On September 11, 2001, Mike Spera, director of sales and marketing for K/A/S Lighting, realized that when night fell there would be no light for the rescuers to continue in their search and rescue efforts at the World Trade Center. “I called the 114th Precinct here in Astoria, Queens, and got through to Police Officer Paul Chatham,” says Spera. “Together with Police Officer Toni Palosi of the Chief of Police's office, we formulated a plan. K/A/S Lighting was designated the command center for lighting the WTC site. We donated equipment and got technicians to operate the equipment.”
Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman Astoria Studios, volunteered to donate lighting, generators, and distribution equipment. “K/A/S Lighting represents Musco Lighting Towers in New York,” says Spera. “I called Musco Lighting in Iowa and they volunteered their equipment and operators. We had one Musco truck based here at the studio; there were three trucks in Rhode Island.” Sgt. Bill Griffin of the Connecticut State Police sent police cars to Providence to escort the Musco towers back into New York. “We also had five 1,400A generator trucks available,” says Spera.
Bob Schulman, manager of lighting for K/A/S, put together a formidable lighting package. “We loaded each truck with eight Mole-Richardson 9-light Maxi Brute fixtures, stands, accessories, and ample electrical distribution equipment,” he says. “Tom McKibben, our driver and a member of Local 52 [Motion Picture Studio Mechanics], volunteered to lead the trucks to the site,” says Spera. McKibben spent the first week at the site working day and night under horrific conditions. Spera called Tom O'Donnell, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 817, for more Teamster drivers and immediately got volunteers. McKibben called John Ford, secretary/treasurer of Local 52, for additional assistance. Ford responded, “How many people do you need and where?” The Musco trucks have been on-site since, providing the main key light for the recovery efforts. “When I went down to ground zero, I felt immense pride in seeing how all the union people came together and helped bring light to where there had been so much darkness,” sums up Spera.
Hours after tragedy struck at the World Trade Center, Airstar Space Lighting of Orlando, FL, assembled a volunteer team, loaded a truck with the company's illuminated balloons and lighting backpacks used for nighttime rescue operations, and was on the road to New York. Members of the team include Airstar president Tom Cheves, film and television lighting manager Eric Woods, and lighting specialist Dan Smith. Once in New York, Available Light, Airstar's New York agent, gave the Florida team access to staff, equipment, vehicles, and office space. Together, the companies ran around-the-clock shifts of 16 Airstar/Available Light workers who reported directly to battalion fire chiefs of the New York Fire Department.
On September 21, America: A Tribute to Heroes became the most widely distributed television production and successful fundraiser in history. America came together in less than one week, testing the logistical skills and professionalism of everyone involved. A mere 36 hours transpired between load-in and the actual telecast. By comparison, up to four full days are typically dedicated to load-in alone for something like the Grammy Awards.
LeRoy Bennett was production designer and LD for the New York portion of the telethon. The Los Angeles location was produced at CBS Television City; a third segment was shot in London. The New York and Los Angeles Fourth Phase facilities provided scenic projection equipment, film, and crew for the projection imagery designed by Jean Doherty under Bennett's direction. In addition to a Vari*Lite® equipment package from the New Jersey Vari-Lite Production Services shop, Fourth Phase New Jersey supplied lighting equipment to the East Coast portion of the production. Also, dozens of professional crew people joined together for an extremely difficult job.
Yankee Stadium hosted thousands of people on September 23 for a commemorative service. PRG provided a variety of services and equipment, and even recruited other theatrical vendors for the cause. Scenic Technologies furnished labor and equipment for stage platforming and railings, stair units, truss, and other support elements. In addition to individual employees who volunteered, ProMix Electrotec made a large donation of equipment for the speaker system, as well as onstage monitors, in-ear monitors, and feeds for the television broadcast. Fourth Phase New Jersey provided perishables along with some power distribution gear.
Fourth Phase also contributed to other star-studded concerts, such as The Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden on October 20; United We Stand, October 21, at RFK Stadium in Washington DC; and the Country Freedom Concert in Nashville on October 21.