Aunt Elaine remembered: Secretaries brawling at the World Trade Center...

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(Tim) Some of you know that until December of this past year when she went to be with the Lord, my Dad's sister, Elaine Bayly, lived with us. She arrived in August of 2001, just days before the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. What most of you don't know, though, is that Aunt Elaine spent a number of years building the World Trade Center. Mary Lee and I will always associate this day with Aunt Elaine's arrival as a blessing in our home, and remember her reaction to the bombing.

Aunt Elaine spent about seventy years living in the same apartment on Parsons Blvd. in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens. For a number of those years she worked as a secretary at Tishman Construction, project manager of the construction of the World Trade Center.

Aunt Elaine was personal secretary to the number one and number two men at Tishman on that project. Abe Levine was the second in command and here's his account of some of Aunt Elaine's work there--including the day two of her secretaries got into a brawl.

It's quite funny to think of wee little Aunt Elaine trying to figure out what to do. She was under five feet tall and weighed so little we sometimes had to tie her down to her dinner chair if our ceiling fan was on during dinner. Joke...

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When she was young, Aunt Elaine started working as a secretary where

her father worked, with Railway Express.  Later, from about 1950 to

1968, Aunt Elaine worked at a construction firm named C. E. Youngdahl

and Company. When Youngdahl closed their doors in 1968, a Youngdahl

co-worker named Abe Levine was hired on at Tishman Construction. He

kindly asked Aunt Elaine if she wanted to move to Tishman, also. Mr.

Levine knew Aunt Elaine was an excellent secretary so he recommended

her to Tishman where she was hired in 1968. She worked with Mr. Levine

until her retirement in 1981.

From the time they moved to Tishman in 1968, Mr. Levine and Aunt Elaine

were assigned to the World Trade Center project where Tishman was the

project manager. Mr. Levine was Deputy Construction Manager and Aunt

Elaine served both Mr. Levine and his boss, the Construction Manager,

as their secretary, on site.

In 1972 they topped out the World Trade Center. Returning to Tishman’s

main office, they worked on various projects including Olympic Tower on

Fifth Avenue; the Russian Mission at the United Nations, and the

Orthopedic Institute Hospital. (Tishman is now involved in the new

buildings at the World Trade Center site. Tishman also did the

Renaissance center in Detroit and the John Hancock Building in Chicago.)

Mr. Levine became a Vice President and Aunt Elaine continued as his

secretary. Mr. Levine reports that Aunt Elaine was an accomplished


“We had nine secretaries, but at the World Trade Center she was the

personal secretary to the man at the top and the second in command. She

took shorthand at a mile a minute. We turned out hundreds of letters a


“We had documents that ran forty to fifty pages, and some of them had

to be done over again, every single week—like the minutes of our

official meetings. She did those and she did them to perfection—like a

masterpiece. They were full of technical stuff (we were doing

engineering) and they were always done to perfection.

“The other girls all looked up to her. Everyone respected her. When she

did a letter, it was a masterpiece. No one else was like that.

“It was extremely hectic at the World Trade Center. One day we were

having a meeting with the Port Authority—all the bigwigs. We had one

secretary who was a big lady. She used to be a policewoman and her name

was Jean. Another woman was very small and a chronic complainer—very


“One day we were having our meeting with the Port Authority and

Elaine came into the meeting and gave me a note that said, ‘The big

secretary and the little secretary are having a terrible argument.’

“All I could do was nod my head and hand the note back.

“A few minutes later, Elaine came in and handed another note to me that

said, ‘The little one hit the big one and the big one is crying.’

“Again, all I could do was nod my head and smile. She went out and had

to handle it. She was like a mother to them, a mentor to all the

secretaries. She was reserved, but not with them. With the other

secretaries—I call them ‘the girls’—she was very outgoing with them.”

After the first World Trade Center bombing, Aunt Elaine’s reaction was

to announce, “Oh they’d never knock that down. If they knew how deep

the pylons went. They’d never knock that down.”

* * *

We miss Aunt Elaine and give thanks to God for the years He blessed our home by her cheerful presence.