Isaias Rivera made the most of his 51 years. As a tower technician at the World Trade Center at the turn of the century, Rivera had already lived through one bombing at the iconic New York building complex. A technician for CBS, Rivera, was on the job when a terrorist’s bomb went off in the basement of the North Tower on February 26, 1993. A co-worker said not only did Rivera keep his employer’s station, WCBS-TV, on the air, he helped in the rescue efforts and worked through the trauma until the next day.
Rivera was again on the job on the 110th floor of the North Tower less than a decade later on that fateful, brilliantly sunny September 11th day, working in the shadow of the 360-foot antenna mast (note: the Statue of Liberty is 306 feet tall). What ended that day was more than a life and career in radio engineering but a ministry that Rivera had created at the Hispana Pentecostal Church in Spanish Harlem. The recently re-opened 9/11 Museum in New York City, shared Rivera’s story with Inside Towers. Publicity Director and Museum Guide Thomas Hogg said relating Rivera’s story to visitors was one of the high points of his job.
“The troubled youth he helped off the job now all refer to themselves as ‘Isaias’ Children,’” Hogg said. “One is a child psychiatrist in Iowa, another a lawyer in Alaska. There’s a surgery technician in upstate New York, a policeman in Washington, D.C. All of them saying they would not be who they are without Rivera’s guidance.”
He was said to have taught teens the Bible and clean living on some of the toughest streets in New York. Several called him a “relentless nag” about staying in school.
Hogg said Rivera had a dream that all of his “kids” would get together one day under one roof to celebrate their escape from poverty and living desperate lives. It finally happened but only after Rivera’s death where hundreds packed the Harlem church he founded, many accompanied by their own children.
Rivera is survived by his wife Nilsa, a daughter, two sons and three grandchildren.
By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers