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Old 09-11-2013, 09:15 PM   #1
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Native Ironworkers on WTC

Anniversary of 9/11 Felt by Indian Construction Workers - ICTMN.com

INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY MEDIA NETWORK

Anniversary of 9/11 Felt by Indian Construction Workers

Eisa Nefertari Ulen
September 09, 2011

Ten years ago—on the day everything changed for so many—women, children and grown men cried. Even tough men, men who worked with their hands or on big machines, men who wouldn’t ever let their wives see them cry, cried. Some of them were ironworkers, and many of them were Mohawk.

When New York City’s Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, pieces of Mohawk history fell, too. And now, as the rebuilding of lower Manhattan continues, those pieces are being put back, in steel and in stone. This is a shared history too few outside Native communities know. From 1966, when construction began on the Twin Towers, to 1972, when the South Tower opened, 10,000 people worked on one of the boldest construction projects in history, the tallest building in the world at that time. Men of Canada’s Kahnawake Reserve were among those 10,000—they helped build the World Trade Center up from the ground to the sky, from public controversy to iconic status, from a blueprint to a symbol of the greatest city on Earth.

Mohawk men also stood in the Pit, what would later be known as Ground Zero, and helped clean up after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Most Americans don’t know that, either. But the story of Mohawk ironworkers didn’t begin on September 11, 2001. And it didn’t begin in 1966. This story started in the late 1800s, on a railway bridge over the St. Lawrence River, near Quebec.

Iron in the Blood
According to the National Ironworkers Training Program for American Indians, based in Broadview, Illinois, “Native Americans have been part of ironworkers history since 1886 when the St. Lawrence River was bridged on tribal land in Quebec. Ironworker foremen noticed that Mohawks, who were working as laborers, were surefooted on the span and soon hired them as ironworkers.”

“My great-grandfather worked on that bridge,” says 64-year-old George Norton. Opened in 1891, that span would be followed by another that opened for car use in 1934. Norton says his father helped build the 1934 bridge. Norton’s people, including many of the men in Kahnawake, had worked as lumberjacks, but they became skilled ironworkers at the turn of the last century. He estimates that over the past 100 years “60 percent to 70 percent of the men in Kahnawake worked as ironworkers.”

“Our forefathers worked on the Golden Gate Bridge,” Norton says. Others worked on projects in the middle of the country. Some married and never came back to the reserve, but many would come back to see their families between jobs, or their families moved with them from job to job around the country. Ironwork became a family legacy passed down from grandfather, to father, to son that they all shared through the generations. Significant life passages are marked by the jobs the men had: “My mother said my dad was working on the George Washington Bridge in New York City when I was born,” says 84-year-old Les Albany.

Albany, too, became an ironworker. He apprenticed with his father on a hospital after getting special permission from Brooklyn’s Board of Education, where he was enrolled in high school. He was just 16 years old. “That’s when I got my union book,” he says. After working off and on with his dad for three years, he was able to get his journeyman’s book and eventually became a foreman.

Albany and his father were like many of the men from Kahnawake, men who had stood high above some of the most important landmarks in this country, shaping them and making them accessible to the rest of us. Albany says his father was one of the foremen who constructed a bridge over Niagara Falls. He has a picture of his father holding the Canadian flag on the north side of the bridge. Pictured with him, just inches away, is an American holding the Stars and Stripes on the U.S. side.

Many years later, Albany says he was hired to do regular maintenance on the George Washington Bridge, the one his father had helped build. One day, he recalls, his father asked where he was working. Les told him, and his father said, “What are you doing there?” Les laughs when he recalls what he told his father, “Correcting your mistakes.”



Read more at Anniversary of 9/11 Felt by Indian Construction Workers - ICTMN.com
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Old 09-16-2013, 08:45 AM   #2
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Thanks for posting.

Stopped at Ground Zero a few times. And seen one of the steel beams of the WTC in North Carolina and even seen it Afghanistan carried by some fire fighters and soldiers in Kabul back in 2010.
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