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The Pool Guy's View on the 09-11 Tragedy
This article was originally written right after the 09/11 tragedy in 2001 by our company president Daniel Harrison.

The September 11 Tragedy through the eyes of some "Pool Guys"

I thought I might share with all of you some real life experiences the folks at our pool company had in the aftermath of the September 11 Tragedy at the World Trade Center. For most of the country, this was a big national news story, but for the people of New York City and Long Island, it was (and always will be) a very local story. I thought I might pass along some thoughts about the tragedy through the eyes of a few "pool guys". Feel free to re-print all or part of this article if you want.

One of our companies, Paramount Pools, is located on Long Island about 60 miles from New York City. Many of our families, friends and customers work in the city. On Sept. 11 we were in the height of our Pool Closing Season with over 100 service jobs scheduled that day. When I woke up that morning and watched the events unfold on TV I could not believe what I was seeing. I actually felt like I was watching a bad HBO movie as I saw the first tower fall. I quickly drove to our warehouse, listening to the most unbelievable reports on the radio as the disaster continued to unfold. In my mind, I began running through the list of close friends that I had who live or work in NYC and could have possibly been involved in the incident. I started dialing numbers on my cell phone to try to call some of them, but the cell phones were not working properly.

As I arrived at the office, all the TV’s were tuned to CNN and as I walked in all eyes were riveted to the news. No one could believe it. As the clocked ticked by, our phone system kicked on, but the normal constant drone of the phones buzzing and ringing was no where to be found. No one was calling. A few Customer Service reps tried to start their daily calls, but found it hard to call a customer about things like special order pool cover estimates while all this was going on. I quickly went over to each desk and pulled out all the job estimates and "sales" calls and told them not to place those kinds of outgoing calls for now. We had no idea what else was going to happen. More hijacking? Gas? Bombs? We really did not know how this whole thing was going to play out.

After the second tower fell and any further immediate threat seemed to diminish, the phones started to ring again. However everything seemed different all of a sudden. A late service appointment or a wrong size pool cover did not seem important at all. How could a customer complain about a leaky water tube when something like this was going on? But life does go on - and it seemed - so did the business.

As the day unfolded and our pool servicemen started to arrive back to our office after having finished their service routes, we began to hear painful stories. As one serviceman was blowing out the pipes of a pool, the customer came home, crying, telling him that he just came from the city and had actually watched some of his fellow co-workers jump from the building to their deaths. Another serviceman told of a frantic customer continuously trying to call her husband on his cell phone the whole time her pool was being closed. She was very upset. The serviceman said that it was very, very sad to see this happen.

One by one, the other servicemen turned in their job tickets with unimaginable stories. One said he felt like a traveling grief counselor as he went from house to house closing pools that day. Another serviceman told of his horror as he went from job to job, learning more details from the TV’s of each customer who welcomed him into their houses to watch as the tragedy unfolded. I saw big burley pool guys noticeably shocked and moved by what they had experienced that day. It was terrible.

Over the next few days we continued to hear numerous horror stories from our employees, friends, families and customers. To date, we know of four of our best customers who were killed. It’s one thing to watch the stories on CNN, but it is certainly a whole different horrific experience to speak to a customer you have known for years and hear that their husband, wife, son or daughter is still missing or dead.

One customer, Jim, loved the Giants football team. He always like to joke around with one of our servicemen Chris because Chris liked the Jets. Chris went to close his pool just the other day and was surprised to see Jim’s wife there instead. She was rarely home. He got an uncomfortable feeling right away. He started closing the pool and asked where Jim was. His wife started crying and said that he was on the 87th floor of the tower, and she was sure he had died. Chris was very saddened by the loss of this nice, funny and friendly customer he had serviced for years. He was really moved by the experience.

Another serviceman Rick had always serviced Joan & Mike’s hot tub. They were very funny and upbeat people - especially Mike. He was always joking about everything and both of them really enjoyed their spa. When Rick went to their home to install a new spa pump the other day, he noticed an unusual amount of cars around the house. As usual, he went around back to the spa and installed the new pump anyway. When he was done he went to the back door, knocked, and Mike came to the door - his eyes red from crying. Rick had never seen this man any other way other than happy and smiling. By now he had been through this enough times to know that Mike must have lost someone in the tragedy. It was his son. A 26-year-old bond broker who had worked in the WTC. He was dead and they were making funeral arrangements. Rick felt a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach as he remembered seeing the son just the week before. It was very sad.

A long-time pool customer had been very happy when she called us in late August to book her Pool Closing Service. Her daughter was going to be married in September and she was looking forward to it. She had been a customer of ours for 6 years and was always very nice and friendly to our staff. When our serviceman Mike got to her house in order to close the pool, her daughter came out and showed him where all the pool supplies were in the shed. Mike finished closing the pool and went into the kitchen to collect the check. He overheard the mother on the phone canceling the catering hall reservations for a wedding. He asked the mother why she was doing this and she broke down crying and ran from the room.

As the daughter came in and handed him the check, Mike asked what was going on. In a very calm, dry tone she told him that her fiancé was in the WTC and she has not heard from him yet. She still had hope that he may be alive, but felt that even if he was, he would be in no shape to go through with the wedding the next week. She said they were canceling the wedding plans, but still had good hope that she would hear from her fiancé again. Mike handed the check back to her and told her there would be no charge for her service call. She was thankful and said goodbye. She is still waiting to hear from her fiancé.

Two of our servicemen have not even been able to work and close pools since the tragedy. One is a Firefighter and one is in the National Guard Reserves. Both were immediately called in to New York on Sept. 12 to help with the rescue efforts. I cannot even repeat many of the horror stories that they told me - things that they have seen right at Ground Zero. They both said that it is truly "Hell on Earth" there.

They are times like this that put the rest of our lives into the proper perspective. Suddenly all the "problems" we thought we had don’t seem so important any more. Suddenly all the things we all spend time worrying about are no longer that bad. Especially in the pool and spa industry where so much time is spent arguing about things like which spa has the best insulation, which pump is the strongest or which liner is the best. Suddenly just being alive, being with loved ones and being an American are the things that seem like they should always be the most important things in our lives to enjoy and thank God for.

These are the kinds of human events that rip your heart out. All of us "pool guys" have been forever changed by them. The world changed on Sept. 11. We will never be the same.

Daniel Harrison
President, CEO
Paramount Pools and

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Reproduction rights permitted with credit to Daniel Harrison,

© Copyright 2001 by Inc.