On September 11, Gerard Grant, 41, an 11-year veteran court officer at 60 Center Street was assigned to the officers’ academy on William Street, a block-and-a-half away from the World Trade Center. Sitting in a room waiting for re-certification at 8:45, Grant thought the air-conditioning had kicked in on the unusually hot September morning. The building shook around him. Suddenly the door burst open and a member of the staff said a plane had crashed into the Twin Towers.
Rushing to the flaming building, Grant was part of the evacuation effort. When the first building collapsed, the sheer force of the wind blew people onto the ground. “There were people lying everywhere,” he recalls. “So we picked them up and pointed the way north.”
In the midst of the dust and debris enveloping Lower Manhattan, he spotted two women standing on the street hugging each other. Their faces streamed with tears, the two strangers were too much in shock to move. Grant escorted them out of danger.
When the second building collapsed, Grant was standing 75 feet away. He was almost drowned in blackness. There was dust and debris everywhere. The air was thick with smoke and raining glass. Struggling to breathe, he found a fire truck and was pulled inside. As soon as the dust settled he returned to Center Street to take on his security post, where he remained for three days before returning home to hug his wife, Rita, and three sons, Conor, 9, Ryan, 7, and Barry, 3.
Grant was born in Birmingham, England, where his parents were part of a large Irish contingent that had moved to the British midlands for construction work. His father was from South Armagh, his mother from Dundalk. When Gerry was four months old, he and his family moved to Mullaghbawn, a small village in South Armagh.
At 17, Grant emigrated to the U.S., where he married his childhood sweetheart, Rita, in 1983. ♦