'It's Still As Important As It Was Yesterday'


Sept. 7, 2011

By Gary Mott

Mike Leone has been the port director for the Massachusetts Port Authority  for 13 years. Here, he says Sept. 11, 2001 fundamentally changed his job. It's part of our series of local reflections on Sept. 11. 

Mike Leone stands at the Massachusetts Port Authority. (Luke Boeltiz/WGBH)  

As the port director, I’m responsible for all of Massport’s public terminals, which includes the container facilities, the cruise facilities, the automobile facilities, the land holdings that are in South Boston around the Fish Pier and some of the commercial properties including the World Trade Center. 
Sept. 11 probably had the greatest impact on my work and my personal life. One of my best friend’s daughters was in the towers, and it was a very, very tragic and very difficult time, particularly for him because he didn't know the whereabouts for a week or so, and was getting some bad information back and forth.  So that was very difficult. 
And then one of my closest friends, who was the Port Director in New York, was in the World Trade Center. I’m a retired Coast Guard officer, he was a retired Coast Guard officer, we served many years together -- and I didn't know if he was safe or out. I found out later that he was able to get out.  He just barely got out, and the building collapsed right after he got out, and he had to crawl on his hands and knees to be safe.  So I think about those people, those who survived those who didn't survive, and the first responders all the time.
And when you’re doing your job, you keep those people in mind every single day, to try to motivate you to not forget that it's been 10 years, and it’s still as important as it was yesterday.
I think the events in New York and on the Pentagon on Sept. 11 had probably the greatest impact on Boston since two of the planes left from Boston. And at that time in the maritime facilities, there was not a specific regulation or law that dealt with security.
Actually, security at a container facility at that time was mostly concerned with pilferage. You know, and there were some concerns about smuggling. It changed after that particular day. And now in our industry… we are a customer service business, but what the public demands, and the service that is most required in any facility is safety and security. So that is our primary responsibility every single day, to make sure that the cargo that’s come in is safe, that the passengers who were on our cruise ships are safe.  And that evolved right after Sept. 11.
As an importer or an exporter, you want to make sure that the cargo that you’re moving is safe and secure. You know, if it takes a little bit more inspection or it requires you to do radiation detection on it, that's okay. It may cost you a little bit more, but if it gets to you and it’s safe and it’s not going to cause harm to the public, that’s the most important thing that we do.

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