Portuguese serving the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and the City of New York
The 9/11 Memorial & Museum in downtown Manhattan, where a tribute was paid to the 2977 victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, has in its payroll at least five Portuguese employees- most of them in the area of maintenance and logistics. The museum and memorial [www.911memorial.org], which opened in two distinct phases – the museum in 2011 and the memorial in 2014, also honor the victims of a terrorist attack which occurred in 1993, at a subway station in the World Trade Center.
One of the Portuguese employees, Renato Gomes Baptista, is the Project Director responsible for the Operations and Maintenance of the museum. Son of immigrants from Leiria, he was born in New York, but went to a primary school in Portugal. “My parents wanted me to learn Portuguese, so they took me there. “He told Luso-Americano Newspaper in an interview.
Baptista grew up in Westchester County, more specifically in Mamaroneck, although now he lives in White Plains. He studied Accounting at Pace University and practiced the profession for 15 years.
“One day, I was done with that work routine and asked architect Luis Mendes if there were any job openings in New York City to which I could apply,” he said, “and he suggested the 9/11 Museum & Memorial, where I have been for the past 7 years.”
The Portuguese leads a team of 60 employees, who are responsible for the maintenance of the entire museum and its areas. “I see many Portuguese tourists here, and whenever I hear them speaking, I will interact and have a conversation”, says Renato Batista.
In his team, he has the Portuguese Abílio Guimarães (born in New Rochelle, NY, and son of immigrants from Ferreira e Chaves), Arthur Barreto (born in Westchester and son of a Portuguese from Algarve) and José Mendes, originally from Ourém and residing in Yonkers.
For the architect from Lisbon, Luís Mendes, 61, “whenever I come here, I remember my first day, when I didn’t want to believe in the surreal scenario of destruction that I found.”
Around September 11, Assistant Commissioner of Special Projects Luís Mendes, who came to the US as a 16-year-old and graduated as an architect at the renowned Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, was responsible for the entire gigantic operation of debris removal and cleaning of the so-called ‘Ground Zero’. “My work started on the same day of the attacks and went to May, “says Mendes in the interview with the Luso-Americano newspaper. “There were days when I was here for 20 hours! There were trucks full of debris and iron beams leaving without interruption.”
After the cleaning operation, he took on the technical coordination of the transformation of the site into what it is today. “Sixteen hectares of construction involving 7 mega projects, all competing with each other. To get to the end and see this work, which was made with all dignity, is a great point of pride for me.”
A few years ago, Luís Mendes was the host for President Aníbal Cavaco Silva, who went to ‘Ground Zero’ to place flowers to honor the victims of 9/11. ” It was gratifying to have the President of Portugal learn about the existence of Portuguese countrymen fighting for New York’s progress,” he notes.
The architect, settled in Westchester, now is a NYC deputy-commissioner (possibly the Portuguese best placed in the public hierarchy of New York City),who coordinates a program for the recovery of areas affected by hurricane ‘Sandy”, working directly with Mayor Bill DeBlasio.