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12 Sep, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Steven Scavelli, right, president of Flash Distributors in New York

Fate brought Steven Scavelli to the shadow of the World Trade Center and the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history yesterday. The president of Flash Distributors ended up joining in the rescue effort and discovering the complex that houses his company’s headquarters, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, had become New York City’s new emergency command center.

“I tell you, I am fully ready to go to boot camp and help drop bombs after what I went through and saw yesterday,” Scavelli said in an e-mail interview. “It was a war zone, and here I am a day later, still trying to clear my lungs of concrete ash.”

On Tuesday morning, shortly before 9 a.m., Scavelli was sitting in a law office about a half mile north of the World Trade Center. He had crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into lower Manhattan for a deposition in the class-action lawsuit against Blockbuster Inc. and the studios, and was waiting to be deposed when the first of two hijacked commercial jetliners plowed into the World Trade Center.

“We had just gone into the room and someone ran in and said a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center,” Scavelli recalled. “We were talking about whether it was a terrorist attack or a terrible accident. We looked out the window and saw the building in flames. Fifteen minutes later we heard people screaming. We ran out and saw that a second plane had hit, and we knew it was a terrorist attack.”

The attorneys decided to continue with the deposition, Scavelli said, until “someone came in and said the first building had just collapsed. I told them I was out of there — I couldn’t concentrate — and they agreed.

“So, I left and went toward the towers — and as I went I saw the second tower coming down.”

Scavelli said he ran to the scene “and tried to see what I could do, but there wasn’t much — it was a very, very ugly scene. I saw body parts, bloody people all over, concrete just all over the air and ground.”

Scavelli said he wound up spending five hours helping move debris and people, directing traffic, and handing out water bottles to police, firefighters and other rescue workers.

“I can’t even begin to describe it, and I really don’t want to,” he said. “Let’s just say it was like war… I guess it is war.”

Around 4 in the afternoon, Scavelli said, he boarded a bus, bound for St. Vincent’s, to give blood, only to find so many people had already donated blood that no more was being accepted. It took him three hours to get home and collect his thoughts.

“The TV can’t even begin to describe what really went on in there and how ugly it was,” he said. “It is a day I want to forget.”

In the meantime, Flash headquarters in the Brooklyn Army Terminal had become the city of New York City’s new emergency command center, in the wake of the destruction of its old home in the World Trade Center.

“As a result, the building is off-limits to everyone except police intelligence and emergency crews,” Scavelli said. “Luckily, I know a few people and I was allowed to get my people in and we are up and running.”

Still, it’s hardly business as usual at Flash, Scavelli said. “I have to go out into the street to meet the trucks and load up our vans and we have to bring our packages to UPS,” he said. “But luckily, we can do that — and luckily we are not closed down.”

Now that he’s had time to reflect, Scavelli said he’s proud of his fellow New York citizens for the way in which they reacted to the disaster.

“The unbelievable thing is that there was no mayhem, no looting, no riots, no panic,” Scavelli said. “Everyone was very organized, with thousands and thousands of volunteers like me helping out. When I left the hospital, after they told me they had enough blood, there were literally hundreds of people walking up to give blood, in groups of 10 or 20. It seemed like everyone who was healthy came to give blood.”

“In fact, just this morning, I was talking to Bob Day, the local Paramount rep, and he is on his way now to give blood.”

Do you have disaster information of importance to the industry? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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