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Profile: William Keegan
William Keegan was a participant or observer in the following events:
Pier 25 on the Hudson River. [Source: Larry Lerner / FEMA]Recovery workers find what appears to be one of the black boxes from Flight 11 or Flight 175—the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11—while they are working near Ground Zero, but FBI agents who inspect the object deny that it is one of these devices. [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 94-96] The two black boxes carried by all commercial aircraft—the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder—can provide valuable information about why a plane crashed. Although they are called “black” boxes, they are in fact painted bright orange. [CBS News, 2/25/2002; PBS, 2/17/2004] Since the initial days of the recovery effort at Ground Zero, finding the black boxes from Flight 11 and Flight 175 has been a priority, due to the critical information they might hold. Many posters with photos of a plane’s black boxes have been put up around the WTC site so workers will recognize these devices if they turn up in the debris.
Operating Engineer Thinks He Has Found a Black Box - Today, an operating engineer notices an object that looks like it could be one of the black boxes while he is scraping up a load of debris at Pier 25 on the Hudson River. [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 94] At Pier 25, near Ground Zero, debris from the WTC site is being loaded onto barges and transported to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island. [New York Daily News, 1/6/2002; APWA Reporter, 3/2004] The operating engineer thinks the object is the same shape as a black box. It is too blackened and charred, though, for him to determine if it is painted orange, like a plane’s black boxes are. He stops operations at the pier so he can get the opinion of the crane operator there. The crane operator agrees that the object looks like a plane’s black box and says its discovery should be reported. The operating engineer therefore makes a call to report the find and is put through to Lieutenant Ed Moss of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD).
Police Officers Think the Unearthed Object Is a Black Box - After the operating engineer tells him about the discovery, Moss heads to Pier 25 with his colleague, Lieutenant Bill Doubrawski. He examines the object and he too thinks it is one of the black boxes. Excitedly, he contacts Lieutenant William Keegan, who is in charge of the PAPD’s nighttime rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero. Talking over a secure phone line, Moss tells Keegan: “I think we found one of these things. I’m looking at the diagram. I think this is it.” Moss says Doubrawski agrees with his assessment. He describes the object as being “[h]ard as a rock, not orange,” and looking “like it was torched, all blackened.” Keegan says he wants to see the object and heads to Pier 25 to examine it.
Senior Police Officer Agrees with His Colleagues' Assessment - When he arrives there, he compares the object to some photos of a plane’s black boxes and agrees that it appears to be one of these devices. “The object found on the pier was absolutely close enough to the pictures available to us to notify the FBI without delay,” Keegan will later write. The PAPD officers arrange for some FBI agents who are working at Ground Zero to come to the PAPD command post to see the object.
FBI Agents Think the Object Is a Black Box but Then Change Their Minds - Around 20 to 30 minutes later, two FBI agents arrive at the command post. The agents examine the object that has been discovered and compare it to a diagram of a plane’s black box. They then say words to the effect of “Wow, this looks like it” and “It’s the same shape,” according to Keegan. However, after looking at the object for a few more minutes, they apparently change their minds. “We don’t think it’s a black box,” one of them tells the PAPD officers. In response, Keegan asks: “So it’s okay to throw it back on the barge? You’re clearing it?” The other agent quickly replies, “No, no, we’re going to take it with us.” The two FBI agents then leave the command post, taking the object with them. Keegan and his colleagues will subsequently never receive any information from the FBI, regarding whether the object really is one of the black boxes. [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 94-96] The 9/11 Commission Report will state that the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC “were not found.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456] But firefighter Nicholas DeMasi, who works extensively in the wreckage of the WTC, will say he helped federal agents recover three black boxes at Ground Zero (see October 2001). [Swanson, 2003, pp. 108; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004]
Joseph Trombino. [Source: Family photo]An armored truck that was parked in the basement of the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11 is discovered by recovery workers, who find that diamonds and bonds worth over a million dollars are inexplicably missing from it. The Brink’s armored truck was driven down to the underground receiving platform of the North Tower sometime before 8:46 a.m. on September 11, to deliver $14 million in cash. As well as this cash, the vehicle was carrying negotiable bonds and diamonds.
Driver Stayed with His Truck after Flight 11 Hit the WTC - Its driver, Joseph Trombino, waited while his three fellow guards dropped off the cash with some Bank of Nova Scotia guards, who put the money into canvas carts to be taken to a vault. Trombino was still in his vehicle when Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). His fellow guards were subsequently evacuated from the tower. But instead of leaving, Trombino stayed with his vehicle, perhaps to protect the cargo or because he expected his colleagues to return. At 9:15 a.m., he called Brink’s and reported that a police officer had told him to move his truck because the tower was unstable. He also reported that the building was shaking and water was cascading down. He was killed when the North Tower collapsed, at 10:28 a.m. (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Recovery Workers Discover the Armored Truck - Now, over three months later, a recovery team unearths part of the roof of Trombino’s truck in the wreckage of the WTC. Sergeant Kevin Murphy of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) calls Lieutenant William Keegan, who is in charge of the PAPD’s nighttime rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero, and tells him about the find. Keegan, in turn, contacts Brink’s to alert it to the discovery of one of its vehicles. Brink’s says it will send someone to the WTC site as soon as possible and mentions that the truck contains over a million dollars’ worth of valuables, comprising $250,000 in diamonds and $750,000 in negotiable bonds. The company also says the truck’s driver—Trombino—is still missing. Keegan then heads to the WTC site and a Brink’s supervisor also goes there.
Diamonds and Bonds Are Missing from the Truck - Once enough rubble has been removed to see inside the truck, Keegan and the other workers notice that the cab is empty. Keegan will later wonder if Trombino sought refuge under his truck when the Twin Towers collapsed, got into the back of it for safety, or left the vehicle and tried to get up to the street. Keegan wants to get into the back of the truck to remove the valuables from there. To get inside, the workers cut into a section of the roof with a circular saw and peel it back to create an opening. PAPD officer Tony Demeri is then lowered down through the hole. But after he carries out a full inspection, Demeri reports that the truck is empty, with no bonds or diamonds to be found. [New York Times, 9/17/2001; Chicago Tribune, 9/22/2001; Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 147-149] Trombino’s wife, Jean Trombino, will say in January 2002 that although her husband’s body has been recovered, she hasn’t been told where it was found. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 1/2/2002] Brink’s will report in 2014 that the body was found near the water fountain between the Twin Towers, in the WTC plaza, along with Trombino’s messenger bag. [Brink's Blog, 9/10/2014] The canvas carts filled with the $14 million that Trombino delivered on September 11 will be discovered in the rubble of the WTC in February 2002. However, Keegan will write in 2006, “Neither the bonds nor the diamonds have ever been recovered.” [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 149]
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