In the wake of the disasters at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, a wide range of entertainment technology industry companies and individuals have pitched in to help with the relief effort.
On the afternoon of Tuesday September 11, Musco Lighting received a call from the NYPD requesting the use of its mobile lighting trucks. The portable lighting trucks are normally used for sporting events and four trucks happened to be staged near New York City for the college football season. Musco had provided lighting trucks for the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and were on the police department’s list of vendors.
According to Musco spokesperson Diane Crookham-Johnson, four trucks were dispatched immediately with a fifth coming in from their Iowa headquarters. They also have two trucks at the Pentagon site. Normally, the trucks operate with one technician per truck, but due to the length of time they will be on site, they have extra crew standing by. “The crews are currently on a two day on, one day off rotation," says Crookham-Johnson. "The trucks will remain until released by the New York Office of Emergency Management. They are planning on at least two months at this point." Firefighters were concerned about working at night on the site, but the lights have aided the search and rescue mission by providing near daylight amounts of light at ground zero.
Another story of people in our industry pitching in comes from Charlie Libin, a DP/grip who, along with David Skutch of Luminaria Ltd., have been volunteering to help with the lighting at the World Trade Center site. When the rescuers were having trouble seeing into the crater they obtained 12 ARRI Ruby-7 fixtures from Camera Service Center. The Ruby-7 consists of six PAR 64 lamps in a ring and one PAR 64 lamp in the middle. They are focusable to direct the light where you need it and have aided the ongoing search and rescue efforts.
When officials from New York City’s government realized that they needed more room for the NYC Family Assistance Center, which started out at the armory on Lexington Avenue, they settled on the UnConvention Center located at Pier 94, at 55th Street and the West Side Highway. At 125,000-square feet, it is three and a half times larger than the armory and better suited to the families that were searching for loved ones. Ken Longert of KL Productions, a production company based at the piers that provide lighting staging and sound equipment for the trade shows, jumped into action supporting the city’s efforts.
"On Wednesday, the city wanted to use Pier 94 as a morgue and asked us to put up drapes and lights to create a welcoming place for the families," explains Longert. "On Thursday they changed their minds and asked us to help in the construction of the Family Assistance Center. We set up more lighting, staging, we ran a lot of power drops all over the space. There was very little power here when this was a pier, and we have added a lot of power distribution to support the trade shows. Since the pier is 900 feet long, we have a lot of very long feeder cable and portable distribution to put power where it is needed."
Longert and a crew of 30 technicians worked around the clock to get Pier 94 ready for the new guests. They worked in conjunction with Verizon and Time Warner to provide phone and Internet access. "There are hundreds of computers as well as a cafeteria for catering hot meals for the families," says Longert. His crew set up a pier wide sound system with three zones for announcements. One of the poignant features is a long plywood wall at the entrance to the center with a small roof that is covered with fliers and photos of missing loved ones. A quick trip to an electrical supply house later and Longert’s crew had set up weatherproof flood lighting along the wall.
Individuals from the entertainment industry have been contributing in other ways as well. Herrick Goldman, a New York City based lighting designer, also happens to be a trained EMT. He was working a call when the tragedy was unfolding. Goldman went immediately to Chelsea Piers, where the city was staging ambulances, to volunteer his services. He and a crew of 50 off- duty firemen took over a dark soundstage and were told to convert it into a hospital. "My first reaction was those eight mercury vapor fixtures aren’t going to cut it," says Goldman, who subsequently ran back the three blocks to the job site and took some 2kW fresnels and power distribution in a hamper back to the soundstage. "In about five minutes, the Local 52 crew and I got it up and running." With some supplemental lighting from the Law and Order lighting package, they turned a darkened sound stage into a makeshift hospital.
"I ended up working there as an EMT until 9pm that night, dealing with coordination of volunteers," says Goldman. There, 300 doctors, nurses and medics manned over 100 fully functional operating tables. Sadly, there have only seen a handful of patients. "It was incredible to see all of the volunteers coming out of the woodwork willing to pitch in and do anything necessary. It makes me proud to be a citizen of this city and this country," sums up Goldman.