Valor Among the Ruins


After helping to save dozens of lives on 9/11, former World Trade Center (WTC) Security Manager George Tabeek, Jr., BS’73 (T), can’t forget “the ones who perished” on that tragic day.

It began around 8:40 that morning, when he spotted several boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts outside an office at the World Trade Center. The doughnuts were free — a complimentary treat for visitors.

“Hey, Bobby,” said Tabeek, the veteran manager of security for the giant office and shopping complex in lower Manhattan. “Look at that — free doughnuts! You want one?”

Robert Lynch, commercial property manager for the plaza section of the WTC, shook his head and laughed. Lynch was worried about cholesterol. “No thanks, George — that stuff’ll kill you!”

But Tabeek had never sampled a Krispy Kreme, and he was curious. So he grabbed a napkin and dug one of the gooey confections out of the bright green box.

A moment later, they were joined by Joe Amatuccio, another longtime property-management employee at the WTC, and two other employees. Together, the five men began walking across the central plaza that linked the two great towers with the Marriott Hotel.

They were making their regular morning circuit of the immense facility, where more than 50,000 people worked each day. As the security manager for the WTC since 1999, Tabeek was responsible for managing nearly 500 on-site security guards, along with several Operational and Security Command Centers, an ID section, the Parking Security Section, the WTC Outreach Program for the Homeless and the Key Control Facility for the two 110-story skyscrapers that loomed high above the 16-acre complex.

The hands on George Tabeek’s Rolex said: 8:45.

He took a bite of his doughnut — and a bright red gob of raspberry jelly splattered onto his white dress shirt. Tabeek groaned, then began to dab at the spreading crimson blotch with his napkin.

Amatuccio laughed out loud. “George, we can’t take you anywhere!”

All five of them were chuckling now, as they strolled along the concourse beneath the North Tower. Another day on the job …

Then Tabeek heard a jetliner approaching, very loudly. The engines were screaming as the enormous airplane descended from the bright blue sky above New York City.

It was 8:46.

It was September 11, 2001.

  Former World Trade Center Security Manager George Tabeek, BS'73 (T)

Here’s a note George Tabeek made later about the moment when his world changed forever:

… the plane struck 1 World Trade Center [the North Tower]. As I looked up, I saw fire and debris coming out … somewhere above the 78th floor. There were pieces of debris showering down, some of which were as big as refrigerators. People were running for cover as others lay on the ground hurt … Out of the five of us, Joe Amatuccio perished while saving others in 2 WTC, and Robert Lynch died while evacuating the Children’s Discovery Center in 5 WTC.

During the fateful hours that followed the crash of American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston into the North Tower of the WTC, 2,750 people would die.

During those same hours, George Tabeek would risk his own life several times — by climbing up to the 22nd floor of the North Tower to help evacuate dazed Trade Center tenants and Port Authority employees … and then by fighting his way through tons of dangerously shifting debris in order to lead six trapped police officers from the Port Authority and New York City to safety.

Tabeek was later awarded a Civilian Commendation Medal for Bravery and Heroism by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where he had worked in a variety of engineering and safety-related jobs for 20 years before the catastrophe.

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