Michael Petrone was one of the head engineers for the construction of the World Trade Center Slurry Wall from 1967 - 1968. It was to my great dismay, that I learned he passed away last fall, in Pennsylvania. As I had the pleasure of meeting and spending some time with him, I can tell you he was a gregarious man, full of laughter, having a sparkle in his eyes and wanted to tell his story. He received his Doctorate of Engineering in Rome, Italy at the age of 21, was head engineer as he worked on the rebuilding parts of the Vatican in the 50's, worked for ICanda, pouring the Montreal Stock Exchange slurry wall and Head Engineeer for the pouring of the concrete slurry wall for the new World Trade Center in the late 1960's.
Michael was first introduced to Bill Lavan, one of the partners of Impact Environmental in the summer of 2014, at a fund raiser in Philadelphia. Once it was learned that Michael had been the main engineer, Bill just couldn't help himself but sit and listen to Michael for a couple hours, telling amazing stories of how that wall was built, the trials and tribulations he encountered and to witness Michael's huge personality. Bill realized that Michael and his wife Susan should be brought to Pennsylvania to see the pieces of the wall that were saved for this art project. Michael had only one request, he wanted a smaller sculpture of that wall and he said he would give me an interview on video of his experiences in the pouring of that wall.
I got to meet Michael and his wife in Philadelphia, as he greeted Kay Krapf and I in his office that was an old bank vault. The enormous round bank vault door was swung open permanently, as you stepped up into his office where he worked at a modest desk, along with his wife Susan.
After Kay and I presented his sculpture to him, weighing in at 200 lbs, he proceeded to let me videotape him telling his story. He was so animated and proud of what he had done. I am in the process right now of having that 2.5 hours of taping being made into a moving so that all that history can be preserved. Once we were finished, the next day Michael and his wife were picked up and driven to
downtown Bethlehem, to see where the first sculpture, named VICTORII REBUILD was installed next to City Hall.
Michael and his wife Susan, were greeted by Rich Parrish and Bill Lavan from Impact Environmental, Kay Krapf and myself. Once this piece was viewed and photographed with Michael, we then drove to the site where the blocks were then being stored. While at both locations, Michael spoke about some of his experiences of building the wall and answered many questions I had about certain elements embedded in the concrete and the process to pour was explained even further. It was obvious how emotional he was to see it up and out of the ground right in front of him. He said he was so upset about 9/11 that he could never bring himself to go see the 9/11 Memorial, that opened just a few months before in June of 2014. He stated that even though he built that wall, he could not imagine it being exposed for the whole world to see once again.
I will miss hearing Michael's full Baritone voice. As soon as the video is finished, I will be sure to post it for all of you to see and hear for yourself.