Bus used at World Trade Center on 9/11 revamped in East Huntingdon
Each time Anne Degre or one of her employees at Mobile Concepts by Scotty in East Huntingdon stepped on the 44-foot-long bus from New York City, they knew they were touching a piece of history.
Former President George W. Bush and former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani rode in the vehicle, used as a command center after terrorists hijacked two commercial jetliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers on 9/11.
Mobile Concepts, a company specializing in updating communications in mobile emergency vehicles, is revamping the bus for continued use by New York City's Office of Emergency Management and its mayor.
“It arrived at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, right before the second tower collapsed, and it stayed until that whole site was broom swept,” Mobile Concepts CEO Degre said Monday, standing outside the bus.
“It's part of history. On that horrible day in American history, that (the vehicle) was a godsend to emergency responders.”
Initially, those in the emergency management command unit used radios in the mostly yellow and blue bus to conduct a roll call and determine where emergency responders were on that tragic day, Degre said.
Mobile Concepts gutted the bus and installed all new radios, wiring, a pneumatic mast, security cameras, vinyl seating and counter tops, said Chris Simon, company vice president of sales.
A satellite telephone system, a 55-inch Smartboard that resembles a TV, diesel generators and night vision lights were other new features that workers installed in the bus. They replaced fluorescent lights with LEDs.
“It's been hours and hours and hours,” Simon said of the time devoted to the project.
Mobile Concepts responded to New York City's Request for Proposals in 2013 and was awarded a contract for $339,000, said Nancy Silvestri, spokeswoman for the city's Office of Emergency Management.
Mobile Concepts employees began work on the vehicle, which is divided into conference and communication areas, in April. The revamped bus, with a 1996 Prevost chassis, is expected to begin its trek back to New York this week.
“They chose to do this (revamp the vehicle) because the chassis alone is worth more than $200,000,” Degre said. “You don't trash a vehicle of that value; you reuse it.”
Five members of the New York City emergency management office have been watching the revamping. They include Deputy Commander for Technology Henry Jackson, who staffed the vehicle during 9/11. He declined to talk about that time.
Some companies that perform the same type of work as Mobile Concepts shied away from the project because of the time and effort involved in revamping an emergency vehicle, Degre said.
“That process is much more tedious than starting new,” she said. “And that is why not everyone jumped on board to do technical updates.”
New York City officials are familiar with Mobile Concepts. The company has done work for both the city's police and fire departments, Degre said.
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.