32 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • SEPTEMBER 2019
LI-BASED TEAMSTERS AMONG UNSUNG HEROES OF 9/11
continued from page 31
The day after the attacks, he received
notice of a need for mobile power and
lighting with a request for volunteer
drivers. For the next two weeks,
Local 817 had two 12-hour shifts of
about 30 teamster drivers transporting
generators on box trucks
with lights. They also drove flatbed
trucks to help carry large equipment
and cables. Water trucks were also
provided to spray down dust and
keep it out of the air. O’Donnell notes
that Local 817 collaborated with Local
52 Motion Picture Studio Mechanics,
among other unions.
"Conditions were hazardous and
everybody was issued breathing
masks,” O'Donnell says. “Over a
period of years, some people started
developing symptoms or problems
that resulted from their time spent
James Leavey, a third-generation
Local 817 teamster and retired recording
secretary, assisted in the
coordination and supervision for
Local 817 in the 9/11 relief efforts.
“We turned night into day with
generators and lighting equipment,”
Leavey recalls. ”I was never prouder
of being a teamster and member of
Leavey, who, with support from the
VCF, is being treated for respiratory
issues, sleep apnea and chronic post-nasal
drip, says he is “one of the lucky
ones,” as others have either succumbed
to cancer or are currently being treated
for more severe health issues.
“There was actually asbestos and
carcinogens down there,” he says.
“When the World Trade Center
collapsed the dust was so thick you
were really walking in a fog at times.
We knew that there was going to be
health problems, but nobody gave a
That’s just what Local 817 does.
“There were miserable nights, pouring
rain at times, the temperature
had dropped, and it was really a
tough situation," O'Donnell recalls.
"To all my members that volunteered
and served, as well as every
other volunteer who gave their time
and put themselves out there, I'm
both thankful and proud.”
“We turned night into day with generators and
lighting equipment,” James Leavey says.
Teamsters Local 817 President Tom O'Donnell's union members are
among those ailing after responding to the World Trade Center in 2001.
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