Local News

Greensboro Contractor At The Heart Of Ground Zero Cleanup

Posted Updated

NEW YORK CITY, NY — The cleanup at the World Trade Center just might be the biggest effort the world has ever seen. He has not attracted much attention, but the man in charge of that job is from North Carolina.

WRAL traveled to Ground Zero in December to meet the man leading the cleanup effort, taking our cameras into a place only a few have been.

It does not take long to figure out that David Griffin is no native New Yorker.

"When I first got here, there were a lot of [people] wondering why I was here. I felt a little bit at the beginning like I had two strikes against me when I spoke, because they knew I wasn't from here. They've come to accept me, and, actually, I've made a lot of newfound friends," said Griffin, a Greensboro contractor charged with heading up the biggest demolition project in America's history.

Griffin's company is directing the cleanup of the World Trade Center -- a cleanup that is being measured in tons.

"We're using off-road trucks like they use in a quarry or mining operation.So far we've loaded over 110,000 tons of steel and over 700,000 tons of debris," said Griffin.

Griffin is a long way from home, but the gentle man with the southern accent is making friends on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line. He has learned that at Ground Zero, where you are from does not matter so much.

"I love him. I really mean that as a brother, because this is a family thing here. Put it this way, without people like that, we wouldn't have gotten as much done here at all," said Joseph Pagan, a New York worker.

With determined workers and good weather, the cleanup is ahead of schedule with more than half the debris gone. Still, there is much more work to do.

There are 70 feet of debris below what was once the first floor of tower one. One hundred days after the attacks, smoke continued to billow.

"You can feel this move, as that large machine works behind you. You can feel the vibration because we're on unstable area, because this is all filled with debris," Griffin said.

Griffin finds his stability in his faith and in his family. His wife, Donna, and daughters, Dakota and Deven, have traveled to the Big Apple a few times to see Dad at work.

"I like how he loves everybody and he's just so caring and no matter if it's the person checking the badges or the highest person in the company. He treats everybody equally," said proud daughter Deven.

"One of the toughest parts is knowing how dangerous it is and knowing that he's sitting right down in the middle of it. The excitement is there, but also the danger's there, especially in a job like this," Donna said.

"It's a challenging project. It's an emotional project. It's a lot of things wrapped up into one. It will never be a normal project, for sure. It's a challenge," Griffin said.

As big barges, full of steel beams and concrete, rumble down the Hudson River, America is on the rebound, thanks in part to a man whose heart calls North Carolina home.

"I'm going to kiss the ground at the state line. But like I say, New York's been good to us, but it's no place like home. I'm glad to call North Carolina home," Griffin said.

If the work continues to move quickly, Griffin and his six employees expect to return home sometime in February.


Brian Bowman, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.