dirty work, and somewhere in the background the money was flowing into the bank.”