Ground Zero Lingo

People who worked at Ground Zero often commented that Ground Zero was so big and so unique that it should have its own postal code. Although this never happened, Ground Zero certainly had its own "lingo". Word & terms that were used inside the 17-acre site by the workers were virtually unknown to the outside world. This only added to the feeling that we were all part of a very small, special community that served one purpose: to help out with the recovery and try to bring some closure to the thousands of grieving families who awaited word each day that perhaps their loved ones may have been recovered.  

10-10- The defunct Ladder 10, Engine 10, firehouse located fifty yards away {46m} from the South Tower and used as the Operations Command Center and tool-supply area during the recovery. Many workers came here for hot coffee before returning to the "hole".

Bovis- Main contractor for demolition and removal during the WTC cleanup.

The Bubble- The "tent", or the Salvation Army Respite Center. Hot meals were served and makeshift beds were erected here. Open twenty-four hours. Looked like a huge white dome from the exterior.

Bucket Brigade- The human chain of rescue workers who removed rubble from the hole by passing buckets of debris from man to man in the two weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

Cab- Glass and metal-encased interior of grapplers and trucks where the operators sat and controlled the machine.

Carhartt- Brand of insulated pants, jackets, and face masks worn by most FDNY, PAPD, ironworkers, and laborers at Ground Zero during the harsh, winter weather.

CHS- Clean Harbor Services. Ran the cleaning stations that were overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Church- St. Paul's located across the street from the WTC. It was miraculously untouched by the devastation and then used as a rest and relief center, providing physical and spiritual assistance for recovery workers. Walls of this Church adorned with children's letters of support from all over the U.S.A.

Cortlandt Station- Refers to the destroyed Cortlandt St subway station, located just outside the World Trade Center.

Crane- Used for lifting fallen beams from the World Trade Center.

Cutting Station- Designated areas at Ground Zero for cutting rebar wire out hanging out of the top of debris-filled trucks. All trucks had to go through the cutting station before leaving the WTC site.

DDC- Department of Development and Construction. Oversaw all contractors and construction workers. DDC workers were usually overheard saying to Ground Zero workers, "Put on your mask".

Decontamination Tent- Took dirt and ash off the trucks via workers with jet water hoses. Also used just outside the Bubble, where everyone would eat. WTC workers always passed through one of these tents before going to eat in the Bubble. Carrying Ground Zero dirt on one's shoes was unsanitary and the water guns removed the dirt from workers' boots.  

DEP- Department of Environmental Protection. Made sure that there were no environmental hazards at the site.

East Hut- Makeshift, wooden, hut-like command center for the FDNY. Located on the east side of the hole. Every morning at 7 AM, the Chiefs for that day would meet to plan out the day's goals. The "hut" contained nothing more than a bulletin board with washable ink, a coffee pot, a charger for the Motorola receivers, some donated food and a couple of portable heaters. The "'hut" had a wartime feel inside it.

EMS- Emergency Medical Services.

FDNY ATV Unit- The Jack-of-all-trades of Ground Zero. A team of firefighters who used all-terrain vehicles {called "gators"}. Jobs included running recovery tools down to the hole during recovery operations, changing stadium generator lights when the batteries went dead, getting the proper clothing to the men, transporting rubber gloves for the recoveries, bringing the American flags down for the Honor Guards, bringing supplies back and forth, and picking up the heavy, crushed Freon tanks that were found in the dirt. Also exchanged the empty, acetylene gas tanks used for welding or any kind of heating. Assisted in recoveries when necessary.

Freon- A colorless, odorless, and potentially lethal gas that is heavier than air and displaces oxygen.

FDNY- Fire Department of New York.

GPS Unit- Global Positioning Satellite. Used to record the human remains found. The men of the GPS unit would drive into the hole with the gator to where remains were found and punch the data into the handheld unit, thereby recording the location of every fragment of remains and personal effects. This information was then listed on a master grid and stored in a computer. Operations then could determine which grid areas had the most recoveries and thus help to locate stairwell or elevator shafts, which could mean a higher number of recoveries.

Grappler- Machine used to pull up dirt and debris and spread it out for observation and rake-thru.

Ground Zero Time- A term used when referring to the fact that most Ground Zero workers lost track of the day and time due to the very long hours of work and little to no sleep. Often compared to being in a casino for days on end with no sleep and losing track of the real world due to heavy involvement in the task at hand.

Ground Zeroed Out- A term used to describe workers who had been in the hole too long and needed a break from the unnoticed stress that crept up on them. Being exposed to harsh weather and even harsher visual stimuli was not healthy on a daily basis.

Hallagan- A forcible entry tool used by the FDNY. Usually marked by each firehouse's numbers. When a hallagan was found in the rubble, it signaled that recoveries were most likely imminent.

Hand Warmer- Small charcoal inserts that became hot for seven hours when exposed to air. Inserted into gloves for warmth during harsh weather.

Handy Talky- A radio used to communicate throughout the site {aka "The Motorola"}.

Honor Guard- Special ceremony for fallen police officers and firefighters in which recovery workers would line-up on the exit ramp, a Chaplain would say prayer and everyone would hand salute the victim as he/she was carried out to an awaiting ambulance.

The Hole- The seventeen-acre {7ha} area where the Towers once stood {aka "the pit", "the bathtub"}.

Jersey Barrier- Concrete slabs that run through the middle of Ground Zero and separate the east side of the pit from the west. The east side was the Jersey side and the west side the New York side. Term normally used when giving directions to a worker as to where to go in the hole. Other barriers were also used alongside steep drop-offs at Ground Zero. The "Ground Zero Bible Page" was found next to a Jersey barrier right next to one of these drop-offs in January of 2002.

K-9s-Trained search and rescue dogs. Usually German Shepherds but also Golden Retrievers. Many Ground Zero K-9s have since passed away from cancer.

Nino's- The restaurant on Canal Street that was open only to rescuers and fed them free for many months.

North Exit Road- Used to enter and exit the pit in the first four months. Closed down in January 2002.

NYPD- New York City Police Department.

OEM- Office of Emergency Management. Oversaw the DDC, FDNY, and NYPD.

OSHA- Occupational and Safety Health Administration.

OSS- Office of Strategic Services. Tested air levels and monitored Freon levels at Ground Zero.

PAPD- Port Authority Police Department.

Partner Saw- Used for cutting concrete. Has a twelve-inch {30 cm} blade.

PATH- Port Authority Trans-Hudson. Refers to the demolished underground subway/train station through which riders were transported between Manhattan and New Jersey. Also contained many concourses with clothing stores, newsstands, and bars.

The Pile- Referred to the sixty-foot {18m} tall collection of rubble that the WTC had been reduced to. Existed for the first couple of months after the disaster.

The Pit- The seventeen-acre {7ha} area where the Towers once stood {aka "the hole", "the bathtub"}.

Rake- Four-pronged tool used to cut through dirt during the Recovery.

Rebar- Two inch {5cm} –thick, snakelike reinforcing rods used in construction to strengthen concrete. Very dangerous for trucks at Ground Zero to drive over because they can snap back and cause injury to nearby workers.

Rebar- Cutter Power tool used to quickly cut rebar wire. Used in recoveries.

Sawzall- Power tool with six inch {15cm} blade that cuts through concrete, metal, steel, and iron. Used mostly for recoveries.

Shift Change- Changing of the personnel at either 7 AM or 7 PM.

Slurry Wall- Cement wall surrounding the base of the hole, separating the Hudson River from the site.

South Exit Road- Road also known as Tully Road {Named after Tully Construction headquarters located at the top of the road. Tully Construction was a subcontractor of Bovis}. Road was used in the first six months of the Recovery.

Spring Street- Nickname for the tool and clothing supply area for firefighters that operated through the goodwill donations of others. Located on Spring Street.

Stealthlite- Lights used on the helmets to free up heads while searching in dark areas for victims.

Stokes Basket- Metal or plastic stretchers used to carry victims.

Taking a Heavy Feed- Engulfed in heavy smoke.

The Tent- "The Bubble", or the Salvation Army Respite Center.

Tieback- Holes drilled one hundred feet {30m} down, filled with cables, and then filled with concrete. The purpose was to reinforce the slurry wall so it wouldn't burst and allow water into the hole from the Hudson River.

Toasty Toes- Smaller version of the hand warmer, used for shoes and boots.

Transfer Station- A designated flat area at Ground Zero where the dirt and rubble would be raked through for the second time before it was taken to the Staten Island landfill for a third raking. The transfer station would change locations periodically but was usually located outside the 10-10 firehouse near the East Hut.

Trenching Shovel- Compact shovel that can be folded up when not in use. Carried on the waist.

Void- A hole or pocket in the dirt or in a structure that's not easily visible to the eye. Can be a good thing that can save your life in a collapse or a highly dangerous pocket to fall into.

West Hut- Located on the west side of the hole. Makeshift, wooden, hutlike command center for the FDNY.

WTC Cough- Also called the Trade Center cough. A dry, hacking cough experienced by most Ground Zero workers. Most probably caused by the caustic dust, irritants, and smoke in the air.

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