Date: Feb 24, 2003
Press Release Number: 22-2003
Ernesto L. Butcher, Chief Operating Officer of the Port Authority, was honored today before the New Jersey State Assembly for his leadership during and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Mr. Butcher was one of seven African-Americans selected by the New Jersey Legislative Black, Latino and Asian Caucus for their leadership, outstanding achievements and contributions to the community.
Mr. Butcher, a resident of South Orange, was nominated by Assemblyman William D. Payne as one of this year’s honorees. Each year, the Caucus honors exceptional African-Americans who live in New Jersey as part of its Black History Month Celebration.
Mr. Butcher said, \"This is a very special honor. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the employees of the Port Authority for their hard work and professionalism. These men and women acted with diligence and enthusiasm to meet the region’s need at an extremely difficult time.\"
Assemblyman Payne said, \"Ernesto Butcher is truly a hero. He led the efforts to maintain continuity of the Port Authority during a time of extreme crisis. He is a unique man and deserves deep appreciation and recognition for his deeds.\"
Port Authority Executive Director Joseph J. Seymour said, \"We at the Port Authority are extremely proud of Ernesto and believe this honor is much deserved. When foreign terrorists attacked our city and our country on September 11, 2001, Ernesto’s leadership, judgment and grace under pressure were instrumental in our mounting a quick and effective response - despite the loss of our headquarters at the World Trade Center. With Ernesto coordinating agency-wide actions, the major airports, bridges and tunnels were shut down until public safety could be assured. He also guided the Port Authority’s efforts to maintain continuity as its facilities and services were reopened and restored. In the following days, Ernesto worked tirelessly to ensure that the agency remained both secure and operational. His courage and strength of character were critical to the Authority’s, and the region\'s, response and recovery efforts.\"
Port Authority Chairman Jack G. Sinagra said, \"Ernesto Butcher’s courage and quiet strength were one of the keys to the Port Authority’s recovery in the days and weeks following September 11. His excellent judgment helped guide the agency as it sought to restore critical transportation services to the region, while ensuring safety and security. Ernesto is a true leader, and this honor is a fitting tribute to one of the unsung heroes of our region’s darkest hour.\"
In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, Mr. Butcher was instrumental in ensuring that the Port Authority’s facilities remained secure and fully operational. Under his leadership, a command center was established in Jersey City within hours of the attacks, which enabled Port Authority facilities to reopen immediately. He also coordinated the Port Authority’s response with local, state and federal agencies to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero.
Mr. Butcher served as a leader for the Port Authority in its greatest time of need. He led the efforts to account for the agency’s survivors and missing and to assist family members. The Port Authority lost 84 employees and contract workers in the terror attacks. For more than 30 years, the agency’s headquarters were located at 1 World Trade Center and housed more than 2,000 employees on 14 floors.
A native of Panama, Mr. Butcher joined the Port Authority as a management trainee in 1971 and steadily worked his way up through the management ranks. He was appointed to the position of Chief Operating Officer of the Port Authority in February 1999. In his capacity, Mr. Butcher oversees the activities of more than 6,000 employees at Port Authority facilities. Prior to his role as Chief Operating Officer, he most recently served as Director of the agency’s Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals Department. Mr. Butcher also has served as Manager of the George Washington Bridge, Manager of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Deputy Director of the Interstate Transportation Department.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates some of the busiest and most important transportation links in the region. They include John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia and Teterboro airports; the George Washington Bridge; the Lincoln and Holland tunnels; the three bridges between Staten Island and New Jersey; the PATH rapid-transit system; the Downtown Manhattan Heliport; Port Newark; the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal; the Howland Hook Marine Terminal on Staten Island; the Brooklyn Piers/Red Hook Container Terminal; and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. The agency also owns the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. The Port Authority is self-supporting and receives no tax revenue from either state.