The families of the missing arrive at the Armory


69th New York veteran Vic Olney, the volunteer manager of the 69th armory's Officers Club, observed the battalion's soldiers last week as they return from duty in and near "The Pit." What he saw and heard both inspired and saddened him.

THURSDAY -- DAY 3 [Sept. 13]

Garryowen and Glory from NYC,

WGT Photo/Gerry Regan
A vigil and a memorial in Manhattan's Union Square on Sept. 14 -- Day 4.

The men of the 69th Infantry went out yesterday about 7 AM and did not return until after 11 PM. I had already gone along with Bob Davis for a "few" at one of the local Pubs and called it an early night. By he time we got back this morning the troops had already left. The soldiers back on duty at the Armory say the 69th came in, washed up a bit, grabbed a bite and sacked out wherever they found space only to get up about 0600 and move out at 0730. They are tired, beat, wiped out - but return for more.

The people of the 88th Brigade, NY Guard are in the 69th Armory and secured the O Club and were there most till the late hours and some of the 69th guys slept on the couches and in the chairs. Their mission is to assist with Armory Security and local traffic control.

The Drill Shed (Main Floor) of the 69th Regiment Armory is now under the control of the NYPD and various other City and State Agencies providing support for the families of the missing, receiving donations and signing up and assigning volunteers.

The 69th and their brothers in arms from other National Guard Units have the basement and the 2nd Floor; needless to say it is a cramped situation.

The scene at the Armory this morning at 1030 is incredible -- there are at least 2,000 people already on the Drill Shed speaking to counselors, filling out reports on the missing, volunteering, donating. There are hundreds of Police Personnel and support staff wearing shirts that say "Office of the Mayor", "NYPD Community Relations" and many others. There are PD barricades up Lexington Avenue and around the corner on 26th Street and up towards Park Avenue South.

Hundreds stand patiently in line awaiting entrance to sign up as a volunteer -- cops walk up and down quietly asking what they are there for -- volunteers and donors wait their turn to sign up. An old Spanish man who speaks no English is brought by another old couple and is looking for someone missing (people on line translate) and he is escorted immediately into the building.

It is a massive operation and there are signs around the Armory pasted anywhere there is room with a picture and a description of a victim -- usually it is the Wall Street Bond House, Cantor Fitzgerald, which must have been totally obliterated since they were on the highest floors. We all have friends who worked there and for other WTC Firms but dare not call anyone's house.

As I write this Barbara says she has just seen Davey Meyers wife on TV and it is obvious that he is gone. Jack Bowe had called earlier with some good news -- our buddy "Little John" made it out. We think of Peter Milano of Cantor and assume only the worst -- he has 4 kids.

The streets are inundated with reporters, TV Crews and vehicles and I see 2 guys with red shirts and still cameras - the shirts say Indianapolis Station whatever. I go toward the Armory wearing my 69th shirt and hat and show my drivers license to one cop and then another and then make up the 10 or so stairs where the gate is guarded by even more cops and a 69th soldier. He vouches for me and I go inside.

.... a picture and a description of a victim

The NYPD are trying to send people to the right area -- and sort out the particular volunteers as to potential assistance. The volunteers are mostly 25-35 and seem to come in pairs or small groups.

I go into the O Club and there are four 69th soldiers watching TV -- they are part of the kitchen brigade and are awaiting the Unit's return. There are two young women and a guy standing at the bar using cell phones -- the conversation is muffled and the tears flow -- they are obviously here to report a missing person.

I am there as Bush has his phone conversation with Rudy and Pataki and states that he will be in NY Friday afternoon -- something I have thought that must be done to show the world that the President of the United States can move around the Globe at will. Everyone says he is coming to the 69th -- it is an obvious central point -- 3 miles from the WTC, blocks from the Heliport and in an Armory -- but who knows and if they did they are surely not going to reveal that information even in normal times.

Vic and Barbara Olney 

Part 1: Just 'Doing Their Job'

Part 2: Looking for Miracles -- Wednesday Night, Sept. 12

Part 3: The Forlorn Hope -- Thursday, Sept. 13

Part 4: Nothing But Old Glory -- Thursday, Sept. 13 Continued

The late Vic Olney, the proprietor of Tara Hall was a veteran of the 69th New York, and the volunteer manager of the armory's Officers Club. Vic graciously allowed WGT to reproduce these dispatches in 2001, which he previously sent to all on Tara Hall's e-mail update list. 

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