This time 12 years ago, Jeffrey Nuspliger was pulling down debris from Ground Zero after two hijacked jetliners were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, killing an estimated 3,000 people.
Nuspliger, who has worked in demolition for 35 years, said he was on another job at a nearby military ocean terminal when he heard the news that one of the towers was on fire. He said he saw the second plane fly overhead and straight into the second tower.
“I said, ‘Whoa, something’s definitely (expletive) wrong here,” Nuspliger recalled.
The South Carolina contractor said he is in Dalton this week working on a demolition project for a local company. He moved to the southern state from New York about eight years ago, he said, and works on projects in several states with his demolition business.
Nuspliger said he finished his work as quickly as possible on Sept. 11, 2001, and headed to Ground Zero to see what he could do to help. That day it was hard to get in, he said, but in later days as he joined official responders, he was able to pass through a tunnel open to traffic going to the site on official business.
He described the first few days as “mayhem.”
“It was a good week or so before they started getting organized,” he said, explaining he worked with the American Red Cross from the first day tearing down debris so the rescue work could go on.
At one point, he and his crew were looking for and trying to uncover a mail truck. Two days later, they found the truck but no one inside.
Nuspliger said he worked at the site for about four months, eventually being hired to take care of the debris from Building Seven of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed when the main towers fell. That building housed FBI and other offices, he said, but Nuspliger said he found very little of anything identifiable in the rubble and debris.
“Actually,” he said, “there was nothing. Everything was pulverized.”
Nuspliger’s girlfriend at the time had begged him not to go during the early days, but he said he wanted to be there. Why?
“Because I’m one of the best demolition men on the east coast, and I needed to be there,” he said.
Over the years, Nuspliger said he’s commemorated 9/11 and dealt with his own experience in a variety of ways. A doctor gave him a note saying he needed his service dog, Mongrol, a black lab and border collie mix, because of the trauma he experienced from 9/11. The dog is his nearly constant companion and a big fan of jet skiing, Nuspliger said.
On his right arm, he has a tattoo of the Twin Towers with the words, “Ten years Gone” and “Let Freedom Rise.” On his left arm, with another graphic of the towers, the words “American Pride” and the numbers 9•11•01. In Dalton this week, he was disappointed not to find any local public commemoration of the anniversary.
He went out to dinner with his crew and a local restaurant manager offered him a 10 percent discount. He was honored.