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Harry John Roland Harry at WTC site

Ground Zero Man {format} {format} 4:08 Kelly McEvers

Self-appointed World Trade Center tour guide.

Broadcast: Sep 11 2006 on NPR Day to Day Subjects: Historical Anniversaries, Education

A Day with the 'Ground Zero Man'

September 11, 2006 from Day To Day

ALEX CHADWICK, host: One of the people giving tours at the World Trade Center site is actually known as Ground Zero Man. He once worked at the South Tower as a guide there. He now volunteers every day. Producer Kelly McEvers spent a few days with him.

Mr. HARRY JOHN ROLAND (World Trade Center Site Tour Guide): My name is Harry John Roland. I come here every day. I still find some...

You know, I say my name is Harry John Roland, welcome to New York. I give an education on the devastation of 9/11. September 14, '01, I heard someone on the radio saying I'm down here at the World Trade Center. I see that two holes is at. Two holes? You've got to be kidding me. No, seven buildings fit inside that one big hole they call the...

Grab a map, learn the facts. It's not just two twin towers. Sixteen-and-a-half acres, eight levels underground, nine different train lines, 88 stores in the mall...

(Soundbite of coins dropping)

Mr. ROLAND: I'd say it's close to maybe $30 today. But you get a lot of people that fold it, or something. A lot of the foreign coins I take out. I don't ask for money. You make your own suggestion on that. Had a guy gave me a hundred- dollar bill. I framed it, gave it to my son.

(Soundbite of people)

KELLY McEVERS: What does your wife think about you coming down here every day?

Mr. ROLAND: I think, more or less, she says it's therapy.

McEVERS: Therapy?

Mr. ROLAND: Therapy. She said I was really bitter angry for the first five to six months. It was when I started coming here, I think that stopped. And I think she was like okay, well if that makes you happy, then boom. You go through five or six hours a day, whatever you want, and then come home.

Huge, gigantic, enormous, 110 marked floors, 135 stories in size. Look, listen, and learn. Grab a map...

The concessions and tours see me guide. Please follow me to the basement so I can show you the air-conditioning system. Those big tanks pull in the Hudson River and shoot coolant here. America's first air conditioning changed things. It was right here.

You need four Statue of Liberties on top of each other to make the size of one tower, one on top of...

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

McEVERS: How long do you think you're going to do this?

Mr. ROLAND: One time I told a news reporter, when they found my nephew's body.

McEVERS: Where did he work?

Mr. ROLAND: South tower.

(Soundbite of machinery)

Mr. ROLAND: Thousands of people lost their lives here, hundreds more not on the lists, not on the lists, not on a list. That list can only recognize 1,308 it's identified at the time the list was made. Grab a map, learn the facts. It's not just two twin towers.

Mr. ROLAND: You come down to the medical examiner's office. We've matched the DNA. I think that kind of like put me in a shock, more like. I said for almost 10 days, I didn't come down here after that.

McEVERS: So what did you do during those 10 days?

Mr. ROLAND: I think I stayed home, I think I cried a lot from just seeing and realizing wow, they finally found (unintelligible). Go put his name up on the board. And I think after the funeral service, it all clicked back in. And then I just started coming religiously - rain or shine. People need to know. People need to understand there's hundreds more whose names are not on the list.

(Soundbite of machinery)

Mr. ROLAND: Never say two, because that's not true. You don't know, ask somebody please.

(Soundbite of people)

Mr. ROLAND: I still find people - hard as it is to believe, five years into this - who don't know the facts. Who swear this place was done by our own government, who swear up and down only two buildings were damaged. I'm telling you, I find so many at one time, I'm kind of like shocked.

(Soundbite of machinery)

Mr. ROLAND: I can say it's the fulfillment of some people's eyes light up when you tell them the facts, and they realize all this is going on.

History, don't let it mystery. I know it's hard to believe - it's free, it's free, it's free. Grab a map, learn the facts. It's not just two twin towers. Walk around...

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: That story came to us from the radio collective

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: More to come on DAY TO DAY.